more great music from JazzMadrid18

John Surman with his ‘Invisible Threads’ Trio at the Conde Duque – beautiful little melodies performed by three masters of their genre: Surman on bass clarinet and soprano saxophone, Nelson Ayres on piano and Rob Waring on vibraphone and marimba. John Surman is a European Jazz Legend as a composer as well as a performer and creative improviser and here his compositions, as well as the ones of the other members of the trio, gave the musicians space to develop ideas around the melodies, to follow the mood of the moment and create new music on the spot. The combination of the vibraphone with the piano sounds powerful and supportive to the main improviser, but the vibes on the other hand as well add a percussive element to the music. A wonderful, contemplative musical experience by a trio that revelled in its togetherness … and the album with the same name is a great addition to an already impressive body of work by the British musician.

Violinist Regina Carter hasn’t been in Madrid too often and a visit is always a chance to enjoy her unparalleled playing. Her group featuring Xavier Davis on piano, Chris Lightcap on bass and Alvester Garnett on drums dug deep into the repertoire of her latest album ‘Ella .. Accentuate the Positive’ and delivered a memorable concert mainly of compositions connected to the great singer. Carter is an outstanding improviser, swinging through these songs with ease, who as well did sing on occasion, especially wonderful in a composition by bass player and vocalist Richard Bona. Her band perfectly supported her with Davis outstanding in filling spaces and his melodic improvisations. Exceptional!

Tigran Hamasyan followed up last years impressive solo concert with another wonderful performance, showing his improvisational skills, using his own compositions from his two recent solo albums ‘An Ancient Observer’ and ‘For Gyumri’ as a base for his musical excursions. Floating between jazz parts, Armenian folk music elements and classical themes, Tigran combined his various musical influences into one single and unique voice on the piano. One song performed on keyboards with electronic sounds and loops, was an interesting exercise in what he can do with these instruments, but felt a bit lost within an acoustic piano performance, which entranced the audience.

Antonio Sanchez and his band Migration ended for me JazzMadrid18 with a captivating show. Sanchez made it clear that his music has a political and human message to it, by not only dedicating the concert, but as well the forthcoming album ‘Lines in the sand’, to migrants all over the world. He especially pointed to the situation on the borders between the US and Mexico … and the music of this amazing group reflected all the despair and suffering, but as well all the hope and joy of these migrants. The group Migration features beside the leader and drummer Sanchez vocalist Thana Alexa, Chais Baird on sax and EWI, John Escreet on piano and Orlando de Fleming on bass, all leaders in their own right and they created a powerful sound as a unit, being able to express all emotions together. No matter whether it was a beautiful little melody or a free-flowing soundscape they performed everything as a group and got a deserved standing ovation from the enthusiastic crowd. A powerful statement in many ways!


Monday, November 12th – as part of the 50th Voll-Damm Festival Internacional de Jazz de Barcelona, Bill Frisell did a workshop and a rare solo concert that day – what a treat. The concert confirmed Frisell’s status as a unique story-teller on his instruments – with the help of some loops and sounds he ’told’ the audience his stories, plus some about what the world needs now and  a finger turning everything into gold that it touches. Stories told in the tradition of the ancient story-tellers, the same in content, but different in the wording, every time. A true story-teller lives his stories and puts emotion into the description of the world the stories play in … Frisell is a master in this and solo he can focus on how he wants to express himself even more than in a group setting. There is no question that Bill Frisell is one of the great musicians and improvisers of our time … and I simply love to listen to him telling his stories.

2 days later trumpet player Nils Petter Molvaer visited Madrid as part of JazzMadrid 18 and brought his amazing group featuring Johan Lindstrøm on guitar and pedal steel guitar, Jo Berger Myhre on bass and Erland Dahlen on drums with him to perform the music of ‘Buoyancy’, his latest band album. Molvaers music, in its mix of ambient sounds, jazzy grooves and rock elements can make you fell like you are floating in a sea of music, being thrown around by the different strengths of the sounds, the waves coming in a rhythm and move you as if dancing on the surface … then a tsunami of sounds washes over you and takes you up, only to let you land on your feet again, carried by the crystal clear sound of the trumpet. There is no genre to this, it is just great music, powerful and touching.

Thursday, Michel Camilo performing in Madrid a solo concert in support of his latest release, a solo live recording from London. Camilo is a powerful performer with an incredible left hand and again showcases his amazing technical abilities on his instrument … starting with a groovy ‘Island Beat’, which immediately gets the audience going. But Michel is not only a power player, his sensitive touch in the ballads, like in his own ‘Sandra Serenade’, is beautiful and draws the audience into the essence of the song. But the highlights in his shows are the faster compositions and for me one of these is his incredible solo version of Paul Desmonds ‘Take Five’, which he originally recorded for the ‘What’s Up?’ album, another solo gem in his catalogue. Camilo is a versatile showman and incredible improviser … check him out live or get the Live In London album … definitely worth it!

