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Jazz in London V.O.

28 nov. 2012
September to November

September, Ronnie Scott’s opened the month with appealing duo of Europe’s best real jazz singer. Claire Martin, with composer/arranger/singer/pianist, Sir Richard Rodney Bennett, both in fine form and enthusing the audience. Two days later, they were followed by a big band led by trumpeter Jay Phelps, and with fine guest singer Clare Teal. A few days after that and France was very well represented by master guitarist Bireli Lagrene, backed by Jean-Marc Robin d, Jean-Yves Jung on Hammond and Franck Wolf t/s.  Bireli was playing purely electric, without any sign of Reinhardt, but the audience simply loved his technical ability, and demanded encores. Nice support band, led by a new young clarinettist, Giacomo Smith, backed by Robin Katz gtr and Mark Lewan Dowski b. An entertaining evening all round. When I saw the listing on Ronnie’s programmes for Frank Sinatra Jnr, I was very doubtful, however, the evening was most enjoyable. To have to carry that name must be a huge burden, but Frank Jnr does it in a most relaxed and professional manner. Although he does eventually sing a few of his father’s hits, his repertoire is much wider and impressive. He also has an excellent 8 piece band with him, led by the very fine alto player Mike Smith with also Jeff Morrison keys, Jim Fox gtr, Paul Rostock b, Bob Chmel d, Tyrone Anthony t/s, Walt Johnson tmpt and Tom Garling tromb.  All this was then followed a few days later by US jazz/blues singer, pianist/songwriter, Patricia Barber. Interesting and enjoyable performance from an artist I was seeing for the first time. Look forward to it again. A few days later, and Ronnie’s gets more "Sold Out” signs, this time for Brazilian Samba/Funk masters, "Banda Black Rio”, led by William Magalhaes on Keyboards. Enthusiastic audiences eager to get up and dance around the tables!! Last gig of the month in the club, with top male jazz singer Ian Shaw on top form, backed by crisp trio of Phil Ware p, Dave Redmond d, and Kevin Brady b, plus featuring the absolutely superb trumpet playing of most welcome guest, Guy Barker.  With Ian and Guy on such a high level, never to be missed.

October found R+B singer/guitarist Terry Reid in sparkling form at Ronnie Scott’s, giving great pleasure to his very large fan following, while up at the Pizza Express, superb vibes performer Joe Locke was giving his all, as usual, with his sticks and mallets a blur. Ronnie’s again, this time for a Legend, Van Morrison.  Songs old and new, all treated with the same top attention both vocally and with his sax, backed by a very good band. A very entertaining evening.  A few days later, and another top artist in the club. This time Japanese piano super star, Hiromi, fascinating to watch in her frantic movement playing, but all sounding excellent.  Up to Pizza Express again, this time for Norwegian born, NY based, Lage Lund, a most impressive young guitarist with a growing reputation. It was "guitar night”, as on my way home I called in to the 606 Club catching a great duo between top Italian guitarist Luca Boscagin and UK’s best, Jim Mullen. Fine playing all round.  Ronnie’s again, now starring singer/songwriter Alison Moyet, who has a most impressive record sales total, with over 2.3 million Albums and over 1 million Singles. A very distinctive and appealing blues style voice excited the sold out audience.  Young UK singer Georgia Mancio, decided to run her own "Re Voice Festival”, over 9 days,  and did it very well. At Pizza Express on separate nights, she had US vocalists Gregory Porter and Jamie Davis, then Liane Carroll, MyCale and others, while over at the Union Chapel, she added Tuck and Patti, plus Raul Midon. She also provided fine singing herself.  A wonderful lunchtime gig in north London’s Vortex Jazz Club, saw a packed audience cheering along the "Township Comets”, a group playing the joyous music of South African hero, Dudu Pukwana. Featuring vocalist Pinsie Saul, with terrific band, including Jason Yarde t/s, Chris Batchelor tmpt, Adam Glasser p, Dudley Phillips b and Harry Brown tromb.  Lots of good music and excitement.  Later that evening, still in the Vortex, the Mike Hobart "Urban Jazz Collective” celebrated their new CD the "Third Fish” with an evening of some fine jazz, with a good mixture of originals and covers. Led by Mike on tenor sax, with Adrian Reid p, Chris Lee tmpt, Sven Atterton b, and Kaboukie d. Over again to Ronnie Scott’s,  where, over a period of 2 weeks, they assembled the following listings of top class music. Starting with renowned bassist Avishai Cohen in supreme form, together with the other members of his trio Omri Mor p, and Amir Bresler d. Three days later, a wonderful grouping of master sax Joe Lovano, plus the superb Dave Douglas on trumpet, drum maestro Joey Baron, Lawrence Fields p, and exciting newcomer Linda Oh b. Terrific evening, nicely added to by seeing ex- Ronnie Scott pianist, John Critchinson, leading the support band and reviving old memories. Four days on, and "Bad Plus” were  the next star band, members as usual Dave King d, Ethan Iverson p, and Reid Anderson b. What a really top band they are!!. After three more days of Bad Plus, the high standard is maintained when a quartet arrives, for a 2 day spell, led by Jeff Lorber keys, Eric Marienthal sax, Nate Phillips b, and Sonny Emory d, all of whom, separately and together come up with some fine music. Then, to finish the month in the club, UK based, US singer Stacey Kent sings gently to her mass of fans, occassionaly adding guitar to her repertoire.  In between all this,  a spectacular evening in the Queen Elizabeth Hall, when "Catch A Fire” became a show to remember. Produced by Dune Records to celebrate the music of Bob Marley, with a huge stage full of performers, the Jazz Jamaica Orchestra, the Urban Soul Orchestra, "Voicelab Choir”, all conducted by Kevin Robinson, with lead singer/guitarist Brindsey Forde, joyous music, a great Pleasure to hear and behold.

