JLR Review: Arun Luthra at Oliver’s Jazz Bar, August 2019

Here at Jazz London radio we get the opportunity to see and interview some top class performers.

One man who comes into this category is Arun Luthra, a saxophonist and konnakol artist who hails from Massachusetts in the United States and bases his musical career In New York City.  What is konnakol I hear you ask? Konnakol is the art of performing percussion syllables vocally in South Indian Carnatic music https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Konnakol .     

Arun was in the UK recently on tour with his group, Arun Luthra’s Konnakol Jazz Project, playing venues in London and Brighton, including Ronnie Scott’s, where he had the opportunity to play as leader for the first time. Arun also came down to Greenwich to play in Oliver’s Jazz Bar, which is where I went to interview him and take in his performance.  Oliver’s is a bar in the heart of Greenwich town centre, opposite Greenwich theatre and bordering Greenwich park.  To access the bar you have to proceed downstairs into a dark but very cosy old school setting, perfect for taking in creative music.

Arun is a very tall and statuesque figure, in fact, too tall for the stage at Oliver’s! Arun had to perform off the stage just in front of the seated audience, one way to get closer to the musicians. As for the music itself, Arun went through an interesting repertoire of various musical fusions, from the hard bop influenced Perc-kol-ude/Toorna, which contained some konnakol to The Divvy-Up Dance with its propulsive beat and changes in tempo; where Arun played soprano saxophone. Arun was a founder member of Bjorkestra, a big band dedicated to the music of Bjork and performed Soon Starts Now, a Bjork inspired composition. Arun also played a cover, called Suspone, which was written by Mike Stern and appeared on Michael Brecker’s Don’t Try This At Home album in 1988.  Arun finished his set performing Collective where he brought his konnakol skills to the fore and allowed his musicians to stretch out a bit.

All in all a highly enjoyable set in front of a very appreciate audience.  Arun’s Konnakol Jazz Project U.K. tour consisted of:

Arun on tenor & soprano saxophone

Sam Leak – piano

Tom Mason – bass

David Ingamells – drums

You can listen to our interview before his set here:

Laurie Burnette

JLR Review: House of Customs July 2019

On Saturday 20th July at members’ club Vout-O-Reenee’s, the House of Customs debuted in London. Naples-born Dani Diodatoheadlined the intimate gathering, the British inauguration of the pop-up concert brand following its migration from Copenhagen. Fittingly, Diodato’s music also placed migration in the spotlight. 

In his small, softly lit surroundings, he presented his project SUNAAT, which bills itself as a musical exploration of the current experience of migration in Europe. Naples-born and now London-based, Diodato seeks to achieve his project’s goals through melodies, trumpet solos and electronic drum beats. The result is a cohesive sound that unifies new London and classic Naples into a singular jazz harmony. The snug space and cosy decor gave the impression of a private living room, the band playing barely a meter away from the guests. Diodato’s sound was speakeasy-like, a vibrant hum of noise that broke free of the background and commanded the audience’s full attention. 

photo by
Alex Massek

Following stints at Glastonbury and Love Supreme Festival, Diodato has established a strong foothold in the vibrant London jazz scene. His confident image complemented the newly arrived House of Customs. In Copenhagen, the brand worked with jazz festivals and partnered with luxury venues as it developed its own voice. Judging by the London launch, it will extend its track record by showcasing artists such as Diodato. 

The audience consisted of jazz enthusiasts, attracted by the House’s focus on the night’s talent. One attendee, however, admitted that while it was his first Jazz event, it would not be his last. He names the ‘intimate setting,’ ‘chilled vibe’ and ‘personal and relaxed environment’ as contributors to his overall enjoyment of the music. Another guest noted her amazement at how ‘in-sync and talented the artists [were] to make such beautiful jazz music.’ 

Diodato will be playing at the jazz club Kansas Smitty’s on Wednesday 7th August, and again on Saturday 24th August at Bar 91 in Shoreditch. It is possible that he will partner with House of Customs in the future. In the meantime, the brand, headed by Folayinka Coker, will continue to combine London’s most luxurious venues and best jazz talent. 

