some thoughts on music streaming …. and new releases !

The British magazine Jazzwise printed in their recent issue an article by writer Stuart Nicholson about digital streaming, entitled ‘Stream Machine’. Nicholson is asking a valid question with “how long are streaming services going to hang on to music that’s not generating revenue”, meaning the underuse of millions of tracks from niche genres and is pointing out in comparison, that Netflix did cut its content of films made before 1950 to just 25, because of the same problem. With streaming being song oriented, so argues Nicholson, jazz and related niche genres are falling through the system. If you add to that the bad presentation of jazz on most streaming services, one could think Nicholson might be right and one should for sure be worried.

But there is, in my opinion,  another possible scenario: all streaming services are fighting for growth by adding subscribers, but slowly the pop subscriptions will be or are already slowing down and in the fight for additional income the services might start to look into the smaller genres like classical music, jazz, folk etc. Once the music is presented in a way the jazz consumer wants (more relevant information on sidemen, recording dates, etc and artists with the same name separated by instrument or date of birth ..) and in better sound quality (here amazon made the first move already) than there is a good chance that jazz fans will migrate to streaming services faster and subscribe. And with that, make the niche repertoire for the streaming services worth having within their businesses. Of course, it will as well depend on what the stand of the big record companies will be on that … they are not only holding the biggest jazz catalogues, but as well a share in some of the streaming services and for all of them Jazz is only about 1 % of their overall business …. Interesting times indeed!! And maybe time to think about all label including genre oriented streaming services for niche repertoire like Jazz and classical music ….

recommended new music:

Julie Campiche / ONKALO – on her first record under her own name, Swiss harpist Julie Campiche is creating wonderful soundscapes and spaces for improvisation for her band, which includes saxman Leo Fumagalli, bass player Manu Hagmann and drummer Clemens Kuratle. Five out of the six composition on the album are by Campiche and show her talent as a writer with a unique style, using the talents of her co-musicians perfectly. Her sound on the harp is very individual and captivating, her music from groovy to contemplative, from ambient to modern jazz, with deep musical content, at the same time accessible and challenging and rewarding when listening closely. And it can be all that in one song … without losing its magic!! Julie Campiche is sure an artist to have an eye on for the future!

Cherise / Paradise EP – Singer, flautist Cherise (Adams-Burnett) is one of these rare musicians that pop up only once in a while: last year she won the Jazz Vocalist of the Year Award from Jazz FM in the UK without having even released any of her own music, just based on the merit of her work in various projects, all above Tomorrow’s Warriors and Nubiyan Twist. Her debut EP is including 4 songs written by her, showcasing the composing talents as well her incredible vocal skills. These songs are modern, nu soul, jazzy tunes which reveal a variety of influences. The title track is a soul number that leans on India.Arie, without losing its originality. ‘Violet Nights’ swings lightly and has a beautiful little groove – a classy jazz tune. ‘Siren Song’ has a more cinematic feel and the final track on the EP, ‘Felicity’is a beautiful slower song. A very promising debut from an artist we will for sure hear a lot more in the coming years!

Eunhye Jeong / The Colliding Beings, Chi-Da – This new exciting live recording is pianist Eunhye Jeong’s fourth record as a leader or co-leader, of her latest concert Chi-Da, the free improvisation project that encourages colliding worlds of different performers and aims to achieve the harmony through the independency of each musician involved in the act. Eunhye Jeon, together with Soo Jin Suh on drums, Il-dong Bae on vocals and JI Park on cello created some powerful music, with all tracks giving space to improvisations and communication between the musicians. All songs, except one, being over 12 minutes long, with ‘The Hope Landed’ standing at 25 minutes and leading the listener into a place, where only expression through sound exists. The recorded concert has an intensity that is unusual, draws one into the music and one is captured by all performances and the haunting sound of the human voice. The singing reminds me a lot of Kim Duk Soo’s SamulNori, with whom I did some recordings with a jazz band (Red Sun) in the late 80’s. The singer then was Lee Kwang Soo and the band Red Sun featured sax player Wolfgang Puschnig, singer Linda Sharrock, bass player Jamaaladeen Tacuma and pianist Uli Scherer and their music had the same intensity and global power. Eunhye Jeong is a force in improvised music and this record deserves to be heard by many.

Roberta Piket / Piket Plays Mintz – this unique and beautiful recording started out as a birthday gift from pianist Roberta Piket for her husband, drummer and composer Billy Mintz. As she says in the liner notes:I appreciate Billy’s direct, personal approach to composition; they have an open quality which gives the performer the freedom to put forth her own viewpoint. Yet in every piece, I hear Billy’s distinct voice and vision. It’s a voice free of grandiosity, music pared down to its essence without unnecessary elaboration”. These emotionally charged solo piano recordings not only show what great compositions Mintz has, but as well what a sensible and wonderfully skilled pianist Roberta Piket is. A record for quiet hours, to listen and enjoy.  A true treasure!

Robin McKelle / Alterations – singer/song writer McKelle digs for her new album into the works of some of the most celebrated female artists of the past and present: from Billie Holiday via Joni Mitchell to Amy Winehouse and Adele, to name just a few. McKelle is joined on this release by pianist and arranger Shedrick Mitchell, acoustic and electric bassist Richie Goods, drummer Charles Haynes and outstanding guitarist Nir Felder.  Guest performances by saxophonist Keith Loftis and trumpeter Marquis Hill are completing the list of participating musicians. McKelle’s singing as usually is immaculate and I truly like how Robin makes all the songs her own, gives them personality and connects them through a great concept.  Outstanding tracks for me are ‘Back To Black’, ‘Don’t Explain’, ‘River’, ‘Mercedes Benz’ and her own composition ‘Head High’, which stands equally within all these jewels. A record that will spin for a while on my player.

