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Monday, January 12, 2015

"Gulf Coast funk" with Caribbean spice and Euro flourishes

- from the jazzbreakfast, with Peter Bacon


Joe Sample & NDR Big Band – Children Of The Sun

children of the sun(PRA Records PRA-CD-61014)
In 1995 the former Crusader pianist played a festival at St Croix in the Virgin Islands. He was struck by the contrast between the tranquil setting and the brutal history of the place on the slave route. This suite of songs is the result.
A project which features not only Sample’s piano but also the drumming of Steve Gadd and the trombone-playing and production of Nils Landgren was never going to be a bleak affair; instead Sample and his cohorts stress the triumph of light over darkness, life over death.
The results are joyous and exuberant, the marvellous German big band bold and blustery, the soloists flying along on their trade winds. From the opening groove set down by Gadd and the piano riff Sample adds we know we’re in for a fine time, and when the full band adds its strongly swinging sections – the arrangements are by Jörg Achim Keller – the whole thing takes on a great big sunny glow.
The track titles – Buttermilk Sky, Rumfire, Gold In The Cane, Creole Eyes – say it all.
Joe Sample died last September, so this 2011 recording stands as a fitting reminder of his marvellous mix of jazz, blues, R&B and that inimitable “gulf coast funk”.

Jazz en Haiti: The Port-au-Prince Jazz fest is almost here

In an era where the main "jazz and Blues festival" here is content to boast of Mariah Carey as principal draw, its heartening to learn that Haiti has its own jazz fest, happening from jan 17-24, and that the line-up is in fact, quite credible and attractive from a jazz fan's standpoint:

Yellowjackets and local legends Boukman Ekspereyans are included this year, while previous outings have featured renowned players such as Mino Cinelu, Henry Texier, and American pianist Aaron Goldberg.

Names of no meaning to all but a handful of Jamaicans, but to those who know and love the form, a good recommendation to make the trip to Port au Prince (which, capital to capital, is actually closer to Kingston than Havana.)

For eight days, Port-au-Prince swings with jazz rhythms. The Festival participants pour into historic public spaces of the capital, such as the historic Sugar Cane Park with its gardens and vestiges from the colonial era, the gardens of the prestigious Karibe Hotel, and the FOKAL Cultural Center located in the heart of Port-au-Prince. For the after hours jam sessions, festival-goers fill the most attractive restaurants of Pétion-Ville, the nightlife neighborhood of the capital.

To achieve its mission to promote music and especially jazz around the country, the Fondation Haiti Jazz - the Festival's primary organizers - offers free music training workshops to young, local musicians in collaboration with the participating international music professionals.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Jazz Italia Pt II: Roberto Magris with Herb Geller

It was inevitable that we'd hear more from the meeting between pianist Roberto Magris and the late Herb Geller - the first recorded collaboration was 2009's "Il Bello Di Jazz" on Soul Note.

Now, through his American-based label JMood Records, the ever-resourceful Magris has released a continuation of that delightful output

American-born and coming of age just at the time when bebop  was reaching its peak, Geller not only beat the "Bird trap"(he admits to being influenced, but not a copy of, alto sax great Benny Carter) but also, partly by virtue of moving to Germany, managed to developed a wholly personal sound not beholden to any of the US titans who would star on the alto horn during the post-War period

Its a sinuous yet sturdy sound, neatly modulated, but without being clinical, essentially capable of anything  Magris' lush, ebullient yet  similarly well-ordered pianisms

The supporting cast definitely makes their presence felt on this record, especially drummer Enzo Carpentieri who alternate scorches and soothes with tremendous gusto throughout the disc. Prie examples: the Zoot Sims classic, "The Red Door"  and a staple pf the Basie Orchestra "9:20 Special"

The high point comes fairly early on with "Lonely Woman" (the Benny Carter tune, not the Ornette Coleman nor the Horace Silver tunes of the same title), although the Sondheim piece, "Pretty Woman", which closes the disc also comes close in terms of effect.

I guess one can never underestimate the power of a woman to move the energies of men.

Whatever their muse, this is a first-class session that only stands as a worthy tribute to an unsung jazz titan, but pretty much makes a statement on its own musical merits. If you want jazz that stirs, seduces, skips and kicks in equal good measure, this is your ticket.

Herb Geller, rest well. Magris & Co, - onward to greater.

