Tommy LiPuma (1936-2017)

Tommy LiPuma was not just one of the best producers of our time; he was a man living music. Ever fibre in his body was swinging – when talking to him it always ended up being about music, as this was what made him tick.

I first met Tommy when Universal bought PolyGram in 1998 and we started merging the two companies and in our case the jazz activities around the world. For me he became kind of a role model, together with Bruce Lundvall – the ultimate music men – one the producer with a passion and love for the music and artists and the other the executive with equal passion and understanding of the creative being. They were the guys to learn from and to look up to.

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When Tommy was running the Verve Music Group and we had meetings (see above – International Marketing Meeting Verve, I think 2006, Tommy 4th from left) it was always a pleasure to hear him talking about music and artists … he let the business talk be done by someone else, his mind was in making great records and he did over all these years. And all the stories he could tell! I never got tired of listening to him and gladly stayed in touch after we both left Universal – before that he did produce for PRA/Emarcy the two studio albums Randy Crawford did with Joe Sample, which I released outside the US.

I was invited to go to Montreux for his 75th birthday celebration – a star studded affair which only he could manage to get on one stage – the performance schedule for that night (see photo below) tells it all. We had a great time there with music and good food and wine, another of his passions.

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A few years ago he called me once  in the middle of the night, guess it was past 1 am, just to tell me to check out this new kid he heard of – which was no-one else than Jacob Collier! Still going strong and hearing new acts … and the last time we spoke, less than a year ago, he advised me to get a DAC player to improve the sound of compressed digital files ….Music and sound were always on his mind and now I can’t wait to hear his last production, the new Dian Krall album.

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Tommy will be with me forever – as he will be with many people for the rest of their lives. He and the music he created with his artists touched many people and will continue to do so for a very long time. May he Rest In Peace.

Montreux Jazz Academy 2017 +

The third Montreux Academy started last Friday in Lausanne, this year HEMU, the jazz school there, stepping in as the host of the week-long event. 10 young musicians participated this year – the 3 finalists from the Montreux piano, guitar and vocal competitions and one musician picked by the HEMU to represent them in the mix.

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Guitar: from the UK Rob Luft and from Finland, but living in New York, Olli Hirvonen

Piano: Estaban Castro, from New York, is with 14 years the youngest Academy invitee so far; Guy MIntus, Israel-born but living as well in NYC now and Casimir Liberski from Belgium.

Vocals: Arta Jekabsone, Latvian who studied in New York; Cristina Tanase, Rumanian who studied law first before focusing on her singing career; Fabio Giacalone a global citizen being an Italian born in Brazil, who studies as well in NYC; German Erik Leuthäuser, the vocalise expert and Belgian Imelda Gabs, who was chosen by her university to participate in the Academy.

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The event started with a lecture on film and TV music by John Altman – very interesting and captivating. After that it was all about setting up the jam session for after dinner and that where the musicians showcased their abilities and talent. Guy Mintus was selected to run the show and he did a great job to keep the music flowing, adding some really good moments on piano to the overall great mix. From all the talent displayed, in an environment that is not musically what they usually do on their own, Guy, Rob and the vocalists stood out, especially Imelda and Erik, who closed the session with a beautiful Body & Soul, just with Rob on guitar and a little help from Guy at the end.

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The following day I had with my colleagues to lecture these 10 young artists about the music business – in 4 hours we tried to cover all aspects of our industry, including rights issues, working with promoters, agents and clubs well as what to expect from labels. These young musicians were extremely well prepared and had great questions and I simply hope we could give them something on top for their future careers. It has been, as always, a pleasure and honour for me to be there.

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Over the coming days these young artists will have more lectures and do more session, as well as working with some great mentors on their musical development – they will be mentored by Trilok Gurtu, Yaron Herman, Elina Duni, Marcus Miller, Kurt Rosenwinkel and Ziv Ravitz.

 

This year, as young as it is, already took from us a few people we will surely miss in the music world: Al Jarreau was not only one of the most amazing singers of our generation, but as well  one of the warmest human beings I ever encountered – he could lit up a room with his smile, brought good feelings to people and always had a good word for the ones around him. I worked with him on the GRP/Verve recordings he did around 2000 and met him several times then while either doing promo in Europe or when on tour. Unforgettable!

