JLR Album Review – Pussycat by Juliana Hatfield

2017 is turning out to be an interesting year for new music.  I feature the latest releases to arrive at Jazz London Radio on a weekly basis and some quality stuff has been coming through so far.

An album I received with great anticipation was the new release by singer songwriter & guitarist Juliana Hatfield called Pussycat on the wonderfully named American Laundromat record label.  This is Juliana’s second release on American Laundromat after “Whatever, My Love” by the Juliana Hatfield Three was released in 2015.

My first impression when the CD hits the deck is how live it is. From the first track “I Wanna Be Your Disease”, the record has a first take feel to it, which is a good thing because it means these tunes can easily be interpreted in a live performance.  This is the classic Juliana sound, her voice is in great shape, I would say slightly an octave lower from the early 1990s when I discovered her music; but with that lively bounce we’ve come to expect and love.


The early 1990s was a great time for music.  There were two strands to the indie scene, over in England (Britain) we had groups like Blur, Oasis, Lightning Seeds, Cranberries coming through, and lesser known but interesting bands like Blueboy, Stereolab, Elastica and Inspiral Carpets.  Whilst in America they were ahead of the curve, Jane’s Addiction was already making waves by the late 1980s, followed quickly by Nirvana and R.E.M.

However, the indie scene was a varied one, which included bands like Don Caballero and Tortoise who made instrumental music which progressive jazz people could get into.  What made the indie scene was that whatever the style of music, it was raw and could be easily reproduced on stage; and melody was often paramount. That might sound contradictory to the term “raw” but go back and listen again and it becomes clear how much melodies were going on.

Juliana was instrumental in that scene; being part of The Lemonheads and Blake Babies; releasing her debut “Hey Babe” in 1992 then forming the Juliana Hatfield Three in 1993 releasing “Become What You Are” on Atlantic Records. Since then Juliana has released an incredible array of music both electric and acoustic but always with melody and great riffs at the heart of it. “Pussycat” definitely follows the trend of not only well produced tuneful rock, but with hard hitting subjects which Juliana is so good at writing; Juliana is not afraid to tackle issues or put the boot in if she feels it’s necessary! I have read that Pussycat is an angry album, even her “angriest ever”. I see it as a mix of social commentary on the state of the American political scene and some angst, something that has been disappearing from music in recent times in the mad scramble to sound conformist and make as much money as possible.

In the 1980s bands like Big Audio Dynamite turned social commentary into an art form, tackling complex issues with wit and humour, in the manner of the old great calypsonians from Trinidad. On the track Impossible Song Juliana asks “Why Can’t We Get Along?” That doesn’t sound angry to me, more of a plea for getting together and showing some unity in the world, acknowledging differences and overcoming them, being more tolerant of each other.

But for sure, it is a hard hitting record; “Short Fingered Man” a damming verdict on “vulgarians” who have come to prominence and power in recent times. “Everything is Forgiven” is perhaps the most hard hitting track, whilst Good Enough For Me and Kellyanne is classic Juliana, punchy lyrics and great guitar riffs.

One thing that always amazes me is Juliana’s gift for writing pretty dark lyrics with a verve and melody which is almost ironic in itself, Patti Smith and Suzanne Vega are two other prominent female icons who manage to pull off the same trick, Nina Simone was a great artist who brought intensity during the civil rights movement of the 1960s.

There might not be as big an alternative or indie scene as there once was but there is still some great music and artists out there making something creative and of value for people who want to check that out.  “Pussycat” is definitely an album of calibre; independent of mind and thought, outside the mainstream but radio friendly.

Check out my chat with Juliana about her latest release.

By Laurie Burnette

JLR Review – Camilla George Quartet at Pizza Express Jazz Club, January 2017

We are experiencing a colder than usual winter so far in 2017, so what better way to start the year than heading down to the Pizza Express Jazz Club in Soho to take in some live music.

Last Wednesday I did just that to see rising star on the scene Camilla George and her quartet. The night was a special one for Camilla, it was the launch of her debut CD entitled Isang on Ubuntu records with a one off performance before the start of a national tour. It was doubly special for Camilla who was celebrating her 26th birthday that very evening as well.  An important moment with a slew of prominent people in jazz present in the audience; Camilla played to a packed house where demand outstripped supply for tickets.  Prominent figures present included Director of Jazz FM, Chris Philips, who also was celebrating his birthday that day! Jazz Jamaica founder and Tomorrow’s Warriors Gary Crosby, saxophonist Jean Toussaint, Paul Pace of Spice of Life and Ronnie Scotts, Ubuntu record label owner Mike Hummel among others; to see the next generation of British jazz coming through before our eyes.


Camilla was very relaxed on stage and beautifully dressed wearing an African headscarf and with alto saxophone in hand; if she was nervous beforehand she certainly didn’t show it as the quartet played with great verve and understanding, the music a showcase for the whole group with Camilla as the lead which is how it should be; we so often see soloists who get a bit carried away and dominate the sound with their personality and overplaying.  Speaking of the quartet, the members were Camilla on alto saxophone and chief composer, Sarah Tandy on piano, Daniel Casimir on double bass and Femi Coleoso on drums; with Zara McFarlane guesting on stage for a couple of tunes. The quartet has been together since 2014 which is certainly reflected in their musicianship and stage presence.

