35 years …

October 15th 2018 – on this day 35 years ago I started my first job in the music industry at PolyGram in Vienna, Austria, being the # 2 of the small operation of their Import Music Service. I had run a jazz club in Vienna with some friends before that and started a jazz magazine with others as well, but this was the start of so far 35 incredibly rewarding years, working with artists and their music. After a few months I took over the little operation IMS and started to sign jazz labels for distribution in Austria – Gramavision for example and imported all the Fantasy, Milestone, Prestige, Riverside and Pablo recordings and with that made some good business and increased the turnover of the little operation. After I moved on to the pop division as a product manager for UK releases, I still kept an eye on the jazz world and was able to secure a deal with ECM for Austria as well. After a few years on the job, meanwhile heading the international product division, I was allowed to begin local jazz productions with Wolfgang Muthspiel, Wolfgang Puschnig, Linda Sharrock and the Vienna Art Orchestra, to name just a few, on the amadeo label. Puschnig’s ‘Pieces Of The Dream’ was the first of these to be made available internationally in 1988, followed by many others.

These productions obviously got the attention of our big bosses, who were planning to re-organize the global jazz structure and they offered me the job to do so. In 1992 I moved to London to co-ordinate the global PolyGram jazz activities and do the worldwide marketing and promotion for the big albums within the jazz world .. these releases coming mainly from the USA (Verve and Antilles), France (EmArCy) and Japan (jmt). It was like a dream – I met all my favourite jazz musicians, got to work with many of them and made a lot of friends. We marketed records by Betty Carter, Abbey Lincoln, Shirley Horn, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Joe Henderson, Wayne Shorter, Roy Hargrove, Charlie Haden, Herbie Hancock, Diana Krall, Ornette Coleman, John Scofield, John McLaughlin, Randy Weston, David Sanborn, Dave Holland, George Benson and Michael Brecker among many others. When Universal bought PolyGram in 1998 I was asked to continue in my position as V.P, International Marketing for Classic and Jazz priorities, but added A&R for EmArCy records to my portfolio as we got less records from the US as the international markets needed to have the jazz operation run successfully – therefore I oversaw some local jazz activities and started to sign artists to EmArCy, the old mercury jazz label. John Scofield, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Madeleine Peyroux, Branford Marsalis, Roy Hargrove, Michael Brecker, Michel Camilo, The Bad Plus, James Carter, Sonny Rollins, Terry Callier, Tuck & Patti, Randy Crawford & Joe Sample, Ketil Bjornstad and others were signed by me then, as well as youngsters Julian Lage and Gerald Clayton, whose first releases appeared on EmArCy in 2009. Artists signed to local Universal companies I worked with at that time include Maria Joao, Till Bronner, Eleftheria Arvanitaki, Anna Maria Jopek, Bugge Wesseltoft and his Jazzland Recordings, Monday Michiru, Jef Neve, Karen Mok and Sergio Mendes among many more from various countries.

 

 

After leaving Universal in 2010 I set up All-In-Music-Service with my wife, as a consultancy for labels and artists and we started to book some artists in Europe, like Branford Marsalis, but that we only did until 2016. Since 2012 we are working for Sony Music’s classical division Masterworks. There I was asked to re-built the old OKeh imprint into a jazz label for today. In quick succession I was able to sign and release albums with John Medeski, Bill Frisell, Michel Camilo, Craig Handy, Dave Holland, Dhafer Youssef and Jeff Ballard. To make a point that OKeh was there to be taken seriously we released albums by young musicians such as Nir Felder, Somi, Theo Croker, James Brandon Lewis and Jo-Yu Chen and to show as well that we could attract major talent and have a roster covering all aspects of improvised music I signed and released albums by Sonny Rollins, Sergio Mendes, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Branford Marsalis, Kurt Elling, David Sanborn and Till Brönner.

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Beside that I was involved in or oversaw local releases within the OKeh family by Kat Edmonson, The Bad Plus, Regina Carter, Nils Petter Molvaer, Robin McKelle, Silje Nergaard, Camille Bertault, Baptiste Trotignon, Mario Biondi, Stacey Kent, Rebekka Bakken, Hugh Coltman, Bria Skonberg, triosence, Markus Stockhausen, BamesreiterSchwartzOrchester, the Polish trio RGG and Sly & Robbie plus Nils Petter Molvaer.

