“When Gigi sings…” by Erminia Yardley

“When Gigi sings…”                                                                              

An EP which holds 3 tracks and it is full of little gems.    GiGi album cover

Spot-on collaborations with the mighty David Baptiste (sax, flute) and Kenny Wellington (trumpet), both from Light of the World and Beggar & co British jazz-funk heritage are just a few of the items on a perfect list of ingredients that make this a special debut EP!

I asked Gigi to tell me a little bit more about the concept, the ideas behind the mini album: “Who That Girl Is”  is about watching someone you love hold onto the threads of a broken relationship in the hope there will be a turnaround…but  meanwhile missing happiness. I like to try the write the words people find  hard to say… like some imagined conversations” – Gigi explains and it does make sense, one has to listen to the lyrics of the title track to be moved by the sadness that pours out onto the invisible music page, a little invisible poem.

Gigi’s music background begins “from before I opened my eyes, my mother was a working ballet teacher and danced until the week I was born!  So I began training to dance from 4yrs old  also studying jazz dance and tap which instilled great rhythm and a knowledge of the jazz standard songs we would dance too.  I learnt acoustic guitar when I was 7yrs old and singing with guitar or while dancing became a natural thing for me. I have always gigged for a living, travelling to many countries, singing in top 40 bands and jazz standards bands.  I have also written songs and poems from very early on”.

“Through Winter” is a languid funky ballad where Gigi’s voice plunges into deep tones, giving the track a nocturnal sound – walking through deserted streets wet with rain.

Personally, my favourite track is “Perfect Stranger”, a sensuous bass filled start introduces Gigi’s voice which throws the listener into a turbid world of strange encounters and darker moments.

David Baptiste’s wicked flute playing on this track is just right!

Although the EP is made of just 3 tracks, we need to mention the other fabulous musicians who deserve full praise for making this the perfect little debut (on 33jazz Records) that it is: Mark Harold on bass who also is Gigi’s writing partner, Andy Goodhall on drums and the flawlessly pitched backing vocals of Bexy Wood.

Gigi recounts that “being taken under 33jazz records wing is a wonderful endorsement for my writing.  [My] writing, the words come at different times…mostly before I try to sleep, in my ‘alone’ moments.  It starts as a kind of poem, then I either start to hear a melody or Mark [Harold] will play a few ideas and I’ll say wait, let me sing these words to that and so it begins…”.

“It’s been a bit of a roll, writing, the addition of Kenny Wellington and David Baptiste on trumpet and sax, their coming onboard has really encouraged me to believe.  I feel lucky to have such great talented musician friends around me that are playing and singing on my songs.  Rob Blackham, Andy Goodall , Michael Grant, Bexy Wood .  I can’t wait to do a live gig all together”.  Gigi continues with such excitement and passion.

The good news is that there is enough material written for an album, too so all we can do is wait and hope this comes out soon perhaps in the shape Gigi would prefer: a vinyl! (and who wouldn’t?!)

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/who-that-girl-is-single/id1088066401

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01C8QYRHK/

Erminia Yardley: Writer – Freelance journalist – Jazz mad – Art lover – Photography freak – Agent to Carl Hyde

JLR Review – Olivia Trummer Concert in Omnibus Clapham, March 2016

The month of March sees a very talented musician on tour throughout Britain and Ireland.

That musician is piano player, singer and composer Olivia Trummer.  Originally from Stuttgart in Germany, Olivia now resides in Berlin and recently brought out a new CD entitled Classical to Jazz One on Bauer records, a specialist jazz and alternative label.  This tour is in support of this new release, her sixth as leader.

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The press release for the CD says that Olivia “is not the first one to face the challenge to merge two genres that are seemingly contradictory like jazz and classical music.  On both sides musicians consistently pose the question how they can combine the sophisticated touch and richness of nuances of classical music with the spontaneity, freedom and rhythmical energy of jazz”.  Which is exactly right; we know there have been many attempts over the years to merge classical with jazz, musicians of the calibre of Dave Brubeck have done that.  We also know that some of the combinations don’t always work and can sound clichéd and staid. However, that was not the case when I first heard Classical to Jazz One in November 2015.  From the first note, I realised this was an extra special disc, something that grabs your attention from beginning to end, music that sounds completely fresh and interesting.