Larry Coryell and his band Eleventh House were an important part in my jazz education … a true master of his instrument and a visionary player.

I heard the drummer of Eleventh House, Alphone Mouzon, on the amazing live recording with Albert Mangelsdorff and Jaco Pastorius and from then on many times with various jazz greats in concert.

Violinist  Svend Asmussen I knew of, because my father liked him and I had a chance to see him in Denmark once as a special guest with Herbie Hancock. Being born in 1916, he was an early and important part of the 100 year jazz history.

Michael Naura was not only one of Germany’s leading pianists, but as well an educator, running a jazz series on radio for many years. His brilliance and wit and competent programs will be missed. May they all Rest In Peace.

an update

Since my New York trip a lot happened in the world and not much of it for the better. In terms of concerts here in Madrid it was a bit quiet, I just went out to see Seamus Blake with his French trio, featuring the pianist Tony Tixier, who was the actual reason for me to go and see this band – he is a very interesting young man, who as well leads his own trio and, even so this wasn’t his music, left his mark on the performance.

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And we went to see our friend La Shica with her new program and as usual she just nailed it – perfect vocal performances and cool song selection make her concerts every single time into a special event.

I missed the Brad Mehldau Trio due to other plans, but was happy to have lunch with Jeff Ballard and Larry Grenadier the day after – great guys and always great to chat with and exchange musical ideas.

A quick update on OKeh for February and March: our German colleagues are releasing two local OKeh signing early this year – triosence, a trio led by Bernhard Schüler (piano) featuring Matthias Nowak or Ingo Senst (bass) and Stephan Emig (drums). Their new album ‘Hidden Beauty’, due in March, is highly recommended – one act to watch out for. The other release is the debut album ‘METAMORPHOSIS’ by the BamesreiterSchwartzOrchestra, co-led by Lukas Bamesreiter (cond, comp, arr) and Richard Schwartz (comp, arr, git), whose music is fresh and challenging, modern but with the orchestra jazz tradition in mind and who, with their incredible band members ,might simply make big band jazz fashionable again in Germany.

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An then there is Somi: that unique singer and songwriter, a mixture of Nina Simone and Miriam Makeba, but completely her own and she proves that again with ‘Petite Afrique’, here second OKeh outing, to be released on March 31st. New York’s Harlem is the centre of this collection of songs, timeless stories of immigration and assimilation, painfully relevant today. Songs like ‘They’re like Ghosts’, ‘Like Dakar’, ‘Black Enough’ and ‘Holy Room’ are simply amazing. And her version of Stings ‘English Man in New York’, which becomes ‘Alien’ and is about being African in New York, is just very well done. Don’t miss that one and try to see her when on tour in March / April and later in the year.

Just a few recommendations: For all who like Fado – check out the following two records, as they are some of the best of what is happening now: Cristina Branco ‘Menina’ and Katia ‘Até ao fim’ – what voices and beautiful songs.

A bit of European jazz history: sax player and singer Bendik Hofseth, known for his work with Steps Ahead and his own recordings, released a special edition of his debut album IX, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of its original release. A successful album then, a cool mix of jazz and pop elements, with good  lyrics and great performances, this album still sounds great and relevant now. The set includes 3 CDs (a remastered original, rarities and a tribute CD with other Norwegian musicians performing the songs from the original album) and a DVD from a 1991 live concert.  Check this out!

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Reflections on Winter and Jazz in New York

January and therefore jazz time in New York – Winter Jazz is swinging the city for 2 days of marathon concert events and other shows around these and it is the time when the Jazz Connect Conference is happening with more showcases (as well as in connection with APAP) and panel discussions on the state of jazz today. I came into town for lots of meetings and to moderate the panel at Jazz Connect on Israel – an introduction into this market and its musicians – one of the international aspects of the Conference, which I cover now since a few years. It is always great to meet friends and colleagues at Jazz Connect and this year was no difference, and then of course, it is always great to go out and hear some music … as long as the weather is not getting too crazy. This year the winter said HELLO with cold winds and snow, but all acceptable and not disrupting the festival or my plans on what to check out.

