NORTH SEA JAZZ FESTIVAL 2019

If I remember correctly, this year’s festival was probably my 25th time at the North Sea Jazz Festival and as always it was difficult to make sure that I could see and hear all the artists and music I wanted …. But as every year it was worth being there!

We started the Friday with a backstage visit to John Zorn’s Bagatelles Marathon, a 4-hour event of adventurous music, featuring many wonderful artists, including Julian Lage and John Medeski, whom I came to say Hi to. Then off to Rymden, the amazing trio of Bugge Wesseltoft on piano and keyboards, Dan Berglund on bass and Magnus Öström on drums. Their set was modern jazz with rock elements, ambient sounds and groovy moments. Impressive ensemble play as well as outstanding individual performances made this concert one of the highlights of the festival for me. The repertoire was mainly from their first album together but has developed a lot during their extensive tour and is more open for improvisation and collective excursions by now. Top jazz from Europe.

Next on was James Brandon Lewis, the young saxophonist with whom I did 2 albums on Okeh and who came with his new group to present the music of his new album ‘An Unruly Manifesto’. In the group he had the trusted sidemen from his trio, Luke Stewart on bass and Warren ‘Trae’ Crudup III on drums, plus the amazing Jaimie Branch on trumpet and Ava Mendoza on guitar. James Brandon is a very powerful and fiery player, exploring with his group the melodic side of free jazz – always open to improvise and lead the group to new musical territory, but never without a melodic anchor. His sidemen and -women are some of the best young musicians around and are perfect to bring his compositions to life. Powerful next to Lewis were Branch with some incredible soli and Mendoza with a heavy guitar display, fitting perfectly into the overall sound. Challenging, wild and wonderful!!

What I didn’t see and hear on Friday: Diana Krall, Jose James (as he will be coming to Madrid soon), Makaya McCraven, Nik Bärtsch and Melissa Aldana.

Saturday started with beauty in sound: Becca Stevens, Camila Meza and Lizz Wright, together with the Dutch Metropole Orkest, under Miho Hazama performing songs from all three singesr latest recordings. Camila Meza started proceedings with a song from ‘Ambar’ her new album and her vocal delivery and guitar skills were impressive. Then the two other ladies joined to perform ’Old Man’ with Lizz Wright. This song from her album ‘Dreaming Wide Awake’ and ‘Grace’, the title song of her latest recording, were sublime and Wright sang her heart out … Becca performed a few songs from her album ‘Regina’, especially ‘Mercury’ stood out here. Meza did another 2 songs from ‘Ambar’ singing during her performances in English, Portuguese and Spanish and adding some colourful guitar to the rest of the concert. What a great and emotional tribute to the art of song by 3 very different and exceptional vocalists. Sensational!!

Next on was Dee Dee Bridgewater, revisiting her 2005 album ‘J’ai Deux Amours’, with the original band of that album, featuring Marc Berthoumieux on accordion, Louis Winsberg on guitar, Ira Coleman, her musical director on this project, on bass and Minino Garay on drums. Dee Dee is such a force of nature, such an energetic performer, that it really doesn’t matter what she does, as she will always give 100 % … and this show was not different: her singing immaculate, the communication with her musicians perfect and the stories in between excellent – and the audience had a wonderful time .. and so had I hearing this repertoire again after so many years. Songs like ‘La Mer (Beyond The Sea)’ or ‘Mon Homme (My Man)’ sounded fresh and done in 2 languages more interesting and ‘Ne Me Quitte Pas’ or ‘Avec Le Temps’ were done brilliantly and touching. Top!

This was the night of seeing and hearing good friends, as next on was Michel Camilo with the horns of the Dutch New Cool Collective performing music from Camilo’s new big band album ‘Essence’. NCC is an award-winning ensemble of groove and Latin music and includes saxophonists Benjamin Herman, Efraim Trujillo, Wouter Schueler, David Kweksilber and Miguel Martinez, trumpet-player David Rockefeller, Jan van Duikeren, Joe Rivera, Randell Heye and Wim Both and trombonists Frans Cornelissen, Kees Adolfe, Pablo Martinez and Andre Pet. Camilo’s bass player Ricky Rodriguez, percussionist Eliel Lazo and drummer Ernesto Simpson completed the band. The horns of NCC, under Camilo’s direction, grooved amazingly and got all the Latin rhythms and fireworks going throughout a burning set, that included Camilo classics as well as lesser known compositions like the wonderful ‘Mongo’s Blues’. And hanging with Michel and Sandra afterwards was as much fun as always. Perfect!

