Tuesday, 24 August 2021

Amongst all the excitement about new (and old) releases;

..I somehow forgot to mention that Phonic FM is part of a group that applied for (and has now been granted) a licence to broadcast on SSBAB+ (small scale digital audio broadcasting plus). Our partners are Radio Exe, Riviera FM ( who broadcast to Torbay), Ashley Jeary (currently the main anchor on Radio Exe) and Lisa England who works out of Liverpool. It's early days, and we're still at the stage of finalising the exact area that we're going to broadcast to, though it should raise the potential audience to somewhere in excess of 300,000. It's an exciting prospect, but that means a lot of hard work by the Board (of which I'm Chair), and lots of decisions to make, as well as fundamental thinks like getting Ofcom (our regulator) to finally agree the fine detail of the area that we're going to cover.
  The stations will be broadcast from a multiplex that should be able to accommodate 25 stations. It's evident from the level of interest that we're already had that not all the stations are going to be broadcasting out of Exeter, but there are three other slots for holders of C-DSP licenses (basically small scale broadcasters which/who fulfil certain criteria) that will provide uniquely local services. The main question that I've had to try and answer so far is "When will you be on-air?". It's probably the most uncertain thing about the whole undertaking, and it may be dangerous to write here a potential launch date, however I'll boldly suggest the start of March  2022 - whilst reserving the write to follow up this blog with an list of excuses as to why we're no longer going to adhere to that date!
 Questions already raised by Phonic listeners include:

1.Will you continue to broadcast on FM?

Put simply the answer is 'yes'. We're aware that a large number of people still listen on FM frequencies, and although all new cars now have DAB radios fitted as standard ( and most have DAB+) we still have a lot of listeners who use FM (and prefer the sound to that of DAB)

2. Will you continue to be a 'no adverts - no playlist staion?'

Again the answer is 'yes'. We will be incurring higher charges broadcasting on DAB+, but we're hoping to offset this by running more events that raise money for the station, and although nothing has been set in stone we shall be looking for possible sponsors for individual shows. More news on this as we move towards 'on-air' time.

3. I live in Thorverton, will I be able to pick up your DAB+ signal?

We're still in discussion with Ofcom, and our chosen installers about aerial sites, so the area we aim to cover isn't set in stone. How far we reach with the signals will be completely dependent on a range of issues that at the moment we're still resolving. Expect a press release from the station as soon as issues like this have been resolved.

In the meantime, and awsre that there will be other questions I'd suggest that you direct them at me at info@edgeofjazz.com and I'll try to answer them as soon as possible.

Monday, 2 August 2021

It's still a strange year!

Until a couple of weeks ago I was complaining to myself about the lack of new releases that were becoming available. Understandable in as much as most artists rely on working in close proximity to other performers as well as having sessions supervised by a producer, and that hasn't been possible, except in exceptional circumstances. To counter balance this a lot of the large companies have been digging in the crates to find "unreleased material" and that's where I'll start this review of what's been released, before then moving on to some of the new stuff that seems to have appeared in abundance during the last couple of months.

Miles Davis: Merci Miles! Live at Vienne.

NOT the Miles you might expect from his classic period(s)- this is Miles stretching out with a completely new band, that includes Kenny Garrett on Sax and Deron Johnson on keyboards. There are a series of very long tracks ('Human nature' clocks in at 18:02) and a couple of Prince penned songs . Overall on the double CD set there are just 8 tracks. It's a fascinating insight into the ideas that were driving him on in this relatively late period of his career. Whether you like it or not, I guess, depends on the realtionship that you have with his recording with his two classic bands. Overall, after a lot of listening I like this.

Nina Simone: The Montreux Years.

Collected from the private collection of Claude Nobs, the organiser of the festival this 2 CD set contains in CD2 a single performance in full from 1976. It's essential listening, if only to hear a consumate performer win-over an audience that, at the outset seems indifferent. It needs to be listened to in whole, not just parts. CD1 contains a mixture of material from other years (including another couple of tracks from 1976)  in which she mixes her 'hits' with some items from across the rest of her catalogue. . It's a set that anyone vaguely interested in her artistry ought to own, if only to banish any lingering doubts about her ability as a live performer.