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Choice is the word if you want to describe New York and what happens when you want to go out to hear some jazz – especially during Winter Jazz, but as well in general. I arrived on the 4th and took it easy, but on the 5th I had to see something – originally I wanted to see Jonatha Brooke performing new material at the City Winery, but in the end, as our dinner took a bit longer than expected, Kurt Elling and I decided to go and see John Beasley’s MONK’estra at Dizzy’s – great arrangements of Monk’s tunes performed by an amazing big band and some guests, which that night included harmonica player Gregoire Maret and the wonderful Dianne Reeves. Perfect music after a day of meetings! I heard as well a few tracks of young singer Vuyo Sotashe, who followed the orchestra on stage and he again proved to be a unique talent with lots of control and great songs.

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The so called jazz marathon started on January 6th and the first gig I went to was the Rachel Z and Omar Hakim band, performing at the Zinc Bar, one of the many venues in the Bleecker Street area hosting the festival. Sandro Albert on guitar and Jonathan Toscan on e-bass completed the band, which played some new tracks of contemporary fusion, with power and beautiful little melodies.

From there I took a quick trip up to the Jazz Standard to see Regina Carter with her band playing songs connected to Ella Fitzgerald – some of the famous songs were performed, some less known, but incredibly beautiful ones like Artie Glenn’s CRYING IN THE CHAPEL. Regina is a master on her instrument and these great songs are perfect material for her improvising skills.

Next up was SOMI, who presented some of her new songs at a packed Subculture. As I arrived early I had a chance to hear a bit of the group before her Jacob Garchik’s Ye Olde, featuring Jacob on trombone, Ava Mendoza, Mary Halvorson and Jonathan Goldberger on guitars and Vinnie Sperrazza on drums – jazz and rock and power and subtle playing all perfectly done. Unusual – and really great!! Then Somi came on stage and presented her new songs, from the album Petite Afrique which will be released end of March. Somi is the essential story teller and these beautiful songs are no exception and the band played them wonderful, carrying the emotions and stories she wants to communicate perfectly. Liberty Ellman on guitar, Tory Dodo and piano, Michael Olatuja and Nate Smith managed to make a great singer sound even better. She is one of the best today and her mix of jazz, soul, R&B and African grooves is unique and catchy. A very special show, with a very special talent.

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After a short walk through the wintery and freezing cold NYC I arrived at The Bitter End just in time to see Nir Felder starting his set. The young guitar player was accompanied by Matt Penman on bass and Jimmy MacBride on drums and for me the set was really amazing – Nir seemed to be much more relaxed and less focused on the song format than on the essence of the song and simply let fly … with incredible technique and power. Since I saw him the last time about a year ago, this young man definitely has improved a lot. Glad I made it to that gig.

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Day 2 of the jazz marathon I started with the Michael Leonhart Orchestra – Michael had asked me to come and see his orchestra and I had no idea what to expect – surprise, surprise!!!  He had 26 musicians on the stage of the Poisson Rouge and used these musicians to create some very impressive music! There was no limit to what these guys were able to do under Leonhart’s direction – from arrangements of music to Charlie Browns Christmas to a newly arranged Wu Tang Clan song. He seems to have the history of Big Band jazz within the orchestra, but at the same time is very unique thanks to his compelling arrangements: powerful, deep, thoughtful and emotional at the same time. A very impressive orchestra, under an immensely creative leader. I am looking forward to hear more of them in the near future. My show of the festival and after the usual 40 minutes all bands do in Winter Jazz, this one left me duly wanting for more.

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From there it was a short walk in the snow to the Zinc Bar for Claudia Acuña’s set. She performed with her Chilean Connection band featuring Pablo Vergara – piano,  Pablo Menares – bass, Yayo Serka – drums and Juancho Herrera – guitar and as usually she was best when singing in Spanish. Claudia is a great singer and I always enjoyed listening to her – this show was no exception to that.