This is no mean feat in an era where it has become rare to come up with a concept that sounds fresh to the ears.  In 1990, I got a similar feeling when I heard Bela Fleck and the Flecktones on the radio for the first time on David Sanborn’s show; I followed their progress since and saw them play live at the Jazz Café and Borderline.  Not to say there isn’t great jazz released all of the time as there clearly is but what Olivia has done is add her own arrangements to the “Masters” of classical such as Johann Sebastian Bach, Amadeus Mozart and Dominico Scarlatti.  In fact, they have been rearranged so incredibly that you could not equate them to the classical interpretation.  The perfect example of this is Scarlattacca, which features voice and the marvellous vibes of Jean-Lou Treboux.  It is one of the most beautiful rearrangements of any music I have ever heard in all genres of music, a remarkable composition.  Jean-Lou’s vibes really add the most brilliant tonal colours to this music.  People reading this may think of Chick Corea on piano and Gary Burton on vibes when it comes to this type of combination but I think a more appropriate comparison would be the lesser known David Lahm with vibes player David Friedman who manged to combine rhythm, melody and inventiveness all in one, this is exactly what Olivia Trummer and Jean-Lou have achieved, her voice giving an even extra dimension as well.

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So, I made my way to Omnibus in Clapham on Sunday evening in great anticipation to see this music presented live, and to say hello to Olivia whom I had interviewed via Skype back in January.  And of course I was not disappointed!  Seeing this music played live was an incredible treat, with the audience captivated in a way I haven’t seen for some time (and I go to a lot of gigs).  Olivia explained the concept of the record and played one of two of the compositions in the original interpretation and then played her arrangement, jazz at its finest as there was quite a shift from the original compositions.

The concert had two sets and at the end, Olivia and Jean-Lou got a rousing reception and from what I can see, rip roaring trade in selling her signed CDs!  In fact, after the concert was over, one of the punters came up to me and asked if any improvisation had taken place during the concert but was a bit too shy to ask Olivia as he was not an expert of jazz.  I explained to him the way Olivia rearranged  compositions by Bach and Mozart, there was a lot of improvisation, particularly by Jean Lou on vibes who was given freedom.  Olivia improvised as well but as the piano player played the simultaneous role of bass player and providing melodic function.  The punter was pretty happy with what I said; the main thing is he really enjoyed the music.

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Olivia’s music has really made an impression.  She has been interviewed on BBC London by Robert Elms and is due to finish her tour of Britain with dates in Liverpool, Abergavenny and London having already performed five dates in Ireland.  A bass player I am due to interview told me how much he is enjoying Olivia’s CD played on Jazz London Radio!  I strongly recommend to check out this great artist while she is on tour, and to purchase her CDs.

Empirical’s Pop Up Lounge Sessions – February 2016

Jazz is taken to the streets literally this week in the heart of London.  The band Empirical have embarked on a project of pop up jazz sessions, designed to bring the music direct to Londoners with a series of lunchtime and evening commuter sets in a retail unit at Old Street station.

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Empirical’s press release says “listeners are invited to visit the lounge for lunchtime and evening commute live sets, with late night sessions scheduled for Thursday, Friday and Saturday.  Early birds will also be able to catch an 8am mid-week performance; all gigs are free of charge.”  It is not a novel idea by any means but it is definitely a marvellous one, what better way to get people into jazz than taking it straight to them (as we say in tennis) in one of the busiest spots in London.  Old Street is one stop from Moorgate in the City of London, whilst bordering Hoxton, Islington and Hackney where so much of what is vibrant about London is happening.  It is also a great opportunity to sell CDs, hand out posters and promote jazz.  Empirical also had a book open where people could leave messages of their experience at the performances.

And what was performed was real jazz, not a watered down or easy listening version, what  Empirical is really about, inviting people to get into deep meaningful stuff, which is rare to see in this age of watered down music to be populous; this is not exclusive to jazz, this “watering down” of music is happening in pop music as well which all know.

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You also don’t know who will get hooked for life from this experience but some people will.  In the summer of 1992 Canary Wharf opened for the first time and to celebrate they had a series of concerts and events.  One event was John Scofied who played with his band for free in the auditorium.  The band included Joe Lovano, Bill Stewart and the late Dennis Irwin on bass.  Needless to say the auditorium was packed; my younger brother who was still at school went along and became a lifelong Scofield fan.  Empirical can have the same effect; they are inviting schools from Hackney and Islington to free educational workshops and live performances.  Empirical are clearly used to getting things done themselves, before the performance they were busy putting everything together including the arrangement of the room and the plastic chairs!  Clearly an entrepreneurial spirit.

Empirical

As for the music, it is a mixture of old and new, with a nod to past masters like Eric Dolphy and Bobby Hutcherson with a modern twist, there is a lot of improvisation but at the same time the grooves are strong to have you tapping your feet, it is not aimless improvisation in any way.  One thing that really impressed me was the sound; the best live sound I have heard for some time, the quality was real high fidelity, as if listening to a very expensive hi-fi set up such as Linn or Naim in your living room.