VA Virginia Schenk / Battle Cry – “What I sing matters. What I say matters. I see myself as a peacemaker and networker, someone who weaves worlds and people together. In 2016, my vision changed”, says VA, and ‘Battle Cry’ is her response to that change. The singer brought with her to the studio for this album pianist Kevin Bales, bassist Rodney Jordan and drummer Marlon Patton, who have been VA’s core working band for the past decade. Add to that tenor saxophonist Kebbi Williams, guitarist Rick Lollar and spoken word artist James Benson and the line-up is complete. Her versions of ‘Bali Hai’, ‘Abraham, Martin and John’ and ‘Strange Fruit’ are excellent and valid statements for our times and the only original on the album ‘Hear My Battle Cry’ is a groovy affair with strong lyrics, who make clear that for VA  “My music is my resistance”!  Recommended!

Elliot Galvin / Live In Paris, at Foundation Louis Vuitton – Galvin is for sure one of the young and upcoming UK jazz musicians. He is an extremely talented improviser and composer, as he has showcased as member of the group Dinosaur or with his own projects and recordings. The 6 pieces on this live album are completely free improvised and showcasing a musician’s brilliance in instant composing, as well as a storyteller, whose means to tell his story is his instrument. Outstanding tracks for me are ‘For J. S.’, ‘Time and Everything’ and the beautiful ‘Broken Windows’. But that might change, as with every listen I hear more nuances, discover little somethings I hadn’t heard earlier …. For sure a record that grows with listening to it. Wonderful!!

John McLaughlin, Shankar Mahadevan, Zakir Hussain / Is That So? – Guitar star McLaughlin has a long history of working with Indian musicians, going back to the original Shakti band from 1976, via Remember Shakti and now this outstanding trio, featuring the master himself on guitar, guitar synthesizer and orchestrations, as well as tabla legend and long-time collaborator Zakir Hussain and vocalist Shankar Mahadevan. ‘Is That So?’ might have been six years in the making, but it sounds fresh and exciting and the music is touching and most likely one of the best offerings in the meetings of musicians from East and West. Shankar Mahadevan’s voice is clear and soaring over the sounds McLaughlin creates and the beats Hussain sets out to keep it all together. Sensational!!!

Roberta Piket / Piket Plays Mintz – this unique and beautiful recording started out as a birthday gift from pianist Roberta Piket for her husband, drummer and composer Billy Mintz. As she says in the liner notes: “I appreciate Billy’s direct, personal approach to composition; they have an open quality which gives the performer the freedom to put forth her own viewpoint. Yet in every piece, I hear Billy’s distinct voice and vision. It’s a voice free of grandiosity, music pared down to its essence without unnecessary elaboration”. These emotionally charged solo piano recordings not only show what great compositions Mintz has, but as well what a sensible and wonderfully skilled pianist Roberta Piket is. A record for quiet hours, to listen and enjoy.  A true treasure!

Carla Bley, Andy Sheppard, Steve Swallow / Life Goes On – This trio is working together on and off since 1994 and now has developed into one of the most exciting small jazz groups around – and the intelligent and witty compositions by Carla get the best out of the three players. ‘Life Goes On’ is a three suite album: ‘Life Goes On’ is the first and showcases the trios chamber music qualities, with a bit of blues thrown in; ‘Beautiful Telephones’ is Bley at her best – she has summed it up as “a piece where things get excited and then impatient and then excited again and then change. Nothing stays the same because, with the attention span of the President, we have to quickly change the music, too.” The Third suite ‘Copycat’ is playing around with the call and response notion in jazz in an exciting and meaningful way. All three players sound exceptional good and are at ease with each other and the material. An early contender for album of the year!

Audrey Ochoa / Frankenhorn – Young Canadian trombonist Ochoa is a rising star in her own right, a skilled composer, exciting performer and not afraid to play in any genre that fits her musical expressions. All songs, except one, are her compositions … mixing her trombone with piano, bass and drums, as well as strings to create a melange of chamber music, groove and contemporary jazz. Her sidemen are Chris Andrew on piano/keyboards, Sandro Dominelli on drums, Mike Lent and Rubim de Toledo on bass, Luis Tovar and Raul Tabera on percussion, Kate Svrcek and Shannon Johnson on violin, Ian Woodman on cello and special guest Battery Poacher, who created cool remixes for two of the tracks. Surprising in its variety and quality, this is a cool record to discover. Audrey Ochoa will as well perform in April at jazzahead in Bremen – go and check her out!!!!

Dan Loomis / Job’s Trials – Called a Jazz Song Cycle or, even better, a jazz oratorio, this is an ambitious recording project by bass player Dan Loomis and his band, consisting of vocalists Yoon Sun Choi and Song Yi Jeon, Jeff Miles on guitar, Jared Schonig on drums and Daniel Breaker as narrator. ‘Job’s Trials’ is an innovative, genre-bending work that uses the power of the human voice and the expressive palette of jazz to tell one of the world’s most poignant and ancient stories. Loomis uses spoken interludes between the songs to create a narrative that the music supports dramatically. The voices of the two Korean singers are expressive and soulful and make this unusual project work in a special way. Great music, nothing less!!!

