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    JLR Review: Lorraine Baker at Vortex Jazz Club, November 29th 2018

    Lorraine Baker is one of the upcoming talents on the British jazz scene. A drummer with excellent touch and timing, she brought out her debut album called the Eden exactly one week ago, and I went along to Vortex jazz club in Dalston to see the album launch with her band.

    photo by Helena Dornellas

    The first thing to note is this is an excellent debut album. I interviewed Lorraine in early October and have been featuring tracks on our “Latest Releases” slot since then. Rather interestingly, the album focuses entirely on one of the great drummers called Ed Blackwell, who played with some of the greats of American jazz from Ornette Coleman to Don Cherry to Joe Lovano over a forty year period. Ed Blackwell came from a generation of drummers who turned a primarily percussion instrument into musical and melodic instrument as well, along with the likes of Billy Higgins and Joe Chambers.  Therefore, it is fascinating that a young drummer coming out of Kent would base her album on the achievements of a drummer who passed on twenty six years ago.

    photo by Helena DornellasAnd just for good measure, Lorraine arranges the compositions and puts a 21st century slant to them. A refreshing approach to looking at the one of the stalwarts of the music who would otherwise not be in the consciousness of the general jazz fan.  Lorraine has assembled some excellent musicians for the tour including John Turville on piano, Paul Michael on electric bass and Binker Golding on saxophones; Liam Noble played piano on the album. Highlights from the first set included Blues Connotation, a track written by Ornette Coleman which featured a lovely solo by Lorraine where she used her hands as part of the percussion ensemble.

    As I was listening and watching her perform, my mind was drawn to the drummer Bob Moses who played on Pat Metheny’s Bright Size Life album in 1976. Bob also played on guitarist Emily Remler’s albums in the early 1980s and took a different approach where he was the outright percussionist, as opposed to the traditional riding of the cymbals and hi hat method, Lorraine was performing at that level of performance, coming up with something innovative.  It was also interesting to watch a drummer play left handed or sinistra as they say in Latin.

    On the second set, Lorraine played some great compositions including a cover of Central Park West, a track written by John Coltrane which Joe Lovano featured on his 1992 album From The Soul, one of the last records Ed Blackwell recorded on. Pentahouve is one of the highlights of the CD, and it was great to listen to it in a live setting, a tune with a deep groove and wonderful time signature, allowing the musicians to really get into it and branch out with Lorraine revelling in the odd time signatures the track provides.

    I think all in attendance left the concert feeling that jazz is in good hands with Lorraine Baker letting us know that it is possible to combine musicality with innovation. Lorraine shows as a leader and drummer that the most important thing is the quality of the music, that alone will be an inspiration to girls who want to pick up the drum kit as an instrument to have a go and see what happens.

    Laurie Burnette


    BBC Young Jazz Musician of the Year 2018

    Xhosa Cole announced as BBC Young Jazz Musician of the Year 2018

    by Sophia Alexandra Hall

    Five fantastic young jazz musicians competed in the BBC Young Jazz Musician Final last night (recorded November 24th, broadcast at 9pm on BBC4 November 25th) however, the title of BBC Young Jazz Musician of the Year 2018 was awarded to saxophonist Xhosa Cole. The final took place at the Queen Elizabeth Hall at London's Southbank Centre, event supported by the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music. This year, for the first time, the Final was held at the EFG London Jazz Festival, as part of a new relationship designed to further the competition's aim of showcasing the most talented young jazz performers to audiences across the UK.

    In the grand final, each performer was tasked with playing a sixteen-minute set, which included at least one piece written or arranged by themselves. Xhosa played "Moving Ladywood" (Xhosa Cole), "I Cover The Waterfront" (Johnny Green) and "Moment's Notice" (John Coltrane). Each of the contestants were backed by an outstanding band, consisting of Paula Gardiner (bass), Asaf Sirkis (drums), and led by Gwilym Simcock (piano).

    Following his victory, Xhosa said:

    "It's been amazing to represent and have been represented at this prestigious celebration of jazz music in the UK. The calibre of musicianship and passion for jazz music displayed on the stage today has been incredibly inspiring to be a part of."

    This year’s judging panel was made up of Monty Alexander, Zoe Rahman, Gary Crosby, Zara McFarlane and Iain Ballamy.