Jimmy Smith: Groovin' at Smalls Paradise (Volumes 1&2)

Somewhere along the way I lost both my vinyl copies of these albums, and doubted that they'd ever return. The Spanish label Jazz Images has re-released them (all but 'Imagination' which wouldn't fit onto a CD that runs out at 79 minutes of recorded sound) and it's been worth the wait. It's Smith stretching out in a late night club setting with some amazing support from Eddy Mcfadden on guitar and Donald Bailey on drums. If forced to pick my favourite tracks I'd go for the opener 'After hours' and 'Slightly Monkish'. . The Penguin Guide to jazz rates this as probably the best ever Smith album - some claim for someone so prolific - but it must be up there because of its sheer vitality and drive.

Then there are the new releases!

Julian Lage: Squint.

Prior to this album, I've always thought that Lage has never really fulfilled his undoubted talent on records. A move to Blue Note seems to have rectified that situation. All but two of the tracks are self written and mostly the tracks are in trio settings or Lage playing solo. The result is a wonderully laid back album that has given up more with repeated listenings. Dave King on Drums and Jorge Roeder on bass are unobtrusive but meld well with (largely laid back ) approach that Lage has demonstarted on this album.

Dave McMurray: Grateful Deadication.

Who'd have thought that the Grateful Dead would provide such fertile ground for a jazz album? This rifle through the extensive catalogue of Dead music led me back to the original albums, and to discover that McMurray has realised a whole gamut of sound that was lurking within.My favourite tracks are "Dark Star" - not just because bettye LaVette has added vocals, but also because Bob Weir appears on the track - "Franklin's Tower" has McMurray on baritone, and the longest track "Touch of Grey" is a great reminder of how great composer Jerry Garcia could be. If you're unfamiliar with " The Dead" this ought to lead you back to the originals!

Samara Joy: Samara Joy.

Just once in a while a set of "standards" rises above the average and this is just such an album. Winner of the 2019 Sarah Vaughan vocal prize, Sanara Joy has the kind of voice that stands out from the rest of a very crowded field. The album orginally appears to have been crowd funded, and if that is the case then full marks to the producer (Matt Pierson) for putting together such an empathetic backing group, and especially for commissioning Pasquale Grasso to undertake the guitar work. The album is a mixture of 'obvious' stadards but also a couple that mark out a nod to Sarah Vaughan, but also a memory of the nat King Cole Trio. Not normally my kind of stuff, but I realy like this.

Monday, 17 May 2021

Notes from a wet May

 It's about this time of year that I start noting the albums that have been released during the current year that I've particularly enjoyed. 2021 being what it is it's not been a normal year for releases. Not only has it been a period of lock down, but here in south-west England the weather has been, to say the least haphazard with a very dry April and (so far ) an incredibly wet May. If you look at the release schedules for albums you'll notice that record companies keep on changing the dates of new releases on a regular basis. I've also been playing tracks that were (supposedly) been released during 2020, but have only now reached me. Rather confusing! However these are the starting five, all of which have definitely been released during 2021, and present as diverse an approach to 'jazz' as it would be possible to find.

Emmet Cohen - Future stride.

It's based around a basic trio of drums (Kyle Poole), Bass ( Russel Hall) and Cohen himself on piano. Several of the tracks have trumpet Marquis Hill) and Melissa Aldana (Tenor sax). The tunes are a mixture of old (one from 1919 ) Rogers and hart and Duke Ellington and other are self composed. Stride is a piano style that requires a specific left hand technique, and Cohen finds many ways of adapting the style to the range of music that he's chosen. The album is full of variation and an enormous sense of fun, and his piano playing isn't the only time he occurs on this brief list. Highly recommended.

Nubiyan Twist - Freedom Fables.