the 20’s and more jazz

The start of 2020 is a good reason to have a look back into the roaring 1920’s … a period known, beside other names, as the Jazz Age. Post WW I the global economy was showing constant growth and modernity, the word for this time, brought the radio, movies and cars. Cities like Berlin, London, Paris, Sydney, Los Angeles, New York and Chicago had the cultural edge. The period became known for Prohibition, Art Deco, the Harlem Renaissance, women liberation and getting voting rights in many countries, Freud and his theories, to name just a few major developments.  The name Jazz Age is definitely correct as in these times some of the most important jazz recordings of all time were made – above all the eternal Louis Armstrong Hot Five and Hot Seven recordings on OKeh, but as well the music by Bix Beiderbecke, Duke Ellington, Sydney Bechet, King Oliver, Jelly Roll Morton, and and and … Blues recordings became hits in the US and the first country songs were recorded as well … labels like OKeh, Black Swan, Broome, ARTo, Vocalion, Ajax and many others, as well as  the big ones: Victor and Columbia were driving this new musical output. But the 1920’s ended with a bang: Black Tuesday on Wall Street in New York on October 29th, 1929, the result of the London Stock Exchange crash from September 20, which send uncertainty into global stock markets and the years of speculation came to a tragic end that led into the Great Depression of the following years, culminating in WW II.

So how does that compare with the start of our 2020’s? Different set of problems … mostly environmental, which, if done right, could as well lead to an upswing in a currently slow growth economy. On the other hand modernity could be a good word for our times as well … all going into one gadget that can do everything .. phone, TV set, camera, satellite navigation system, medical equipment, … Politically the move to the right looks like it will continue globally – a scenario in which jazz, for obvious reasons,  usually thrives. Only time will tell if these years will yield everlasting new recordings as well. And let’s see if mankind learned enough to avoid another Black Tuesday … but the bubble of companies like Spotify, Uber, etc. which hardly ever made a profit (if at all) and are valued at billions of dollars might need to be addressed in some form at some time. For me it looks like these 20’s are neither going to be roaring nor boring!!

Sadly 2020 started with the loss of a few very important jazz musicians … Jimmy Heath – ‘Little Bird’ was still playing aged 93; he has been a true jazz giant who mentored generations of musicians and a wonderful human being. Claudio Roditi – Brazilian jazz trumpet player with a distinguished career in the US and beyond and European jazz legend, pianist and keyboarder Wolfgang Dauner, whom I had the pleasure to meet a few times. I first heard of him as a player with saxophonist Hans Koller, then through his own recordings for MPS and later the Mood label, which he co-founded in 1977 with Albert Mangelsdorff, Volker Kriegel and others. Beautiful his solo piano albums and of course his work in the powerful United Jazz+Rock Ensemble, whose first album ‘Live Im Schützenhaus’ is still one of the top selling jazz recordings in Germany. When I was executive producer for the 1988 Konstantin Wecker album ‘Wieder Dahaom – Live in Wien und Graz’, Dauner was in the band that recorded these concerts and we had some fun doing the gigs  … and spend that year New Year’s Eve together with Wecker in Berlin. Dauner was a leading improviser and played Avantgarde, modern jazz as well as fusion .. always seeking for new sounds and ways to express himself. May they all rest in peace!

Jazzahead 2020 will have Canada as the focus market – a thriving jazz scene with wonderful established and new artists. Beside the Gala and opening night there will be the Canadian Night, featuring 8 selected artists/groups to showcase the variety and quality of this jazz market. I will write a bit more about this in a jazzahead preview in March. For now – here are a few more Canadian records worth checking out:

Eric St-Laurent / Bliss Station – Guitarist and keyboarder St-Laurent recorded ‘Bliss Station’ in Berlin and Toronto with his friend Sebastian Studnitzky on trumpet and piano, Jordan O’Connor on bass and Michel Dequevedo on percussion. Wonderful compositions perfectly performed – beautiful how the sounds of Studnitzky’s mellow trumpet and St-Laurent’s guitar mix into one colour, carrying the melodies of the songs. Recommended!!

The University of Toronto Jazz Orchestra / Embargo – This is only the second album of this University’s big band and it showcases the talents of the young musicians as soloists, composers and arrangers. With the exception of ‘Take The A Train’, all tracks on ‘Embargo’ are composed and arranged by the musicians, led by conductor Gordon Foote /Zach Griffin – Alto Sax, Soprano Sax, Flute / Griff Vona – Alto sax, Clarinet / Geoff Claridge – Tenor Sax, Clarinet / Jacob Chung – Tenor Sax / Alex Manoukas – Baritone Sax, Bass Clarinet / Evan Dalling, Kaelin Murphy, Christian Antonacci / Ben Frost – Trumpets / Nick Adema, Vonne Aguda, Kyle Orlando / Charlotte McAffee-Brunner – Trombones / Charlotte Alexander, Ilinca Stafie – French Horns / Anthony D’Alessandro – Piano / Julien Bradley-Combs – Guitar / Evan Gratham – Bass and Jacob Slous – Drums. Great, swinging, modern big band sounds!! Powerful brass and touching ballads. Some of these performers will soon start making waves around Canada!!!


LOCAL TALENT / Higienópolis – LOCAL TALENT combines 3 of Canada’s most eminent instrumentalists performing together on record for the first time. The group is led by composer and keyboardist James Hill, known best for his work with international jazz and hip-hop group BADBADNOTGOOD and Autobahn Trio. Accompanying him are electric bassist Rich Brown and drummer Ian Wright. All compositions on the album are by Hill and cover a variety of moods and soundscapes – from ambient to groovy to Brazil and back to Canada. Local can be anywhere you are … Hill’s skills on the piano and keyboards are exceptional and I am sure this album will build a great following for him. Top track for me: The Silent Cry.

