19th Jan2017

Brian Dickinson Quintet ‘The Rhythm Method’ (Addo) 5/5

by ukvibe

Pianist composer and arranger Brian Dickinson is possibly not as well-known in the UK as he should be. A native of Ontario, Canada, he is a two-time winner of the Juno Award. Juno awards acknowledge the artistic and technical achievements of music artists and bands in all aspects of music in Canada. Winners are chosen either by members of the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences or a panel of experts, depending on the award. The awards date back to 1970. Dickinson has been a mainstay on the Canadian jazz scene for more than thirty-five years.
I am only aware of Dickinson from his association with fellow Canadian and, of course, long-time British resident, the late Kenny Wheeler, which resulted in the album ‘Still Waters’ in 1999.
‘The Rhythm Method’, his eleventh release as leader, is a collection of ten original compositions and Dickinson is on record as saying that the instrumentation as well as some of the compositions are his homage to the cool music created by fellow pianist Lennie Tristano. He is well placed to do this having previously worked with another pioneer of the ‘cool school’; Lee Konitz. He takes his cue from the two saxophone front lines often featuring Lee Konitz and Warne Marsh adopted by Tristano. Here we have Luis Deniz, taking the part of Konitz, on alto saxophone and Kelly Jefferson exhibiting a somewhat gruffer and more powerful persona, somewhat reminiscent of Pete Christlieb. The opening track ‘Orion’, by way of a tribute to Wayne Shorter, allowing all to set out their respective stores.
‘Open Season’ follows, being a nicely paced piece which reminded me a little of the music of Horace Silver.

‘Bon Voyage’ is a very graceful sounding track which allows the rhythm section of Neil Swainson on bass and Ted Warren at the drums to exhibit their sensitive sides.

‘Moonshine’ is an altogether more complex piece of music and features some powerful tenor saxophone from Jefferson. ‘Tude’ is somewhat similar in approach.

The remaining five tracks constitute ‘The Rhythm Method Suite’ which allows all five men to doff their respective caps to the ‘cool school’. The trade mark of this type of music-making is the complex unison interweaving of the twin saxophones. I particularly enjoyed the suite, almost as much as I appreciated the tune titles. ‘Lennie’s Loonies’ features a lovely bass solo and a very self-assured Jefferson on tenor saxophone. ‘Trane Trip’ follows a similar format with more great bass playing. ‘Stepping Out’ features Deniz on alto saxophone to good effect. The prize for best song title has to be ‘It’s Hugh or Nolan’, following the format established earlier with more from Jefferson. The set concludes with ‘Raking Leaves’ with inspired piano playing from Dickinson, more fine alto and a neat drum solo from Warren.

All-in-all this is an enjoyable recording and a welcome reminder of an important but sometimes now overlooked period in jazz history.

Alan Musson

16th Jan2017

Camilla George Quartet ‘Isang’ (Ubuntu Music) 4/5

by ukvibe

Saxophonist Camilla George has been steadily making a name for herself for a decade or so now, having worked with Tomorrow’s Warriors, Nu Civilisation Orchestra and Jazz Jamaica, to name but a few. “Isang” is the eagerly awaited debut album from the MOBO nominated musician. It’s been a while coming, and as George says herself; “It wasn’t until I joined Courtney Pine’s Venus Warriors and we played our debut gig at The Hideaway that I felt ready to lead my own band. That project inspired me and gave me the confidence I needed to branch out on my own.” And so in 2014 The Camilla George Quartet was formed, with rising stars Sarah Tandy on piano, Daniel Casimir on bass, and Femi Koleoso on drums.
“Isang” is an old Efik/Ibibio word that means voyage and symbolises the group’s musical journey. The choice of tunes, combined with the quartet’s love of fusing African and Western music works very well. George has a lovely tone to her playing; smooth and warm in a classic Blue Note kind of way, whilst still managing to sound slightly edgy and adventurous on occasions. The quartet compliment each other at every turn, with pianist Tandy particularly impressive. The general feel to the album is fairly laid back and quietly unassuming, but I really like that. Nothing appears to be forced and the confidence shines out in a way that is both mature and sophisticated, rather than there being any signs of the group trying to do too much and overplaying things. That said, my only minor criticism would be that perhaps overall, the album is a little too safe and could have been a tad more adventurous maybe.

