Candian-based, though Haitian born pianist Henri-Pierre Noël, is a fascinating musician whose myriad musical influences come together on this excellent set that is arguably stronger than the first re-issue and dates from 1980. It encompasses Latin, Caribbean, disco, gospel and Afro influences as well as Haiti’s very own folkloric kompa style and yet still comes out sounding distinctively the musician’s own voice. Discovered by DJ Kobal, producer Kevin Moon aka Moonstar has done an excellent job of bringing together the seemingly disparate elements into a cohesive whole.
The delicious ‘Latin Feeling; is a strong contender for the album’s killer tune and has something of the feel of the Jazz Messenger’s ‘Moanin’ about it and lingers long on the mind. The combination of acoustic piano à la Ramsey Lewis and horns plus percussion makes for a truly classic jukebox groove to remember. Equally infectious is ‘Joy to me’ which is the catchiest of numbers with cowbell and blues-inflected piano to reinforce the message. Disco meets Afro head on with ‘Step (Fan)’ while the percussive-led ‘Roller Skater Rhapsody’.
A real treat is the voice over, possibly by Noël himself, on the gospel flavoured number ‘Will come a day’ which makes for a reposing contrast to the rest whereas funky uptempo gospel piano alongside whirling synthesizer is a feature of ‘Funky Spider Dance’ with discofied female vocals making for a curious hybrid that actually comes off. So eclectic are the sounds on offer here that one wonders quite what reviewers and DJs made of this release when it originally surfaced at the back end of the disco era, Too funky by far for jazz purists and yet probably too intricate for fans of disco at the time. With the benefit of time and hindsight, we can now enjoy the music for what it is, a terrific fusion and kaleidoscope of sounds that seamlessly come together. Pierre-Henri Noël performed in July 2013 at the Jazz Café and it is to be hoped that more live performances will follow on from this excellent re-issue that demonstrates beyond doubt that jazz can be aimed at the dancefloor and still retain its integrity.
Steve Williamson Band: Live at Pizza Express, Soho 1st September 2014
Steve Williamson (tenor/soprano saxophone)
Photo: Courtesy of Carl Hyde
Tenor/Soprano saxophonist, composer and band leader Steve Williamson has been stretching the boundaries of the Jazz music idiom ever since he exploded onto the UK and worldwide scene over twenty years ago with his groundbreaking debut album, ‘A Waltz With A Grace.’ Well, Mr Williamson is officially back having made a couple of rare appearances in 2014. However, the best is yet to come, Mr Williamson has announced that a hand-picked ‘Steve Williamson Band’ will be performing live at Pizza Express, Soho, London on Monday 1st September 2014. This will be Williamson’s first live outing and exposure of his new material in several years. To aid him in realising and relaying the vision and complexity of his new compositions Williamson has brought together an equally mercurial, talented, experienced and individualistic group of musicians. Acclaimed pianist Robert Mitchell answered the call from his good friend, in the drummer’s seat is beat-meister Seb Roachford and adding some educated bass-lines to the mix is Michael Mondesir . Finally, providing her unique voice projections is the free-spirited and free-flowing vocalist Filomena Campus who Williamson knew instantly he wanted as an integral part of his new band ever since witnessing her perform live at Nexus – One World Music earlier this year.
Band Leader Williamson himself has confessed to practising on his Tenor and Soprano horns long and hard in readiness for his much anticipated and much needed return to the live forum. To find out more of what Steve Williamson has to say, watch this space for Part One of an exclusive UK Vibe interview with the man himself. In the meantime, all roads lead to Pizza Express, 10 Dean Street, Soho, London for what promises to be the most enriching, enlightening and ear enhancing evening of Jazz music.
Michael J Edwards
Essential Gig Date:
Monday 1st September 2014, 7pm – Pizza Express, 10 Dean St, Soho, London W1D 3RW
The Steve Williamson Band:
Steve Williamson – tenor/soprano sax
Robert Mitchell – piano
Michael Mondesir – bass
Filomena Campus – voice
Seb Roachford – drums
The lovely people over at Fuse TV have been discussing the importance of archiving with Afrika Bambaataa
St. Peter’s Church, Bournemouth
Friday, 26 Sep 2014
Featuring Robert Mitchell’s Panacea, Bournemouth Symphony Chorus, Avonbourne College and Harewood College.
Invocation is a stunningly unique performance, which blends the traditions of jazz, choral, classical and improvised music, creating what Mitchell describes as “transcendental sound” achieved by the combined voices of over 100 choral performers. Bringing together Grammy winning Bournemouth Symphony Chorus, young music students from Avonbourne and Harewood Colleges and Mitchell’s jazz quartet, Panacea, Mitchell’s new composition is based upon the ever vital and under-celebrated role inspirational teaching plays on human development. This premiere is sure to be a formidable, potent and unmissable experience.
Book tickets here.