Shuffle Demons / Crazy Time – The Shuffle Demons are Richard Underhill – alto & baritone saxophones, lead vocals; Stich Wynston – drums, percussion, bg vocals; Kelly Jefferson – tenor saxophone, bg vocals; Matt Lagan – tenor saxophone, bg vocals; Mike Downes – bass, bg vocals; Mike Murley – tenor saxophone and Jim Vivian – bass. This is the band’s 9th album, in a career lasting 35 years – with changing line-ups but the same powerful approach to jazz.  The typical instrumental / vocal mix is represented here as well as some groovy ensemble play. A band to discover and one I would love to see/hear live!! Cool rap in ‘Have a good one’ … and ‘Even Demons Get The Blues’ is another stand-out track! Cool!!

Mark Segger Sextet / Lift Off – Segger’s new album is another prove of the diversity of Canada’s jazz scene… this is a wonderful recording of improvised music, based on his compositions. His music reflects a wide range of creative interests, from the swing of Mel Lewis and his jazz orchestra to the genre expanding string quartet writing by composers like Bartok and Ligeti. This captivating album features beside drummer Segger Jim Lewis on trumpet, Heather Saumer on trombone, Peter Lutek on tenor saxophone & clarinet, Tania Gill on piano & melodica and Rob Clutton on bass. Challenging and rewarding music. Adventurous!


2019 review

2019 in general wasn’t a bad year for jazz – great new releases, which will stand the test of time, and some wonderful concerts. Jazz, as in the previous year, will more or less have been 1 .1% of the worlds recorded music market. Streaming is giving our music a bit of a hard time, as Spotify, Deezer, etc. are not presenting jazz the right way and therefore migration of the jazz listener to the services is slow .. physical is still the dominant format globally for jazz and will stay as that for a few more years. The major record companies have lost a bit of interest in Jazz, with Sony hardly doing anything anymore, Warner as well and only Universal with Verve and Blue Note is a bit more active in producing and releasing jazz albums. The rest is moving to the independent labels … and some of them are really expanding and getting more interesting and widen their artist roster … like Edition Records in the UK, Ropeadope, Mack Avenue, Motema, Sunnyside, Smoke, etc in the US and Jazzland Recordings in Norway and many others around the globe. Jazz is alive and thriving … no matter what!!

As every year I will publish here a kind of ‘Best of 2019’ in terms of my personal choice of recordings and concerts from this year. I will put them in alphabetical order, as it is too difficult to select any of them as the best ….


Betty Carter – The Music never Stops

Haftor Medboe  Jacob Karlson   EP

Hays / Loueke – Hope

Holland / Hussain / Potter – Good Hope

James Brandon Lewis – An Unruly Manifesto

Joanna Wallfisch – Far Away From Any Place Called Home

Ketil Bjornstad – The World I Used To Know

Michael Leonhart Orchestra – Suite Extracts, Vol. 1

Rymden – Reflections & Odysseys

Zela Margossian – Transition


Antonio Lizana & Arturo O’Farrill – Madrid, July

Branford Marsalis Quartet – Sevilla, March

Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah – Madrid, November

Dhafer Youssef – Lyon, July

John Scofield & John Cleary – Madrid, November

Jose James / Melody Gardot – Madrid, July

Michael Leonhart Orchestra – New York, January

Rebekka Bakken – Madrid, November

Rymden – Rotterdam, July

The Bad Plus – Madrid, May and November

Details on these recordings and concert you can find in the various blog posts of mine from January to December.

Special mention deserve the two last recordings I delivered to Okeh/Masterworks as their A&R consultant, Branford Marsalis’ outstanding new quartet album ‘The Secret Between The Shadow And The Soul’, nominated for two Grammy awards, and Theo Croker’s ‘Star People Nation’, which as well is nominated for one Grammy award.

At the close of the year we remember all the wonderful artists, managers, agents, label representatives and friends that passed on in 2019 – they all left something within us and therefore will be remembered for a long time. May they all rest in peace.

conclusion of JazzMadrid19 plus new music

I hadn’t seen Patricia Barber in a long while and therefore was curious about her concert in Madrid on November 23rd, as well because I hadn’t heard her new album ‘Higher’, from which most of the repertoire of the performance came. Barber is a singer of art songs, her own compositions and lyrics in most cases and therefore brings emotional content directly into the pieces. She is as well an accomplished pianist, in Madrid supported by Larry Kohut on bass and Jon Deitemyer on drums. Barber is a wonderful singer with unusual phrasing that makes her music unique and individual. Beside her own compositions she performed a captivating version of ‘The In Crowd’, as well as an encore ‘You are my sunshine’, which left the audience asking for more. Her sidemen are solid and incredible in reacting to all nuances and changes of her piano playing and together form a special trio, instrumental or when Patricia is singing. It is a kind gesture to have your sidemen perform soli within the show … but whether it is necessary to have a bass and/or drum solo in every song in my opinion is debatable. It, in most cases, stretches the song unnecessary and by that losing intensity and the essence of the composition. Nevertheless, a performance of top quality and musicianship.

The Bad Plus were next in town on November 26th, performing at the packed to capacity Clamores Club. They opened the concert with two compositions by bass player Reid Anderson from their 2nd album, 2003’s ‘These are the vistas’, ‘Everywhere you turn’ and ‘Big Eater, before running through some of their back catalogue, focusing on the first and second album of the new Plus, ‘Never Stop II’ and the recently released ‘Activate Infinity’. What makes the Bad Plus so special is their quirkiness, their rhythmic power and openness to explore the essence of any song they perform. They can fall from a swinging moment easily into a free exploration of a theme, only to go back to a simple and stunning melody. Pianist Orrin Evans fits like a glove into the concept and the music mainly composed by Anderson and drummer Dave King, even so two of Evans’ contributions to the evening as a composer, ‘Commitment’ and ‘The Red Door’ were amazing and touching. All three musicians had their incredible moments in the spotlight, but their tightness as a trio was simply astonishing and at times got the audience into shouts of wonder and encouragement. I have been working with the group(s) for almost 15 years and never heard/seen a show that didn’t get me. Top of the world!!!