How better to end this amazing week of great music than with singer Stacey Kent and her band, featuring saxophonist, flautist and composer Jim Tomlinson, Graham Harvey on piano, Jeremy Brown on bass and Josh Morrison on drums. Despite some difficult travel on the performance day and Stacey battling a bit of a cold and a cough, she performed beautifully and the band, especially Tomlinson and Harvey, laid down wonderful support for her voice, as well as playing some touching soli. To keep the voice safe, the repertoire of the evening was mostly ballads and mid-tempo songs, from Brazil or France … compositions by Jobim, Valle, Gainsbourg, Ferrer and others, as well as the song ‘Bullet Train’, composed by Tomlinson with lyrics by Literature Nobel Prize winner Kazuo Ishiguro and one of the highlights of the evening. A very laid back, but musically captivating concert.

a little bit of groove …

Before the 2018 Madrid International Jazz Festival took off on November 6th, I got to see two very impressive and groovy shows in town – on the 4th at Bogui Jazz the James Carter Organ Trio and on the 5th the wonderful Combo 66 by John Scofield. Carter’s organ trio, featuring Gerald Gibbs on Hammond B3 and Alex White on drums, is a powerhouse of grooves and heavy beats, but wonderful as well on delicate ballads. James Carter is one of the most accomplished saxophonists of his generation and his horn gives him an outlet to scream, howl, tell you a story or whisper something into your ears. His range of expression on his instrument seems endless, from powerful wails to simple and beautiful melodic excursions, always given context by the sounds of the organ. Gibbs, a master of his instrument as well, works with Carter for many years and one can hear that by the way they react to each other. Always great to see James Carter and move with the groove of his exceptional trio.

John Scofield performed mostly the music of his new album, Combo 66, titled the same as his new band, featuring Gerald Clayton on keyboards, Vicente Archer on bass and trusted companion of many years, Bill Stewart on drums. This is more of a jazz band than some of the other Scofield groups, but they still groove and rock when asked for! Clayton is a very fine pianist and organ player and with this group he shows that he really is up for the groove as well as the finer things in music … Scofield is an innovative improviser, composer and performer and this gig was no exception … a feast for guitar fans. John will always be the main focus of his shows but without taking the shine off his band, which sounded very tight and together and really acted as a group and less than just the support for the main man. And they got their audience with a passionate and powerful performance of the new compositions by John Scofield. If you don’t get a chance to see this amazing band live .. go and get the album – Combo 66!!

A/B Trio / Trioliloquy – this new record by the Canadian A/B Trio was just released and features next to the trio of saxophonist Dan Davis, bass player Josh McHan and drummer Thom Bennett, the wonderful trumpet master Kevin Turcotte on 5 of the 8 compositions on Trioliloquy.  This is a wonderful swinging, grooving jazz record with some incredible ensemble play and individual contributions. The musicians move in free spaces to then get together on the theme they earlier improvised on, only to take the conversation further into the essence of their music. Outstanding tracks for me are ‘Roundabout’, ‘Trioliloquy’ and ‘Bluesaholic’. Inspiring in its variety and overall quality and a real joy listening to!!

R.I.P. Roy Hargrove (1969 – 2018)

The news of the untimely passing of trumpeter Roy Hargrove at the age of 49 have been a shock to the jazz world and to me personally. Roy has been a companion in my professional life since 1994, when he released his first Verve album ‘With The Tenors Of Our Time’ for which I coordinated the international marketing and promo efforts. I worked with him on most of the follow up albums to that, including such masterpieces as ‘Family’, ‘Moment To Moment’ and the wonderful ‘Habana’, which won him a Grammy. Roy opened the doors for all the young musicians playing  a modern jazz by including R&B and Soul into the mix – his RH Factor recordings and his work with D’Angelo, Common and others are outstanding testimony to that. Later I signed Roy to the EmArCy label and we released his so far last two studio recordings – the amazing quintet album ’Earfood’ and a big band recording entitled ‘Emergence’. But most of all I will remember Roy as the man who made the late-night jam sessions at the Hotel Bel Air something truly special – the place to be during the North Sea Jazz Festival when the event still took place in The Hague – hours of jamming and playing with such energy, power and passion. Once in Vitoria-Gasteiz at the festival there I saw him doing a trumpet battle in the early hours with Wynton and Nicholas, supported by the Eric Reed trio … unforgettable!!! I never heard anything like it since … a true battle, but done with smiles all around and musical inspiration that came from sources within, something only the really great musicians have!! Roy battled most of his life with his demons, then with his kidney problems, but when he went on stage he was pure focus and pure music! When I hear and saw him in Rotterdam in July this year he sounded great and played wonderful Soli to a grateful and enthusiastic audience. Roy Hargrove will always be remembered as a great musician, innovator, improviser and fantastic composer and will be missed by many – me including.