Reviews: jazz Italia Pt I - Massa in Three and Four

This column has tended to have good fortune with Italian pianists. We have had the pleasure of featuring several excellent albums by Robert Magris, and now we have a pair from Dino Massa:  Anime Diverse - a quartet date, and Un Po Come Noi, a trio outing.
For the quartet set, bassist Danele Sorreto, who's about as close to a "regular" as we've been able to document, appears with Elio Coppola on drums and Valerio Virzo on tenor horn. There's track entitled 'McKoy's Blues" and its rathe fitting as Massa's sound does recall the great McKoy Tyner. But don't be mistaken - this is no clone. Massa and the band skip, ump, stomp and softly pedal through the 8 tracks with an irrepressible joy and sensitivity that is highly individualised but very welcome and endearing. That and 'Per un Amico" (for a Friend) mark the standouts from this disc.
The trio outing features the conventional arranngement, with Piero Leveratto on bass and Claudio Borrelli on drums supporting - really collaborating - with the leader. The overall feel is "smokier" as in classic jazz club ambience and tone-feel. The execution though, is similarly high level. Every note comes in with ust the amount of weight that one would expect and makes way for the next without hitch or undue flourish. Massa, just being introduced to this writer, clearly knows the idiom, and is committed to the highest level of expression, both individual and collectively.
Simply put, this is an Italian jazz outing (dual) that you will enjoy immensely and will wish to repeat - a lot.  

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Still Strummin' - and Hummin - at 100: celebrating Coleridge Goode

Jamaica-UK jazzer Gary Crosby  is presenting a special interactive concert on Friday 21 November at the Purcell Room as part of this year’s EFG London Jazz Festival – Coleridge Goode: A Celebration.

It’s a tribute to the legendary Jamaican double bassist, Coleridge Goode, who celebrates his 100th birthday at the end of this month (29th). The occasion will be marked by a concert combining live music, conversations, literary readings, photography and film, 
Gary Crosby(left) with Coleridge Goode
 Joining Crosby on stage will be Byron Wallen(trumpet), Aleksandra Topczewska (alto sax), Omar Puente (violin), Alex Ho (piano), Shirley Tetteh (guitar), and Moses Boyd (drums), and a panel of guest speakers including the beautiful vocalist Elaine Delmar, broadcaster and jazz historian Alyn Shipton, saxophonist Denys Baptiste, biographer Roger Cotterrell, and Goode family friend Colleen McIntyre. The speakers will offer insight into Coleridge’s career and, sharing personal memories, shine a light on a life in jazz that began a few months after the outbreak of the First World War.Chairing the panel, and weaving it all together will be journalist and broadcaster Kevin Le Gendre.

Goode is one of the most important musicians ever in the history of jazz and jazz bass. He worked with so many musical luminaries from Stéphane Grappelli and Django Reinhardt, to George Shearing and Joe HarriottShake Keane to Leslie ‘Jiver’ Hutchinsonto John Mayer. He even played for the late British Labour Prime Minister, Harold Wilson at 10 Downing Street. He also featured in the Ray Ellington Quartet famed as the house band on BBC Radio’s irreverent comedy programme, The Goon Show that featured Spike Milligan, Peter Sellers and Harry Secombe.

In addition to his contribution as a player, Coleridge is credited as the person who came up with the idea of the double bass pickup to amplify the sound of the instrument, marking a major development in the evolution of bass performance.

Crosby first met Coleridge in Earl’s Court around 1980 when he was working in a West African restaurant across the road from a club where he used to play. 

He describes the bass man as incredibly generous towards us younger musicians, always happy to share information on the history of jazz in Britain. He  was especially excited about his work with the great Joe Harriott – "Coleridge is the last surviving member of Harriott’s innovative Quintet  – and my conversations with him inspired me to conceive a concert in tribute to the saxophonist as part of the London Jazz Festival some years ago."
"Do come along to Coleridge Goode: A Celebration on Friday 21 November and join me in celebrating the 100th birthday of the consummate Lord Of The Lower Frequencies. Sadly, he is now too frail to attend in person, but we hope to record the concert for Coleridge so he can enjoy listening back to it when we celebrate with him on his birthday. And guess what? Though age may have forced him to lay down his bass, you can still hear him scatting along to music whenever it gets to the bass solo!"

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Cuba Groovy!: 2014 Havana Jazz Fest Dec 17-22