Natasha Franks is a graduate of the University of St Andrews, where she studied English. She enjoys writing, reading, and learning new words. She currently lives in London.

JLR Review – The Austerity Playbook at Hoxton Hall, January 2019

2019 will be a momentous one. The country is rife with division over Brexit and we still don’t know how that is going to be decided, this uncertainty could take months if not years to resolve. So it is an interesting time to be alive!

The complexities of Brexit, and why people voted the way they did in June 2016 could well be linked to the austerity policy adopted by the coalition government of 2010 to 2015 and since continued by the Conservative government under Theresa May.  Despite Theresa May making the claim in recent months that austerity would be coming to an end, there is no evidence that is the case.  The cuts to services by local authorities, the trebling of tuition fees, the average fall in wages since the financial crash of 2008 have all contributed to the lack of a feel good factor which ultimately culminated in a referendum by David Cameron in 2016 which led to the Brexit vote.  Europe was the fall guy here, inadvertently blamed by some for Britain’s internal problems created by government policy. The policy of austerity indirectly affected the way politics is not only conducted in this country since 2010 but throughout the continent of Europe as well over the last nine years. Countries such as Greece, Italy and Spain have felt the full weight of austerity and recession or lack of growth affecting youth employment.

Therefore, during a period of national difficulty or constitutional crisis, the arts can be at its most fertile as musicians, composers and playwrights produce material which reflects the times we live, it is vital for the arts to be prominent in times like these.  This is where the Austerity Playbook comes in. The Austerity Playbook held its London premiere on 18 January at the Hoxton Hall, in Hoxton street, in Hoxton……Performed more as a musical than a play on this particular night with twelve short scenes, it was an extravaganza featuring nine musicians on stage and supported by the Dende Company of Elders who performed the role of a vociferous crowd off stage right next to the audience.  An interesting concept which surprisingly has not been explored before to my knowledge, The Austerity Playbook takes a satirical look at a town in the north east of England where the local authority decides to  sanction lots of cuts to services and budgets over an extensive period.   Fini Bearman played the Council Leader forcing through cuts whilst encouraging residents to meet the shortfall by volunteering their time to bridge the gap and keep some services going. Juliet Kelly doubled up as a Librarian, Georgia Van Etten was the Community Support worker and Luca Manning played an Eastern European immigrant.  The Dende Company of Elders performed the role of a rowdy crowd chanting “Save Our Services” at civic meetings.  It might well be satirical and amusing but a lot of the subject matter was pretty close to the bone.

Considering the subject matter is quite complex, it should not come as any surprise that it involved a lot of collaboration to put the project together.  The play was written by Mark O’Thomas, who used research by two  Professors of Accounting; Professor Laurence Ferri of Durham University and Ileana Steccolini of Newcastle University. Andre Pink took care of the Direction, knitting five musicians and four singers on stage with the Dende Company of Elders off it, and finally music was written by JLR’s Andrea Vicari.  Professor Ferri told me thatthe motivation was to show the impacts that central government austerity based budget cuts have on the lives of everyday citizens and the resilience of local government and communities to deal with the implications.” Austerity is a policy choice to deal with budget pressures. In the case of the UK it has arguably went on far too long and undoubtedly is causing a multitude of problems for local government and citizens.  Professor Steccolini furthered that austerity rather than solving problems, has created new ones. Our effort, as researchers, was to try to point out the critical issues related to austerity, but also identify possible solutions, valid not only in the short, but also the long term.

The musical was fun to watch and it would be good if they get commissioned to perform the play / musical around the country over the coming months.  The ending did have a somewhat unresolved feel to it; and that is where we are at right now as a country, as there is no let up despite Theresa May’s claim that austerity is coming to an end.