What I didn’t see and hear on Saturday: Jamie Cullum (got about 10 minutes of his show and he sounded amazing), Arild Andersen Trio (just had a quick chat with Arild but couldn’t stay for the show), J D Allen Quartet and the Perez, Cohen, Potter Quintet ….

Sunday had a slow, but beautiful start with Abdullah Ibrahim & Ekaya, performing new music from the recently released album ‘The Balance’. Opening his show with a gorgeous piano solo which had a taste of South Africa in it, the band then got into his new compositions, which seem to be influenced by Duke Ellington’s jazz writing. Beautiful melodies perfectly performed, swinging or grooving or balladeske. He surely got the balance right!

Off to hear a bit of Kamasi Washington then, who performed with Patrice Quinn on vocals, Ricky Washington on flute and soprano saxophone, Ryan Porter on trombone, Brandon Coleman on keyboards, Miles Mosley on bass and Tony Austin and Ronald Bruner Jr. on drums to a capacity crowd in the big Maas hall. Unfortunately, the sound in the venue was so bad, that all one could hear were the two bass drums and the bass, swallowing up the rest of the band. Pity, as the band seemed to really get into their version of ‘Truth’, a multi-layered melodically interesting piece, but the finer side of the music was simply drowned in the bad mix. So, I left ….

Next on was Chick Corea with is Spanish Heart Band featuring Jorge Pardo on saxophone and flute, Michael Rodriguez on trumpet, Steve Davis on trombone, Niño Josele on guitar, Carlitos Del Puerto on bass, Marcus Gilmore on drums and dancer Nino de los Reyes. ‘Antidote’ is the new album and it provided most of the repertoire for the concert, with Chick and the band in incredible form – Josele with some impressive solo guitar work, Jorge Pardo especially on the sax and dancer de los Reyes with astonishing energy and movements. The band as well paid with the song ‘Zyryab’ a tribute to the great Paco de Lucia, with whom Chick and of course Jorge and Josele had worked for many years. Overall a wonderful concert, with a clear and well-balanced sound and outstanding performances from all musicians. Chick never fails to impress!

The listened a bit to artist in residence Robert Glasper and his tribute to Miles Davis, Everything Is Beautiful, featuring the wonderful singer Ledisi. Music from and in the spirit of Miles – you can’t go wrong with that! But, as I wanted to see Still Dreaming, I rushed to get to the next stage to hear them perform. Joshua Redman’s tribute to the band Old And New Dreams features Ron Miles on trumpet, Scott Colley on bass and now Dave King on drums, replacing Brian Blade. The music is still a great mix of captivating originals and music Old And New Dreams used to play – mainly Ornette Coleman’s compositions. King brings a different rhythm concept to the band, more rooted and so pushing the other guys to new highs. Redman and Miles communicating wonderfully and Colley keeping it all together. A great band, amazing musicianship and the perfect way to end this year’s North Sea Jazz Festival!!!

What I didn’t see or hear on Sunday: Bobby McFerrin, Lauryn Hill, Jacob Collier, Ambrose Akinmusire, Henry Threadgill, Youn Sun Nah …..

A bit THANKS to Michelle, Anne Marleen, Frank and Sander for making this festival and our trip most enjoyable. See you next year!

jazz life

The loss of friends, family members, important musicians is always difficult to deal with and hard to move on from  … beside the wonderful Paolo Vinaccia, the music world lost in the last few weeks as well Karlheinz Miklin, the amazing Austrian saxophonist and flautist, whose musical expeditions reached as far as Argentina and Brazil and who as well was a respected and loved educator. Miklin was the first jazz musician I ever signed, and we released 3 recordings together between 1986 and 1989, classics of European Jazz like ‘Echoes of Ilyria’, which was re-issued in 2001. Joao Gilberto, the father of Bossa Nova, passed away on July 6th, leaving a massive legacy for future generations to enjoy. I was lucky to see him once joining Caetano Veloso on stage at the Umbria Jazz Festival – an unforgettable and magic moment!!! May they all Rest In Peace!

