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Jazz in London

9 mars 2012
September to November 2011

A very bright start to september from guitar/vocalist James Hunter in Ronnie Scotts, while on the same evening just up the road in pizza express, remarkable norwegian sax player Marius Neset gave great pleasure, before, on my way home, a late set in the 606 club from Ed Bently Hammond, and Dan Reinstein t/s, ended a delightful day.   
The next week at Ronnies found the Family Stone, led by Jerry Martini t/s, thrilling packed audiences, while at the vortex, a more restrained duo of us pianist Matthew Shipp and UK’s Evan Parker t/s, were providing a menu of progressive jazz to audiences who loved it, again a late night set at the 606 in Chelsea, this time for Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts, who just loves jazz, bringing his two piano quintet in for a riotous evening. How they managed to get the two special pianos down the metal stairway and to the small basement club is still a mystery to me, but was a sheer delight to the packed audiences. Ronnie Scotts brought together two of UK’s top guitarists with classical maestro John Williams and jazz-man John Etheridge. While up at Pizza Express, young singer Alexander Stewart was being backed by Alex Webb P. Late night gig at the 606 Club was with exciting singer Tommy Blaize and his band. Some really good singing in Ronnies from Carol Grimes with her nice band, featuring great trombonist Annie Whitehead. Excellent venezuelan born pianist Edward Simon was in pizza express providing a nice mixture of standard pieces with some latin touches and a lovely encore of "body and soul”. Strange venue in Brixton Church, but stunning vocals from Sarah Jane Morris made it all worth while, her band included John Eacott tmpt, Tony Remy gtr, Annie Whitehead tmb and Alastair Gavin keys. Two good support acts, Joe Cang gtr/voc and delightful Kate Daisy Grant voc/keys. The stand out gig of the month for me came at Queen Elizabeth Hall, when amazing percussionist Trilok Gurtu joined with young pianist Tigran Hamasyan for some incredible music. Very nice singing from Roberta Gambarini in Ronnie Scotts, the late gig at the 606 for Danny Adler gtr/voc and Dave Solomon d. How better to finish the month than the opening of a new venue in Soho "Floridita”, and who better to launch it than keyboard wizard Chucho Valdes who was on top form as usual.

October’s diary looked full of good things, and a great start at the Barbican prove this correct, with the "Cinematic Orchestra” led by Jason Swinscoe gtr/keks, plus Austin Peralto p, Dorian Concept keys, Patrick Carpenter dj, Heidi Vogel voc. All most impressive. Barbican again for super star Wayne Shorter, well accompanied by Danilo Perez p John Patitucci b and Brian Blade d. Plus a very interesting suport trio, "phronesis”, led by Jasper Holby b, Ivo Neame p and Anton Eger d., while Ronnie Scotts came up with two sold out crowd pleasers, firstly great guitarist Pino Palladino whose band came with Tim Stewart gtr, James Poyser p, Chris Dave d and Adam Glasser harmonica. Then came us multi instumentalist and singer Todd Rundgren. Pizza Express also had a full house for us singer Gregory Porter. 
Ronnie scotts presented a top class series of jazz booking till the end of the month, starting with Cedar Walton and his quartet of David Williams b, Willie Jones d and Piero Odorici t/s. Master drummer Louis Hayes followed that with a great group starring Vincent Herring a/s and Jeremey Pelt tmpt. Nice support band led by Nigel Price gtr. Next, one of uk’s top pianists, Julian Joseph and his terrific big band certainly aroused the packed room. Amazing us guitarist Mike Stern was the next star event, his tight group featuring Dave Wecl d, Bob Malachi t/s and Chris Min Doky b. To end the month in the club, more sold out audiences had the pleasure of master piano legend Ramsey Lewis. Elsewhere during the month, Pizza Express had canadian born trumpeter Kenny Wheeler with John Taylor p, Palle Danielsson b and Diana Torto voc.  At the vortex, us tenor sax leader John Tchicai played two separate sets, each with different drummers, first Tony Marsh and then Louis Moholo. Very interesting gig at the Bishopsgate Institute with remarkable quartet led by one of my favourite US guitarists, Marc Ribot, with Henry Grimes b and Chad Taylor d. Ribot was full of energy and intensity on a variety of styles including blues. Very good concert. Last event in the month in Redhill’s Harlequin Theatre was a strange mix of two well known comedy acts, who were not in the least amusing, plus  the UK’ best male singer Ian Shaw, who is also a remarkable pianist. Shaw solo, plus his Steinway, saved the evening in style.

