A few summers back a wonderfully inspired collaboration between French cellist Vincent Ségal and West African singer Ballaké Sissoko entitled ‘Chamber Music’ was one of the surprise world roots hits of the year and in a slightly different vein Ségal has this time come up with another unlikely music marriage with guitarist/vocalist Piers Faccini, who is of Italian descent, and this similarly cuts across musical borders to incorporate elements of UK/US folk, blues and even Italian roots music. Folk-blues is the order of the day on a cover of Townes Van Zandt’s ‘Quicksilver Daydreams’ and here the cello is used as a surrogate bass to good effect. A melodic take on a 1930s song that was sung and co-written by Marlene Dietrich, ‘Wenn ich mir, was wünschen dürfte’, is accompanied by some delightful cello and guitar. Faccini comes into his own on the Italian repertoire of largely Neapolitan-inspired songs and this includes the plucked cello sound and delicate vocal delivery on ‘Cammina Cammina’ while there is a lovely early music feel on the cello to ‘Villanella di Cenerentolla’, which is a sixteenth century song that has been given a folksy modern update, and is all the better for it. A pared down cello and vocals feature on a Roman song of yearning love, ‘Dicitencello Vuje’ which is arguably the pick of all the Italian songs. For several of the English language songs, Nick Drake is the main inspiration and Faccini delivers a pretty convincing whispered delivery on ‘The closing of our eyes’. More exotic musical connections are made on ‘Cradle to the grave’ which has a strong New Orleans influence and on a Creole folk song, ‘Mangé pou le coeur’ with cello providing a sparse backbeat. This is quite simply music that defies categorisation and will be of interest to anyone who likes to hear lyrical music from across multiple frontiers.
Italian singer-songwriter and pianist Paolo Conte is something of a household phenomenon in his native Italy as well as in various parts of Europe and the United States, and represents a bye-gone era of classic music in the same way that Woody Allen symbolizes the cinema of another era. For his latest album project, the subject matter has a more tropical feel which allows his deeply creative mind to run riot and as a result the listener is in for a treat from start to finish. Those new to the experience may take a little time to grow accustomed to the gruff sounding voice, but this is music that is at once engaging and accessible and well worth repeated listens. An atmospheric modern sounding song, ‘L’Uomo Specchio’ (Mirror Man) is a prime candidate for single release and features the subtle use of drum effect while accordion and brassy ensemble ensure the marriage of the new with the more traditional is a wholly successful hybrid. A delightful Latin shuffle is the order of the day on ‘Tropical’ which sounds to this writer like another possible hit and is sure to a bring a smile to the face of any listener. The feel of summer is evoked in all its glory here. For a more reflective jazz-inflective piece, ‘Argentina’, features some lovely piano and strummed guitar and the song portrays the emigration to Buenos Aires of migrants from the south of Italy who form the main basis of the modern-day Argentine population. Influences are inevitably numerous on any Paolo Conte album and include blues, cabaret, honky-tonk piano, tango and traditional jazz. Little wonder, then, that parallels have been made between Conte and Tom Waits and not simply because of the distinctive approach of their voices. The old-world ambience permeates ‘Incontro (Encounter)’ with a brass accompaniment that is straight out of swing jazz. On the austere sounding love ballad ‘Fandango’, we finally have the opportunity to hear what a gifted pianist Conte can be and here the sound is pared down to piano and vocals only. This is above all else a musical journey into nostalgia and one that cannot fail to impress the listener, be they first-time or seasoned, and that is just part of the greatness of Paolo Conte’s creative craft.
