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Budvar Cheltenham Jazz Festival April 28th to May 4th 2009

Wednesday, 06 May 2009 12:13 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

Budvar Cheltenham Jazz Festival  April 28th to May 4th 2009

Not everything flowed as smooth as the Budvar beer at the 14th Cheltenham Jazz Festival - there were a lot of disgruntled punters on Saturday afternoon (May 2nd) as a power failure shut down the Everyman Theatre for several hours and caused chaos to the performance schedule. Fortunately, there were only two cancelations, albeit significant ones: the much-anticipated mid-afternoon performance by the Nikki Yeoh Trio featuring John Surman followed by an early evening one due to be given by ex-Miles Davis saxophonist Dave Liebman in tandem with the BBC Big Band. The power was restored in time for Madeleine Peyroux's 9.30pm show at the Everyman, which went down well with an appreciative audience that heard the Bohemian American singer/songwriter/guitarist focus on songs from her new album, 'Bare Bones.'


There were plenty of other highlights at a festival that has become renowned not only for the quality of the acts it presents but also the variety of the music it features. A case in point was Don Byron's New Gospel Quintet - their late night performance wasn't a sell-out but quickly became one of the talking points of the festival. Despite Byron's jazz associations - he's a clarinet virtuoso who also plays some tidy saxophone - his group lovingly paid homage to the music of Thomas A. Dorsey, a songwriter and pianist who was the founding father of modern gospel music. Thanks to the captivating presence and soulful vocals of female singer, DK Dyson - who was dressed like some kind of Nubian high priestess - the concert transcended all expectations. Admittedly, the jazz content was minimal, but that didn't matter - the music, comprising a raft of vintage Dorsey-penned gospel classics, was incredibly uplifting. In fact, you could be forgiven for thinking you were in church rather than a Victorian theatre.


Earlier the same evening there had been another stupendous concert - that time it was jazz, pure and unadulterated. The brilliant New York trumpeter, Dave Douglas, and his quintet delivered a masterclass in post-bop improvisation. Accompanying Douglas was tenor saxophonist Donny McCaslin, pianist Orren Evans (who played Fender Rhodes), bassist Scott Colley and drummer extraordinaire, Clarence Penn. Among the highlights was a new number 'Campaign Trail' - inspired by the recent US Presidential election - and a delightful encore piece, 'Little Pep.'


An hour or so prior to the Dave Douglas group, the Everyman Theatre had witnessed a long - some might say interminable - performance by legendary drummer Jack DeJohnette and the Jerwood All Stars, an octet comprised of some of the brightest new names in British jazz. Among them was pianist Tom Cawley and trumpeter Tom Arthurs - even so, the concert disappointed, mainly due to the dubious quality of the original, specially-composed material. DeJohnette's self-penned opener, 'Zoot Suite,' was all right in places but had moments of great tedium and pretentiousness - the worst piece, though, was a cacophonous piece of free jazz by clarinettist, Shabaka Hutchings, who used hand signals to direct the band. There was also a homage to avant-garde jazz man, Eric Dolphy - that, too, really tested the listener's powers of patience and endurance. It was a relief when the concert ended.

Far better was an exciting set at the Town Hall Pillar Room by young British pianist Robert Mitchell and his 3rio (no, that's not a typo) - among the highlights was a scintillating jazz version of Massive Attack's 'Teardrop' dominated by Mitchell's crystalline piano.

Not quite as good, but engaging nevertheless, was the hour-long gig by the critically-lauded Portico Quartet in the same venue a day later. They created some intriguing sonic textures, thanks mainly to Duncan Bellamy's haunting use of the hang, a tuned percussion instrument that sounded like a cross between steel drums and gamelan bells. They played the title track from their Mercury Music Prize-nominated album, 'Knee-Deep In The North Sea,' but mostly showcased new material - like the Hispanic-flavoured 'The Dawn Patrol,' 'The Clipper,' and 'The Visitor.'


More orthodox jazz came in the shape of Lea Delaria, though the former stand-up comic and actress can hardly be described as conventional. She was in incendiary form, though sadly, the poor, echo-laden acoustics of the venue (a restaurant called The Daffodil, which boasted a ceiling as high as an aircraft hangar's) detracted from the singer's performance. Cracking jokes in between songs and exchanging witty banter with the audience, Delaria mostly featured material from her recent live album though did include a jazzed-up version of 'What's New Pussycat,' a probable taster from her next studio album. Singer Ian Shaw joined Delaria for the encore, a crazed version of an old bebop number dominated by manic scatting from both vocalists.