The tracks performed were intriguing in terms of compositional style.  Camilla said she was born in Nigeria and her father was in fact from Grenada; an island in the Caribbean which is part of the Windward Islands and the track entitled Song for Reds was dedicated to her father.  With that background the music has a seamless flow of Afro Caribbean undertone to it.  After all, the calypso sound of the southern Caribbean islands which includes Trinidad and Tobago has a very similar sound and structure to West African music.  There was not much difference between the Afrobeat sound of Fela Kuti and Tony Allen in the 1970s and the Soca sound which came out of Trinidad during the same period (soca was a term to describe Soul Calypso). The track Mami Wata Returns/Usoro was underpinned by a pulsating and very danceable Affro Caribbean rhythm.

Other tracks performed such as Dreaming of Eket displayed a different style of jazz. I would refer to it more as chamber jazz, not far removed from the “ECM” sound. This is not untypical of musicians who come out of Europe regardless of origin or influence, jazz from Europe often has a diverse mixture of influences which American jazz tends not to have quite to the same degree. This is understandable and gives European jazz a bit of an edge in my opinion; American jazz will often be influenced externally by latin or hip hop in the main whereas European jazz can draw on folk, classical, Afro Caribbean, West African, Mediterranean and Balkans, a lot of influences to potentially draw on!


On Dreaming of Eket, drummer Femi Coleoso played a brilliant solo which reminded me of Billy Higgins and Joe Chambers, a musical style of interplay as opposed to the more percussive style associated with the likes of Elvin Jones and Art Blakey.  Daniel Casimir’s bass playing was a revelation; his soloing and accompaniment was at a different level which is great to see. I heard innovative bass playing and this is not easy to do nowadays; it is relatively easier to play efficiently, excellently and competently, but playing innovatively is a lot more difficult to pull off. The trick is to make it look easy, and Daniel comes into that category, a stellar career awaits I’m sure. Singer Zara McFarlane also joined the quartet on stage for a couple of numbers and to present the birthday cake at the end :-0

All in all a very nice evening of top class jazz music and we know that the future of British jazz is in good hands.

JLR Review – Fini Bearman and Elda Trio at Union Chapel, November 2016

We’ve come to the end of another edition of the EFG London Jazz Festival.  The London Jazz Festival caters for every type of jazz fan, with large and small venues around the capital holding top class jazz over a ten day period.

One such venue is the Union Chapel in Islington, which hosted artists Fini Bearman and Elda Trio on a double bill last Sunday evening.  The Union Chapel is an interesting venue based in Compton Terrace, just off Upper Street and five minutes away from Highbury and Islington tube station.  Described as a “working church, live entertainment venue and charity drop-in centre for the homeless in Islington”, the church was built in the late 19th century and is a Grade 1 listed building.  Large concerts take place in the auditorium, whilst this performance took place in the Upper Hall bar.


I arrived just after 2pm during the sound checks to conduct interviews; it is always fun to see the behind the scenes sound checks, watching musicians go through their paces for the main event; much like a sportsman does before their race or match, getting in the zone. We found a quiet spot away from the sound check where I interviewed first Fine Bearman for ten minutes, then Emilia Martensson for another ten minutes. Doors opened for the performances at 3.30pm and the room filled up very quickly indeed with the first performance commencing just after 4pm.


The Elda Trio were first up; comprising of Emilia Martensson from Sweden on vocals, Adriano Adewale from Brazil on drums / percussion and Janez Dovč from Slovenia on accordion and experimental loops.  The Elda Trio are a true representation of the potential of world music, it is also true to say the Elda Trio have a unique sound which I haven’t heard anywhere else.  Over the years we have heard many bands / groups / artists who perform world music and it sounds incredibly clichéd, as if you heard it 127 times before; that’s not the case with the Elda Trio, it is much more than that primarily because their combination is Brazilian rhythms mixed with Swedish and Slovenian folk is so unusual. Add to that Emilia’s vocals in English and sometimes Swedish and that’s the Elda Trio.  The percussion and accordion is also interesting, Adriano played an assortment of instruments on his drum kit, whilst Janez played various effects and doubled up as a bass player through the accordion with electronic loops.  Many of the songs are folk tales including their single called Aleksandrinke, a song about Slovenian women who went to Egypt to become nannies in the 19th century.  This is precisely what Pat Metheny meant when he called jazz a “modern folk music”.


The Elda Trio performed a set of around 75 minutes which was very well received, after which there was a short break to get the stage ready for Fini Bearman and her band who were next up on the set.  Fini’s band comprised a five piece of guitar, bass, drums and keyboards with Fini on vocals, showcasing tunes from her new CD entitled Burn the Boat on Two River Records, a title that definitely grabs the attention!  Fini started off with the title track, an interesting philosophical song (you can hear an explanation on the podcast).  Each song had a story behind it which was well told by Fini and beautifully performed as well.  The set was quite different from the Elda Trio but still superb, Fini Bearman’s music is a mix of folk, pop, jazz with interesting melodies and time shifts going on at the same time, which is a combination I always enjoy if done well. For those who have heard music from the Galician region in Spain, there is an element of that contrast and counterpoint, Fini’s music has all of those elements which make it immediately interesting. With great lyrics and ideas thrown in, this should make her music playable on jazz and non-jazz stations.



Fini’s set lasted just under 80 minutes and the audience were treated to an encore at the end, which Fini used to perform a song that wasn’t on the new record; a nice way to finish the evening.  The audience were treated to three hours of great contrasting music which showcases the best that British jazz has to offer.  It also shows how many different directions the music of jazz has taken and continues to take, reflecting the influences and backgrounds of the performers, but also reflecting the diversity of current British culture, which despite Brexit has a strong European and international influence 😉 which I am sure will continue to be the case for years to come.

“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?!)



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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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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