The dream continues and while still looking for new talent and having some on a list as possible signings, the work with the musicians on the roster is as rewarding as it always has been. The artists I worked with directly and the albums they released gathered numerous awards around the world, including 4 Grammys, 1 Latin Grammy, 5 ECHO awards and top awards from France, Japan, Holland and many more countries. I am honoured to call some of these amazingly creative people my friends and I am aware of and grateful for the luck I had in life being able to make a job out of my passion for music and especially jazz. I am happy to share my experience and knowledge with young musicians in events like Take 5, the UK initiative for young jazz musicians, or the Montreux Academy, organised by the jazz festival of Montreux, Switzerland.

Thanks to all the musicians that made these 35 years very special indeed and here’s to a few more … see you hopefully at a festival or gig very soon!

 

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a world full of sound

Having some friends in town for a visit, we decided to get some tickets for the concert of flamenco singer Sandra Carrasco with ‘El Amir’ John Haddad, the oud, bouzouki and guitar player of Radio Tarifa for many years. A match made in heaven – Carrasco sings in a traditional flamenco style, but doesn’t restrict her repertoire to songs from that genre only and El Amir is a versatile multi-instrumentalist, using sounds and loops to improve the soundscape of the performed composition. Together they created music of beauty and deep felt emotions, expressed through their instruments and enthusiastically taken on board by the audience in the small venue the AC Recoletos Hotel offers. A powerful performance by Sandra Carrasco with wonderful support by guitarist El Amir – magical moments indeed.

 

Recommended music from all around the globe:

Tal Arditi / Portrait – young Israeli guitarist Tal Arditi earlier this year released his debut album ‘Portrait’, a statement of were his art is at this point in time, a musical portrait one could say. Recorded live in Berlin’s hip A-Trane club it features Andreas Lang on bass and Tobias Backhaus on drums and is a strong first release from Tal. He has a clear, yet full and strong sound on his instrument and bass and drums are together and letting him fly and express himself in his compositions. Beautiful the solo intro to the track ‘Berlin Vibe’ (one of the outstanding compositions of the album,) which as well features a really good solo by the guitarist. One to watch!!!

Andres Vial / Sphereology, Vol. 1 – pianist Vial has studied Monk for many years and only now, for his fourth album, he decided to start working with the master’s material … and as Vol. 1 in the title of his new disc ‘Sphereology’ confirms, this is only the start. And what a beginning it is:  wonderful bands, featuring Peter Bernstein on guitar, Dezron Douglas on bass and Rodney Green on drums or Martin Heslop on bass and drummer Andre White, delving deep into Monks world. Beside Vial it is especially Bernstein who’s interpreting of Monks music stands out – some of his soli are outstanding and work extremely well with Vial’s piano approach of these tunes. Just checkout their duo of ‘Ask Me Now’ and one can hear their love and understanding of Monks composition. A highly recommended album with fantastic playing.  I hope Vol. 2 comes out soon!!

Lars Fiil / Frit Fald II – beside Danish composer and pianist Lars Fiil the trio Frit Fald features Lis Raabjerg Kruse on sax and nay flutes and Bjørn Heebøll on drums and together they create a beautiful soundscape of free improvisations on little melodies and grooves, intimate, flowing and open for the listener to dive in, find emotions, thoughts and questions. Performances are on top level, whether the music is more like a structured chamber music piece or free and intuitive. Challenging, but at the same time mostly lyrical music, which needs the listeners attention, but is extremely rewarding when getting it. Partly recorded live, partly in the studio, this is powerful and exciting music.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Piotr Schmidt / SaxesFul – Polish trumpeter Schmidt is building quite a following in his country and deservedly so. His new album ‘Saxesful’ is a tribute to the leading Polish sax players of today, featuring his heroes each on one track. The participating saxophonists are Henryk Miskiewicz, Jan Wroblewski, Zbigniew Namyloslowski, Maciej Sikala, Piotr Baron, Adam Wendt and Grzech Piotrowski. The repertoire is almost exclusively standards with the exception of two compositions by the quartet of Schmidt on trumpet, Woiciech Niedziela on piano, Maciej Garbowski on bass and Krzysztof Gradziuk on drums: one a beautiful Interlude and the other Song for Tomasz a fitting musical tribute to Tomasz Stanko. Schmidt and his band are keeping the songs together lead by the various sax players, which all are bringing fantastic performances to the album, as well as Schmidt, whose soli are very impressive and captivating. A record reminiscent of Roy Hargrove’s ‘With the Tenors of Our Time’ in terms of the tribute concept and quality. Classy!

Mike Lorenz, Robinson Morse, Kevin Ripley / speak between – the trio of guitarist Lorenz, bass player Morse and drummer Ripley is creating a free-flowing ambient jazz with lots of spaces for improvisations and interaction. As they state in the press text: “The idea behind speak between is a play on what it means to ‘read between the lines.’ In this case, we are ‘speaking between the lines,’ finding the sounds hidden inside what is on the page”. Creative and challenging music, top communication within the group, acting and re-acting to spontaneous created ideas based on the sparsely written music. Captivating!