It feels sometimes out of place to say ’the show must go on’, but it is the harsh reality, exactly that will happen ….. so we went out to see and hear local sax player and singer Antonio Lizana with top pianist Arturo O’Farrill plus bassist Yarel Hernandez and drummer Shayan Fathi at the Bogui Jazz Club in central Madrid. 3 times Grammy winner O’Farrill is a powerful pianist with incredible technique, and he felt straight at home in Lizana’s flamenco infused compositions, with Fathi and Hernandez pushing the two soloists into amazing performances. Lizana showed what an incredible sax player he is and what control and emotional power he has as a singer – O’Farrill got the audience going with fast and melodic Soli and beautiful support of Lizana’s voice. A sensational combination of which I hope we will hear more, than just this outstanding concert.

Some new music I like to recommend:

Song Dynasty / Searching – This is a real unique recording, putting together Canadian guitarist Ben Holt and Taiwanese singer Li Liu plus another 16 musicians, all together from 9 countries.  Most songs were written by the pair as well and all lyrics are by Li – plus classics from the jazz repertoire reworked on influences from the Far East and an ethnic Hakka folk song by Yu-Wei Hsieh. These are swinging and entertaining songs, extremely well done and immaculate sung. My personal favourite is ‘Ai Tai’, a groovy little affair that keeps your body moving – well arranged with brass and beautiful vocals. Great music!

Mike Lorenz & The Witherbees – This self-titled debut album by Mike and his group is a cool mixture of originals and covers, as he says, ‘an exploration of a 21st century songbook’. The Witherbees are Mike on guitar, Jacqui Armbruster on vocals and viola, Justin Sekelewski on bass and Zach Martin on drums and the covers they recorded include ‘Are You Here’ by Corinne Bailey Rae, ‘Waterfalls’ by Paul McCartney and a wonderful version of Sonny Sharrock’s ‘Blind Willie’. Armbruster’s voice is hauntingly beautiful and her vocal performance impressive, so is the guitar playing of Lorenz. A surprising record with tons of variety and quality. Check this out.

Jacques Kuba Seguin / Migrations – Trumpeter Kuba Seguin wrote the 7 tracks for his new album based on interviews with people from various cultural backgrounds in Quebec, Canada, telling their stories. The album was recorded with Yannick Rieu on tenor Saxophone, Olivier Salazar on vibraphone, Jean-Michel Pilc on piano, Adrian Vedady on bass and Kevin Warren on drums. The compositions are beautiful, melodic and easy to listen to – the performances by all musicians excellent, lead by Jacques Kuba Seguin with his warm tone on the trumpet.

Shawn Myers / The Silent Life – New Orleans drummer Shan Myers composed for his debut album  music influenced by Hazrat Inayat Khan and his book The Mysticism of Sound and Music. To record the album he brought together some young and new talent as well as some special guests: MaeDea LadylaRose reading on Invocation, Mckenna Alicia on vocals, Matt Booth on bass, Andriu Yanovski on keyboards, Sam Dickey on guitar, Bryce Eastwood on alto saxophone, Steve Lands on trumpet, Damas “Fanfan” Louis on petro drum and Edward Petersen on tenor saxophone (Lake Solitude). The compositions are a mix of all that is New Orleans and more: there are the sounds of Black American Music, Haitian Voodoo, West African Voodoo and Electronic Ambience. Vocalist Mckenna Alicia is one of the rising stars in New Orleans and she shows on this album why – great vocal delivery within the outstanding arrangements of Myers. One to watch!

 

 

Paolo Vinaccia      March 27, 1954 – July 5, 2019

Many wonderful words have been said and written about Paolo since his untimely death yesterday. Words that can not catch the greatness of the man, not only as a musician, but as well as a humorous, gentle and caring human being. I have never met a man with such an appetite and love for life, a generous and always supportive gentleman. Musically there were no rhythms this drummer extraordinaire couldn’t find within himself and/or a song … having been the driving force on numerous recordings of all genres of music, always serving the composition and performance, never putting himself forward when it wasn’t his time.

