Monday, 11 July 2022

 Can't think that I've left my first resume of the years new releases that I've enjoyed so late before. However, here it goes; with the following proviso. Like the last couple of years new releases have been subject to all sorts of delays to release, albums recorded by various artist forced to record in seperate locations because of the covid restrictions which have taken a long time to put together, and, I susspect, unavailability due to problems with gigging to support sales. (on this subject one of the bands recently promoted by Phonic FM admitted to us that they expected to make at least as much from 'merch' as they did from their fees at venues)

Jazz Defenders - King Phoenix.

The defenders launched their second album with a series of gigs including one at the Phoenix. The influence is obvious - The Blue Note label c 1964-5, but the material is very much their own, with the majority written by George Cooper (sometime of Exeter). It's a a joyous keyboard led romp, with prominent horns courtesy of Nick Malcolm and Nicholas Dover. There are two 'vocal' tracks and is a building block from the first album, also available on Haggis Records - highly recommended.

Ethan Iverson - Every note is true.

All self written(except for 'Blue' written by Jack DeJohnette)  sees Iverson join the Blue Note label with a rather fine, mainly, trio album. His sidesmen are immensely supportive with Larry Grenadier on Bass, and the aformentioned DeJonette on drums. The material is strong and very varied, with 'The more it changes' being a song sung by 44 friends into their cell phones.. Persoanla favourites are 'At the bells and motley'  and the Jason Moran inspired 'Goodness knows'

Jonathan Blake - Homeward bound.

Drummer Blake sits back and works his way through a largely self written set of tunes. He's joined by a spectrum of 'new' Blue Note artists like Joel Ross on Vibraphone, Immanuel Wilkins on Alto Sax and David Virelles on keyboards. It all gels together into really satisfactory album (that's not damning it with faint praise!) with Blakes 'Rivers and Parks', Deacon Douglas' 'Shake the biscuits' and a wondeful version of Joe Jackson's 'Steppin' out' being my favourites.

Goldstein, Bernstein, Stewart: Peerpetual pendulum.

The ultimate chilled trio? This album is an apparently effortless cruise through a mixture of tunes written by members of the group, with some outstanding re-works of 'classics' like Wayne Shorters 'United', Gary Bartz's 'Libra' and a couple other unexpected tunes from MJQ and George Gershwin. 
They have the ability to make it sound so effortless and yet its complicated and only unravels its secrets slowly.

Kibrom Bihane: Here and there.

New to me, and recommended by a friend in the USA. Out on the (tiny?) Flying Carpet label. He's an Ethiopian keyboard player supported by a 7 piece band with a killer horn section. It's fusion, but there are lots of influences that flow through. There are two vocal tracks(Etsegenate Tadesse) and the whole album runs fluently through a gamut of influences and styles. At the time of wring, apparently no British release)

Joey Alexander: Origin.

18 years old at the time of recording this is not his debut. His keyboard playing is an instantly recognisable one, and it helps that the quret that accompany him on most of the tracks is made up of  Larry Grenadier on Bass, kendrick Scott on drums and Gilad Hekselman on guitar. He wrote and arranged all the material and there's not a duff track on the album.

Charles Lloyd Trio: Chapel

Now over 80 this is the first of what is going to be a three set collection of trio pieces, all with different trio members. This one has Bill Frissell on gitar and Thomas Morgan on drums. As the name suggests it was recorded in a chapel, and it appears to have been a laid-back session giving each of the three musicians, ample space to stretch out and develop the emerging themes in an unhurried and dllightful way. This is one for a quite cotemplative evening, and will more than satisfy until Volume 2 in the series is issued later in 2022.

Al Swainger's Pointless Beauty: Hearts full of grace.

Yes I did an extended interview with him on 'Exeter Talking' which gave us time to play several tracks and contemplate where this came from. That it's been picked up by a wider audence is testament to his writing, and also to the excellent quartet that support his compositions. I'd be hard put to categorise what this music is (do I have to/ do I need to?) but it fits beautifully into 'The Edge of Jazz'. My two favourute tracks are 'Remember the sky' and 'Existential blues'. Did I mention yet that George Cooper - see the top of this list plays keyboards. Ask for this by name at one of Al's gigs.


