Monday 15 December 2014

End of year thoughts

The 2014 Top Ten Album list:

Having decided that I'm not going to include box sets in this list the time has come to compile the final list of "10 Edge of Jazz albums for 2014". It makes an interesting comparison with the mid year list, because having thought that it was going to look pretty much the same as the list I compiled then, several late November and early December albums have made it to the final list. So here, in no order whatsoever, are my favourites of 2014:

Jacob Young - "Forever Young".

If push came to shove this is my favourite from this year. It helps that his 'backing band' are so luminary in their own right, but this is a sumptuous blend of players all at the height of their powers and willing to allow each other space to solo, come together in ensemble. You'll find two thirds of the group on another album on this list.They create some stunning music in a wide range of styles. It really is a "play anytime" album.

Samuel Eagles - "Next beginning".

Not only does Samuel write some fine melodies and tunes, but he's a very expressive alto sax player.
In addition to this the band lend some excellent support, and it's an unusual combo in that in a quartet the 'other' soloist is Ralph Wyle on vibes, though Fergus Ireland (b) and Eric Ford (dr) complete a really excellent début album. It's exciting and promises more. Another "all day" album that I've a played  a lot.

Slowly Rolling Camera- "Slowly Rolling Camera".

Playing out of Cardiff I caught them at the 2014 "Love Supreme" Festival and they were as electric live as they were on this début album. They have a follow up E.P. which is due out in early January 2015 which I've already played a lot, and it's to be hoped that there's a follow-up album later in the year. It's difficult to explain or locate their exact style, which is partly why they've fitted so well on "The Edge of Jazz".

James Farm - "City Folk".

Four luminary players who make what they do sound so easy it could easily be overlooked. The combination of Joshua Redman on sax and Aaron Parks on piano would be a fascinating duo, but together with Matt Penman (b) and Eric Harland (dr), not only do they share writing duties, but have also assembled a thoroughly convincing album which continues to give up new pleasures at every play. Their first album was worth checking out - but this is even better and more varied.

Andrew McCormack - "First Light".

What a cracking album this is! As diverse a collection of self-penned songs as you'd have found on any piano based album this year. It's to be hoped that there is a follow up album during 2015 and that he gets to tour more extensively. Everything that I said in the half-year report about this album still holds.

Jason Marsalis Vibes Quartet- "21st Century Trad Band"

Yes he is the youngest sibling of the Marsalis clan and the album hasn't really got a distributor in this country - but is available as an import (at a price, natch!). However, what you get is a rattling great take on a vibes based theme, all coloured with a New Orleans musical backdrop. It's a fascinating attempt to move the vibes based genre further forward, and into new territory. However, be warned "BP shakedown" is a blatant piece of political propaganda that seems rather out of step with the rest of this excellent album.

Marcin Wasilewski Trio with Joakin Milder - " Spark of life"

Having made a great album with Jacob Young, I wondered whether the promise of a trio (or quartet) album could match that output. It does. Joakim Milder doesn't appear on all the tracks, so in effect this is both a trio and quartet album. The trio pieces are (to say the least) an eclectic selection with some self written material as well as tracks written by Sting and Herbie Hancock, as well as some more classically orientated material. Where Milder appears he adds to the ensemble without overpowering what is happening. A thoroughly excellent album that I've played a great deal.

Bobby Hutcheson - "Enjoy the view".

How strange to have three vibes players in my 2014 list! This album, as I intimated on the mid-summer list, has all the contributors at the top of their game. Hutcheson is as masterful as ever, and the support he receives from all the other musicians, but especially Joey de Francesco is absolutely amazing. It's also a pleasure to be able to name-check a producer, because Don Was did an absolutely amazing job on this collection. Is there more to come in 2015?

Euan Burton - "Too much love".

This arrived late in the year and is a welcome addition to his output "Occurrences" from last year. He composed all the tracks, and gave them all titles this time round (the last album was 1-7). It's unusual to have a bass player compose so much good material, but it has to be said that he's aided by the rest of the band, especially Tom Gibbs on piano (another album from him in 2015 perhaps?). If I have a quibble it's that it's rather short on playing time - but the playing is majestic.

Guti- "Rompe Carazones".