Cast:

Fini Bearman – singer / Council Leader turns Labour MP

Juliet Kelly – singer / Librarian

Georgia Van Etten – singer / Community Support Officer

Luca Manning – singer / Eastern European Immigrant

Andrea Vicari – keyboards / composer

Dorian Lockett – bass

Caroline Scott – Drums

Andy Davies – Trumpet / Narrator

Chelsea Carmichael – Saxophone

Photographs by Leandro Dacundo

Laurie Burnette

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

JLR Review: Charlie Hunter Trio at Ronnie Scotts, September 2018

Guitarist Charlie Hunter & his trio recently came to Ronnie Scotts, performing on 26th and 27th September, to a full house and great acclaim.

credit Steven Cropper

Charlie was on a quick-fire tour of the UK, performing in London, Coventry and Manchester before making his way back to the United States to continue touring across the pond. I have known Charlie’s music since the mid 1990s when he came to international attention with his Blue Note album called Bing Bing Bing which was played a lot on jazz radio. Charlie’s music always has a strong groove orientation and that has been evident in all of his subsequent releases, whether more on the commercial side, or a more abstract style; Charlie never loses sight of the groove in his music, and he has released well over twenty albums during this period.

That musical concept was very much in evidence in his live performance where he was joined by an excellent British based Cuban trumpeter Yelfris Valdés and drummer Carter McLean. The first thing that strikes you as a watching audience is that three becomes four!  Charlie doubles up as the bass player on his custom made seven string guitar, using his thumb to play the baseline whilst also playing guitar chords or taking a solo. An incredible skill which no doubt is quite a niche in the world of music; we often see bass players use a six string bass guitar to play in the higher register for solos, but not the other way round. On stage the music of a quartet was being made, much in the way a Hammond organist might play bass using their foot pedals.

credit Steven Cropper

The music was pretty good too. There was a lot of space, leaving it to the imagination of the listeners to fill the spaces, the phrase “less is more” springs to mind. Charlie played tunes from his vaults including his most recent release, the amusingly titled Everybody Has A Plan Until They Get Punched In The Mouth.  However, Charlie also kept the audience on their toes, slipping in references to famous tunes in his repertoire, leaving me to ponder “what tune was that?” with the answer flashing to me some moments later. That “guess what tune” theme continued throughout; Charlie performed Wishing Well, a tune originally sung by Terrence Trent Darby back in the late 1980s. Charlie also slipped in riffs of Faith by George Michael and performed a Curtis Mayfield tune for good measure, it definitely brought something different musically which the audience really enjoyed.

credit Steven Cropper

Charlie was ably supported by Yelfris and Carter who did great comping and superb solos as well, it was a thoroughly entertaining evening of music from a master performer who believes in music first as opposed to showing off his chops and technique.

By Laurie Burnette

JLR Review: Lucy Dixon Live at Zedel, July 2017

Here at Jazz London Radio we get to witness a variety of styles of music in different settings.  Last Tuesday, I was invited to Live At Zedel in Soho to see a new name in jazz called Lucy Dixon.  Lucy is British born but has been forging a career for herself in France where she has lived for the past fifteen years.

The term jazz singer / artist usually conjures up certain images or conceptions, however, Lucy is not a singer in the straight ahead vein, or cutting edge contemporary; Lucy is a cabaret performer who also has a few strings to her bow which won’t come to mind immediately.  Lucy sings, and tap dances!

So it was a case of being intrigued when I arrived at Zedel to see Lucy perform with her Gypsy jazz trio which comprised of David Gastine and Vincent Simonelli on acoustic guitars plus Sebastien Gastine on double bass, all arriving from France via Eurostar that evening. As the performance got underway, I was initially confused as the trio came on stage and started playing; I was wondering if I was there for the wrong night and started checking the brochure.  Then, about three minutes later, a tall lady came on stage wearing a striking white three piece suit, with tie, black waistcoat and a fedora hat. Ah, that must be Lucy I thought, she kind of appeared unannounced; which then made it into a quartet on stage.