Marie Goudy / The Bitter Suite – for a debut album, this is a very ambitious and powerful statement by Canadian composer and trumpeter Marie Goudy, who assembled an incredible group of musicians to record her first work: Goudy – Trumpet & Voice / Jocelyn Barth – Voice / Brad Eaton – Trumpet & Flugelhorn / Matt Woroshyl – Alto & Soprano Saxophones / John Nicholson – Tenor Saxophone & Voice / Conrad Gluch – Baritone Saxophone / Charlotte Alexander – French Horn / Paul Tarussov – Trombone / Zach Smith – Trombone / Chris Platt – Guitar / Josh Smiley – Piano / Alex Lakusta – Bass / Keagan Eskritt – Drums and Andrés Gándara – Vihuela. Goudy states as her influences Maria Schneider, Marty Paich and Kenny Wheeler and Mariachi music, something she was involved in for many years and the Suite is combining and using all these influences to create something unique and beautiful. The Bitter Suite is the telling of a love story through the seasons and Goudy uses her 11 companions perfectly – creating the right atmospheres for the various stages of the love story, drawing from the colourful arrangements of her music. A promising start for the very talented Marie Goudy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

And finally – go and watch the new Netflix documentary QUINCY, which is an interesting and touching portrait of a great music man and human being! Quincy Jones is by any means one of the most important music creators, producers, writers of our time and the docu tells the story and portraits the essence of the man perfectly. I had the pleasure to meet Quincy Jones in the early 2000’s in Montreux once and thanks to the late Claude Nobs got to talk to him for a bit … about music of course .. jazz, the EmArCy label especially, as he was their A&R in the 50’s and I was kind of running it at the time we met … a really nice man, open and ready to talk, to listen and still showing great passion for music … and all that is manifested throughout his career, as the documentary perfectly shows. A must see!

 

Soul Station and other delights ..

I saw Eli Degibri once before, at a show case in Bremen and looked forward to yesterdays concert, as I did enjoy his sound and playing then and hoped a full show would be even more engaging than the 40 minutes he did then – and it was exactly as I expected: Degibri on saxes and his sidemen Tom Oren on piano, Tamir Shmerling on bass and Eviatar Slivnik on drums were cooking at Café Central in the centre of Madrid. Starting off with music from his latest album, ‘Cliff Hangin’ the quartet pushed the limits right from the start. Eli’s sound is deep and beautiful and perfect for powerful outbursts, with him shouting to himself and encouraging him and the others to go even deeper into the music and express themselves …One of the highlights here was his playing on the soprano sax in the wonderful ‘The Unknown Neighbour’! His band is tight and they seem to have a great understanding and communication. After playing some more cool compositions from Eli’s catalogue the band went into their forthcoming release, ‘Soul Station / A Tribute To Hank Mobley’, which is basically a re-make of the original Mobley album by the same name plus one new composition by Degibri – ‘Dear Hank’. To re-make a full album is an unusual statement – this is were I come from, what I like and what influenced me and this is as well what I can do with it now. And he totally makes the compositions his own … ‘Soul Station’ grooves and swings hard and ‘If I Lose You’ is a touching ballad with some beautiful playing on the night by Eli and Tom Oren. If you can’t see these guys live in your local club or festival, check out the new album, which will be out early October. Highly Recommended!

 

update:  forthcoming releases include the first Okeh album by Norwegian singer Rebekka Bakken ‘Things You Leave Behind’, a wonderful collection of originals and covers, which will be released September 28th. A new label, new songs, that sound rougher and even more mature than before, edgier, with lyrics that matter to the writer/singer and as well produced by Rebekka, to make it sound the way she heard these songs. As a long time fan, I would say that this is one of her best albums so far and I recommend to listen to the full album of which for the time being the songs ‘Closer’, ‘True North’, Shelter’, the title song and the wonderful version of ‘Time After Time’, which Rebekka had for a while now in her live repertoire and thankfully recorded for this album, are my favourites. European tour dates will follow the release – don’t miss her!!!

Later in the year we will see German singer Lyambiko release ‘My Favourite Christmas Songs’, featuring classics like ‘River’ and ‘Driving Home For Christmas’.

November will see the release of the new Lisa Ekdahl album ‘More Of The Good’. All songs on the new album are written by Lisa together with her long-time collaborator Mathias Blomdahl. The first single of the album, ‘I Know You Love Me’, featuring Ibrahim Maalouf, is available now. Lisa will tour Scandinavia before the end of the year and the rest of Europe in 2019.