I met Paolo the first time in 1997, when I made his first album ‘Mbara Boom available internationally after its initial Norwegian release. We stayed in touch after that, me as well working his amazing box set Very Much Alive, a series of live recordings in a trio format with Terje Rypdal on guitar, Ståle Storløkken on keyboards and special guest appearances by bassist Marius Reksjø, Bugge Wesseltoft on keyboards, Jonas Lønnå for Sounds – Vinyl and samples and trumpeter Palle Mikkelborg, released on Jazzland Recordings in 2010. By this time, he was as well already the drummer in a trio with saxophonist Tommy Smith and bass legend Arild Andersen, which released 3 critically acclaimed recordings on ECM. Despite his ongoing battle with cancer, Paolo tireless toured with the trio and found time to record and produce more of his own music. The touching and heartfelt music of Dommedag Ifølge Paulus, composed by Paolo with Audun Aschim Steffensen, is a document of his love for life, a reminder of the struggle of many people with this illness and a prayer for all of them. Performed with the Norske Solistkor under Grete Pedersen and Eivind Aarset on guitar next to Paolo on percussion, this recording and video is a lasting reminder of a great composer and performer. For anyone interested in Paolo’s musical variety, I would recommend getting a copy of the 6 CD box set Mystery Man, an anthology through his work from 1981 to his last recordings. Essential listening!!

I feel honoured that Paolo called me his friend, that we had a musical connection and one as human being. In 2018 my wife and I travelled with Paolo and his wife Trude to the festival Jazz at Bran Castle in Rumania, as Paolo was helping with the program of the festival. We had some truly wonderful days together, enjoying each other’s company and the music on offer, good food and wine. With his smile and easy-going attitude, his willingness to help, Paolo made everyone relax.

Over the last half year he did send me some music he had worked on and mixed over the last few months .. first a recording with Makoto Ozone, Tommy Smith and Arild Anderson, recorded and entitled Live in Japan .. and wonderful music, an extension of the ECM trio with pianist Ozone and immaculate as a recording. The other one was a WAV master of a live concert in Arendal with Bugge Wesseltoft and bassist Shri, an amazing musical adventure, with space for improvisations, light and driving rhythms and magical communication between all three musicians. Hopefully these recordings will be made available once.

His legendary status as one of Europe’s most important drummers will last forever – for those who met him, he will be an unforgettable person, who has touched them with his kindness and all-embracing humanity. Paolo Vinaccia will be truly missed, and the world is a worse place without him. May he Rest In Peace.

now available – new music from around the globe

When reviewing albums, I try not to go after releases that will get a lot of attention and space in all jazz and music magazines anyway, but try to recommend smaller labels and unknown artists releases of quality – subjective quality of course, as this is based on my musical taste only. Exceptions are made when I truly like an album of an established artist and/or I have been involved in the making of the record and are really happy with the results. Enjoy the wide variety of new music I have discovered and had a great time listening to:

Michel Camilo / Essence – ‘Essence’ is already the 25th album of the piano master and one of the few he has recorded with a full big band. It has all the hallmarks of a Camilo album: virtuosity, power grooves and tons of incredible soli, from all members of the 18-piece band. All compositions are from Michel Camilo and highlight as well his writing skills and his feel for the sound of this big band. Gorgeous ‘Liquid Crystal’ with his swinging groove and a very deep solo by Camilo. ‘Mano A Mano’ with the big band is a powerful and colourful affair with a very cool brass arrangement by Philip Mossmann. ‘Just Like You’ features a great solo by saxophonist Antonio Hart and is overall a melodic beauty and ‘On Fire’ is just that! Great percussion and drums and some heavy brass driving this known song from the Camilo songbook. Camilo chose the perfect title for this album, as in its essence it is pure Michel Camilo – incredible powerful and heartfelt music!!

Jaelem Bhate / On the edge – Another big band recording, but in this case the debut of composer, conductor and bandleader Jaelem Bhate. He assembled a band with some of Canada’s most exciting new talent and went into the studio to record his multi-movement PACIFIC SUITE, which is the core of this album. ‘On the edge’ is a more traditional big band album, with some wonderful compositions, like the lightly swinging ‘Wishful Thinking’, or the beautiful ballad ‘When I was loved’, where Bhate uses the big band sounds to great effect. The four movements of the Suite vary in energy and colour, highlighting Bhate’s writing and arranging skills and leaving the listener wanting for more. Recommended.

David Cruz / EP – Here we have another Canadian debut: guitarist David Cruz’s first recording as a leader is an exciting and dynamic guitar trio recording featuring William Dietrich on bass and Miles Fuller on drums. The six songs on the EP are comprised of 3 originals and 3 standards, featuring a truly delicate reading of ‘Take The A Train’ as well as a wonderful ‘Giant Steps’. The originals are interesting composition and are fitting well with the interpretations … a young guitar player making his mark – beautiful sound and imaginative playing. One to watch out for!