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At the same venue I listened then to The Baylor Project, as I had heard some good things about them – and I wasn’t to be disappointed: Jean Baylor and Marcus Baylor together with Shedrick Mitchell on piano and organ, Yasushi Nakamura on bass, Keith Loftis on saxes and Freddie Hendrix on trumpet and flugelhorn delivered a grooving set, supporting the beautiful vocals of Jean Baylor perfectly. Outstanding their rendition of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. One act to watch.

Then off to see the duo of Bill Frisell and bass player Thomas Morgan – another gig that was much too short for my liking, but it gave the audience a taste of their forthcoming album (touching communication on beautiful themes and impressive improvisations from both artists), which will be out in spring this year. A must have.

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I intended to end the night with Marc Ribot and the Young Philadelphians, featuring my friend Jamaaladeen Tacuma. I had seen this project already in Madrid last year, but enjoyed it so much that I wanted to hear them again …. Unfortunately quite a few people had the same idea and the SOB’s was packed to the limit … and waiting outside in the snow at – 9 degrees Celsius wasn’t really what I had in mind …. So I just had a little whiskey at the hotel and got some sleep.

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Winter Jazz again proved to be what the name promised – winter and lots of jazz in New York. Looking forward to next year already.

2016

Looking back to 2016 I can only do with mixed emotions: so many great and important musicians left us these last 12months, but on the other side, so much great music was released or performed throughout the world. A world of immense beauty, but tremendous horror as well.

As every year I will put my Best Of lists together – as always completely based on my personal recollections of these concerts and my individual taste in music. And as every year I will not include in the CD list any of the releases I have been involved in, even so I am extremely proud to have been part of making these recordings.

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CONCERTS OF THE YEAR 2016

  1. Dhafer Youssef / Madrid, Jazz Festival, November + Paris, Theatre du Chatelet, April
  2. Hakon Kornstad / Bremen, jazzahead, April
  3. Still Dreaming / NYC, January (Joshua Redman-Ron Miles-Scott Colley-Brian Blade)
  4. Branford Marsalis Quartet & Kurt Elling / Rotterdam, North Sea Jazz, July
  5. Kenny Barron & Dave Holland / Vitoria-Gasteiz, Festival, July
  6. Julian Lage Trio / NYC, Winter Jazz, January
  7. Melody Gardot / Madrid, July
  8. Terje Rypdal / Madrid, Jazz Festival, November (Mikkelborg, Vinaccia, Tylden)
  9. Somi / Madrid, Jazz Festival, November (Jerry Leonide, Michael Olatunja)
  10. FLY / Madrid, Bogui Club, June

Plus more outstanding shows by James Brandon Lewis, Theo Croker, Tillery, Becca Stevens, Avery Sunshine, AZIZA, Ibrahim Malouf, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Bill Frisell, Gregory Porter, Nils Petter Molvaer and Madeleine Peyroux. Details on all of these shows you can find when going through the various posts of 2016 on my little blog.

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CDs OF THE YEAR 2016

  1. Vijay Iyer & Wadada Leo Smith – a cosmic rhythm with each stroke
  2. Julian Lage – Arclight
  3. Bugge Wesseltoft – somewhere in between
  4. GoGo Penguin – Man Made Object
  5. David Bowie – Black Star
  6. Wolfgang Muthspiel – Rising Grace
  7. Wolfgang Puschnig – Faces And Stories
  8. Robert Glasper – ArtScience
  9. John Scofield – Country For Old Man
  10. Hamasyan/Henriksen/Aarset/Bang – ATMOSPHERES

It is always difficult to pick 10 records out of the mass of great releases every year – further recommendations you will find as well in the various posts of my blog – so much great music has been released, including the 10 releases we had on OKeh Records in 2016, out of which the Bill Frisell ‘When You Wish Upon A Star’ and the Branford Marsalis Quartet with special guest Kurt Elling ‘Upward Spiral’, got a Grammy nomination each.