The listener is treated to some wonderful playing throughout the album, from the driving blues of the opening track, written to celebrate the West African spirit Mami Wata, to Lunacity, based on one of the saxophonist’s favourite standards, It’s Only A Paper Moon, to the delicate ballad Song for Reds which is dedicated to her father, to the Kenny Garrett composition Ms Baja, to the silky groove of Mami Wata Returns/Usoro. It’s nice to hear George putting her own stamp on things, whether originals or covers, it’s her cool, stylish sound that fills the air with grace and passion.

“Isang” is a strong, accomplished debut from Camilla George. It’s a thoroughly listenable and enjoyable album which firmly lays down a marker for the saxophonist as one to watch as we head into 2017. Without a doubt it’s well worth checking this album out and looking out for the quartet’s live dates coming soon. For me personally, I’d love to hear her taking a few more risks on her next album, taking a chance or two on some less conventional tunes whilst developing her undoubted compositional talents even further. I for one can’t wait to see the band live though, here are the dates – go catch them live while you can.

22 February – The Lescar, Sheffield
23 February – Matt & Phred’s, Manchester
25 February – Zeffirelli’s, Ambleside
26 February – 7ARTS, Leeds
27 February – Kenilworth Jazz Club
28 February – Royal British Legion, North Wales Jazz
1 March – Dempsey’s, Cardiff
2 March – The Vortex, London

Mike Gates

13th Jan2017

Mix No.9: Howard Bowen – Jazz-Funk and Jazz Fusion

by ukvibe

01. Dianne Reeves – Mi Vida
02. Ramsey Lewis – Tequila Mockingbird
03. Earth Wind and Fire – Runnin’
04. Dexter Wansel – Life on Mars
05. Norman Connors – Mother of the Future
06. Roy Ayers – We Live in Brooklyn Baby
07. The Blackbyrds – Mysterious Vibes
08. Patrice Rushen – Roll with the Punches
09. Incognito – Parisienne Girl
10. B. Baker Chocolate Co. – Snow Blower
11. Ramsey Lewis – Sun Goddess
12. The New Rotary Connection Featuring Minnie Riperton – I Am The Black Gold Of The Sun
13. Doug Carn – Higher Ground
14. Pharaoh Sanders – You’ve Got To Have Freedom
15. Sleep Walker – Into The Sun (KJM Edit)
16. Joanne Brackeen & Ryo Kawasaki – Trinkets and Things
17. Patrice Rushen – Haw-Right Now
18. Young Disciples – All I Have In Me (Original Musiquarium Mix)
19. Brass Fever – Time is Running Out

08th Jan2017

Steve Slagle ‘Alto Manhattan’ (Panorama) 4/5

by ukvibe

Saxophonist Slagle has a great pedigree having started out working with Lionel Hampton, pianist Steve Kuhn, Brother Jack McDuff and Carla Bley, not to mention Woody Herman and Cab Calloway. He started leading his own groups some thirty years ago. These combos included the likes of Mike Stern, and currently, Dave Stryker. Indeed, 2016’s ‘Routes’ by the Stryker-Slagle Band – Expanded is reviewed elsewhere on this site.
This new release is somewhat different from what he has produced before and consists of five new original compositions, two classics and one solo alto saxophone piece.
Slagle is featured on alto saxophone and flute. Opening with ‘Family’ the ensemble features two saxophones and two drummers. No holds barred Jazz with elements from Cuba and Africa thrown into the mix. Two versions of Alto Manhattan are included. The first is a hot quartet reading, the second adds a second saxophone in the shape of Joe Lovano, another of Slagle’s former employers. A particular favourite of mine is the slowly loping blues styling of ‘I Know that You Know’. The alto saxophone sounding its most lyrical here.