Wednesday, 4 May 2022

Playlist 3rd May 2022:

Should be back to normal next week, and thanks for your patience over this! Here's what I played;

  1. Sombrero Sam                            Charles Lloyd                  Dream Weaver
  2. Jungle fiction                              John Scofield                   Uberjam
  3. What's new?                                Jimmy Smith                   Cool blues
  4. La vida es un carnaval                 Angelique Kidjo              Celia
  5. She wont forget me                     Ethan Iverson                   Everey note is true
  6. Get happy                                   Milt Jackson & Coleman Hawkins  Bean bags
  7. That's all I want from you          Nina Simone                     Baltimore
  8. Bright Mississippi                       Fred Wesley                     New friends
  9. Heavy vibes                                 Montana Orchestra          12" single
  10. Imik si mik                                  Hindi Zahra                      Handmade
  11. Summer Breeze                           Ole Matthiessen               Social distancing blues
  12. Blue Train (alt take)                     John Coltrane                  Blue Train
  13. Honeybone                                   Russell Malone               Triple play
  14. Police & thieves                           Zara McFarlane               If you knew her
  15. Billie's bounce                             Django Bates                    Beloved Bird
  16. Circling                                       Tord Gustavsen                 The Well
  17. Dance of denial                           Ray Barretto                      Contact!
  18. Looking for the heart of Saturday night Gwyneth Herbert   Bittersweet & Blue
  19. Three to get ready                      Dave Brubeck Quartet        Time out
  20. Hub's nub                                   Freddie Hubbard                 Open sesame

Tuesday, 26 April 2022

It's been a while....

Been meaning to catch up (and will!), but, for now, whilst the website is undergoing some atttention here's the playlist for Tuesday 26th April.

  1. Blue Bossa                                  Joe Henderson           Page one
  2. Live alone and like it                  Cyrille Aimee             Let's get lost
  3. Abusey Junction                         Kokoroko                   We out there
  4. Mambo Inn                                 Ronny Jordan             A brighter day
  5. Back home blues                       Charles Mingus          Mingus three
  6. Love me or leave me                 Nina Simone              Mood Indigo
  7. Two steps                                  Al Swainger               Hearts full of grace ( out 1st June)
  8. Dry danse                                  Chick Corea               My Spanish heart
  9. There is a crack in everything   Alison Rayner            Short stories
  10. Senor blues                               Carmen Souza            The Silver messengers
  11. Brother Yusef                            Ole Mattheison           Social distance blues (out 13th May
  12. On Staddon heights                   John Surman              Saltash Bells
  13. 20% body fat                             Robert Walter             There goes the neighbourhood
  14. Canteloupe Island                     Herbie Hancock          Empyrean Isles
  15. Ever since I stole the blues       Mose Allison              My backyard
  16. Swift                                         Nejira                          Blume
  17. Douglas                                    Jorge Rossy                 Beyond Sunday
  18. Essa Cancao                             Sabrina Malheiros       New Morning
  19. Harder                                      Soul Revivers              On the groove
  20. Biere la gazelle                        New Kora Band           New cities
  21. The Village blues walk           Kofi- Barnes Aggregation  Kofi Barnes aggregation
It'll be like this next week as well for reasons you can hear on the show which should be up on mixcloud soon!

Monday, 20 December 2021

Edge of Jazz Top Ten releases 2021: Five to One.

As I stress every year, this list is a series of personal choices. It's about albums tht I've enjoyed playing on the show, rather than thinking about the choices that have been made by other writers/bloggers and reviewers about what they have liked. Every year I can think of several albums that have been released to critical acclaim, but which, for one reason or another I have felt less than enthusiastic about. This year is no different!

5. "En attendant " - Marcin Wasilewski Trio.

There can be few trios that have been playing together as Marcin Wasilewski's. This album dras on a huge range of sources from Carla Bley to The Doors, from J.S. Bach to trio compositions and just one Wasilewski piece, "Glimmer of Hope". The result is a gloriously balanced programme from a trio who meld together to play a (largely) beautifully understated performance. There's a trio of tunes, spread out across the album entitled "In Motion"[1,2,& 3]. My favourite remains the Doors "Riders on the Storm" which dispenses with the urgency and drive of the original to produce something wonderfully 'other-wordly'. It helps that the whole set is so beautifully recorded by Manfred Eicher, in a French recording studio.   

4. "Wes reimagined" - Nigel Price Organ Trio.