Empirical comprise of Nathaniel Facey on alto saxophone, Shaney Forbes on drums, Lewis Wright on vibes and Tom Farmer on bass. Their latest album is called Connection and will be released early March.  Before the performance on Wednesday afternoon, I quickly interviewed Tom Farmer which you can listen to below.

JLR Album Review – Barbara Dennerlein Studio Konzert

Vinyl records have been making a comeback for some time. Back in the early 1990s, HMV took the decision to stop selling vinyl completely and sold off all of their records for next to nothing before removing the unsold ones from the shelves. CDs tempted you with bonus tracks you couldn’t find on the records. We were consistently told digital was better than vinyl; CDs were more convenient and vinyl took up too much space. CD players were cheap and cheerful in hifi shops and electronics stores.

Fast forward to 2015 and now many people are continually looking for vinyl in 2nd hand record stores, records are being reissued on labels such as Blue Note and even brand new recordings are being pressed and issued on vinyl!  Studio Konzert record

Yesterday I received a limited edition copy of the new album by organist Barbara Dennerlein entitled Studio Konzert. The album has just been released and is a live recording no less; recorded at the Bauer Studios in May 2015 in front of a studio audience. Some interesting facts about the record:

• It was recorded live direct to 2 track stereo analogue
• No digital transfer, an AAA recording; recorded in analogue, mixed in analogue and mastered in analogue
• The vinyl is grade 180 grams

The performance comprises Barbara on Hammond organ, synthesizer with Marcel Gutske on drums. All bass lines are performed with the foot pedals, made to sound like an acoustic bass being played. There are seven tracks in all, three on side A and four on side B. The music itself is very much signature Barbara Dennerlein, and a reminder that she is one of the top innovators in the world of music (not that we need reminding), Barbara has a distinctive sound on the instrument, you hear it you know it’s her on Hammond organ. The album contains a great selection of tracks including Organ Boogie from her previous CD Bebabaloo released in 2010. Side A has two blues numbers called Gray May Blues and Bluesy. Sandwiched between those is Southern Funk which is a wonderful modern old school contemporary jazz tune in the spirit of artists like George Benson. The final track on Side B is called Under Construction. However, to be fair, the record sounds far from under construction but very much the finished article; the audience must have loved being there to absorb this music.

By the way, the sound quality is exceptional. In fact, you would imagine this is what digital is supposed to sound like, and yet there is absolutely no digital anywhere in this production, which is quite incredible. This highlights the capabilities of vinyl produced well and played on a quality turntable and sound system. gatefold

You can catch tracks of the album on upcoming Vinyl Vaults and purchase it through Barbara’s website.

JLR Interview – Berenice Scott

Berenice-Scott-Torso-Shot-Copy-700x460One of the great things about Jazz London Radio is that we get to interview great musicians on a weekly basis. Berenice Scott is no exception; a talented singer, composer and pianist / keyboard player, Berenice has played with some of the top musicians in the pop world and is now branching out with her own career and debut album entitled Polarity.

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Hypnotic Brass Ensemble at Ronnie Scotts – 12th April 2015

brothers_brassBrothers in Brass –  Wow, wow and super wow… This is hypnotic with a twist. I am trying to keep up with my notes, failing superbly, on a Sunday night full of surprises. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you: Hypnotic Brass Ensemble. Nine most amazing players from Chicago with a pedigree that will leave you speechless.

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JLR Interview with Saxophonist Clare Hirst

DSC04713-LClare Hirst is a UK saxophonist with a distinguished career in pop and jazz music.  Clare has performed with iconic British groups including Bronski Beat, Communards and David Bowie among others. However, Clare made her name with all female band the Belle Stars in the early 1980s; playing saxophone and keyboards on hits like “The Clapping Song”, “Sign of The Times” (not the Prince tune) and “Iko Iko”, which was later used as the theme tune for the movie Rainman starring Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman.

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JLR Interview – Robin McKelle

Robin_McKelleLast Tuesday I spoke with American soul / r&b singer Robin McKelle via Skype. Robin is currently on tour in France performing a series of concerts and also played at the Jazz Café in London for the first time; a gig I attended and thoroughly enjoyed.  The French connection is not an insignificant one; Robin more or less got her break in France where her records really got the most airplay initially and she has been able to build up quite a following there. Ironically the first time I heard Robin’s music was on Paris station FIP on satellite radio (in the days before internet streaming took off).

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