Sadness has been a big part of this almost finished year – sadness about the madness that drives people to terror attacks killing innocent men, women and children; about the horror of war and that mankind hasn’t learned anything in its short period of time on this planet; about intolerance and hate and of course about the long list of musicians and other influential people that left us this year. I wrote about many of these in my blog, especially when I had the pleasure and honour to meet or work with them. A few days ago Rick Parfitt, partner of Francis Rossi in the band Status Quo, passed away much too early. I worked with Status Quo for a few years in the mid and late 80’s and Rick was just a lovely down to earth guy, charming and funny, loving and enjoying good food and wines.He will be missed. The photo below shows Peter Pernica, the PolyGram promo chief at the time, myself, Rick and Francis in 1986. R.I.P.

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Wishing you all the best for 2017: Love, Jazz and Happiness!

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This year most of the concerts of the Jazz Madrid festival were happening either at the Conde Duque, a nice little venue for about 320 guests or the Teatro Fernán Gómez, which is more or less double that size. Following are short reviews of the concerts I went to this past November:

Our first gig was the new Dave Holland project AZIZA at Conde Duque. The band, featuring Chris Potter on tenor and soprano saxes, Lionel Loueke on guitar and Eric Harland on drums, just had released their first record, as well called AZIZA. And they opened the show the same way that great album does, with Loueke’s ‘Aziza Dance’, a groovy little number showcasing all the musicians as well as the groups fantastic interplay and understanding. This band, these musicians, can go wherever they want – from swinging jazz to rock riffs and grooves, to freer explorations of a theme to beautiful ballads – and it all makes sense, as the artistry on display is just tremendous. Holland keeping the pulse going, Harland pushing the beats, changing accentuations, always keeping time perfectly and Potter and Loueke improvising jointly or individually on the highest level! Check out the album and if you get a chance to see these guys live, don’t miss it!!

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Somi opened her intimate show at the Teatro Fernán Gómez with a beautiful rendition of her own ‘Ankara Sunday’. Like this song, most of the performed music came from her ‘The Lagos Music Salon’ album, but she did, as well, sing a few new songs: ‘They are like Ghosts’ and ‘I remember Harlem (Like Dakar)’ did stand out as extremely beautiful and catchy.  To perform just with piano and bass put the spotlight surely on her, but with her sublime vocal skills this was no problem at all – probably a benefit for the audience, as the intimate atmosphere got every listener deeper into the songs.  Pianist Jerry Leonide supported Somi incredibly, filing spaces perfectly and bass player Michael Olatuja pushed when necessary and otherwise was the heartbeat to Somi’s soul. Outstanding, as well, their renditions of ‘Brown Round Things’ and ‘Last Song’. The standing ovation was more than deserved.

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The next gig we saw must surely count as one of the concerts of the year – the Dhafer Youssef Quartet delivered not only a powerful and spiritual  show, but they managed to keep the listeners on their toes, holding attention and giving suspense, before grooving again – until the audience got up as one to dance. Simply incredible how Dhafer’s voice touched everyone, Aaron Parks on the piano played some beautiful soli based on Dhafer’s melodies, Ben Williams kept the odd rhythms going and put in some powerful bass soli and Justin Faulkner drummed as if his life was depending on it – with a smile on top of that incredible energy. This is a band of top players, having fun with complex music that still makes their audiences moving, dancing and screaming even more encouragement to the musicians … one gig to remember for a long time!

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Kristin Asbjørnsen has a voice that would fit a rock singer – slightly rough, but with immense control and power. Her latest records were based on songs from the Afro-American culture – gospels, work songs and spirituals and she does them surprisingly well for a small girl from Norway! Supported by guitarist Olav Torget and Gjermund Silset on bass, she did glide through these songs with ease and made them her own. A beautiful first concert for her in Madrid.

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Next on the list of shows was the ever amazing and surprising John Scofield. ‘Country for old man’ is the title of his latest release and was as well the program for this fantastic show. As usual John had assembled an amazing group to work with him – Larry Goldings on piano and Hammond organ, Steve Swallow on bass and Bill Stewart on drum. What else can you ask for?  Outstanding in this collection of country songs were their versions of Shania Twain’s ‘You’re still the one’ and Jack Clements’s ‘Just a girl I used to know’, were Scofield’s soli were simply beyond: inventive, melodic and full of emotions. Goldings, when on the piano (my preferred instrument for him in that show), was subtle and beautiful and on organ powerful and seemingly having fun. Both Swallow and Stewart were at their best and John… whatever the base for his music – the music will become his. A group of masters at work.