In preparation for early 2019 releases: young trumpet star Theo Croker with a truly powerful and modern new album and a brand-new recording by the Branford Marsalis Quartet, recorded in the studio in Australia earlier this year. More on these and other possible releases for 2019 soon.

New Releases I can recommend:

Madeleine Peyroux / Anthem – ‘Anthem’ is simply another wonderful Peyroux album, but this time with her own songs, with the exception of the title track, which is a beautiful Leonard Cohen composition. The rest she wrote with her producer Larry Klein, David Baerwald (of David & David fame) and others. And they all create an album of simplicity and honesty, with a focus on her distinctive vocals, with some true gems of songs, like ‘We might as well dance’ or ‘On My Own’ and ‘All My Heroes’. Can’t wait to hear these new songs live later this year – meanwhile I’ll listen to the album … and so should you!

Concerto Stella Matutina & Rolf Lislevand / Nuove Invenzioni – Now, this is something completely different: Lisleland (lute and guitar) with the Ensemble Concerto Stella Matutina are combining here baroque sounds and compositions with the jazz element of improvisation. Compositions from Handel to Stanko are on display and make musically sense in arrangement and performance. Weird maybe, but captivating, as the period instruments give way to modern instruments and sounds, as in ‘Intrada’. The medley of ‘La Spagna’ by Francesco da Milano (1497-1543) and ‘Suspended Variations’ by Thomas Stanko (1942-2018) is the highlight of the album, building up slowly to a wonderful finale – classic and jazz combined to create simply stunning music. Surprising!

Jeremy Ledbetter Trio / Got A Light? – pianist Ledbetter, known for his work with CaneFire and as a producer for David Rudder, will release his first trio album on September 21st and it features Canadian top musicians Rich Brown (Steve Coleman, Dapp Theory) on bass and drummer Larnell Lewis (Snarky Puppy). The trio recorded a powerful album of Ledbetter’s compositions and one cover: ‘Gift Shop’ by The Tragically Hip which is one of the highlights of this diverse album, next to ‘Amanecer’, ‘About Climbing Mountains’ and ‘The Tightrope Walker’! A strong debut – very promising!

fresh music

a few records I did enjoy listening to over the last few weeks:

Weird Turn Pro / Let Me Be Unwound – led by pianist/composer Mike Effenberger, WTP as well features Matt Langley on reeds, Chris Klaxton on trumpet, Chris Gagne on trombone, Rob Gerry on bass and Mike Walsh on drums and creates a floating, repetitive, jazz inspired music that is minimalistic and meditative. The sextet often sounds as a much bigger ensemble, pushing the tiny melodic phrases around and ‘embracing repetition as form of change’. Music like a river: seemingly being the same without ever being so … as minimal changes constantly occur. Fascinating!

Kobie Watkins Grouptet / Movement – Watkins, a former drummer with Sonny Rollins, presents his first album with his new band Grouptet, which features Jonathan Armstrong on sax, Ryan Nielsen on trumpet, Justin Nielsen on piano and Aaron Miller on bass. ‘Movement’ is a hard-swinging traditional jazz album in the best sense – great compositions, wonderful ensemble-play and individual contributions and a really good version of ‘Manteca’!!  Worth checking out!!

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Michael Leonhart Orchestra / The Painted Lady Suite – I had seen the MLO last year in New York and have been waiting ever since for their debut album .. and multi-instrumentalist, composer and arranger Michael Leonhart does not disappoint with this orchestral debut: powerful compositions and arrangements, plus some incredible individual performances and soli, make this an outstanding album for any fan of larger ensembles. The Suite takes 7 of the 10 tracks of the album and is based on the migration of the Painted Lady Butterfly and has some wonderful compositions and arrangements with a very unique signature. Outstanding soloists in a cast of over 30 musicians are Nels Cline (in ‘Music Your Grandparents Would Like’) and Donny McCaslin (in ‘In the Kingdom Of MQ’). This is a captivating mix of traditional big band arrangements with new sounds and new ideas, a bit of Zappa and Vienna Art Orchestra thrown in and you get one of the most exciting new big ensemble voices for a while. A must!!!!!

Simone Kopmajer / Spotlight On Jazz – leading Austrian Jazz singer Simone Kopmajer recorded her new album with some of the best local musicians – Terry Myers on sax and clarinet, Paul Urbanek on piano, Martin Spitzer on guitar, Karl Sayer on bass and Reinhard Winkler on drums and they give her the background for her swinging and traditional jazz singing. She stylishly mixes her own compositions with standards and is so creating a relaxed and beautiful atmosphere to listen to these extremely well-presented songs. For the quiet hours of the day!