Haftor Medbøe, Gunnar Halle, Eva Malling / Hvor En Var Baen – Inspired by the poems of Danish writer Martin N. Hansen, the trio of guitarist Medbøe, trumpeter Halle and bass player Malling have created a wonderful album of beautiful melodies and soundscapes. This gorgeous album is a 9-track limited edition on hand-numbered 10“vinyl available via http://copperfly.co.uk/  and so is Haftor Medbøe, Jacob Karlzon – a touching piano / guitar duo recording of  excellent compositions. The performances by guitarist Medbøe and pianist Karlzon confirm very close musical minds, which give each other space to play, without losing focus on the essence of the songs. Intimate and captivating .. as if time stands still when listening. Exceptional! This EP has four incredible instrumental tracks and the download has a bonus track with vocalist Jessie Bates … the track is called ‘Happiness’ and that’s exactly what it is .. happiness in sound. Extremely well done!

Viktorija Pilatovic / The Only Light – This is Lithuanian jazz vocalist Viktorija Pilatovic’s third album and a big step forward for the singer, composer and producer. Here she is supported by Alberto Palau on piano and keyboards, Ales Cesarini on bass, Mariano Steimberg on drums and percussion, Perico Sambeat on alto saxophone and flute and Ivan Cebrian on guitar (both on 3 tracks only) in creating a modern jazz vocal album of highest quality. Highlights include the title track, the captivating ballad ‘Frozen in Silence’, as well as a swinging ‘Hungry Eyes’, the cool ‘My Blues’ and ‘Confusion’ a wonderful song, arranged for horns by Perico Sambeat, which ends the album strongly and with some great individual performances, especially from Sambeat on alto. Pilatovic is a wonderful singer with amazing control and tons of feeling.  One to watch out for!

Megalodon Collective / The Triumph – A septet coming out of the Trondheim jazz program and partly having played with the Trondheim Jazz Orchestra; these young Norwegian and Swedish musicians don’t seem to know genres. Their music is a wild mix of ensemble play and free passages, jazz, rock, African influences, big band riffs and whatever comes to mind of these outstanding performers. Martin Myhre Olsen (NO), Karl Hjalmar Nyberg (SE) and Petter Kraft (SE) on saxophones, Karl Bjorå (NO) on  guitar, Aaron Mandelmann (SE) on  bass and Andreas Winther (NO) as well as Henrik Lødøen (NO) on drums are a collective of pure power, raw energy and a sense of humour – how else can you create such incredible and unique music?  Highly recommended!

Theo Croker / Star People Nation – normally I don’t review recordings I have been involved in, but this time I have to make an exception for this wonderful new album by trumpet star and producer Theo Croker. ‘Star Nation People’ is everything that is cool about a recording of jazz, soul, R&B and Hip-Hop influences – a record that has all these ingredients, but still is at its core a jazz album. Theo Croker put this album together with the help of saxophonist Irwin Hall, Michael King on piano and keyboards, Eric Wheeler on bass, Kassa Overall on drums, plus guests singer Rose Gold, Dave Whitfield on fender Rhodes, ELEW on piano, Anthony Ware on tenor saxophone, Eric Harland on drums and vocalist Chronixx and created a modern jazz adventure for young and old music fans. Just check out ‘Portrait of William’, a song Theo wrote for his father,  with a wonderful brass line, some incredible melodic play by Croker and a danceable groove behind it … easy to listen to, but deep musically. This record is a reflection of our times, it is Theo Croker inside out .. his musical vision, his past and present mixed into one great record!!

Live ! Live ! Live !