The festival climaxed spectacularly on Monday 4th May at Cheltenham's Town Hall thanks to the jaw-dropping pyrotechnics of virtuoso violinist Nigel Kennedy and his Polish jazz quintet. Performing on a custom-built, body-less electric violin and using an array of effects pedals, Kennedy and his band delivered a freewheeling fusion of sounds that blended jazz with Brazilian-tinged bossa nova grooves, psychedelic rock, folk and world music. There were times when the music lacked subtlety - especially in the second half of the show, when a less-interesting rock-feel prevailed thanks to the hi-decibel power-drumming of Pawel Dobrowolski - but there were moments of breathtaking beauty, too, to counter this, especially when Kennedy played in a highly expressive lyrical vein, as on the extended 'Father And Son,' which took its inspiration from a 15th century French melody. As an encore, for once Kennedy's quintet delved into bona fide jazz territory, turning in a decent performance of Duke Pearson's 'Big Bertha.'

(Charles Waring)

 

MAXWELL RETURNS...AT LAST!

Friday, 01 May 2009 09:43 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

MAXWELL RETURNS...AT LAST!

MAXWELL, the mysterious Brooklyn-born falsetto-voiced singer who found instant fame with the classic neo-soul album 'Urban Hang Suite' in 1996, returns with his fourth studio album, 'BLACKsummers'night' via Sony Music on July 9th. It's the first instalment of a planned trilogy of albums under the title 'BLACKSUMMERS'NIGHT.' The second album in the series is apparently entitled 'BlackSUMMERS'Night' - and has a gospel feel - while the concluding volume, a collection of nocturnal slow jams is dubbed 'BlackSummers'NIGHT.' Sounds confusing? Well, all will be revealed in time, no doubt.
The new album follows in the wake of last year's sell out Stateside tour and the video for Maxwell's new single, 'Pretty Wings' can be seen at the singer's own website, www.musze.com

 

PARIS IN JUNE...

Friday, 01 May 2009 09:16 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

PARIS IN JUNE...

Though today she's known to millions of UK TV viewers as a makeover show presenter, the versatile and multi-talented MICA PARIS, started off as a soul singer in the late-'80s and notched up several substantial UK hits (including the classic single, 'My One Temptation' in 1988).
Her last album, 2005's 'Soul Classics,' finally has a follow-up: it's called 'Born Again' and is released by Rhythm Riders Records on 10th June. The CD is preceded by a James Morrison-penned single, 'Baby Come Back' (out 25th May). Mica has high hopes for the album which she claims is "the best album I have ever made" and is going on an extensive UK tour to promote it.
Look out for a full review soon at www.soulandjazzandfunk.com

 

BLUE NOTE REISSUES

Thursday, 23 April 2009 14:08 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

BLUE NOTE REISSUES


The iconic jazz label set up in New York in 1939 by German Jewish émigrés Alfred Lion and Francis Wolff releases another batch of titles in its ongoing series the 'RVG Remasters' this month. All the titles have been remastered by the legendary engineer and studio boffin, Rudy Van Gelder - who's 84 and still going strong - at his famous Englewood Cliffs studio in New Jersey.
Here's the full list of titles:

GRANT GREEN - 'Street Of Dreams'
GRANT GREEN - 'Grant's First Stand'
HORACE SILVER - 'The Tokyo Blues'
JACKIE McLEAN - 'Bluesnik'
JACKIE McLEAN - 'One Step Beyond'
LEO PARKER - 'Rollin' With Leo'
PAUL CHAMBERS - 'Quintet'
STANLEY TURRENTINE - 'Chip Off The Old Block'
HORACE PARLAN - 'Up & Down'
BABY FACE WILLETTE - 'Stop & Listen'
GRACHAN MONCUR III - 'Some Other Stuff'
TONY WILLIAMS - 'Spring'

Look out for reviews of some of these titles soon at www.soulandjazzandfunk.com
For more information go to: www.bluenote.com


 

NEW CASSANDRA WILSON ALBUM OUT

Thursday, 23 April 2009 14:05 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

NEW CASSANDRA WILSON ALBUM OUT

Smoky-voiced jazz diva, CASSANDRA WILSON, has a new album out on Blue Note this month - it's called 'Closer To You: The Pop Side' and cherry picks tracks from the singer's extensive Blue Note canon. As the title implies, the compilation focuses on Wilson's interpretations of songs taken from the pop and rock world - it includes material penned by redoubtable songwriters like Van Morrison, Bob Dylan and Neil Young as well as songs scribed by Sting and Irish rock band, U2. The album is available in download format as well as conventional CD mode.

 

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