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When Sly & Robbie, the veteran Jamaican rhythm group of drummer Sly Dunbar and bass player Robbie Shakespeare, meet up with Norwegian trumpet player Nils Petter Molvaer one thing is sure – the music grooves!!! Add to that mix the genius of guitar player and sound creator Eivind Aarset and the electronic percussion of Vladislav Delay and you get some truly cool music, groovy and beautiful, sometimes ambient, but with a steady pulse. Molvaer is such an interesting trumpet player with his little melodies and haunting sound. It was a perfect mix of musicians and ideas and the concert was extremely enjoyable, even so it was a bit too loudly mixed, which took away some of the fun. These guys are in the middle of recording an album together, which will be released next year – can’t wait to hear that.

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The next concert showcased 3 European jazz legends in one gig – Norwegian guitar hero Terje Rypdal, Danish trumpet player Palle Mikkelborg and Italian drummer Paolo Vinaccia – they added young keyboarder Rune Tylden to the mix and performed music from the ‘Skywards’ album from 1997 – and how fresh that music still sounded! Rypdal’s sound is so personal, longing and still kind of uplifting – easily recognisable since his early recordings in the 70s and Mikkelborg is one of the greats as a composer and trumpet player and he showed again why: from Miles influenced muted ballad playing to powerful moments he did it all in perfection – and Vinaccia powered all this energy from his drums, culminating in a fascinating solo over a dialog from the movie The Godfather (at least I think it was from that film). The keyboards filled the sound gaps, made the music complete and so it was really a concert to remember for a while.

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Theo Croker is a very talented young trumpet player and has a great band that feels at home in all kinds of music, as long as they can play it like jazz. The show in Madrid consisted of material from his latest OKeh album ‘Escape Velocity’ and he did built up the concert beautifully, giving his band members space to show their skills, but maintaining an ensemble feel at the same time. Kassa Overall on drums, Michael King on keyboards, Anthony Ware on sax and Eric Wheeler on bass are a great band to play with and Theo seemingly had a great time on stage, as had the rest of the gang, enjoying the freedom of improvising on his compositions – a standing ovation at the end and a furiously great ‘Because of You’ as an encore made everyone going home with a smile. One for now and the future!

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As the reader of my little blog will know, I do like Madeleine Peyroux a lot, her way of phrasing and playing with the melody of a song. And I am a fan of the intimate format she has chosen to perform in lately, as I believe that guitarist Jon Herington and bass player Barak Mori are the perfect musicians for her and that format gives her space, as well as, focusing on her voice and singing. The repertoire of the concert in a full Teatro Fernán Gómez was based on her latest release ‘Secular Hymns’, recorded also with these two outstanding musicians, but included some of her previous well known covers and songs and a heartfelt version of ‘Bird on a wire’ as a tribute to the late Leonard Cohen. Madeleine and her two guys seemed to have fun on stage, she successfully made most of her announcements in Spanish, which the audience really appreciated. A unique artist on top of her form. Extremely enjoyable!

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The last show of the festival for us came from the amazing Gregory Porter, performing the songs of his latest album ‘Take Me To The Alley’, but as well singing his previous hits like the gorgeous ‘Hey Laura’ and even going into a cool version of ‘Papa Was A Rolling Stone’. The band was very good, especially his longstanding pianist Chip Crawford was in great form, bassist Jahmal Nichols surprised with a reference to ‘Smoke on the water’ in his bass solo and sax player Tivon Pennicott and drummer Emanuel Harrold did also an amazing job. Gregory is such a huge personality, his voice and control of it is tremendous and his own songs are truly great – some people asked: Is this really Jazz? Who cares – it is great music, presented well, giving the audience a great time!!

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Then, outside of the Festival, I went to see Harold Lopez-Nussa – a young Cuban pianist who played with his trio in the Clamores Club in Madrid last Sunday, November 27th. I had heard some of his music before, but live I really enjoyed his melodic playing. His focus is on the essence of the song, using rhythms, but not having them overpower the melody. He played an absolutely beautiful solo piece as part of the show, which left the small, but dedicated, audience speechless. Definitely one player to watch for the future.