‘Body and Soul’ follows, allowing us to hear the expressivity of the saxophonist’s tone at close quarters. This is an unaccompanied saxophone feature and along the way, Slagle included references to Monk, Duke Ellington and Ornette Coleman and a certain Charlie Parker.
Pianist McCoy Tyner’s composition ‘Inception’ follows. Quite a challenging extended minor blues theme to play but great fun.

The tempo is reduced for the lovely ballad ‘I Guess I’ll Hang My Tears Out to Dry’. The vocal sound of the saxophone is made clear here. In my view this is one of the best renditions of the song I have heard, even surpassing Frank Sinatra’s version. There is some fine piano playing here too from Laurence Fields.

I mentioned earlier that Slagle plays flute on the album too. The two final tracks feature the flute. ‘Holiday’, dedicated to harmonica player Toots Thielemans features Joe Lovano unusually playing G mezzo soprano saxophone playing in unison creating a wonderful sound. ‘Viva La Famalia’ ends the set featuring two drums, bass and flute lead, somewhat reminiscent of the music of fellow flautist Herbie Mann. A bright and breezy conclusion. I did feel that I missed the input from piano on this track, but this is but a minor quibble.

This is a splendidly varied and interesting recording which holds the listeners interest throughout.

The group consists of the aforementioned Fields on piano, Gerald Cannon on bass, Roman Diaz congas and Bill Stewart at the drums along with special guest Joe Lovano on three tracks.
Apparently, the album title is Latino for the New York City area where Slagle lives, Upper Manhattan or The Heights.

Here we get everything from up-tempo blues, and bop to Latin and romantic ballads all played with equal confidence.

Alan Musson

31st Dec2016

Mix No.8: Sammy Goulbourne – Vibrations, Themes, Textures and Sounds

by ukvibe

01. Jerry Fielding – The Delivery
02. Silent Poets – Someday
03. First Cosins Jazz Ensemble – Please the Pleaser
04. Quincy Jones – How come, You People
05. Flora Purim – Mountain Train
06. Daisuke Tanabe – Sand Hill
07. The Billy Bang Sextet – The Glow of Awareness
08. The Natural Yogurt Band – Space Echo
09. Marvin Gaye – “T” Plays It Cool
10. Steve Kuhn & Gary McFarland – One I Could Have Loved
11. Chico Hamilton – Abdullah & Abraham
12. Martial Solal Trio – Fanfare Dondaine
13. Barbara & Ernie – For You
14. Rednose Distrikt – Mohs
15. Sirconical – Pear
16. Heikki Sarmanto – Broadway 5821
17. Bob Morgan And Steppin’ Out ‎– Marguerite
18. George Howard – As We Grow

31st Dec2016

Siya Makuzeni Sextet ‘Out of This World’ DIG (Private Press) 5/5

by ukvibe

We’ve been writing about contemporary Jazz from South Africa for a little while now, having previously highlighted the work of Nduduzo Makhathini, Afrika Mkhize and Darren English. In truth we are just skimming the surface of what is a vibrant domestic scene. If domestic in this context sounds parochial then it is not meant to, but broader recognition is slow in coming. There are signs that this is changing, albeit primarily through collaborative work – take for example albums from Shabaka Hutchings and the Ancestors, Bänz Oester & The Rainmakers or Morten Halle’s group, Halle’s Comet.
Exposure is an issue. The fact is that Makhathini and Mkhize, like many South African Jazz artists, release albums independently and therefore do not have the resources of a corporate machine behind them to penetrate lucrative markets like the US and Europe. Whilst in theory digital platforms and social media give unprecedented opportunities on the biggest stage the marketplace is crowded and without avenues into more traditional media (print and radio), the impetus of a major label or touring internationally it is difficult to make an impact.
Arts funding is one way that South African musicians can receive support. Examples include international initiatives like Pro Helvetia which provides residencies and recording opportunities in Switzerland or the joint South African/Norwegian Concerts SA designed to support the live music scene in South Africa. In addition, there are a number of domestic award programmes which give artists promotion and vital financial support – the SAMRO Overseas Scholarship Program, the ImpACT Awards and probably the most prestigious, The Standard Bank Young Artist awards.