Was this just a one-off from a guy who is better known as a producer. The original sampler was filled out on the eventual release with all sorts of surprises, which lifted it above the run of the mill. It is, perhaps, left field, but my enthusiasm for it remained undiminished at the end of the year, and if you haven't heard this, please be persuaded to take a listen!

That's it! I'll talk in the new year about a few more that nearly made the final cut, but for one reason and another didn't. I'll also finish by noting how much of this list isn't American. European jazz is going in interesting directions, and how great to note that " small" British labels like Edition, F-I-R-E and Whirlwind are encouraging new talents.



Sunday 14 December 2014

Post summer ramblings

Broad Street Jazz:

Whilst putting together my Edge of Jazz Top 10 albums of the year I was informed that one of my favourite places for browsing and getting informed opinion whilst listening to a variety of tracks is closing on 24th December this year.  Broad Street Jazz in Bath has been a real beacon for those of us who like jazz and live in the south-west. I'll miss them, and regret that my visits in recent years have been fewer and fewer, mainly I guess through sheer laziness. It might also be a sign of the economic times that outside large conurbations it's increasingly difficult to support what is, after all, a niche market. So thanks for all the advice and the great sounds you've introduced me to over the years.
Publication of the Top 10 is imminent!

Thursday 27 November 2014

I'm starting to wonder whether my end of year Top 10 can be expanded to contain a new category "Box Sets". I'm certainly thinking about it because there are three that now spring to mind as adding quality to this year's output on CD.

Uncompromising expression:

To celebrate 75 years of output Blue Note have compiled an amazing assortment of tracks, some rarities and some more obvious, at mid-price. There's a book to go with it, but the 5 CD collection, which comes in at around thirty quid is an amazing cornucopia, and shows the breadth of what they've done in those years, and the strength and diversity of the current roster.

Sideman: Tran's Blue Note sessions example of where

Title says it all, and the music does the rest. It's certainly a revelation to those(like me) who chiefly know him through the Atlantic and later Blue Note releases. I particularly like the Paul Chambers led albums, which I think have long been out of print. Revelatory!

Herbie Hancock- The Warner Brother Years:

"Fat Albert Rotunda" is no stranger to me (Peachy uses it as his theme for the Ja Fu Re collective), but "Mwandishi" and "Crossings" are great examples of what electric jazz was like in the early 1970's. Probably not to everyone's taste, but a great example of where he was during that period.

However my top 10 albums is evolving( to be published in mid December!) with strong recent contenders from Euan Burton, James Farm, and possibly best of all Jason Marsalis Vibes Quartet. The title," The 21st Century Trad Band" gives no clue as to the contents of this vibes led combo. Some of the titles, like "The man with two left feet" and "Blessed Unrest" are better indicators!

Friday 17 October 2014

Waitrose are already selling Heston's Christmas puddings

Summer ended abruptly. The onset of autumn brings around thoughts of gigs and events to come. Either I'm mistaken or there's a slowly growing swell of interest in jazz around Exeter, with all sorts of new venues coming on stream and some interesting gigs from established "clubs". I always mention as being at the forefront, and they now have details of gigs on their website stretching into 2015. They have Peter King as guest on Wednesday 29th October-and yes that's right it's Wednesday this month instead of the usual Thursday. The Bridge Jazz Club blows every first Wednesday of the month and you can out further details by going to I'd also like to mention Roz Harding who is putting on some interesting gigs at the Clifford Room at the Barnfield Theatre in Exeter, the next of which is on Friday 24th October at 8pm. There's also a regular programme of jazz events at The Beehive in Honiton, and apparently another monthly session happening in Crediton of which more next time (when I've spoken more fully to the guy who runs it!).

Marcin Wasilewski Trio with Joakim Milder:

The album "Spark of life" was released by ECM earlier this week. It's everything that I hoped it would be - and is certainly going to figure in the revised end of year Top 10 even after relatively few hearings. The 11 track album has 5 self written tunes and a plethora of other styles to explore from the radical deconstruction of " Message in a bottle" through a version of Herbie Hancock's "Actual Proof" as well as a version of Bacewitz's "Largo". "Austin" is a dream like tribute with just the trio playing, but Milder is an extremely restrained tenor player and works his way around the excellent productive and innovative trio format. Highly recommended!