The Havana International Jazz Festival (Cuba Jazz Festival) was born in 1978 when Bobby Carcasses, and other well known Cuban Jazz musicians, presented the first Jazz concert at the Casa de la Cultura de Plaza in downtown Havana. This is the origin of the title 'International Jazz Festival Plaza' because it finds its birth in this open-air venue. The Casa de la Cultura de Plaza hall, with its pleasant intimate outdoor terrace, is still one of the places where concerts and jam sessions take place. Based on this success, another Jazz festival was organized the following year, featuring pianist Chucho Valdes. Renowned artists such as Dizzy Gillespie, Max Roach, Charlie Haden, Roy Hargrove, Jack DeJohnette, Danilo Perez became part of the Havana scene on a regular basis.
In 1996 Chucho Valdes became artistic director of the Havana International Jazz Plaza Festival and president of the Organizing Committee with Alexis Vazquez Aguilera as the vice president. The festival has since expanded to include all the main concert halls in downtown Havana, not to mention impromptu street jam sessions along the Malecon.
Chucho Valdes
Among the 2013 performing artists were Chucho Valdes, Arthur O'Farrill, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Bobby Carcasses, Roberto Fonseca, Harold Lopez-Nussa, Jorge Reyes, Yasek Manzano and the Cords Quartet, Naat Berahman, Michel Herrera, Ernan Lopez-Nussa, Klimax, Orlando Sanchez, Bellita y Jazztumbata, Emilio Morales, William Roblejo, Alfred Thompson, Habana d' Primera, Mezcla, Jesus Fuentes y Santo Tomas Conection, Oscar Valdes y Diakara, Ruy Lopez-Nussa, Cesar Lopez y Habana Ensemble, Rolando Luna, Javier Salva, Aire de Concierto, Emir Santa Cruz, Jorge Luis Pacheco, Sexto Sentido, Alejandro Falcon y Cubadentro, Ernesto Camilo Vega, Ta Bueno Jazz, Gala Mayor, Habana Sax and other Cuban Jazz musicians including Alexis Bosch y Proyecto de Jazz Cubano, Frank Fernandez and the Jazz Band conducted by Maestro Joaquin Betancourt, the National Symphonic Orchestra conducted by Maestro Enrique Perez Mesa, the Entrevoces Choir conducted by Digna Guerra and the Troy University Jazz Ensemble from the USA. The 2014 artist line-up will be announced very soon.

Travel form Jamaica to The 30th Annual Havana Jazz Festival can be arranged through Caribbean and Latin Travel Consultants Limited -

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

"Unbelievable Rewind"

Not content with the “Unbeleivable
That the music trail is a torturous one, is well known. The challenge is compounded further by the individual’s refusal to be anything but ordinary – to personify continuous upgrades in ability and accomplishment whilst retaining the in-bred wonder and passion for the artform.
Such has been the quest for Andres Lopez. The son of the Saint Catherine hills, he, like several of his generation,  gravitated to music from an early age.  He spent years in the orbit of several of Jamaica’s finest musicians, gathering knowledge, making his own observations. This exposure has had a tremendous influence on his development both as a performer and a producer. While at his alma mater, Claremont High, under the leadership of Nigel Powell, he became the school’s first band leader
Further refinement of his musical vision came via the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts where he spent three years to further his studies in piano/keyboard skills. While there he was a member of the jazz quartet ‘Wide Grin”.  The quartet provided another avenue for him to further hone his skills by way of the many booked gigs they performed at.
Since leaving the institution, the pianist has steadily made a name for himself on the cocktail circuit, working in tandem with his schoolmates, other contemporaries as well as those who have preceded him. Lopez started doing piano gigs playing at weddings, cocktails, parties and cooperate functions. He also became an in-demand “side player” on projects and performances by the likes of gospel stars Chevelle Franklin and Sandra Brooks, and roots reggae stalwarts Fantan Mojah, Etana, Lutan Fyah, Anthony B and Alborosie. Such gigs have expectedly resulted in  the air miles piling up as he accompanied those acts on tours of the US, Canada, South America and Europe.

But Lopez has aspiration towards even brighter horizons and greater accomplishments. The album “Unbelievable”  his first full-length as a leder, manifested from his self-created I-Pez Productions in 2013, reaching the lofty number one spot on Internet channel Reverbnation instrumental charts. The 10-track set features several of his musical fellow-travellers: Nicholas Laraque on saxophones, Craig Henry on trumpet, Dugal Clarke on bass and Michael Mighty on drums. Standout tracks include  Charlie Parker’s be-bop standby, “Little Suede Shoes” an organ-driven cover of the Peter Tosh classic “Equal Rights” “Rubba Dub Ska” and the title track. World Vision.
Lopez is continuing to work in variety of settings – solo, small group and fusion bands. He is also looking to find new forms of expression as well, exploring a number of projects – among them is the “Rock Weh” riddim, which has attracted the attention of France-based production-promotion outfit Talowa Productions. The track features a number of artists, including multi-cultural French reggae group, The Banyans.
“I understand and appreciate the demands of the music business as it stands today, but I believe I can be true to myself and still make a mark both commercially and artistically,” he states, adding “its going to take some flexibility and a different level of effort, but I’m up for it.”
And, judging from the sounds of the disc, greater accomplishments are well in sight.