Unknowingly we kept the best for last: Norwegian singer and occasional pianist Rebekka Bakken and band performed a powerful and emotional show, bending genres and delivered a concert of pure class at the Teatro Fernan Gomes. Rebekka is an amazing singer, with a fantastic range and total control of her voice – she can be the rock singer one moment, a delicate and emotional singer of ballads next and all seems natural and easy. Her band, consisting of Kjetil Bjerkestrand on organ and piano, Johan Lindstroem on guitars, Tor Egil Kreken on bass and drummers Rune Arnesen and Pal Hausken, is for me the best she ever had and was following responsively each of her musical steps, pushing her, holding back when needed and, together with her, was forming a compact unit, having fun playing together. There was not a dull moment throughout the 90-minute concert, which mainly was made up from repertoire of her 2018 album ‘Things You Leave Behind’. Outstanding her compositions and the way this band treated them – her vocal delivery on songs like ‘True North’, ‘Closer’ and on her cover of ‘Hotel St, Pauli’ was outstanding and full of emotions and brought a few tears to the eyes of the audience. Other highlights from earlier albums included her compositions ‘Mina’s Dream’, a wonderful ‘Powder Room Collapse’ and the covers ‘Little drop of poison’ from her Tom Waits album with the same title and ‘Ghost in this house’, which was absolutely beautiful and touching. Her take of the Norwegian church song ‘Korset vil jeg aldri svike’ went from a captivating acapella song into a piece of psychedelic and spaced out music, before returning to the simplicity of the beginnings. Bakken is at the top of her game, tells stories that matter in her songs and performs them with a band that fully understands who she is as a musician and singer.   Perfect!!! Gig of the festival for me!


Finally, a few new records I can recommend:

Ted Quinlan / Absolutely Dreaming – Canadian jazz guitar player Quinlan delivers with ‘Absolutely Dreaming’ another fine record – having his long-time collaborators pianist Brian Dickinson, bass player Kieran Overs and drummer Ted Warren at his side, he sounds relaxed and full of ideas.  The nine original compositions are classy jazz songs, inspired by Quinlan’s love to travel. Assured playing by all musicians and some outstanding soloing make this a wonderful jazz album to listen to.

Aaron Dolman / Nostalgia and Other Fantasies – The debut album of drummer Dolman is an interesting and captivating mix of jazz and world/folk music, inspired by looking at old family photos. The album was recorded with Caitlin Smith on viola, Marcus Savard-Lowry on guitar (Left Channel), Zacharie Bachand on guitar (Right Channel) and Mathieu McConnell on bass and takes the listener to different worlds. The compositions are melodic and beautiful, the performance by all players perfect. A surprising gem and definitely worth checking out.

Ketil Bjornstad / The World I Used To Know – Norwegian pianist Bjornstad is not only a wonderful human being, but a prolific writer, composer and performer. This solo piano album, recorded at Abbey Road Studios in late 2018, is based on his autobiography – a monumental undertaking as each of the books cover a decade of his life, starting in the 60’s and going up to today. This companion album therefore covers his story in music, performed by himself and includes music from Bach, Schubert, Debussy to his own compositions and songs by Joni Mitchell, Ole Paus, George Harrison and Burt Bacharach as well as a wonderful rendition of Keith Jarrett’s ‘In Your Quiet Place’. There are too many highlights on this impressive album to mention them all and Bjornstad makes them fit together, no matter what the source material is. A record for Sunday mornings, a quiet evening with a glass of wine or any other time when beauty is needed in your life!

The next blog post, at the end of December, will feature my personal best of 2019 … albums and concerts …


After checking out Charles Tolliver and then Nubya Garcia (see my previous blog post), the next gig for me was one of top Fusion: guitarist Mike Stern with keyboarder Jeff Lorber, Jimmy Haslip on bass and top drummer Dennis Chambers, with special guest guitarist Leni Stern rounding up the impressive line-up. Most of the repertoire came from their current album ‘Eleven’ and were compositions by Stern and Lorber – powerful rock and funk influenced melodic pieces, which gave lots of space for Mike and Jeff to improvise and both musicians delivered some extraordinaire soli on their respective instruments. Stern, whom I first saw with Miles Davis in 1982, still has the same clear sound on his guitar and is surely one of the best nowadays. His rock, jazz and blues informed playing is delivered with passion and fire … his wife Leni added some wonderful playing herself and touched everyone with a heartfelt vocal performance in the opening song. Lorber as well showed why he is one of the leading keyboard players of our time and a master of the genre. Haslip and Chambers drove the two main guys to amazing heights … simply incredible!!

The concert of American singer Stacey Kent and her excellent band, featuring Jim Tomlinson on saxes and flutes, Graham Harvey on piano and fender rhodes, Jeremy Brown on bass and Joah Morrison on bass was next for me and one I was looking forward to, as I like the lush and relaxed way this amazing singer is performing. Her mix of repertoire ranged from originals (written by Tomlinson, her husband and musical director) via standards to some classy Brazilian repertoire and a French song. Whether she sang in English or French or Portuguese, she made the songs work and the audience gladly went with her on this rewarding musical journey. Kent’s vocal control is outstanding and her delivery full of emotions. Tomlinson kept the band tight behind her and added some top improvisations to the mix. Harvey is an attentive and impressively supporting pianist, whose soli were as well serving the songs and were delicate and beautiful. Excellent!