    Of the winner, judge Iain Ballamy said:

    "Xhosa's performance was so heartfelt, sincere and communicative. It's easy to see he has such a deep and genuine love of the tradition that gave us such a convincing performance on the night. All five finalists were brilliant – I'd be happy to share the stage with any one of them – and hope to do so!"

    The full line-up of BBC Young Jazz Musician finalists included:

    • Xhosa Cole – saxophone – 22 years old
    • Reuben Goldmark – piano – 18 years old
    • Fergus McCreadie – piano – 21 years old
    • James Owston – bass – 22 years old
    • Seth Tackaberry – bass – 20 years old

    2016 winner Alexandra Ridout also performed at the final and said of her time as BBC Young Jazz Musician:

    "Being named BBC Young Jazz Musician in 2016 was inspiring and so enjoyable. The whole competition made such an impact on my life because my playing improved and I gained more confidence as a musician and a person. I'm really excited for what the future holds for Xhosa."

    Since winning the 2016 final, Alexandra has performed around the country in festivals, concert halls, arts centres, music societies and major jazz clubs, and has had her music played on various BBC Radio 3 shows, Jazz FM and Jazz London Radio (listen to Ridout on the JLR interview series). She began studying at the prestigious Royal Academy of Music in September 2017.

    In addition to the television coverage on BBC Four and iPlayer for 30 days, BBC Radio 3 will be broadcasting highlights of the Final in J to Z – a weekly programme exploring new sounds with classic recordings and exclusive sessions - on Saturday 1st December.


    EFG London Jazz Festival Report

    EFG London Jazz Festival Report – JLR Review Series

     Part 1: Down for the Count Swing Orchestra, Jeff Goldblum, BBC Concert Orchestra with Shiva Feshareki

    Day 1 – Friday 16th November

    The Down for the Count Swing Orchestra is the perfect festival draw – steeped in old-school swing, powerhouse big band charts, smooth seductive ballads, and sprinkled with top-notch vocalists. The opening Sing Sing Sing (made famous by Benny Goodman in 1937) is the iconic opening expected from a “Big Band Bash” as advertised by the band, and the audience knew they were in safe hands when the clarinettist took the original Goodman clarinet solo. Amongst the stand out performers, was recent RAM graduate, lead vocalist Katie Birtill who effortlessly blended contemporary clean melodic phrases, with style-appropriate sassy scat. Being an eleven-piece unit as opposed to the eighteen-piece norm meant occasionally the band’s melodic lines were lost or overpowered, however, the musicians still managed to capture the fun and punchiness of the Big Band genre, captivating traditionalists and seasoned professionals alike.

    Day 2 – Saturday 17th November

    Opening with an accidental fire alarm, the 3pm performance at Cadogan Hall of Jeff Goldblum and the Mildred Snitzer Orchestra was set from the get-go to be a memorable afternoon. The Hollywood legend had the audience wrapped around his finger from the moment he apparated onto the stage, and kept the whole room engaged for the duration of the concert by combining a mix of music with spontaneous quizzes and trivia facts; a particular herculean task due to the dramatic age range of the sold-out hall.

    Musically, Goldblum’s jazz improvisation was often slightly sparse, yet also stylistically sound and harmonically defiant. The five-piece band alongside Goldblum on keys and Imelda May’s unmistakable vocals – organ, tenor saxophone, guitar, bass, drums – spotlights some of LA’s top musicians including the roaring shady tone of tenor saxophonist James King which quickly became a highlight in each arrangement.

    Day 3 – Sunday 18th November

    In a bizarre BBC Concert Orchestra program where during a jazz festival, not a single saxophone joined the ensemble’s ranks on stage, the fantastic composer and turntablist Shiva Feshareki guided the London Jazz Festival’s audience through her carefully constructed sound-world, making the unfamiliar familiar. After an opening half of stereotypically jazz associated charts such as the popular Wayne Shorter, Nefertiti and the Coltrane influenced Gordon Hamilton, Baby Steps First, the introduction of turntables to the stage brought a changed air to the performance venue.

    Using both live musicians and the pre-recorded sounds of the audience, Feshareki’s work moved in retrograde to the orchestra’s performance, joining in the midsection to create a deeply satisfying cacophonous duet between electronic and acoustic. This moving performance from both Feshareki and the BBCCO should be hailed as one of the triumphs of this year’s EFG London Jazz Festival, as it successfully and accessibly welcomed in a new development of the ever-changing genre of Jazz.

    Reviewed by Sophia Alexandra Hall