A nine or ten pice band that have taken elelments of the jazz styles of the emergent London jazz scene and harnessed it a more afro centric kind of style, with a punchy horn section. They're going to be doing a huge tour later in the year, as well as playing at WOMAD. The album displays a range of facets of their playing from a track with Soweto Kinch together with a wide range of (guest?) vocalists. Actually it's really hard to pigeon hole their style, which is probably why it fits so well into 'The Edge of Jazz'

Shai Maestro - Human.

An Israeli pianist with a distinctive style, and a strong and cohesive Trio. There are a range of styles in his largely self composed album for ECM. The one cover is Duke Ellington's 'In a sentimental mood'. There are a range of tempo's and the recording quality is superb. What makes it even more impressive is the trumpet playing of Philip Dizack. His controlled tone suits the album superbly, and this is certainly the best recording of his work that I've heard. It's not an album to sit down and get into right away, but after many listens it's still giving me an increasing sense of satifaction and enjoyment.

Veronica Swift - This bitter earth.

Her fifth album - although she's only 24, and the second for Mack Avenue. The selection of songs are representative of a feminist view of the world through songs. . There's a basic trio backing her (Emmet Cohen makes his second appearance of this list) with a string quartet on some of the ttracks and a rather wonderful version of cCarole King's " He hit me (and it felt like a kiss)" which has a guitar accompanyment by Armand Hirsch. The choice is, to say the least, eclectic, but her voice is wonderful throughout.Worth seeking out.

Vijay Iyer - Uneasy.

I think this is the third Vijay Iyer album on ECM. I very much liked the lat one 'Far from over' but the trio on this new album is the strongest that he's recorded with. The very much in demand bass player Linda May Han Oh gives the set a very much fulller sound and the drummer Tyshawn Sorey uses the whole of what must be a very large kit to great effect. All but two of the tracks are Iyer originals, with a Cole Porter tune and one by Geri Allen to complete the set. Like the maestro album mentioned above the recording quality is amazing, and if you can afford it, think about splashing out on the vinyl version. Again, not an immediate album, but one that I've been playing more and more.

Friday, 19 March 2021

More jazzy thoughts - from a strange year.

 As everybody else is likely to have said "it's been a strange old year", not that, at the time of writing, we're by any means clear of the restrictions that we've endured for the last year. Nonetheless, after staying at home, and catching up on all the things that 'you always meant to do' (most of mine are still unfinished - though at the time of writing, two of them have been completed, whether to my complete satisfaction remains to be seen!)

Luckily, after several 'home recorded' shows I've finally got back into the studio and it's been a real relief to discover that it's all still working. Actually for my colleagues, when they back to work (hopefully around 29th March) they're going to find that they're on a learning curve because during the lockdown an entirely updated playout system has been installed. Any certainty that they might have had about finding cherished drop-ins or 'tuneage' on the system are going to need review because although a lot of what was on the old system is till there it's all been moved during the change-over. Thus I've been finding favourite things that I use during the shows have been scattered to odd corners of the system. In the most extreme case 11,645 places away from where it used to be. We will, of course be able to give instruction, although in the first place, and probably until late May, it'll have to be on a one-to-one basis. At this point I ought to thank Ian and Tom who worked through the lock-down (remotely!) to make the switch.

So far then, not a lot of jazz! For jazz musicians, and particularly at a local level it's been a really difficult year. One player who made a living from jazz and lives locally told me that his last 'live' gig was March 10th 2020. It's also evident that many tours have had to be re-arranged, often not just once or twice, but up to three times. Let's hope that when those tours take place they are well supported. This also had a strange effect on CD releases which have also in many cases had their release dates moved several times. At the time of writing I'm still waiting for four albums that should have appeared during February - but haven't! There also appears to have been problems with CD manufacture, which for the largest labels is now done, more likely than not, somewhere in Europe. I don't thank the UK's status change has helped with distribution!

Next time I'll write more specifically about some of the albums (old and new) that I've enjoyed, or in some cases rediscovered during 2021.

Stay safe!