Siya Makuzeni was the Standard Bank Young Artist for Jazz in 2016. The list of past winners reads like a who’s who of South African Jazz in recent years – Gloria Bosman, Tutu Puoane, Andile Yenana, Kesivan Naidoo, Bokani Dyer, Kyle Shepherd and Nduduzo Makhathini to name but a few. Makuzeni is in good company.

The term Young Artist might imply that Makuzeni is new to the scene, when in fact she has been playing Jazz for 15 years. This is her first album as leader however. She learnt her trade as a trombone player and singer in groups led by progressive Jazz musicians like bassist Carlo Mombelli (The Prisoners of Strange) and trumpeter Marcus Wyatt (Language 12), but her musical footprint extends beyond jazz into rock, hip hop, reggae and electronica. Makuzeni does not want to be defined by one genre and her debut reflects this approach. She refers to her style as crossover – an organic concoction of traditional and modern Jazz, Xhosa music, soul, electronic and experimental sounds.

From the opening bars of “Moya Oyingcwele” (Holy Spirit in Xhosa) it’s apparent that Makunzeni’s is a voice to be reckoned with. Her vocals exude strength, confidence and an attitude that at times borders on the feisty. There’s a tangible sense of exploration as she slips seamlessly from words into vocalese, using her voice as an instrument to extend possibilities. It was Carlo Mombelli who introduced her to the vocal dexterity of Urszula Dudziak and it’s easy to hear how a musician might be at home experimenting through sounds as well as words. Makuzeni also makes good use of a vocal effects box, modulating her voice or looping her vocals to provide backing support.

Supporting Makuzeni are some of best from the current crop of South African Jazz musicians – Thandi Ntuli on piano/keyboard, the excellent Ayanda Sikade on drums, Benjamin Jephta on bass (himself recently announced as 2017 Standard Bank Young Artist for Jazz winner), Sakhile Simani on trumpet/flugelhorn and Sisonke Xonti on Tenor sax. The American drummer Justin Faulkner (part of Branford Marsalis’ band), who replaces Sikade on “Through the Thunder”.

Even with the use of vocal effects there is a raw, live quality to the album. Most of the tracks are fairly funky with central themes expanded through soloing. The lead single and title track is a perfect case in point. Building around looped, echoing chants and a prominent bassline it opens out into solos from Xonti and Ntuli.

There are two instrumental tracks,”Brazen Dream” and “Through the Thunder”, which feature Makuzeni on trombone. I’ve said it before, but I’m a sucker for a good trombone solo and it’s good to hear it on these tunes. The harmonies with the other brass instruments remind me of the jazz funk of Black Banda Rio.

The exception to the overall funkiness is the album’s only cover, of Bheki Mseleku’s “Through The Years”. Tackling a song originally sung by Abbey Lincoln further demonstrates that confidence I mentioned and showcases Makuzeni’s comfort in a traditional Jazz setting. I find it interesting rather than exciting; it’s as old fashioned as the rest of the album seems progressive.

Last and definitely not least, “Hold On”, is one of my favourite tracks in 2016. It grows around an insistent, funky bassline, trumpet and sax wheeling and circling around each other as if in flight. And then there’s Makuzeni’s scat…phew!! Great tune.
Music from such a creative and talented spirit really deserves wider recognition. Let’s hope we don’t have to wait another 15 years for album number two.