Nigel Price has been a guest on the show. That's not the reason that this makes number 4 - that's because it's his best presented and most coherent album to date. It also contains a list of guests that lift it above the 'organ trio format'. Not that the other two members of the trio, Ross Stanley and Joel Barford aren't excellent - they are a great foil for Price's great guitar playing, but add Snowboy, Vasili  Xenopoulos, and especially Tony Kofi into the mix and the sound created lifts the opportunities to expand, especially as there's also  a 'smidge' of strings arranged by Callum Au. The versions of the Wes Montgomery tunes (and Monk, his brother) are lifted way beyond any crticisms of clones to a new height. 

3. "Close your eyes" - Lionel Loueke.

A very late arrival, and one that I'm not sure has much to do with 2021 - I read a review by Mike Hobart in the 'Financial Times' earlier this year which led me on a hunt for it. I eventually found it had been released by Sounderscore Records from New York, and the copyright is from 2021 - even though the album appears to have been recorded in 2018. I sent off to the address I was given and about four months afterwards it came through the post. This too is a trio guitar album, but the other contributors Reuben Rogers on Accoustic Bass and Eric Harland on drums are in complete sympathy with what Loueke does - namely revisit a set of 'standards' bothshow tunes and jazz classics. From Johnny Mercer and Hoagy Carmichael and on to Wayne Shorter, via two Thelonious Monk tracks and two John Coltrane tracks the playing is flawless, each of them adding something to the versions that I was previously familiar with. Try and find it, and listen to what I mean.

2. "Samara Joy" - Samara Joy.

Rumour has it that this album was originally self-funded, but picked up by Whirlwind Records in Britain. Whatever the truth behind the story she has an amazing voice, and was the winner of the 2019 Sarah Vaughan vocal competition. Producar Matt Pierson has assembled a really empathetic trio of musicians, the highlight of which is the equisite guitar playing of Pasquale Grasso, who lends a really vital contributon to the overall sound of the album. The tunes are mainly 'statndards', but each given a unique treatment. It's to be hoped that for a follow up album she might get to extend the range of song sources, but as a debut this is the best female vocalist album of 2021. In the meantime do have a listen to this great debut.

1.  "Future Stride" - Emmet Cohen.

With a nod to tunes by Duke Ellington and Richard Rogers and Lorenz Hart, and one in public domain,  seven of the tracks on this album are self-writtten. Add the undoubted virtuousity of Cohen and this has been the album that I've played the most during the course of this difficult year. It's full of great playing and unusual and unexpected turns. Backed by a trio of Russell Hall on bass and Kyle Poole on drums, but added to by Maquis Hall on trumpet and Melissa Aldana on sax, the emphasis is on Cohens tunes and playing. If you play "You already know" you'll get a taste of what the whole album is about, and you'll undoubtedly want to listen to the whole set. Mack Avenue Records from whence this came expect to release a follow up during 2022 - and I can't wait!

Two that could have/should have:

There are always several albums that stay in contention until the final decision has to be made, and these two, far from being 'the best of the rest' are an indication of how far "The Edge of Jazz" looks to find tracks/albums that haven't received much/any mainstream air time.

"Stepping up" - Simply this Quintet.

A first. A listener recommendation led me to this!  Recorded by a group of students from the University of Illinois, a double sax led band that play their way through a set of self-written material. Eventually tracked down through Bandcamp, it came highly recommended from a listener in Chacago (who I'm certain had nothing to do with the band.). It really is a joyful listen, and I'm keeping an eye of their media channels to hope that it's not simply a one-off. Worth chcking out (and then buying!)

"Secret Night Gang" - Secret Night Gang.

Kate Gamm, who does a show that precedes mine on the first Tuesday of the month", and I exchanged ideas about who this Manchester based band sounded like. We traded names like 'Earth Wind & Fire' , 'The Ohio Players' and early Kool and the Gang, and then decided that they sounded particularly British!
It's a splendid example of how far the Edge of Jazz stretches, as it's undoubtedly funky, but with a sound that stretches into jazz territory. If you have't heard them yet, do try to. All things being equal (why should they be?) I'll catch up with them in Manchester in the early months of 2022.

Monday, 13 December 2021

Edge of Jazz Top Ten Releases 2021. 

Eventually this turned out to be just as difficult as in any 'normal' year! 2021 wasn't/hasn't been by any stretch of the imagination ordinary in any way, with release dates being announced, changed and often withdrawn. So there are a couple of releases that probably would have made it onto this list, but in the case of two of them they're pencilled in for February 2022. Watch next years list!