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But the last few weeks were not only about hearing great music, unfortunately they were as well about saying goodbye to some of the most important and influential musicians of our time – Mose Allison, Leon Russell, Leonard Cohen, Victor Bailey and Sharon Jones … may they all rest in peace.

Autumn Songs

The autumn of music in Madrid started for me with the concert of the Bill Frisell group performing his latest album WHEN YOU WISH UPON A STAR on October 27th at the Auditorio Nacional. The program was based on the music of the record, with slight variations and focused therefore on movie and film themes. Petra Haden, the singer on the record and in the show, was unfortunately suffering from a cold and therefore kept her performance to 3 songs, which on the other hand gave Bill and his bass player Thomas Morgan and drummer Rudy Royston more space to explore the inner secrets of these compositions … and how they did! Bill’s beautiful explorative melodic lines, clear and captivating and full of twists and turns, kept the listeners attention, supported by his rhythm section perfectly. Especially in YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE the improvisations of the trio were amazing and a spectacular exchange of ideas from all 3 musicians. Whatever Frisell is taking on in terms of repertoire, he always is making it HIS – adding depth and personality to the music he performs. This show was no exception and another proof of that.

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Becca Stevens is for me one of the most interesting new singers and song writers and her show on November 1st at Clamores in Madrid simply confirmed that – just in a trio with her on vocals, guitar and other string instruments and with Chris Tordini on bass (with added backing vocals) and Jordan Perlson on drums, she did perform repertoire from her marvelous PERFECT ANIMAL album, as well as songs from her forthcoming new song cycle REGINA, which will be released in March next year. Becca is an amazing singer with perfect control of her voice and her writing is challenging and needs the listener to pay attention to capture the subtleties and beauty of her music and lyrics. I can’t wait to hear the new album and see her live again soon.

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A few CD tips:

From Norway there are a few great new releases to check out, lead by a wonderful compilation from Bugge Wesseltoft’s recording history of the last 20 years – SOMEWHERE IN BETWEEN is a collection of old, new and unreleased gems by the keyboard master and not only the perfect starting point if you are not yet a fan, but as well a great reminder how incredibly talented Bugge is in many ways. A must!

MOST PERSONAL is a kind of best of by singer Rebekka Bakken taking the material from her Emarcy recordings .. and a few new tracks, ranging from a touching Norwegian folk song to one in German by the late singer/songwriter Ludwig Hirsch and three new songs in English – all worth listening to beside all the great songs from her 5 albums so far. A showcase for her great song writing and singing skills. Essential listening.

Madeleine Peyroux’s SECULAR HYMNS shows her in a semi-live recording with the format I think works best for her – just accompanied by bass and guitar, with her on acoustic guitar and vocals .. Simplicity that gives focus to her amazing voice and phrasing …perfect. The choice of repertoire is great as well, ranging from Allen Toussaint via Tom Waits to Lynton Kwesi Johnson … amazing how she deals with these songs and creates that beautiful tight and personal atmosphere. Highly recommended.

SPAIN FOREVER is the third cooperation of pianist Michel Camilo & Tomatito, the incredible flamenco guitar player from Spain. The repertoire here again is Spain based, but not exclusively and is definitely more laid back than on the previous 2 releases. Outstanding Charlie Haden’s OUR SPANISH LOVE SONG and GNOSSIENNE NO.1 by Erik Satie … and as on the previous releases there is a great version of a Chick Core tune, this time ARMANDO’S RHUMBA.  Excellent!

Composer, band leader and bass player Pablo Martin Caminero has just released his new group album SALTO A VACIO, featuring his usual working band with Ariel Bringuez on saxes, Toni Belenguer on trombone, Moises P. Sanchez on piano and Borja Barrueta on drums. Pablo’s compositions are simply some of the best that jazz / flamenco has to offer and his band is executing them perfectly – with power and feeling! From the various guests especially singer Ganavya Doraiswamy needs to be mentioned with her beautiful performance in VALSE POUR NOOR for which she as well wrote the lyrics. Worth checking out!!

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