Nice start to november at Ronnie Scotts with, firstly, some high class trumpet work from Roy Hargrove, also with Justin Robinson a/s, in his group. Two nights later, Darius Brubeck continues to look like and sound like his father Dave. Then came the avalanche of music, otherwise known as the London Jazz Festival. Produced as usual by London promoters serious, over a 10 day period in dozens of large and small venues all over London, many free, opening with powerful sax star Steve Coleman in the Queen Elizabeth Hall with good support group led by Steve Williamson t/s and David Virelles p. Next day at Barbican, supreme pianist McCoy Tyner was in blistering form, also in his band, Chris Potter a/s rose to the occasion. Barbican again next day for a most fascinating show, with a silent black and white film called "Louis”. Beautifully shot, with sharp clarity and accompanied by a live on stage band playing music, by Wynton Marsalis, led by Wycliffe Gordon and other members of Wyntons band, plus delightful  philippine born pianist Cecile Licad. The entire performance was quite riveting, both visually and musically. In one of the rooms in the complex, Gwyneth Herbert was giving free singing lessons to any and all comers, while over to Ronnies to catch another of my favourites, Joey Calderazzo, in top form. QE Hall next day, for french reeds master Michel Portal leading group with Ambrose Akinmusire, the newest "hot” trumpeter, Bozan Z keys, Scott Colley b and Nasheet Waits d. Upstairs to the Purcell Room to see charming, and so talented, violinist Regina Carter. Also catching two numbers in another free concert from the Royal Academy of Music Big Band, before calling back to another duo in QE Hall, starring Jason Yarde a/s and Andrew McCormack p., untill finally, over to Ronnie Scotts for US piano star Billy Childs with Larry Koonse gtr. Next day, historic church St James in Picadilly  found pleasant lunch time recital from top uk pianist gwilym simcock, berore going to Barbican for more piano masters, with duo from french maestro Martial Solal and Stefano Bolani. Excellent support trio led by Marcin Wasilewski p, festival hall offered more french heros when Richard Galliano with a star quartet, featuring Dave Douglas tmpt, showed some amazing melodic technique, before over to Xoyo in old street, for Robert Glasper playing electric keys, then finally back to St James Church again, this time for good  ensemble led by Kenny Wheeler tmpt, Norma Winstone voc and the London Vocal Project. Next, another day of running about, first with interesting time in the Purcell Room with vocalists China Moses, Gwyneth Herbert and Alexander Stewart plus Max Reinhardt as a storyteller. Downstairs in QE Hall a powerful, exciting recital from US super star Archie Shepp plus german piano hero Joachim Kuhn. Great support band "empirical”, featuring Lewis Wright vibes, and Robert Mitchell p. Over to Ronnies for a couple of numbers from the Yellow Jackets, before a final late night call in to the 606 for top UK tenor saxist Andy Sheppard in duo with John Paricelli gtr. Then two more days left, starting, at wigmore hall, with one of my very favourite pianists, Abdullah Ibrahim, in a beautifully crafted solo performance. Then over to the QE Hall for complete master drummer Roy Haynes, whose  brilliant performances must be seen to be believed. After all this, my last day began with an earler afternoon concert in QE Hall, form the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra, led by Tommy Smith t/s, and with guest Arild Andersen b. Later in the evening, the Hall offered Bill Frisell and his 858 Quartet. Frisell making his usual delightful sounds in his usual laid back way. Grand finale of the day came at the Festival Hall when Ornette Coleman stepped on stage to rapturous applause. What a festival!!! All tastes catered for, big world stars mixed in with young rising names. Next years festival is already being planned!! Start trying to book now!!
The London Jazz Festival was now over, but 2 more gigs saw the month out, both at Ronnie Scotts. First, Ian Dury’s old band the "blockheads”, now led by Derek Hussey, then Avishai Cohen with his new "seven seas” trio including Omri Mor p and Amir Bresler d, stylish and as exciting as ever.

Such a wealth of music makes it impossible to pick out "the best”, but for sheer personal pleasure, I will not forget the film, and music, of "Louis”. Stand out performers from the London Jazz Festival were McCoy Tyner, Roy Haynes, Abdullah Ibrahim, Marc Ribot and Ornette Coleman, but add in from earlier gigs outside the festival for newcomers, Marius Neset and Tigran Hamasyan.
David Sinclair