I hadn’t seen Aziza Mustafa Zadeh performing for a few years (the last time was when she toured her Decca album Shamans in 2002 and 2003), therefore I was a bit curious what she would do now. Yesterdays concert at the Auditorio of the Museum Reina Sofia in Madrid was played in a trio setting; Ralf Cetto on bass and Simon Zimbardo on drums were the perfect partners for her jazz/classical/world music mix.

Her new repertoire is based on classical pieces by composers like Verdi, Handel, Ravel and Mozart, but played with the power of a rock-jazz trio and the elegance she always displayed. Her singing, beautiful and full of imagination, here more classical, but nevertheless moving and touching. Some of the interwoven solo pieces were absolutely amazing and she showed why she is such a unique artist – a great pianist with a lot of skills in improvisation and composition, an incredible singer with a background in folk music and classical – she combines these assets and influences to something completely unique and widely appealing.

Guess I need to go and check out her latest two recordings: Contrasts and Contrasts II !

‘Unclouded’ is the title of the new album by Norwegian singer and composer Silje Nergaard and, even being her 12th recording, it feels like a new beginning, a return to simplicity, the way she had it on her earlier recordings. After two more ambitious projects (one of them with Orchestra and Vince Mendoza as the arranger) she has recorded this album with just 2 guitars – except for two songs were she invited guests: Nils Petter Molvaer and John Scofield respectively. There are a lot of great tracks here – check out the Killers ‘Human’ in her version and ‘All I Had’ with Nils Petter playing absolutely gorgeous behind her.

A record for a quiet hour, a record to relax and enjoy the simplicity and the great vocal skills she shows in every song.

A great and beautiful album, at the moment released in Germany, Austria and Switzerland and of course Scandinavia – the rest of Europe will follow during the course of the year. My highest recommendation for this one!

International Jazz Day

Herbie Hancock, in his role as UNESCO ambassador for the promotion of Intercultural Dialogue, announced two days ago, that April 30th will be the first International Jazz Day and that concert performances will take place in New Orleans, Paris and New York besides other cities. He himself will perform on that day in New Orleans, as well as New York.

What’s the point? Maybe they really need such an annual event in the US to re-focus their attention on their biggest cultural contribution to the world, but internationally ? There are more jazz clubs and radio station/programs for this music outside the US than inside – most American jazz artists make a living from touring Europe and Asia and less from performing in their home country and record sales, which used to be for the genre 65% in the US are now about 70% outside that market.

Herbie is quoted saying: “I’m really excited about International Jazz Day because so many artists from various countries and genres have a connection to jazz and will be able to honour this music that has had a profound effect on them, I hope that this day spreads the joy of spontaneous creation that exists in this music.”

“Jazz has been the voice of freedom for so many countries over the past half century,” he added and that the  “international diplomatic aspect of jazz” will be celebrated that day.

There is no doubt, that Jazz can use all promotion it gets and there is no doubt as well that it is the universal language, a way to communicate without words. Improvisation doesn’t know cultural background, as it is the vehicle to express oneself on a common ground with other musicians.

Let’s just hope that all involved in jazz will take this opportunity and make the best out of it – promoters, artists labels – if all work together it could actually be a worthwhile and great annual celebration of what we all love: improvised music, or simply said something that is more than that: Jazz.

Regrets No More

This is the title of a composition by young trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, whose band I heard/saw last Saturday in Madrid. The tight band gave a great concert, mostly of the leaders compositions, with the exception of a piece each by drummer Justin Brown and bass player Harish Raghavan. To make the quintet full they had as well Walter Smith III on sax and pianist Sam Harris on stage. The set was was comprised of tracks from the Blue Note album, ‘When the heart emerges’, plus a few new tracks. Ambrose is an amazing talent – his sound is clear and beautiful and his use of dynamics incredible, he is a great improviser and a fantastic composer of challenging, but fascinating music.

Maybe it was me, or the venue, but I didn’t have any ‘goose bump moments’ and for me they are very important in a concert – it shows that the music does not only intellectually touch and/or challenge you, but emotionally as well. The beautiful piece Regret No More, played just by Ambrose and Sam as a duo, was the only piece getting close to touch me deeply …

Ambrose and Corey Wilkes are for me the two trumpeter for the future, but neither of them is yet a challenge to Roy Hargrove, who is holding the top position here still. I am sure they will challenge him and Wynton and Payton soon…….


Going back to an earlier blog – Take Five – I just saw and heard that they will be playing some of the summer festivals this July – notably Molde Jazz and North Sea Jazz. I am really looking forward to this, they have been so great and the few things I heard at the Take Five week were amazing – and I have been told that the concert they did at the end of the week was absolutely stunning.

One of the participants, Norwegian drummer Gard Nilssen, gave me a copy of the latest release of his group bushman’s revenge (Rune Grammofon): the album is titled ‘a little bit of big bonanza’ and is a heavy jazz/rock guitar affair, influenced by Sonny Sharrock, whose composition ‘as we used to sing’ they perform beside all other tracks written by guitarist Even Helte Hermansen – this is one hell of a record and one to watch out for!!