On November 19th it was trumpet star Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah, who performed with his stellar band in Madrid’s Teatro Fernán Gómez. At only 36 years of age, Scott is already a veteran leading his own bands, having started around 2005, with this year’s band probably one of the best so far. His sidemen for this tour in Europe were alto sax player Logan Richardson, pianist Lawrence Fields, bass player Max Mucha, drummer Corey Fonville and percussionist Weedie Braiham and they made Scott’s compositions groove and swing and .. whatever the song needed! Scott can’t hide that he is from New Orleans as the rhythms gave it away … but then his music, a mix of jazz in the past, present and future needs that groove. He bowed to Miles Davis with a powerful rendition of ‘Guinnevere’ in which Richardson and Scott performed impressively, played music from his own recordings as well as a stunningly beautiful new composition entitled ‘Songs she has never heard’. Beside the outstanding improvisations by Scott, especially Richardson and Fields impressed with their abilities and imagination. Polish bass player Mucha and Braiham and Fonville were exceptional in keeping the guys going. One of the shows of the year!!

Three days later it was time to go and hear John Scofield in a duo setting with singer and pianist Jon Cleary, with whom John recorded his 2009 album ‘Piety Street’ together with the cream of New Orleans’ musicians; an album I released at the time on EmArCy Records. Scofield and New Orleans resident Cleary performed repertoire that had its roots in the Crescent City and was a mix of well-known songs as well as compositions of lesser know musicians. Cleary is a wonderful pianist in the New Orleans tradition and an emotional singer, who brings life into these songs. Scofield in this set up is not only an outstanding soloist but supports Cleary perfectly and brings out the essence of the songs. His solo in ‘Fever’ was out of this world, disjointed to a degree, but making total musical sense. Same has to be said for Cleary’s piano solo in ‘My Baby Is In Love With Another Man’: powerful and captivating. Their performance of ‘Stardust’ was another highlight of the gig, as well as a beautiful rendition of ‘Talk To Me’, another gem unearthed by Cleary. One could feel the fun the guys had playing as a duo and performing this repertoire – Scofield was his usual magnificent self and Cleary right up there with him. An outstanding concert in many ways, that got the packed house going right from the start. Uplifting and fun, rough and touching … a wonderful show by two great artists!!!!


In the next blog I will review my last few concerts within the Madrid Jazz Festival 2019 plus a few new and exciting releases.

more from a jazz life …

Before going into the music and other events of the immediate past, I have to make a correction to my blog post from October: the wonderful album ONKALO by Julie Campiche will only be released in February … getting my advance copy I got carried away a bit and reviewed it already … I will at the time of release re-post that review and a link to an updated video, so everyone who wants can follow up and listen to the full record then.

Brenda Earle Stokes / Solo Sessions, Volume 1 – composer, pianist and singer Stokes’ delivers as her second album a solo recording for piano and voice. The album is an eclectic mix of originals, standards and covers of songs by k.d. land, Huey Lewis and Michael McDonald, as arranged by Stokes and performed by her in top quality. She is a wonderful pianist with delicate touches on the ballads and power when needed – her singing is immaculate and touching. Key tracks are McDonalds ‘I can let go now’, her own ‘The Waltz’ and the Swallow/Winstone tune ‘Ladies in Mercedes’.

Bria Skonberg / Nothing Ever Happens – this new album by singer and trumpet player Skonberg is pointing in a new direction – more edgy, modern and more fun. The album showcases Skonberg’s working band of recent years – pianist Mathis Picard, bassist Devin Starks and drummer Darrian Douglas – along with guest appearances by saxophonist Patrick Bartley, Hammond B3 master Jon Cowherd, and guitar great Doug Wamble. Her own compositions mix well with the well chosen covers by The Beatles, Sonny Bono and Queen and make for an interesting listen. Touches of Soul, New Orleans and Pop run through her jazz arrangements and make them personal and her performances on trumpet and vocals are always in service of the song. For me her best album so far!

Jerome Jennings / Solidarity – drummer Jennings’ second release is a hard swinging affair featuring trumpeter Josh Evans, tenor and soprano saxophonist Stacy  Dillard, trombonist Andrae Murchison, pianist Zaccai Curtis, and Jennings’s friend and mentor, bassist Christian McBride plus special guests saxophonist-flutist Tia Fuller, tenor saxophonist-vocalist Camille Thurman, bassist Endea Owens, and percussionist Carlos Maldonado. A truly great jazz album, with very good originals and standards; with variety and surprises in many forms, but always swinging and played on the highest level. Recommended!

Van Morrison / Three Chords & The Truth – since ‘Astral Weeks’ I have been a Van Morrison fan and followed what he did over the years and this new album is again a proof of his amazing song writing skills and his unique singing style. The album features contributions from legendary guitarist Jay Berliner and a duet with The Righteous Brothers’ Bill Medley (‘Fame Will Eat the Soul’). Songs like ‘March Winds in February’, ‘Read Between The Lines’ or ‘Dark Night of the Soul’ are typical Morrison and are excellent in delivery and composition, as is most of the album. Highly recommended!!

Naughty Professor / Everyday Shredder EP – New Orleans funk jazz outfit Naughty Professor released their digital EP earlier this month to critical acclaim. No surprise as the funk running through the 5 tracks is immaculate and powerful. Great brass lines with heavy grooves make this one to dance to. Check out ‘3 Wise Men’ or ‘Pleiades’ and get up and move your body.