Go Go Penguin
November, and most impressive Cuban pianist, Roberto Foncesca thrilled yet another sold out Ronnie Scotts for 3 nights, driving many excited audience members to desire for dancing.  The following three evenings in the club were simply superb !!, Dianne Reeves singing was completely beyond description, and without any doubt the best vocal  performance I have heard in some time. Everyone present wanted more, and that was no surprise. The Café Oto in North London provided a very astute jazz evening when they managed to bring in US pianist Marilyn Crispell, ex member of Anthony Braxton Quartet,  here playing with UK’s Eddie Prevost d and Harrison Smith t/s. Also in the same area, the Vortex had signed some high class jazz, with Lionel Loueke  and his trio with Mark Giuliana d, and Mickael Olatuta b. With a superb technique, Loueke, from Benin in West Africa and who had studied guitar in France for 5 years, gave all the many guitarists present, a series of fine lessons in string work.  Then, the major event of the year, when the top promoters, Serious, come up with the results of all the extremely hard work they have been doing all year, to provide yet another London Jazz Festival. Bigger than ever, and over 10 days there were 260 gigs in over 50 venues with music totalling 600 hours, much of it free.  Opening in the Barbican with "Jazz Voices”, arranged and conducted by Guy Barker, singers included Patti Austin, Imelda May, Natalie Duncan   and Gwyneth Herbert ,  plus  a 42 piece orchestra. Then over to Ronnie Scotts for a late night jam session, led by Terence Blanchard with his band, if that wasn’t enough, Ambrose Akinmusire and his group, both great trumpeters, Swiss sextet "Hildegarde Learns to Fly”, led by singer Andreas Shaerer…….indescribeable!!!, but very clever and entertaining . I was most impressed by a new young trio from Manchester "GoGo Penguin”. Piano, Bass and Drums, each highly talented. If you ever get the  chance, do not miss seeing them. Two days later to Festival Hall for a distant sight of Herbie Hancock, as no Photographers were allowed anywhere near the stage when he performed as a solo act, with 5 Apple iPads surrounding him as if in a defensive fashion. Regardless of all that he played superbly on both piano and electric keyboards. Three days later, to Queen Elizabeth Hall the see UK clarinet/saxist Shabaka Hutchings and the BBC Concert Orchestra, before crossing to the Royal Festival Hall for the Jan Garbarek Trio plus his guest Trilok Gurtu with his fantastic percussive abilities. Next day starting in Ronnie’s for "Jazz Passengers”, led by great alto sax man Roy Nathanson  and including Curtis Fowlkes tromb, Bill Ware vibes, Brad Jones b, E.J. Rodriguez d, and Sam Barfield v. Good music, good fun. Then over to Purcell Room for Sarah Jane Morris joining forces with composer/cellist Enrico Melozzi in "Cello Songs”. Sarah has a lovely voice.  While in the Queen Elizabeth Hall, Legendary US jazz singer Sheila Jordan does the first half of an evening’s concert backed by Scottish pianist Brian Kellock and his trio. Sheila is now over 80 years of age, but is still a star performer and wonderful to see and hear. Second half of the show is for current super-star singer Kurt Elling and his group featuring long time associate, pianist Laurence Hobgood. Kurt is a true craftsman on stage and ladies in the audience were all madly in love with him. Lovely touch at the end of Kurt’s half, when Sheila joined him in a delightful duo. Sadly, it was all getting too much for me and I had to take a day off, but returned for two more Legends. Firstly in Queen Elizabeth Hall,  Drummer supreme Jack De Johnette, whose band included great clarinettist/saxist Don Byron, George Colligan keys and Marvin Sewell gtr. Then a drive over to the Barbican to see the greatest living Legend of all, Sonny Rollins. Now 82 years of age he shuffles slowly on the the stage, slightly bent over and possibly in some discomfort, but when the spotlight hits him and the music begins, he roars in to action and you know Sonny Rollins is in town.  Next day, another Hero, Chick Corea, well backed by Christian McBride b and Brian Blade d, either of whom could have easily led their own top bands in the festival. Corea played beautifully with the trio, still finding time to allow guest UK singer Jackie Dankworth to add some further pleasure.  The final day of the Festival found me with just enough energy to catch a couple of charming numbers from UK’s John Surman on soprano sax, before meeting the wonderful guitarist Jim Hall. Still suffering from a broken back, he is a warm and humorous person, and when he plays, it is class!! Then for the final Finale. Over to the Barbican where David Murray had assembled a roaring Big Band, and was joined on stage by singer Macy Gray to get the packed audience worked up to fever pitch, Murray played some fiery solos to bring the Festival to a close.

For me, the Festival has a fault !! There is just too much great music and too little time. When I look through the programme, I spot dozens of names I did not see, for example, and to name only a very, very few, Esperanza Spalding, Marcus Roberts, Tiran, Melody Gardot, Bill Frisell, Henri Texier, Dee Dee Bridgewater, and so many, many more. But, it  was all superb, as usual, and Congratulations with Sincere Thanks to Serious for putting it all together.                               

So, what was the highlight of the three months?. Well, I had already seen all the top stars several times before, and although they were still all tops, the GoGo Penguin Trio showed a way to the future. However, in spite of their talents, and they have plenty, Dianne Reeves was absolutely superb and ranks as number one.

 @David Sinclair. 2012
Photo : GoGo Penguin Trio © David Sinclair