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John Pittman / Kinship – Canadian trumpet player John Pittman, who made himself a name as part of the Heavyweights Brass Band just released his debut album, featuring Shirantha Beddage on baritone sax, Jeff McLeod on piano, Mike Dones on bass and Curtis Nowosad on drums and ‘Kinship’ is a cool and swinging core jazz album, with really good compositions and musicians that were chosen for their kinship with the leader and the way they can communicate via music. Pittman is a great trumpet player and improviser, who surely deserves wider recognition!

Nicola Conte & Spiritual Galaxy / Let Your Light Shine On – Italian composer, guitarist and DJ Nicola Conte delivers with ‘Let Your Light Shine On’ a very strong homage to the Afrocentric spiritual music of John Coltrane. And as usual he has assembled to top band to bring his compositions to life – among many others the album features contributions by Theo Croker on trumpet, saxophonists Logan Richardson and Magnus Lindgren, as well as Zara McFarlane on vocals. Great grooves, great ensemble play and soli on what must be seen as one of Conte’s best recordings so far. Recommended!

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Paolo Vinaccia / Mystery Man – This 6 CD box set was released in Norway earlier this year to celebrate the drum masters 64th birthday and features 64 tracks from recordings made between 1981 and 2018 plus an interview disc with an additional 9 tracks from a radio show done by journalist Tor Hammerø. All these tracks of various musical genres have the sensitive drumming of Paolo Vinaccia in common and it is fascinating to listen how he can adapt to whatever musical environment and make the music all his own and still make it work for whoever he is recording. He listens, communicates and makes sure that the music sounds great – keeping himself in the background, only stepping up when needed to increase the groove or add something to lift the composition. The list of musicians with whom Paolo played and recorded is endless and includes almost all the main Norwegian jazz artists of our time – Terje Rypdal, Bugge Wesseltoft, Arild Andersen, Nils Petter Molvaer, Beady Belle, Sidsel Endresen, Eivind Aarset, Bendik Hofseth, etc., plus international acts like Mike Mainieri, Ferenc Snetberger, Tommy Smith and Henry Kaiser. This box confirms what they all knew already: Paolo Vinaccia is one of the most accomplished European drummers of our time.

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Jazz at Bran Castle

What better way to end the summer jazz festival season by going to a new and exciting place and hear good music? Our trip to Bran in Romania basically started in January this year with a visit to Madrid by drummer Paolo Vinaccia and his wife, painter Trude Semb, and as Paolo is on the programming board for Jazz at Bran Castle, he mentioned that we should come and have a few relaxed days with them there and hear some great music. As to listen to jazz played in the original Dracula castle seemed something exciting and cool, we decided to go … and did last weekend. The trip from Bucharest to the castle is long, as traffic is incredible, but once there we saw a beautiful small town and an inviting mountainous landscape and of course the legendary castle, see photo below.

On the Friday evening the festival was opened by the Omar Sosa Trio, featuring beside Sosa on piano and keyboards, Seckou Keita on kora and Gustavo Ovalles on drums. The trio’s mixture of Latin and African rhythms was captivating and the flow of the group improvisations changed the music constantly. The sound created by the piano and kora is extremely beautiful and fits the flowing compositions perfectly. The 200 strong audience (the court of the castle doesn’t hold more) enjoyed the music immensely and honoured the trio with a standing ovation. I hadn’t listened to much of Omar’s music before this show, but will definitely catch up on that in the coming weeks.

Paolo had us invited to the artist lounge, which served wonderful wines from around the world and some incredible and tasty food, so waiting for Lars Danielsson to set up for his show was very enjoyable and time flew very fast … ‘Liberetto III’ was the program Danielsson brought to the castle and this band includes beside him on bass, John Parricelli on guitar, Gregory Privat on piano and Magnus Ostrom on drums. Beautiful melodies brought to life by an excellent band. Had on the first two albums the piano seat be occupied by Tigran Hamasyan, Privat stepped in for number 3 and what a good choice he is: inspired improvisations based on Danielson’s compositions gave the rest of the band something to smile upon and a direction for their own melodic explorations for the music they created together. Recommend listening.

