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Welcome to my blog.

Welcome to the new home for my posts on jazz and other cultural things which interest me. I have been blogging on another platform, as well as doing occasional reviews for the LondonJazz blog for a while, and decided to gather things together on WordPress.

I have compiled an index of all musicians, artists and venues, though I can’t guarantee this will always be completely up to date.

Scottish Jazz Weekend. Edinburgh, February 2020.

I reviewed several of the gigs in the Scottish Jazz Weekend for LondonJazzNews. Here are some pictures I took, too.

Norma Winstone Trio with Kit Downes and Mike Walker

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Louise Dodds

Louise was singing in a duo with Steve Hamilton, but I didn’t get any pictures of Steve.

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Trio TYR

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Joe Williamson’s Modulus

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Fret

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Trio Magico

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Fraser Fifield and Graeme Stephen

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Some Recent AMP Releases – 2.

I meant to write about the next batch of AMP releases before Christmas, but life got in the way. And I’ve loads more to listen to as well, so this will part part of a series…

Anyway, I really like these.

Frederik Villmow Quartet with Tomas Franck – Live in Copenhagen.

This is lively straight ahead jazz from this drummer-led quartet, expanded to a quintet with Franck’s tenor joining the saxes of Marc Doffey. It is an exciting debut, full of life and energy. Mostly upbeat and high powered, there is an exquisite ballad duo between Doffey and bass player Julian Haugland on Skylark, and a lovely version of A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square.

Paul Jones Quartet – The Process.

This record is quieter, maybe more thoughtful. It has a sparse, gentle feeling – introspective but optimistic. There’s a lot of space in the music, but it is also lively. There is some lovely music here.

Gianni Gagliardi Quartet – Bikram.

Another quartet expanded to a quintet, this time by the addition of saxophonist Chris Cheek, Gagliardi’s record contains thoughtful music with emotional depth. Some tunes swing beautifully, others have a smooth quality that if full of warmth.

Holum Trio – Borte.

This trio comprises trumpet, bass and drums. The music they make is open and sparse. The haunting trumpet brought to mind Verneri Pohjola. There’s some use of samples and multi tracking to fill out the sound on a couple of tracks, and a couple of tracks include wordless vocals. Mostly though it is just the three instruments, and barely those – the drums for one pricing that less really can be more. Just beautiful.

Sondre Ferstad Ensemble – Minimal.

This octet is formed from a jazz quartet and a string quartet. And the music they play understandably fuses the two genres. The jazz element includes Sondre Ferstad’s harmonica playing, indicating that this is a very different kind of a band. Minimal is just that – it might be an octet, but few of the musicians play at any one time. More introspective, thoughtful music.

Tommy Smith Solo and the Tommy Smith Youth Jazz Orchestra All Stars. Edinburgh, December 2019.

I reviewed this show for LJN: a solo performance by Tommy Smith followed by a one-off show by alumni of the Tommy Smith Youth Jazz Orchestra, the TSYJO All Stars. And all stars they were: it was a really exciting performance.

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Tim Garland Quartet. London Jazz Festival, November 2019.

I wasn’t reviewing this one, which was a shame because it was a cracker. Gwilym Simcock was guesting on piano, and his playing was great – better than the last couple of times I’d seen him, and that’s saying something. Conor Chaplin and Ernesto Simpson were both good. And Garland was excellent. This swas a really enjoyable show!

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Some Recent Releases on AMP Records – 1.

The nice people at the Norwegian AMP label have been sending me CDs for a while, one or two a month, and I keep putting them to one side to listen to later. A couple of weeks ago I realised that I hadn’t listened to them, and so I made a concerted effort to work my way through the pile. There were a few that weren’t to my taste, and I shan’t mention those further, but several of them are very good records indeed, and I shall post about them over the next few weeks. They’re almost entirely by musicians I’ve not heard before (though there is the occasional guest with whom I’m familiar); many of the musicians scarily young to be so good. Jazz education in Scandinavia seems to be doing a very good job.

Here is the first batch.

Rastko Obradovic Quartet – The-Northern Experience.

This record seems “typically European”: there’s lots of space and emotion in the playing. Obradovic plays tenor, his solos building in intensity. The quartet are joined by Arkady Shilkoper whose French horn brings a mellow but clear and evocative voice. There are classical elements, particular in some of the minimalist piano riffs. A lovely record.

Nikola Bankov – Bright Future.

This sextet features Seamus Blake of tenor, joining Bankov on alto and four other musicians playing Bankov’s compositions. Last time I saw Blake play he was experimenting with electronics and a wind-synthesizer, and frankly I didn’t get it. Perhaps Bankov read my mind, because the first track is called “Hope You Get It”, and this time I seem to.

There are a fair few effects used, and the music falls somewhere between jazz and electric rock, with a few folk themes thrown in, too. The whole is lively and exciting, powerful, energetic fusion with the electronics and effects adding to the music rather than covering things up. There are several fast tunes, quite a few beats, and some great music.

Bankov is only twenty. Bright future indeed!

Gagliardi / Albrightsen / Thornton / Thorén – The Trip

A multinational quartet with musicians from Spain (Gagliardi), UK (Thornton) and Norway (Albrightsen and Thorén) recorded in Rome, this record is straight ahead swinging post bop modern jazz. Full of melody and rhythm and lots of improvisation, this is compelling music. There are a couple of ballads, a couple of faster sprints, but most of the tunes fall comfortably between the two. It is strange that an album that has one track called “The Old Piano and the Sea” and another called “McCoy” has a guitar as its chordal root rather than a piano, but it all hangs together really well.

Emil Brattested

This is a CD of solo acoustic and pedal guitar, not something I would normally go for. I don’t have a great deal to say except that I really enjoyed it. It just felt good.

Binker Golding – Abstractions of Reality Past and Incredible Feathers

I was first aware of Binker Golding with his playing and directing Tomorrow’s Warriors and the Nu Civilisation Orchestra. And then through his phenomenal live and recorded output with Moses Boyd in Binker & Moses.

On his new CD, Abstractions of Reality Past and Incredible Feathers, Golding shows a softer side to his playing than that seen on his visceral, fiery input to Binker & Moses. The seven tracks bring a more romantic, relaxed approach. In a quartet with Joe Armon-Jones on piano, Daniel Casimir, bass and Sam Jones on drums, the saxophonist has created a record of accessible post-bop incorporating rhythms from a variety of genres.

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Binker Golding performing with Binker & Moses.

Golding’s playing is naturally to the fore. He sounds like he knows where he’s going, even if he takes different routes to get there, and takes the occasional detour on the way. His clear, vibrant tone and writing gives this lively, bouncy record a welcome sense of hopeful optimism – much appreciated in these times!

The other musicians bring much to the music, of course. There is a sense of energetic excitement, without it being overpowering. All three make significant contributions throughout. Joe Armon Jones, a new musician to me, is particularly impressive. But then again so are Daniel Casimir and Sam Jones!

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Binker Golding directing the Nu Civilisation Orchestra.