Recorded live at the Montreal Jazz Festival back in 1990, but issued for the very first time almost twenty-five years later, this duet pairing affords us the opportunity to marvel at the mastery on the bass displayed by the recently departed Charlie Haden and Jim Hall integrates perfectly into the mix. The combination of the two musicians may seem somewhat odd given their diametrically opposed debuts in jazz, Haden engaging in the avant-garde albums of Ornette Coleman, while Jim Hall was part of the great chamber jazz trio with Jimmy Giuffre. In actual fact, Jim Hall’s tenure with Giuffre yielded some experimental musical results and the guitarist also recorded with avant-gardist Sonny Rollins while Haden over time became increasingly more mainstream in his Quartet West project albums. Neither musician has wished to be pigeonholed into stereotypes about how what jazz should or should not be and this is a constant in both musicians work as a whole. It has to be said that the pared down milieu works a treat on a number such as Monk’s ‘Bemsha Swing’ which is reduced to its absolute core and here Hall improvises to useful effect while Haden lays down some steady basslines. Equally of interest here is how Hall, when comping, creates a keyboard-like effect. Caribbean flavours emerge on ‘Down from Antigua’ while in general both folk and blues influences are pervasive throughout and are an endearing feature of the recording. Both musicians have close roots with the greater American expanse, with Haden born in Iowa and Hall in the more urban surrounding of Ohio, and on listening to this live album one can actually hear how Pat Metheny as a young guitarist may have been influenced by Hall’s individual approach and this is indeed still discernible on Metheny’s more intimate recordings of recent years.
At the Leica Studio in Bruton Place, London, photographs by the jazz whizz kid Jamie Cullum and his friend, Michael Agel (of Leica Camera) are on show for everyone to see.
It is a free mini exhibition, perfectly curated, with photos on all walls, but just the right amount!
Impressive diversity of colour and b&w photos with an array of fascinating individuals, some of them staring out of the pictures as one steps into the room.
The photos were taken whilst Jamie was on a recent US tour.
Jamie’s fascination and experimentation with photography shines through the works. The people in the photographs look at his camera with curiosity, but also with a smile.
The exhibition is on till 19th December so make sure you don’t miss it!
A must see: Jamie’s photos of his wife, Sophie Dahl. Beautiful and utterly moving.
“Life and Music” is at Leica Studio S, 27 Bruton Place, London W1J 6NF
(11am to 6pm) – Free
Belgian Jazz pianist Jef Neve is possibly best known for his collaboration with singer José James on the excellent duet album from 2010, ‘For all we know’. However, Neve has longed wanted to test himself out in that most challenging of settings, namely the solo piano. This latest project was put together while touring and thus it was recorded at six separate studios over a thirteen day period. Similar to Duke Ellington, Jef Neve has drawn compositional inspiration from his travels and in this case that has meant writing while in hotels, airport lounges or on a tour bus. The pieces performed here are at once accessible and challenging in parts, but it is the sheer simplicity of style that will appeal to jazz devotees. That said, there is an experimental take on Billy Strayhorn’s ‘Lush Life’ with a crescendo of sounds created on the piano before the pieces settles into the most sedate of numbers while Joni Mitchell’s ‘A case of you’ is treated to a quasi-classical rendition that is reposing in nature. Of the pianist’s originals, the lyrical ‘One leaf, a thousand lives’ impresses most and builds up a head of steam. This is not an album that instantly attracts the listener’s attention, but on repeated listens its subtle delicacy begins to emerge and will leave a lasting and favourable impression.
Re-issues of classic British jazz recordings are thankfully a relatively common event these days, but there is nothing distinctly ordinary, or indeed commonplace about this superlative larger ensemble album from 1968. From this album have emerged tracks on Jazz Britannia compilations over the last fifteen years or so bearing the name of DJ Giles Peterson. The brainchild of composer, arranger and musician Neil Ardley, this magnificent piece of modern jazz orchestration takes a leaf out of the work of both Gil Evans and Duke Ellington, who are clearly major influences upon the mind-set of Ardley, while from a classical perspective the sounds of Debussy and Ravel and early Stravinsky have otherwise exerted their influence upon the arranger. Assembling an all-star cast of British jazz musicians in their prime and these include the late Jack Bruce, Ian Carr, Michael Gibbs, Dick Heckstall-Smith and Henry Lowther among many others, the album is brimming with luscious interpretation of both standards and then new compositions. Of the former, the take on Miles’ ‘Nardis’ takes on something of a late 1950s feel with the use of vibes, a restrained trumpet solo from Carr and an extended bass solo. More than anywhere else, the Davis-Evans collaboration hovers over the title track and this includes the precise clarity of tone of Carr, the Spanish tinge in the use of castanets and some glorious soprano saxophone playing. Gentle in tone, but with a slightly darker and even underlying brooding nature is a version of Coltrane’s ‘Naima’ which features a delicate flute solo and even briefly a freer direction on saxophone. Of the new compositions on offer from British jazz musicians, pride of place goes to the modal number ‘Dusk Fire’ with fine ensemble work and some delicious soprano saxophone. A ballad, same titled, by pianist Mike Taylor is a reflective number with sensitive accompaniment and some subtle shading. This album follows on from the previously re-issued ‘Symphony of Amarinths’ and is certainly a candidate for most prestigious re-issue of the year.