Andy Hazell

30th Dec2016

Clinton Fearon ‘This Morning’ (Boogie Brown Productions) 4/5

by ukvibe

Ex-Gladiators vocalist and bassist Clinton Fearon returns with an album in which he performs on every musical instrument as well as composing the songs. The result is surprisingly good and a fine example of a neo-classic roots reggae album. Now resident in the US in Seattle, Fearon pulls no punches when it comes to pertinent social commentary and has the spate of police shootings against young black males in his sights on the chilling, ‘No Justice’, which really brings home the message with some lovely vocal harmonies very much in the Gladiators tradition. Chunky rhythm guitar and saxophone greet the listener on the excellent title track, and again the horn work is classy with strong hooks on, ‘Speak Your Mind’. Arguably his strongest lead vocal performance is reserved for, ‘Don’t Be Afraid’. Of note throughout the album is the interesting sparse use of hammond organ and this creates an earthier sound. Clinton Fearon may not be a prolific musician, but if this eleventh solo album in total, and third for Boogie Brown Productions, is anything to go by, then taking the time to compose and record has paid rich dividends with this excellent latest recording.

Tim Stenhouse

30th Dec2016

Cleveland Watkiss interview – pt.1

by ukvibe

29th Dec2016

Notable Deaths 2016

by ukvibe

What was it our right royal queen called it..? Annus Horribilis. We don’t think there is any doubt that 2016 has been an unprecedented 12 months for the loss of some of our beloved and revered musicians. One or two losses may have been expected for a while whilst others have stunned us into total shock as we had no previous idea.
If you trawl online, some people have tried to explain why there have been more deaths in 2016 than for many previous years before and we’ll leave those explanations to them.

The power of music does come to the fore when you see music fans openly weeping or shaking their head in disbelief when they hear the news that their idol has died. And it is somewhat of a cliché when we say that a musician (who we have probably never met on a social basis) who has died, feels like a family member.
The connection with the music can be so personal when you’re sitting at home or on the bus or alone in your car listening to what that artist has to say. So when they do pass, it does feel like a huge hole in our lives.

We at UK Vibe would like to take a moment to honour the lives of those musicians who did sadly pass away this year. Not all are jazz musicians but all have touched our individual lives and understanding of the music that we love.
We simply encourage you to keep that spirit alive by keep buying & playing the music and also introducing the sound that you have come to love so much to others.

Remember not all artists who have given of themselves, sometimes selflessly, die as wealthy individuals. A lot of them die as paupers. Some of them even homeless and unfortunately some not of sound mind. We salute them all and thank them for enriching our lives and for bringing so much joy into a sometimes bleak and joyless world.

May they rest in rhythmic peace.

[26 Dec] Alphonse Mouzon, 68, American jazz drummer
[22 Dec] Carlos Averhoff, 69, Cuban jazz saxophonist
[21 Dec] Betty Loo Taylor, 87, American jazz pianist
[22 Dec] Sven Zetterberg, 64, Swedish blues musician
[13 Dec] Ahuva Ozeri, 68, Israeli singer
[12 Dec] Barrelhouse Chuck, 58, American blues musician
[06 Dec] Michael White, 83, American violinist and composer
[03 Dec] Herbert Hardesty, 91 American jazz musician

[28 Nov] Carlton Kitto, 74, Indian jazz guitarist
[29 Nov] Allan Zavod, 71, Australian composer and jazz musician
[24 Nov] Shirley Bunnie Foy, 80, American jazz musician
[20 Nov] Hod O’Brien, 80, American jazz pianist
[18 Nov] Sharon Jones, 60, American singer
[15 Nov] Mose Allison, 89, American jazz pianist, singer and songwriter
[02 Nov] Bob Cranshaw, 83, American jazz bassist (Blue Note Records / Musicians Union)

[27 Oct] Bobby Wellins, 80, Scottish jazz saxophonist
[18 Oct] Mike Daniels, 88, British jazz trumpeter and bandleader

[26 Sep] Karel Růžička, 76, Czech jazz pianist, Anděl Award winner
[08 Sep] Prince Buster, 78, Jamaican ska musician