November – as in the last few years, is the time for the International Jazz Festival in Madrid, which this year started on October 28th and will run until November 30th … and the first show I attended was Charles Tolliver presenting Paper Man @ 50. That album featured besides the leader and trumpeter Tolliver, Herbie Hancock, Gary Bartz, Ron Carter and Joe Chambers and was recorded at Town Sound Studios, Englewood, New Jersey on 2nd July 1968. The modern versions of these compositions were performed by Tolliver and Jesse Davis on alto sax, Keith Brown on piano, Buster Williams on bass and Lennie White on drums. Tolliver’s music sounded modern and fresh and his and everyone else’s playing was impressive and captivating. Brown and Davis were wonderful soloists next to Tolliver and his amazing rhythm section. Left me and the audience asking for more …

The second gig I attended was that of young saxophonist Nubya Garcia, whom I had seen before and enjoyed her show. This one was as good as the first I saw, and she and her band were giving the mostly standing Madrid audience in a packed Conde Duque groovy jazz to dance to. Excellent musicians who gave her the support and groove to improvise freely and with verve and lots of ideas. This is modern and adventurous jazz, deeply rooted in a tradition of Coltrane or Sanders. Powerful, groovy and melodic improvised music that reaches a younger audience. Captivating!

In the last few weeks the music world lost many great and important artists, some of them I had the pleasure to see perform or work with – Ginger Baker, the outstanding rock and jazz drummer of his generation I saw at the Cream reunion concerts in London in 2005 and once before many years back with his Airforce band … incredible power and intensity!! Pianist Milcho Leviev I heard first through his 2 duo recordings with Dave Holland, but as well liked his solo or group recordings. One of Europe’s most underrated but best pianists. Producer Gerry Teekens I met a few time at North Sea Jazz and liked his enthusiasm for jazz, which he brought to his wonderful label Criss Cross and all its productions. Jan Erik Kongshaug was not only one of the best sound engineers of all time, but as well a warm and gentle human being. I had the pleasure meeting him and working with him on a few occasions and always enjoyed his company and professionalism. They all will be missed. May they rest in peace.



jazz around the world once more ..

Many great new recordings have been released over the last few weeks .. and as I have been a bit lazy in writing about them, this blog will be a little bit longer than usual …  and it will for the first time have links to the music written about, so you can easily follow up … hope you’ll enjoy!

Julie Campiche / ONKALO – on her first record under her own name, Swiss harpist Julie Campiche is creating wonderful soundscapes and spaces for improvisation for her band, which includes saxman Leo Fumagalli, bass player Manu Hagmann and drummer Clemens Kuratle. Five out of the six composition on the album are by Campiche and show her talent as a writer with unique style, using the talents of her co-musicians perfectly. Her sound on the harp is very individual and captivating, her music from groovy to contemplative, from ambient to modern jazz, with deep musical content, at the same time accessible and challenging and rewarding when listening closely. Julie Campiche is sure an artist to have an eye on for the future! You can check out the opening track of the album in a live setting here:

Wolfgang Schalk / Obsession – Austrian guitarist Schalk’s new album features ten original pieces he wrote for and recorded with his current band – Andy Langham on piano, Carlitos Del Puerte on bass, Gene Coye on drums and Luisito Quintero on percussion. Schalk has a beautiful sound on his instrument and his writing includes wonderful lyrical ballads as well a groovers like the title track of this new album, which you can listen to by following this link:

By the way: his wonderful 1996 album ‘The Second Third Man’ featuring Michael Brecker has been re-mastered and is available again and surely worth checking out!

Dave Holland, Zakir Hussain, Chris Potter / Good Hope – three masters at work – this is one wonderful recording and surely one of the best of the year so far! The musical border crossings are incredible, the call and response and musical communication on an extremely high level and the musicality of these three artists beyond! At times the album recalls Hussain’s 1987 masterpiece ‘Making Music’, but then goes beyond that in terms of togetherness and depth. Potter blows his heart out and Holland gives the rhythms a pulse and his soli are touching and full of ideas as ever. Hussain is a master on his instrument and delivers the beat of the music with elegance and feeling. A must hear!!

Tertio / La mince ligne – Tertio are a Canadian jazz/rock quintet led by guitarist Vincent D. Perreault and are featuring Paul Shrofel on keyboards, Alex Lefaivre on bass, Eric Thibodeau on drums and Andy King on trumpet. Their music is an individual and intense mix of influences ranging from Weather Report to Miles Davis – it is funky and melodic and played by a very tight band. Marvellous! 

Joel Miller / Unstoppable – sax player, composer and conductor Joel Miller delivers with Unstoppable a ‘21st-century chamber symphony, inspired in equal parts by Afro-Peruvian folk music, early 2000 indie rock and large ensemble jazz’. The album is set up in 3 parts – Song Story, What you can’t stop and Deerhead Hoof Suite, all wonderful performances with great use of the various colours of the ensemble.  For lovers of big sounds and good melodies. And Miller plays some really good sax parts throughout. Line up: flutes by Billy Kerr, Nadia Sparrow; clarinets by Mark Simmons, Luc Jackman, Jennifer Bell; horn by Jocelyn Veilleux; trumpets by Lex French, Bill Mahar; trombone by Dave Grott; piano by David Ryshpan; acoustic and electric guitars by Steve Raegele; percussion by Sacha Daoud, Erin Donovan, Kullak Viger Rojas; drums by Kevin Warren and acoustic bass by Fraser Hollins. Guest conductor Christine Jensen. Recommended.