Secret Stash are quietly going about their business of making the hideously rare, previously unissued and brand spanking new releases available – what’s happening with the Valdons is amazing in itself. Sonny Knight’s album arrived with great expectations and I wasn’t disappointed… bluesy, funky and very black – just the way it should be. Loads of good quality dancers on here and if this album had surfaced in the 70’s on some small label it would be revered today as a holy grail must-have. However, those same people won’t touch this, it’s too new and shiny. Two standouts for me are the subtle crossover “I’m still here pt.2” which will have you up and at it, and the sublime balladry of “When you’re gone”, which takes us back to the days of horns, a sneaky Hammond/piano and a drummer and nothing else! Simplicity sometimes is best, this allows Sonny Knight to show us what he’s got. If your into the funky side of black music then grab a listen. Oh, and it is on lovely thick vinyl too.
For his first solo album in some eleven years (although regularly involved in collaborative projects), Moreno Veloso has surrounded himself with old musical partners such as Pedro Sá, who co-produced the album, and Kassin, but unfortunately the electro-acoustic bossa-pop sound is now a little tired, with the songs in general unmemorable and Veloso is in definite need of new musical adventures to freshen up the music. That said, there is some promise on the lilting ‘Um Passa à Frente’ which is a samba de roda and on the Bahia-influenced number ‘Não acorde o Nénêm’. A good deal of the melodies quickly become repetitive and Moreno Veloso has just got stuck in a groove form which he has found it hard to extricate himself. A soft bossa ‘Em Tudo Lugar’ evokes his father’s influence, but Veloso Jr. needs to rethink his strategy in order to reinvigorate the overall sound.
French-born, but raised in Brazil and now resident in Portugal, singer-songwriter and guitarist Pierre Aderne is the real deal and offers a refreshing take on the well-worn territory of neo-bossa music. There is a lightness of touch and immediacy to the music here that makes this album stand out from the rest and equally a maturity to the recording in that nothing is rushed, while the delivery is that of an experienced singer. The instantly catchy opener ‘Tristeza Sai Pra Là’ is classic bossa terrain and the piano vamps and guitar make for a wonderfully uplifting start to the album. This is continued on an inventive re-working of ‘Berimbau’ with a quasi-classical feel in the piano intro, but the tempo gently goes up a gear with some subtle percussive work. The voice hints at Joao Gilberto without ever attempting to replicate. In a more intimate vein, ‘Deixa Voar’ reduces the sound to merely the piano and guitar plus voice which works extremely well whereas the whole band including accordion are deployed on the uptempo ‘Astrolàbio’ which is another album highlight. Guest singers feature elsewhere with Melody Gardot duetting in both English and Portugese on the 1950s style ‘Limoeiro’ while for a change of emphasis altogether. old-time jazz is evoked on ‘Should I happen to come by’ which includes some jazzy acoustic double bass playing and this song was co-written by Melody Gardot and Madeleine Peyroux. Two fusions of Brazilian and Portugese music are successfully negotiated on ‘Fado do Ladarão Enamorado’ that features Cristina Águas and on the samba-influenced ‘Fado dos Barcos’. Although there are shades of both the young Caetano Veloso (post-Tropicalia) and Vinicius Cantuária in Pierre Aderne’s music, he is very much his own man and if this debut album is anything to go by, he is destined for a highly successful career.