[29 Aug] Michael Di Pasqua, 63, American jazz drummer
[25 Aug] Rudy Van Gelder, 91, American recording engineer
[22 Aug] Toots Thielemans, 94, Belgian jazz guitarist, whistler and harmonica player
[20 Aug] Louis Smith, 85, American jazz trumpeter
[20 Aug] Louis Stewart, 72, Irish jazz guitarist
[19 Aug] Derek Smith, 85, British jazz pianist
[15 Aug] Bobby Hutcherson, 75, American jazz musician
[13 Aug] Connie Crothers, 75, American jazz pianist

[25 Jul] Allan Barnes, 66, American jazz saxophonist (The Blackbyrds)
[22 Jul] Dominic Duval, 71, American free jazz bassist
[16 Jul] Claude Williamson, 89, American jazz pianist
[15 Jul] Charles Davis, 83, American jazz saxophonist
[15 Jul] Roland Prince, 69, Antiguan jazz guitarist

[30 June] Don Friedman, 81, American jazz pianist
[26 June] Mike Pedicin, 98, American jazz bandleader
[23 June] Shelley Moore, 84, British-born American jazz singer
[17 June] Willy Andresen, 94, Norwegian jazz pianist
[13 June] Randy Jones, 72, British-born American jazz musician

[16 May] Fredrik Norén, 75, Swedish jazz drummer
[14 May] Paul Smoker, 75, American jazz trumpeter
[13 May] Buster Cooper, 87, American jazz trombonist
[11 May] Joe Temperley, 86, Scottish saxophonist (Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra)
[01 May] Doug Raney, 59, American jazz guitarist

[24 Apr] Billy Paul, 81, American R&B singer
[24 Apr] Papa Wemba, 66, Congolese singer
[21 Apr] Prince, 57, American musician, songwriter
[13 Apr] Pete Yellin, 74, American jazz saxophonist and educator
[13 Apr] Jeremy Steig, 73, American jazz flutist
[05 Apr] Leon Haywood, 74, American funk and soul singer
[05 Apr] Zena Latto, 90, American jazz saxophonist
[04 Apr] Getatchew Mekurya, 81, Ethiopian jazz saxophonist
[03 Apr] Bill Henderson, 90, American jazz vocalist
[03 Apr] Don Francks, 84, Canadian jazz vocalist
[02 Apr] Gato Barbieri, 83, Argentine jazz saxophonist

[26 Mar] Joe Shepley, 85, American jazz trumpeter
[26 Mar] David Baker, 84, American jazz musician
[24 Mar] Roger Cicero, 45, German jazz and pop musician
[23 Mar] Jimmy Riley, 68, Jamaican reggae musician
[22 Mar] Phife Dawg, 45, American rapper (A Tribe Called Quest)
[11 Mar] Joe Ascione, 54, American jazz drummer
[10 Mar] Ernestine Anderson, 87, American jazz vocalist
[09 Mar] Naná Vasconcelos, 71, Brazilian jazz percussionist and vocalist, eight-time Grammy Award winner
[08 Mar] Claus Ogerman, 86, German jazz conductor and arranger
[07 Mar] Joe Cabot, 94, American jazz musician and band leader
[03 Mar] Gavin Christopher, 66, American R&B singer, songwriter, musician, and producer (Curtom Records)

[25 Feb] John Chilton, 83, British jazz musician and writer
[23 Feb] Rey Caney, 89, Cuban musician
[19 Feb] Harald Devold, 51, Norwegian jazz musician
[14 Feb] L. C. Ulmer, 87, American blues musician
[04 Feb] Maurice White, 74, American songwriter and musician (Earth, Wind & Fire)

[08 Jan] Otis Clay, 73, American R&B and soul singer
[05 Jan] Nicholas Caldwell, 71, American R&B singer (The Whispers)
[04 Jan] Long John Hunter, 84, American blues guitarist and singer-songwriter

28th Dec2016

Best Jazz albums of 2016

by ukvibe