Chelsea McBride / Aftermath – another wonderful big ensemble recording from Canada, this one from composer, conductor and saxophonist Chelsea McBride, who put into music various forms of conflicts, saying “The works found on this album were meant to be dark, and scary, conflict is never an easy thing to explore. But I can’t look at all the hurt that inspired this recording without remembering that even in the worst moments … somehow there is hope”. And her compositions do reflect these words perfectly .. dark, but with a ray of light, melodic and sometimes uplifting, haunting and engaging. A great album reflecting our times!

Dan Pitt / Fundamentally Flawed – young guitarist Pitt delivers a remarkable first album with his trio, that flows between composition and improvisation without effort. Completing this exciting trio are bassist Alex Fournier and drummer Nick Fraser, both well-known in the Canadian jazz scene. Pitt has a full sound on his instrument and is a class player – one to watch and see where he goes from this first step …

The Bad Plus / Activate Infinity – this is the second album from the ‘new’ Bad Plus, featuring Orrin Evans on piano and as usual Reid Anderson on bass and Dave King on drums. Written by all members of the trio, this is exciting music that shows the new direction of the band … as edgy as always, but with a new melodic sense … Orrin Evans having a sometimes-symphonic touch on the piano. Wonderful and highly recommended … not only by myself: “Along with new songs, The Bad Plus reshapes a few fan favourites, like “Thrift Store Jewelry” and “Love Is the Answer” — as if to reinforce the idea of continuity, from then to now and beyond” – Nate Chinen, WBGO

Trevor Giancola / Sonnet18 – Giancola, a formidable guitar player and composer, assembled his ‘dream team’ for this recording with the wonderful Seamus Blake on sax; Rick Rosato on bass and Adam Arruda on drums. Says Trevor about the album: “Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18 is about love, life, and death: things that I think all people, to some degree, are constantly trying to come to grips with. This album represents my own attempt to address these big picture topics in the most personal way that I can.” Incredible performances by all musicians, but especially Giancola and Blake make this album a valuable addition to any jazz collection.

The Occasional Trio / Live In Berlin – pianist Simon Vincent’s trio, featuring Roland Fidezius on bass and Kai Lübke on drums, recorded this album at the Schlot Club in Berlin over two nights – creating intense music with free spaces for improvisation, based on compositions by Vincent. The trio is tight and swings amazingly, treats ballads with lyrical interplay and giving the audience their emotions through music. Harmonic and melodic adventures worth checking out!

Andres Vial / Gang of Three – A year after the release of his critically-acclaimed Monk tribute album, ‘Sphereology, Volume One’, Montreal pianist Andrés Vial and his sidemen bassist Dezron Douglas and drummer Eric McPherson focus entirely on Vial’s original compositions, which are influenced by blues, gospel and world music. Vial shows, as he did with the Monk album, what great player he is and that he can swing as well as groove or touch the listener with an emotional ballad.

DSC / MonkTime – DSC, a trio led by bassist Leon Lee Dorsey and featuring guitarist Greg Skaff and drummer Mike Clark, deliver a high level and touching tribute to Monk. This is only Dorsey’s third album, coming after a 20-year gap … but it has been worth while waiting … as this is an album that shows respect to the original compositions, but still giving them something individual. As Dorsey states: “We weren’t looking to reinvent the wheel on masterpieces. We wanted to keep the essence of the songs, that timeless commonality they have, while blending in our own spices and flavours.” A must have for Monk fans!


Further recommended listening:

Hiromi / Spectrum – a wonderful solo album by the colourful and energetic pianist, showing her full range of expressions on her instrument.


Joshua Redman & Brooklyn Rider / Sun On Sand – the string quartet Brooklyn Rider with Redman and Scot Colley on bass and Satoshi Takeishi on drums – what a musical feat!! Music composed and arranged by Patrick Zimmerli – a perfect vehicle for Redman and his co-musicians. Alone the opener Flash is worth the album!


Jan Garbarek & Hilliard Ensemble / Remember Me My Dear – a live recording from that wonderful combination of voices that gave us Officium. Divine vocal performances with the added voice of Garbarek’s saxophone … compositions by Pärt, Brumel, von Bingen, Garbarek and others inspire the 5 musicians to create beauty in sound.


some shows I saw and heard lately:

Javier Colina / Josemi Carmona / Bandolero – this trio, as well known as the De Cerca Trio, performed at the AC Hotel Recoletos on October 25th, as part of a Colina residence. Both records of the trio are fantastic in the way they mix jazz and flamenco and the same is true for their shows … from Carmona compositions to flamenco standards and jazz standards they paly everything in their own special way – Colina a wonderful bass player with lots of ideas and twists, Carmona a top guitarists for him it isn’t about speed but expression and Bandolero keeping the rhythm for them.

They get better and better and this time their version of ‘Moon River’ was absolutely divine.

Sara Gazarek – singer Sara Gazarek just has been for her first time to Spain for 5 concerts, three of them in Madrid’s Café central, where I saw her on October 30th performing with Julian Shore on piano, Alex Boneham on double bass and Ferenc Nemeth on drums. Gazarek is an immaculate singer with incredible control and technique and gives all chosen material her own stamp – as on the night we could hear her doing so with compositions from the Beatles, Brad Mehldau, Miles and many others, as well as her own songs. Her latest and truly wonderful album ‘Thirsty Ghost’ provided most of the material, exceptionally performed by her band. Outstanding on the night her own ‘Easy Love’, co-written with Larry Goldings and a very powerful and touching rendition of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’. Amazing!!