May 15th, The Bad Plus are in Madrid to perform 2 shows at the Café Berlin … a sold out 9 pm concert and a second one at 11 pm. David King, the trio’s drummer, had invited me to the first show and I went there with a friend who had purchased a ticket. Dave, Bassist Reid Anderson and new pianist Orrin Evans started the first show on time with mostly music from their first record together NEVER STOP II. I had heard the album and really love it, but live this is something beyond …. even so they knew each other from before and had performed together, now they are very tight, as the constant touring is paying off … Evans is incredible with his powerful, sometimes orchestral way of playing, then moving into beautiful and touching little melodies, always perfectly supported by Anderson and King. These two wonderful musicians are responsible (as in the past) for most of the compositions of the trio, which keeps the expected edgy quirkiness to their music. We loved every minute of this set and in the break went to say HI and then made our way to the exit as the club was emptied to make way for the new audience .. but the manager of the club, having seen us backstage with the guys, invited us for the second set, which wasn’t fully sold out and we were happy to stay – as the second set, without any repetition in repertoire, was even better than the first. Beside the amazing interplay between the three musicians, each of them delivered some outstanding solo work, with Anderson at one point calling up memories of Charlie Haden in the sheer beauty of his solo and by playing not one unnecessary note. Evans and King as well performed at the top of their game … a contender for gig of the year!!!

Saxophonist Eli Degibri started his 4-night residency at the Café Central in Madrid on May 23rd with his trusted sidemen Tom Oren on piano, Tamir Shmerling on bass and Evitar Slivnik on drums and a full house. The expressive sax player went through his own compositions from earlier records, with an especially wonderful rendition of ‘The Unknown Neighbor’ from the album ‘Cliff Hangin’’, plus a few new compositions, which will be on a forthcoming album. Not new in a sense is the standard ‘Like someone in love’, which Eli recorded already on his second album, but his new version is really different, as the group imagined how J. S. Bach might have played that song … to wondrous results: beautiful and melodic with an astonishing piano solo by Oren, that had Bach and Ella in it combined in a unique and breath-taking new way. ‘Bach’, still the working title of another new song, is a composition by Degibri, as well inspired by Bach and similar powerful and captivating. This was an absolutely impressive concert and I can’t wait to hear the recordings of the new material. Check Eli out if you get the chance … I am sure you’ll hear a lot from and of him in the near future.

May 28th brought Marcus Miller to Madrid to perform at the Teatro Nuevo Apolo with his incredible band featuring Marquis Hill on trumpet, Alex Han on sax, Brett Williams on keys and Alex Bailey on drums, plus the master himself on various electric basses and bass clarinet. They mostly performed the music from his latest album ‘Laid Black’, with the outstanding tracks here ‘Sublimity’ and ‘Trip Trap’, which had Miller performing a solo of unreal quality and funk power! Another highlight of the evening was ‘Hylife’ from the ‘Afrodeezia’ album and of course his nods to Miles Davis, this time with a wonderful and authentic version of ‘Bitches Brew’, as well as with his own compositions for the late trumpet legend, ‘Amandla’ and ‘Tutu’. Han and especially Hill did extremely well in these numbers, with incredible solo performances and ensemble play. A great band seemingly having fun on stage and enjoying the enthusiastic response from an audience that started dancing and singing at the end of the show to the performance of the Beatles song ‘Come Together’! Fantastic, groovy and smiles all around!!!

R.I.P. Cees Schrama … music man

Cees Schrama (Den Haag, 18 December 1936 – Baarn, 22 May 2019)

Jazz icon, promotor of jazz music in the Netherlands and beyond, music producer, keyboard player, record industry executive and a wonderful person. To me a mentor and friend of many years, from the beginnings when I started in the music industry and we both worked at PolyGram in mid/late eighties and then with him being part of the North Sea Jazz Festival, which I visited and took every chance to see and chat with him. As a successful jazz pianist he always had stories to tell, running a radio show for jazz in the Netherlands for over 30 years added to the pool of stories about music or musicians and the albums he produced with artists like Toots Thielemans, Rosenberg Trio, Monty Alexander (Live in Holland), Tony Scott, Flairck and many other local Dutch acts, plus many re-issues from the PolyGram vaults, are proof of his tireless work in and for music, jazz above all other genres. Not many people know that he played as well on one of the biggest international hits coming out of Holland: Shocking Blue’s Venus. His passion for music is described perfectly in his 2007 autobiography It Don’t Mean A Thing: Leven Met Jazz and some of the anecdotes are told there as well …. He helped me to set up a jazz structure within PolyGram International in the early Nineties, having global meetings and co-ordinated release schedules … still working as a producer and radio and festival presenter on the side. His knowledge about jazz was second to none and I surely learned a lot from him in every aspect. He will be sorely missed, not only in the Netherlands. Jazz lost one of its biggest and friendliest advocates. R.I.P.