Slowly Rolling Camera:

Pleased to say that they have a limited edition EP released in November. I've only heard snippets, but it sounds as though it's a great addition to their work. I caught them in the summer at the Love Supreme Festival and am actively chasing their management with a view to an interview on the show. Watch this space.

Vibraphonic Festival 2015 (and beyond):

The festival will take place at the end of March 2015, and the jazz line-up has been subject to considerable fluctuation (to say the least). However I can confirm that Troyka have been booked for Thursday 19th March, and further details of the gig, the prices and their new album should appear her by the end of the year. Watch out for another name to add to the festival. Further forward in April Marius Neset" with his quintet will appear at the "The Phoenix". The band includes one of my favourite vibes player Jim Hart. More details on this soon.
Meanwhile make sure that you get to your local Waitrose before those puddings sell out or you discover that their "best before" date is before the festive celebrations!


Wednesday 1 October 2014

  With the extension of summer into October it's not yet time to abandon the theme of 'mid summer thoughts', but it is time to look forward to what the whole month will have to offer. Firstly there's the much anticipated arrival of a new album from:

Marcin Wasilewski:

Having appeared earlier in the year on the excellent Jacob Young album (see my embryonic Top 10 of the year) the arrival of "Spark of life" around 13th October is eagerly anticipated (by me!). This time the trio will be joined by saxophonist Joakim Milder with a set of tunes that includes a Herbie Hancock tune, A Police tune and an arrangement of some Polish classical music. If any of the tracks are anywhere near as good as "Night Train to you" from the "Faithful" album, it'll be on my turntable on heavy rotation.

Sarah Moule:

The singer and her band visit "The Beehive Arts Centre" at Honiton on 18th October. She's bringing the majority of the band that appears on her excellent album " Songs from the floating world" and I'll be talking to her on "The Edge of Jazz" on 14th October at around 15:00 to find out a bit more ablout the album , her career and the Honiton gig. The Beehive, by the way, have a website at and to catch up on with Sarah on twitter you can find here at @Sarahmoule1


Oh dear! The possibility of mistaken identity here I think. They are not to be confused with a heavy metal band of the same name from Minehead, nor the Gloucestershire based traditional jazz band. They are an Anglo German band of jazzers who are going to be out on the road promoting their new album in Teignmouth on 2nd November. More details in a later October blog (probably once the weather has deteriorated!).

Regular Local gigs:

Well worth remembering that there are three Exeter based events every month. The very long running Blue Vanguard club meets monthly at the Gypsy Hill Hotel and you can find details at There's also a jam session every first Wednesday of the month at the Phoenix in Exeter, which is also an opportunity to blow (it's cheaper if you do!) and Roz Harding is organising a monthly event at the Barnfield Theatre and there'll be more details of that in the next blog.
If you've got any questions or want to eradicate mistakes, please feel free to contact me at


Monday 25 August 2014

The leaves of brown....

At the time of writing it's an autumnal feeling August, so it's time to look forward to September.

Johanna Graham Quartet:

The band are coming to the Sound Gallery Studios on September 13th for an eight hour recording session. They're currently garnering material for their second album. They've had a busy summer and have gradually added new material to the set - including a rather fine version of "Sweet Child of Mine" from which just the lyrics survive. Martin Bowie and Johanna have also been writing some self-penned stuff and it'll be interesting to see how much we get done that day. I'd also expect a few guest muso's to drop by, as it coincides with Exeter's Acoustica Festival. Phonic FM are really pleased to be helping with their project, and hope to announce a few more recording session during the next couple of months.

Nigel Price Organ trio:

Not a trio on this outing. We had hoped to put them on at the Phoenix in Exeter but due to imminent building work it didn't prove possible. As a result they're booked at the Barrel House in Totnes on 22nd September with the quartet being completed by saxophonist Vasilis Xenopoulas. They're promoting their new album which you ought to try and hear ahead of the gig. Hopefully sometime in the next 12 months we will get them into the Phoenix. In the meantime I'll be arranging an interview on "The Edge of Jazz"

Blue Vanguard Jazz Club:

Exeter's excellent once-a -month club at the Gypsy Hill Hotel continues throughout the autumn. For up to date details best check the website at On a personal level I'm really looking forward to their November gig with Henry Lowther one of the first British jazzers I ever saw live (and I even saw him in the brief time he was with Manfred Mann!) The resident trio provide a solid base for all the guests as they are luminaries in their own right.
If you want to blow then I can recommend The Bridge Jazz Club which meets the first Wednesday of every month at the Exeter Phoenix. If you take your instrument you get in cheaper.