Saturday started at lunch time with a concert in a nearby church by the Duo Medieval and Arve Henriksen. This was scheduled as a Trio Medieval concert with trumpeter Henriksen, but unfortunately one of the singers of the trio, Jorun Lovise Husan, fell ill and couldn’t make the trip. So it was up to Anna Maria Friman and Linn Andrea Fuglseth to perform with trumpeter and singer Henriksen in an acoustic concert in the church and if one wouldn’t have known, it didn’t seem to make a difference: their voices floated around the space and Henriksen added various trumpets and flutes to them, creating hauntingly beautiful music between medieval religious music and folk songs from mostly Scandinavia. They then as well opened the evening in the castle court yard and the music, this time with the addition of Paolo Vinaccia on percussion and drums, was simply perfect for the environment and left the audience asking for more. The soaring voices filling the castle, supported by simple but effective percussion to enhance the rhythm and Henriksen’s sounds and immaculate trumpet playing, left no-one untouched. Great music!!

Next up on Saturday night was supposed to be a duo of Enrico Rava and Stefano Bollani, but unfortunately Rava had a fall at home and couldn’t make it, so Bollani decided to play a piano solo show instead. He is an artist who doesn’t know borders or genres .. it is all music to him and his solo show had therefore moments of classical music, known themes and standards, free improvisations and as always, a good sense of humour. All on a very high musical level and built up nicely, so the audience kept following him throughout.

The Saturday finished with a concert by Norwegian trumpet player Nils Petter Molvaer, with Jo Berger Myhre on bass and Erland Dahlen on drums. They played the music from Molvaer’s latest album ‘Buoyancy’, a mix of ambient sounds, jazz improvisations and rock elements that was perfect to close the night with its moving sound patterns and sometimes heavy grooves over which Molvaer laid his trumpet improvisations. One of the stars of European jazz at his best.

 

That was for us the end of the festival, as we had to go back on Sunday, when our wonderful host Paolo made a guest appearance in the show of Daniele Di Bonnaventura, before Rabih Abou-Khalil closed the 6th edition of Jazz at Bran Castle. For us truly a weekend to remember –  for the beautiful time we spend with Paolo and Trude,  for the great music we heard and the wonderful hospitality we were shown by the team of the festival.

In the next blog I will review a few new records from around the world, including the 6 CD box set ‘Mystery Man’, showcasing the recorded music career of Paolo Vinaccia. Stay tuned.

new music live and on discs

After the great music at North Sea Jazz I had the chance to see and hear a few more concerts in Madrid and Alicante, mostly of acts that I have written about a few times already and which I truly like, therefore I’ll make it short this time. Julian Lage, in a trio with Jorge Roeder on bass and Eric Doob on drums, played as usual on the highest level of musicianship on his instrument and both Roeder and Doob are perfect sidemen for him, working well as a group. Most of the music came from the album ‘Modern Lore’, but from earlier in his career as well – the master of the young guitarists. Dhafer Youssef, singer and oud player extraordinaire performed ‘Diwan of Beauty and Odd’ with Aaron Parks, Matt Brewer on bass and Ferenc Nemeth on drums and it was a powerful and beautiful show full of wonderful singing by the master, whose musical relationship with pianist Parks seems to grow and grow. The new Gregory Porter show, when he performs without an orchestra, is a great mix of songs from all his recordings, including a few from the latest Nat King Cole tribute just as a touching duo with Chip Crawford on piano. Jahmal Nichols (bass), Emanuel Harrold (drums), Tivon Pennicott (tenor sax) and Ondrej Pivec (Hammond organ) completed the solid band behind the great voice.

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The one artist I want to write a bit more about this time is the incredible singer and performer Ute Lemper. I know Ute since her 2000 album Punishing Kiss and have seen and heard her many times over the years. But it has been a few years now since I last saw her perform and I was looking forward to her concert ‘Songs from the broken heart’ in Alicante, as it promised to be a voyage through her career and best songs from her catalogue. Vana Gierig on piano; Victor Hugo Villena on bandoneon and Romain Lecuyer on bass, gave Ute Lemper the support and sound she needed for the variety of songs she performed. From songs connected to Marlene Dietrich (a new and forthcoming project, based on a 3-hour telephone conversation between Dietrich and Lemper) to Leo Ferrer, Brel, Reich, Dylan and of course Brecht/Weill, the trio made it all sound right and Lemper, with her energetic performance and vocal skills, made these songs hers and so kept the overall sound and quality of the show going. Especially Pete Seeger’s ‘Where have all the flowers gone’/’Sag mir wo die Blumen sind’, which in the German version was done by Dietrich and which Lemper did in both languages, was stunning in terms of delivery and emotional content .. and for me a song I hadn’t heard in years, but one I had a connection to in the late 60’s and early 70’s. Ute Lemper is without a doubt one of the great singers and performers of our time – she can’t really be put in any category, she seems to have created her own. Wonderful and highly recommended.