 

 

Australia .. global music and Antonio

When thinking of Australia, jazz isn’t what comes to mind immediately – but that might change! Australia is working on a variety of activities to get more (deserved) recognition as a source of incredible and unique talent within improvised music. At jazzahead the various institutions of the country looking after jazz, like Sounds Australia, the Australian Music Centre, the Australia Council for the Arts, jazz festivals and labels, presented some of their most interesting artists and made a push for more recognition. Historically jazz is being played in Australia since 1918, when Billy Romaine appeared with his band in Sydney, featuring singer Belle Sylvia. Traditional jazz and jazz dance bands followed and copied, as everywhere else, what happened in the US. That all changed after the war with a bunch of jazz clubs opening and so bringing the new music to a wider audience. Charlie Munro in the late 1960’s probably being the first Australian jazz musician exploring influences from other cultures, something common in the expression of improvising musicians from down under today. Jazzrock had its expression via local groups like Crossfire and Pyramid, who played the Montreux Jazz festival in 1983. These first steps into the international limelight opened some doors and through these talents like Paul Grabowsky, Mike Nock, Dale Barlow and The Necks, Wanderlust, to just name a few, walked over the years into international recognition. And here came as well the first co-operations with the musical history of the continent, as well as with the many cultures brought to Australia by its immigrants. Talking about Australia today, the names of educator and pianist Paul Grabowsky, bass player Linda May Han Oh, singer and pianist Sara McKenzie and trumpet player and trombonist James Morrison pop up immediately … or of young sax player Troy Roberts. The presentation within jazzahead of Australian Jazz included many more very intriguing and beautiful recordings and some of the artists were around for a chat, like pianist Zela Margossian, percussionist Daniel Susnjar and singer, broadcaster and festival producer Chelsea Wilson. I will review some records from Australia below and hope to hear more in the near future. Jazz from Australia will get its recognition … as it is not a question of quality, but of exposure. Jazzahead was an important first step and there will be more to come … meanwhile why not listen to some great recordings from Australia here: https://open.spotify.com/user/soundsaustralia/playlist/2epEvbaRAv7vxwtnZ9DRe7?si=eiOGTT98THCC2h96GjSAhQ

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Zela Margossian / Transition – “What a bright new force is pianist Zela Margossian. Her debut album, Transition, announced her range and fascination as a composer, splashing her Armenian heritage across the broad canvas of jazz.” – John Shand from The Sydney Morning Herald wrote this review of ‘Transition’, the debut album of the Zela Margossian Quintet, featuring Stuart Vandegraff on soprano sax and clarinet, Adem Yilmaz on percussion, Elsen Price on bass and Alexander Inman-Hislop on drums and special guest on 2 tracks Metin Yilmaz on plul / kaval. This album is all about multicultural influences and identity and Margossian’s compositions are wonderful little folk melodies with jazz grooves and space for improvisations, which especially she uses to great effect and touching results. Great energy and amazing skills of all musicians make this a captivating listen. If you like Tigran or Dhafer Youssef, this one is for you as well. An album that grows on you with every listen.

Daniel Susnjar Afro-Peruvian Jazz Group / spark – This is the third album by drummer Daniel Susnjar and his Afro-Peruvian Jazz Group. Australian Susnjar, who studied and performed in the US and then Peru, is basing his compositions on Afro-Peruvian jazz grooves. ‘spark’ is full of danceable tunes and great Latin influenced jazz, performed on the highest level by Ricki Mallet on trumpet, Harry Mitchell on piano, Luke Minness on tenor sax, Zac Grafton on bass and Iain Robbie on cajon and other percussion, with all members as well playing various percussion instruments, so giving the music extra dynamics and power. A fun record to listen and party to!!

Other music I brought from jazzahead:

Aga Zaryan / High & Low – Born Agnieszka Skrzypek, Aga came to my attention first with her 2013 Blue Note album ‘Remembering Abbey & Nina’, a wonderful tribute to these iconic singers. Her new album is a different matter altogether, but nevertheless a really great album. Her own songs and lyrics, compositions from Marcin Wasilewski or her piano player Michal Tokaj, to which she wrote lyrics or covers of songs by Paul Simon (Spirit Voices), Carla Bley (Boo To You Too) and Stevie Wonder (Evil), as well as a beautiful wordless chant as a tribute to Geri Allen (Geri) make this record diverse and exciting and a showcase for the talented singer and composer. Excellent!