 10. "The News" - Andrew Cyrille Quartet:

Andrew Cyrille is the drummer on this set. He's probably one of the least 'showy' drummers working today, and this album showcases what he does best, sitting in with a first class band, recorded, brilliantly  by Rick Kwan in New York City. Cyrille contributes three of the tracks, but he's backed by an-star band with Bill Frissell on guitar, David Virelles on piano and synthesizer and Ben Street on Double Bass. Frizzel contributes three songs, Virelles two and the other is the Steve Colson tune 'Leaving East of Java'.
The result is a beautifully laid back set in which all the participants get to contribute to the sum of the whole. This is not a 'showy' album, but rather beutifully session that demands repeated attention.

9. "It's all your fault" - Mike LeDonne Big Band & Groover Quartet.

Entirely new to me - though not to several people that I spoke to who had been to see him in New York. As far as I can tell his last recording was in 2006, so this came to me out of the blue and highly recommded, and it's a lttle gem. It's split into three Groover Quartet tracks and five Big Band tracks.The Quartet is Eric Alexander on Tenor Sax, Joe Farnsworth on drums & Peter Bernstein on guitar, all of whom play in the Big Band. LeDonne himself on (probably) B3 is the sort or organ player who sits back, rather than sitting in front of the mix. It's an album that I confess I'd never have found myself, but it's really grown on me, and although I started with the quartet tracks, the Big band tracks have a lot to give.
Give it a listen!

8. "Squint" - Julian Lage.

You can't go on being a youthful prodigy for ever, and this album sees Lage coming of age with a new label (Blue Note) and a much more defined sound as a leader than some of his previous outings.It's a trio outing, and fairly laid back for the most part. Dave King plays drums and Jorge Roeder plays bass, but it's Lage who is the front man, having written all the tracks bar one - "Emily". It's the sort of album that requires several listens before it starts to reveal its layered depths. Don't expect guitar histrionics - because Lage isn't that sort of guitarist, but it's really satisfying and has been late night listening since its release.

7. "Night Owl" - Nick Hempton Quartet.

I feel slightly guilty about this, and a couple of the other albums that appear on this years list, in the same way as I used to feel bad about playing white label pre-releases sent to me by companies during the 70's and 80's, however that's all the apology you'll get, because like those this album deserves wider recognition. You can get a copy from He's a hard blowing tenor sax player from New York, sometime habituee of "Small's Jazz Club" who has released a slew of albums over the last few years - all self promoted - but this is the best. It's a Hammond based quartet with the advantage of Peter Bernstein on guitar, and a mixture of standard and self written material. If you doubt that the word "groove" still applies to jazz today - this is the antidote.

6. "Friends with Monsters" - Nishla Smith.

Part of a thriving Manchester based scene, that also brought me Emma Johnson's Gravy Boat and Silent Night Gang. this album is as left field a vocal album as I've come across this year, and was a late arrival from Whirlwind Records. The songs are all self -writtenn, apart from "It might as well be Spring" and the band, also mostly Manchester based are suitably esoteric in their backing of her songs. Perhaps seeing her live might allow her to unravel some of the content of the songs, but they are marvellously diverse in approach and subject. Watch out for some of the trumpet playing of Aaron Wood, but mostly revel in a performer and songwiter who isn't copying anybody elses style and providing some wonderfully diverting listening. 

The top five and two that nearly made it will appear next week!

Friday, 10 December 2021

2021 - A new category!

This year has been extraordinary for re-releases, and having received (or purchased) quite a lot of material that hasn't been available for a long time, either on CD or vinyl I thought it only appropriate to start new category. Given the enormous out-pouring of revived material from Blue Note Records in particular I've though long an hard about how many to choose, and I decided, because this is a new category that this year I'd limit it to three. This made it very difficult - and in the end excluded some of the recordings that, perhaps, in another year would have made it. The Blue Note material that came closest to inclusion were Dexter Gordan's "One flight up" which originally came out in 1964 and McCoy Tyner's "Expansions" from 1968, but in the end neither made it - though some of the releases promised for 2022 must be in line to make the cut at the end of the year.
   Incidentally I've wondered along the way how much some of the material they've re-released was ever bought in the UK - probably, I guess, only by collectors and avid Blue Note philes!
  Finally, before I list the chosen three a word for "John Coltrane - Live in Seattle", which I found extremely disappointing, badly mixed and with ambient crowd noise, with McCoy Tyner on top form, but too little Coltrane - go back to the original!