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Lucy released a CD in 2016 entitled Lulu’s Back In Town on dStream records and most of the repertoire from Tuesday’s performance came from that CD, which are reworkings of classics from the Great American songbook and Blues singers done in a gypsy jazz style. Tunes such as Bye Bye Blackbird, Fascinating Rhythm and Lulu’s Back In Town by Fats Waller got the gypsy jazz treatment.  On stage there was no drummer or percussionist, that’s where Lucy’s uniqueness came to the fore, as her job was to provide percussion moments through tap dancing along with her singing; duelling with both guitarists and bassist, it was quite a sight to see a performer tap dancing. Not only that, Lucy also contributed other percussion by playing a tambourine and used a drum stick to bang on a teapot, that’s right, a teapot :-0 Lucy also managed to get musical sounds out of a plastic bag, interpreting the sounds of brushes you would see drummers use when playing ballads. Clearly Lucy is talented and innovative.

You might wonder why Lucy is so unusual in a jazz scene so occupied these days by “hipsters”; that would be partly explained in Lucy’s cabaret background, hence her being based in Paris for such a long period of time performing over there. Lucy has a voice that is very easy on the ear, but trained to a high standard, Lucy is a high quality singer in the idiom she performs.

If you want to see something a bit different from the more orthodox straight ahead jazz / fusion music that is so prevalent today, then Lucy Dixon is your girl.

Lucy returns to Live At Zedel on August 24.  Show starts 9.15pm   Tickets £20  www.LiveAtZedel.com 

JLR Review – Sam Rapley at Omnibus Theartre in Clapham May 2017

The Omnibus Theatre in Clapham is acquiring some pedigree when it comes to introducing upcoming talent to the British public.

I saw an example of that two weeks ago when I went to interview saxophonist Sam Rapley at the Omnibus, just before Sam was due to perform with his band called Fabled upstairs in the Music Room. The “Music Room” is very bright with natural light and large sash windows; gigs I have seen previously were held in The Common Room which has more seating and a bar as well.

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Before the gig I spoke to Music Director Sue Dorey who mentioned that by introducing young talented musicians, Omnibus can build long term relationships with artists who want to return on a regular basis and enjoy the good reception they receive from the audience; plus the opportunity to play in a nice venue. Sam performed compositions from his 2015 EP also called Fabled plus compositions from his upcoming release entitled Short Stories, which is due for release later in in 2017. It is always interesting to have a chat beforehand and then see the musicians perform; I would say Sam has a slightly different vision to his contemporaries on the jazz scene. Sam has some interesting influences ranging from Sarah Vaughan to Antonio Carlos Jobim to Debussy.

Sam is interested in composing in a different way from the more conventional jazz and straight ahead style, his compositions are more geared up to tell stories as the titles of his releases suggest. In fact, Sam has already written music for short films and I suspect will be writing more film scores over the next ten to twenty years. The conventional formula to straight ahead jazz is to have an introduction, whereupon each musician takes a solo, then the end of the piece which is usually similar to the introduction. In Sam’s case, even though the band comprised of a conventional quintet of saxophone, piano, guitar, bass and drums, the music bore more of a feel of orchestration with elements of classical and folk to go with the jazz. The phrase that would come to mind is chamber jazz, which reminds of some of the great records produced on the ECM label over the last 40 years, following in the footsteps of artists like John Surman, Miroslav Vitous and Rainer Bruninghaus.

fabled-21-may-3

In some ways this is refreshing because in recent times many younger artists have followed the Esbjörn Svensson trio (EST) route. The tunes performed at the gig involved many changes, like a mini movie with not much soloing going on in the traditional sense; this was more about the collective. Of course, with instrumental music, finding titles can always be a challenge; one track performed was called Yellowcard, composed on the spot whilst watching the football world cup final! The audience had a great time absorbing what was going on in front of them, and pretty much justifies Sue Dorey’s policy of giving the future stars a platform. Long may that continue.

You can listen to our chat before the gig here:

Fabled are:
Sam Rapley: saxophones
Matt Robinson: piano
Alex Munk: guitar
Connor Chaplin: bass
Will Glaser: drums

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.

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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!

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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.