New Orleans Jazz Orchestra / Songs: the music of Allen Toussaint – New artistic director of the NOJO, drummer Adonis Rose breathes with this album new life into the Orchestra and they gladly go on a typical New Orleans musical adventure with him. Some of Allen Toussaint’s most famous songs have been given to different arrangers connected to the orchestra and they all did a wonderful job in keeping the spirit of the originals, but as well add the NOJO sound and power to the compositions. Special guest Dee Dee Bridgewater appears on a fabulous ‘It’s Raining’ and on ‘With you in mind’, where she shares vocal duties with the amazing Philip Manuel. The rest is like a day or better night out in the Crescent City – full of swing and fun, full of diversity and most of all, full of great ensemble play and individual contributions. A record that will put a smile on your face!!!

Ron Minis / Pale Blue Dot – Minis describes himself as ‘musician/composer based in Tel Aviv. A multi-instrumentalist playing piano, guitars, drums and bass. Participating in numerous projects ranging from avantgarde, modern jazz and classical music to punk, heavy metal and noise rock. Always looking for interesting collaborations!’ His album kind of proves his point: surprising changes, compositions that are without genre, captivating and sometimes musically challenging. The trio with Minis on keyboards, Avri Borochov on bass and either Yogev Gabay or Daniel Dor on drums is powerful, dynamic, but as well almost dreamy and light and will hopefully record many more albums like this. A tour de force!! And yes, we met because we both are painting our beards blue … instant understanding, as one can see below ….

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Jan Bang, Erik Honoré, Eivind Aarset, Samuel Rohrer / Dark Star Safari – A surprising little recording … Bang for the first time, as I can recall, on vocals beside his usual electronics and piano, Honoré on synths and electronics and voice and as writer of lyrics, Aarset on guitar, electronics and bass and Samuel Rohrer on percussion, electronic percussion, and synths are brewing up a genre-less mixture of sounds, beats and vocals that work in a kind of traditional song structure. ‘Resilient Star’ is great example of this and a beauty of a song, whereas ‘Child of Folly’ has a darker touch to it and the rest is simply cool. Different, exciting, drawing the listener into the album and rewarding him/her with some gems of songs. Surprising, but in a very good way!!

RGG / Memento (Polish Jazz, Vol. 81) – this Trio of Maciej Garbowski on bass, pianist Lukasz Ojdana and drummer Krysztof Gradziuk is very much based in the Polish music tradition: from classical to modern jazz. I always liked their lyricism and wonderful improvisations on compositions by classical composers from Poland, this time around coming from Gorecki, besides a piece from Ornette Coleman and Jacek Galuszka each and the rest coming from the members of the trio. ‘Tenderness’ is opening the album with just that …. The trios take of Coleman’s ‘Chronology’ is creative and touching and the rest keeps the listeners attention. The two Gorecki pieces ‘Szeroka woda’ and ‘Three Pieces in Old Style I’ are a perfect fit with the rest of the album and are beautifully performed. A European piano trio with its own distinctive sound and repertoire. Outstanding!

And it got two advance CD’s with music not yet released, but looking for a home: Vuma Levin / Antique Spoons – guitarist Levin’s new release is a powerful South African statement of social and human content. A step up from his previous releases, this has international potential.

Carita Boronska / Hypnotic Soul – Swedish singer Boronska recorded an album of her own tunes, that are jazz/pop/soul influenced and great to listen to. Singing mostly in English, but as well in Swedish and Spanish, this is an album with a wide appeal, based on wonderful songs and a great vocal delivery. Once these albums will have a proper release, I will gladly review them in more detail.

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A quick concert review: We saw early March the quartet of pianist Juan Sebastian with bass player Javier Colina, drummer Naima Acuña and the wonderful harmonica player Antonio Serrano. They performed Juan’s compositions as well as Fred Hersch, Tom Harrell and ‘Fragile’ by Sting with special guest singer Cecilia Krull, who did a wonderful job. Juan Sebastian is a really great player and full of ideas when improvising, Colina a master of the upright bass and Naima a drummer who fills the spaces and keeps the music going with free-flowing beats, but the star of the night for me was Antonio Serrano, the man with the most amazing sound on his instrument. And he can improvise … the solo he did in ‘Fragile’ was simply stunning and touching. I really hope they record in that format and with that repertoire … it surely would be a great album!