CDs:

It is something special to find an unreleased studio session by one of the most revered jazz artists ever, so the hype around John Coltrane ‘Both Directions At Once / The Lost Album’ was deserved on that simple fact and of course, because the music is amazing! This recording will not open new doors to the understanding of what drove Coltrane etc., but it is a valuable piece of the jigsaw in understanding his development and musical evolution. The title makes sense as he is partly still in the tradition, partly already moving forward, working toward expression of spirituality. His and the bands playing is unmatched and the two originals and Slow Blues alone are worth checking this album out. Recorded with the best Coltrane band featuring McCoy Tyner, Jimmy Garrison and Elvin Jones, this is not only a document of a great group of musicians and its leader, it is a great jazz record. Period!

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‘Flow Vertical’ is the new album by Serbian sax player, composer and singer Jasna Jovicevic and it is a tour de force of composed and improvised music ranging from chamber music influenced pieces (featuring Gabriela Koso on bassoon; Filip Krumes on violin; Rastko Popovic on violin; Dejan Bozic on cello and Uros Secerov on percussion) to a wonderful solo sax performance and everything in between. An unusual album that kept me listening with its twists and subtle little melodies and the power of the compositions and performances. A new voice to listen to!

Already out for a year, I only just now heard the 3 CD set of Gard Nilssen’s Acoustic Unity entitled ‘Live in Europe’. Nilssen, a formidable drummer in various bands, whom I had the pleasure to hear a few times and his partners in Acoustic Unity Petter Eldh on bass and Andre Roligheten on tenor and soprano saxes are known for the adventurous music based on free-flowing improvisations over themes composed by all three players. Powerful and communicative are the words coming to mind. The three discs have been recorded at three different concerts and while disc one shows the trio in incredible form, disc two shows them with guest saxophonist Fredrik Ljungkvist, who as well plays clarinet and disc 3 has them perform with sax players Kristoffer Berre Alberts and Jorgen Mathisen. The guests simply enhance the power of the music the trio makes, as it allows them to shine within the space the trio usually gives each other as well. Extended communication, expression of common ideas and simply the pleasure to play with each other. Adventurous and exciting, fresh and challenging, but rewarding when listening closely.

Aaron Shragge & Ben Monder - This World of Dew - Cover Art

Aaron Shragge, dragon mouth trumpet, flugelhorn, shakuhachi and Ben Monder, guitar just released their third album together, entitled ‘This World Of Dew’ and it is a beautiful duo recording of 14 new Shragge compositions, giving both artists room to display their unique sounds and create a lyrical and heart-warming album. Tracks 2 to 7 are linked as a suite, which is musically enchanting, hauntingly beautiful and meditative. Recommended.

North Sea Jazz 2018

I was really looking forward to this year’s edition of North Sea Jazz, as the program really looked promising in its annual mix of established acts and new ones to discover. Arriving Friday afternoon in Rotterdam to get ready for the first show on my individual program, which was the blind fold test Kurt Elling did for Downbeat before his Quintet show with special guest Marquis Hill. Dan Quellette did play Kurt some cool tracks … but wait and read about this when it is published. Elling’s gig, with John Mclean on guitar, Stuart Mindeman on piano and organ, Clark Summers on bass and Adonis Rose on drums, was simply incredible – the band is now so tight and has the new repertoire mastered fully and gives Elling the security to deliver his vocal artistry, following each turn the masters voice is taking. Hill fits in perfectly in terms of sound and imagination and is a perfect partner for Elling. What a great start to the festival – all you want from a gig: great artists performances, improvisation of the highest level and tons of emotions expressed via music!!!

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After that it was a bit running to a gig that wasn’t actually planned: Carla Bley unfortunately had to cancel her tour for health reasons and the festival decided to put on stage Bill Frisell (who already had played the night with Charles Lloyd) together with John Surman. A duo both artists were talking about doing for a while .. and now it happened – with half an hour to prepare! The result was simply stunning: explorations on themes by Surman or Frisell, improvisations and a music dialogue of rare quality! Surman on either bass clarinet or soprano and Frisell exchanged ideas, showed mutual respect and listened, so they could ‘answer’ each other in the best musical way! This is surely something they should follow up on!!!

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Off then to catch a bit of Roy Hargrove, whose band included Justin Robinson on alto saxophone, Tadataka Unno on piano, Ameen Saleem on bass and Quincy Philips on drums. Roy sounded strong and powerful and all the guys seemed to have a great time playing most songs from Roy’s extensive catalogue. He still got it!

