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.


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.


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!


‘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!!!


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!!!


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!!!!


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.


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!

WM San

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.


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.


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.