3. "Merci Miles-live at Vienne" - Miles Davis.

A good indication of where Miles Davis was heading in 1991. Some extended tracks especially 'Hannibal', written by Marcus Miller, and a couple of Prince written tracks, all driven along by a two bass player band with Kenny Garrett on sax and Deron Johnson on keyboards, fluently led by some wonderful improvisation by Miles Davis. Yes, it's rough round the edges on some tracks, but for the most part it swaggers, and it picks up where the Warner studio albums might have been headed if the band had been given the space to expand into the space they find here. I guess, it's a 'marmite' album, and not what early and middle period Miles fans will want to hear, but for me a really great re-release (if any of it was ever released by a major label before!).

2. "Groovin' at Small's Paradise" - Jimmy Smith.

My original (second hand) copy of Volume 2 on vinyl has just about expired as a useful album to play, and I never owned Volume 1. How wonderful, therefore to find almost all of both volumes on  CD - it actually omits "Imagination" because of the limitations of the single CD format. Nonetheless it's really rewarding to sit down nad hear and soak up the atmosphere that was created by the trio. Eddie McFadden on guitar and Donald Bailey on drums, are an integral part of the overall ambience, but it's Smith and his B3 who burn throughout this 1957 session. Congraulations to Jazz Image Records (Spanish based, I think) for the repackaging and the information provided by the packaging. It's an album that I've say down and listened to in its entireity several times and the only word I can use to describe it is 'burning'.

1. "The Montreux Years" - Nina Simone.

Given what I've written elsewhere not, I would imagine, a great surprise!  Parts of this have been released on the French Barclay label, but nothing as much as this wonderful BMG compilation two CD set. CD 2 is given over to a fairly seamless concert, one in which Simone built the audience from relative apathy to a heightened climax - there are even tracks omitted from this 1968 recording that appear on CD1. CD 1 also has tracks from her appearances at the 1976, 1981,1987 and 1990 performances. Probably the 1976 tracks are the finest, but given the relative poverty of some of the recent Nina Simine re-releases, this one eclipses them all. The set is copiously annotated and together they give a great impression of an artist working hard with an audeince, and in places with versions that somehow exceed the best of other studio based recordings.
Essential listening!

For details of what has made my Top 10 albums of 2021, come back here soon - they'll be revealed 5 at a time!

Monday, 22 November 2021

 It's coming up that time of the year where I start to think about compiling my Top 10 albums of the year. This year I may have to alter the format. Yes, there are 10 albums that currently fulfil the loosely based criteria that I use each year (strange that my Top 10 seldom co-incides with anybody elses!). However, as well as those new releases it's also been a rather splendid year for re-releases, or releases of material that has either never, or seldom befoe been in the public domain.

   One example will suffice. 

Nina Smone: The Montreux Years.

Recent Nina Simone re-releases have often (in my opinion) beeen rather sub-standard example of what she was about. The album "Fodder on my wings" has always felt rather laboured, as if compiled from material that happened to have remained unreleased fom her less productive periods of work, or one of her periods of crisis.This had come out previously on the French 'Carrere' label, and had not improved with age, particularly as notes for it were sketchy and incomplete.
It therefore came as a huge and delightful suprise to find a double album of material I'd mostly never heard before, played at her consumate best, and with one performance albeit edited) almost in its entirity.
So should I include it in a Top 10 best of the year? As I've got at least 15 albums that are vying for a space in the Top 10 I've decided that year I'm going to add a new category - "Significant re-releases' which as this is the first year will comprise of three albums which will get chosen from the current list of seven.
 In previous years I made the mistake of starting to comile the Top ten at the start of December, but a couple of years running that premise has been shattered by having late releases that disturb my carefully manicured lists. This year I've set aside a date and a time to lock myself into my study and produce the Top 10 and the Top 3 re-releases in one sitting. As ever (and mentioned elsewhere in this short blog) I doubt that my lists will have much to do with the choice of other critics, but it's also fascinating (to me at any rate) to see where there is some overlap.
  Finally, I ought to mention that I have contemplated a short section in 'the awards' for albums that I've dug out of the crates to play, and recognised how good they are. As examples, this year I'd be including albums by Joe Henderson, McCoy Tyner and Eddie Harris. Jazz always seems to have something to give!