Last on my list for Friday was the great NuSoul band from Norway ROHEY, about which I already have written a bit, especially about their stunning US debut in January during Winter Jazz Fest in New York. Rohey are: Rohey Talaah on vocals, Ivan Blomqvist on keys, Kristian Jacobsen on bass and Henrik Lodoen on drums and as in New York they got their (this time much bigger) audience going after a few bars …. Powerful songs and an incredible voice make this something special! Rohey is a singer of amazing talent and always shows her emotions and puts her soul into each song … a dancing and enthusiastic audience appreciated it!!!!

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Saturday, July 14, 2018: Day 2 I started with the wonderful singer Deva Mahal. Just a few songs were enough to confirm what a great singer she is – the record is good, but live: she nails it!! Quickly running over to see and say Hi to Nubya Garcia and listen a bit to her powerful show. Her improvisational skills and her sense for melody were outstanding and she proved, with her grooving band, why she is one of the most exciting new acts in the current UK scene.

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Next was David Sanborn, who brought his new acoustic band for the first time to North Sea Jazz – performing with him were Michael Dease on trombone, Andy Ezrin on piano, Ben Williams on bass and Billy Kilson on drums and they got the audience going right from the start, which was a powerful reading of Michael Brecker’s Tumbleweed. The rest of the amazing show was a mixed bag of Sanborn originals, standards and covers and the audience loved the way Sanborn and the band treated these compositions and Sanborn’s sound and emotional way of playing. We sat for a while back stage chatting and photographer John Gundlach / De Beeldunie took this great picture of us. Thanks!

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I had missed most of the Pat Metheny concert, but gladly heard a few bits and really enjoyed that new band he got with Gwilym Simcock on piano, Linda Oh on bass and Antonio Sanchez on drums and was lucky enough to have a chat with Pat after his show, refreshing memories of when we worked together with Charlie Haden and Michael Brecker and a bit about some new and exciting acts of today.

I checked about half of the Jazz Loves Disney show, which I truly enjoyed. The four voices used for the concert were really well picked and, in their diversity, made the program work extremely well. Hugh Coltman, Sarah McKenzie, China Moses and Myles Sanko gave the show the emotions and class which it needed to take it beyond a collection of songs.

To finish off the second night at North Sea I went to hear and see the Sons Of Kemet – maybe not the best idea if you want to sleep after that: this was full power music – with Theon Cross on tuba, drummers Eddie Hick and Tom Skinner, as well as sax player Shabaka Hutchings. Improvisations over grooves that push Hutchings forward in his soli and melodic excursions. Fascinating.

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Sunday I started with the Maciej Obara quartet – I wanted to see this group for a while now and I really enjoyed their music. Dominik Wania on piano, Ole Morton Vagan on bass and Gard Nilssen on drums have such a great understanding with alto player Obara, that the music is flowing like a chat between friends … moving to different places quickly and always being responsive while listening what the other musicians had to ‘say’. Profound and challenging.

Just heard a bit of trumpet player Mathias Eick’s concert before getting ready for HUDSON – Jack DeJohnette, John Scofield, John Medeski and Scott Colley performed the music of the first album of this group and took the songs to a different level. Outstanding their version of Hendrix’s Castle Made Of Sand – Scofield playing sensationally and the rest of the gang just kicking in … wow!!! These guys are really something else!! Next was Keyon Harrold, whose album I like and the live show was even more exciting, pushing borders and him and guitarist Nir Felder played some deep and interesting soli. A truly great band, a charismatic leader and some great tunes – can’t ask for much more!!! After that is was Avishai Cohen (the bass player) who presented his latest album 1970 live. Next to Avishai there were Karen Malka on vocals, Marc Kakon on guitar, Shai Bacher on keys and Noam David on drums and together they created Avishai’s signature sound of various influences from around the globe and performed his new, more vocal oriented material, to perfection. An enthusiastic and thankful audience showed their appreciation with load applause.

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I wanted to check out Ramon Valle a bit as well, but there were so many people queuing, that it was unfortunately impossible to get into the venue .. pity, as I like his playing, especially with the trio.

Therefore, I decided to end the Sunday and the festival with another super group in jazz – the Billy Hart quartet featuring special guest Joshua Redman, Ethan Iverson and Ben Street. Drummer Hart has excellent taste in his sidemen and this band in no exception – Iverson and Redman delivered blistering and thoughtful improvisations, based on Street’s and Hart’s rhythms, laid out for them to walk upon. Stunning interplay and communication and 4 musicians who obviously had a lot of fun playing together. The perfect ending for an exhausting, but wonderful festival.

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