More details of Jazz gigs in the next blog - including a date for the Anglo-German Partisan Jazz in Teignmouth in November.

Thursday 7 August 2014



Shortly after completing the Top 10 "so far" I got a copy of the Guti album. It's strikingly different to the sampler that predicated the review. Only four (of 6) tracks made it onto the album and a couple of those sound as thought they've either been re-recorded or had instrumentation added to them.. The version of "Used to be like this" that's on the album has some added, manic, trumpet playing, but overall the tracks follow the kind of ambient jazz drift of the sampler, but mostly with fuller instrumentation with added percussion, organ and synthesiser. However, despite the changes it still makes the Top 10 so far, and it'll be interesting to see if it stays that way in the end of year survey.

Wednesday 30 July 2014

A Top 10 for far

   It's been a pretty extraordinary year for jazz releases, as well as all those re-issues that you've either waited for or never knew existed before. This is the list as it stands at the end of July - and some of those included may have sneaked in from 2013 - but I really don't care - they've all featured on "The Edge of Jazz during 2014!

Jacob Young - "Forever Young" 

Really difficult to think that there will be a better balanced album this year. Both Marcin Wasilewski and Trygve Seim are superb in support, (and that's probably unfair to the rhythm section!) and it's turned out to be a "can listen at anytime" joy.

Bobby Hutcherson - "Enjoy the view"

Another album where the sum of the parts is as good as the soloists. Hutcherson is excellent, but then so is David Sanborn, whilst Joey DeFrancesco turns in a sublimely restrained performance. Don Was seems to have got the best out of all the performers.

Slowly Rolling Camera - " Slowly Rolling Camera"

This crept up on me, having come out in February, but not travelled into consciousness until June.  It has, in places a really ethereal sound, but often punches far harder than expected. Some luminary sides-persons on the album but stunningly good live.

Joshua Redman - "Trio's live"

Recorded in two venues it shows off Redman's astonishing ability to summon sustained brilliance from the trio format. Two different bass players but the same drummer throughout, and the audience, though present, are almost restrained (for a US based live recording!)

Andrew McCormack - "First Light"

Jazz pianists often appear to have very little new to say, but McCormack defies that with an almost completely self-written album (he sneaks a Thelonious Monk track in) which includes some memorable tunes - especially "Prospect Park"

Tim Garland - "Songs to the North Sky"

Really two albums, with "Lighthouse" being the non orchestrated one and " Songs to the North Sky"  having the Northern Sinfonia Strings. Just to be perverse I prefer the album where there's an awful lot of Garland's sax playing, though both are good - but contrasting.

Wolgang Muthspiel - "Driftwood"

If you like "sparse" this is it. With Larry Grenadier and Brian Blade completing the trio. Muthspiel (who at one time was in Patricia Barber's Band) is not a 'busy' guitarist, but this album is a great example of where ECM records are taking European jazz.

Led Bib - "The people in your neighbourhood"

Quite a lot of reviewers seem to have expected 'more of the same' but this album pushes forward the boundaries of what the band achieve. Compositional duties are shared across the whole group and there's an even greater 'looseness' in what they achieve.

Let Spin - "Let Spin"

An unexpected pleasure in that the roots of what the band do come from so many diverse directions and forms of music. All the members of the band come from diverse directions to have completed this their debut album. I eagerly anticipate the next one.

Guti - "Rompe Corazones"

I don't have the album - indeed I'm not sure that there is one, but this 'Album Sampler' came from a record-plugger with the briefest of cursory notes. He's Argentinian, the main instrument is piano and the ambience is mainly laid back. It's great. Watch this space.

The only question left remaining is how many of these will make the year-end list? Have I missed something that in the months to come I shall be playing constantly?