‘Robert would like to thank the Arts Council, the Lottery Fund, and SoundStorm
for their brilliant support of this project’
Texan Multi-reedist Jimmy Giuffre is that most rare of jazz musicians, with a foot in both the cool and avant-garde camps. He first made his reputation as a clarinettist in the Woody Herman orchestra where his ‘Four Brothers’ composition became a hit early on his career. However, by the mid-1950s he had left behind larger swing ensembles for small group modern jazz, sometimes referred to as chamber jazz. For Atlantic records Giuffre constantly experimented with unusual trio line-ups including guitar, reeds and trombone and most famously bass, guitar and reeds. Out of the latter came his most endearing piece, ‘The Moon and the River’, which became a hit in the mid-1950s and a live performance was seen on the seminal film, ‘Jazz on a Summer’s Day’ from 1958. By the early 1960s, however, Giuffre had left behind the cool school of the West coast for freer forms and his 1962 trio recording for Columbia, ‘Free for all’ was way ahead of its time and caught both his label and the jazz public in general off guard. It was a sensational line-up of musicians including pianist Paul Bley and bassist Steve Swallow (the trio would also record ‘Thesis’ and ‘Fusion’ for Verve, both widely available on a superb ECM 2 CD re-issue), yet such was the conservative nature of the buying public at the time that the trio found it impossible to support themselves long-term and eventually were forced to split (though thankfully re-united once again in the 1990s and this time were extremely well received on a European tour and new York concerts). Even worse, Giuffre lost his major label deal when Columbia became disenchanted with his new style and between 1962 and 1971 Jimmy Giuffre did not record for any label.
This is where the newly unearthed set of recordings come in. Despite the lack of interest from record companies, Giuffre still managed to tour and thanks to a sound engineer and young jazz DJ George Klabin, was able to secure a recording date, one a free Sunday afternoon in the empty and intimate setting of New York’s Judson Hall, and the other a live date in front of an audience at the much larger Wollman Hall with a multi-purpose stage. Ironically Klabin had then only recently been appointed head of jazz at the Columbia radio station, the very label that had let Giuffre go in the first place! The two separate set of recordings both date from 1965 and yet vary significantly in terms of line-up and instrumentation. The second is the more conventional of the two with Don Friedman on piano. Bassist Richard Davis and regular Blue Note drummer Joe Chambers provide the thrilling rhythm section on the first date and there is an idiosyncratic take on Ornette Colemans’ ‘Crossroads’ (the only non-original and Giuffre was an admirer of his fellow Texan tenorist) while on the blues-inflected ‘Cry, Want’ Giuffre’s plaintive clarinet offers a wonderful contrast to the rest of the group. Barre Philips takes over bass duties on the second date with Friedman providing atonal support on piano. There is some overlap between the pieces performed with three titles, but even then it is fascinating to compare and contrast versions with the varying formations and Giuffre’s use of folk melodies means that the music never really sounds dated and has a true timeless quality to it. A highly informative booklet rounds matters off with an excellent insight from former French Jazz Magazine journalist Philippe Carles, personal recollections by musicians Jim Hall and Steve Swallow. In short, Jimmy Giuffre is an innovative musician demanding of your attention and these excellent quality live recordings demonstrate precisely why.
If the name is at first unfamiliar, his influence will rapidly become apparent. The most recent Coen Brothers film, ‘Inside Llewlyn Davis’, was very loosely based on Dave Van Ronk’s excellent autobiography, ‘The mayor of MacDougal Street’ (Da Capo, 2005), and Van Ronk was a key individual in the early years of the folk revival in New York’s Greenwich Village, from the mid-late 1950s and into the 1960s when a then young musician called Bob Dylan was just starting out. Van Ronk served as both a teacher and guru to musicians such as Dylan and others (later a debutant Joni Mitchell). In terms of his own musical influences, Van Ronk listened to early jazz, blues and contemporary folk singers (Rambling Jack Elliot, Pete Seeger and including Woody Guthrie) and learnt the fingering-picking guitar style from older musicians and performed the jug band style which was a precursor to skiffle music innovations in England from the likes of Lonnie Donegan. An indication of the sheer variety of styles that Van Ronk would listen to and soak up (he was not averse to western classic either) is exemplified in the following quote from his autobiography:
“When I listen to my recordings, I hear an obvious debt to Louis, and on those early records to Bessie Smith, as well as Jelly Roll Morton, Bing Crosby, Billie Holiday and [Reverend] Gary Davis”.
A major impetus to Van Ronk’s own appreciation of roots music came with the release in 1952 of Harry Smith’s ‘Anthology of American Folk Music’ that was in fact a new Folkways recording at the time. This anthology introduced the world to then relatively unknown musicians of the calibre of Mississippi John Hurt and Dock Boggs among many others featured. What Smithsonian Folkways have done is to compile a triple CD offering of the classic 1958-1960 recordings of Dave Van Ronk when the singer was in his prime plus some later live recordings from the 1980s, early-mid 1990s and even as late as 2001 to provide a fine overview of Van Ronk’s career. Unsurprisingly the strongest songs date from the earlier period and Van Ronk provides fine interpretations of ‘God bless the child’ from 1963, the classic blues numbers ‘St. James Infirmary’ and ‘Backwater Blues’. The two albums, ‘Ballads, Blues and a Spiritual’ (1959) and its follow up, ‘Dave Van Ronk Sings’ (1960) are both heard here in their entirety and rightly so since they cover the singer at the peak of his powers and both would later be re-issued by Folkways and Verve. Some of the later Prestige recordings from the mid-1960s are not included, but these can now be easily obtained on CD (‘In the Tradition’ and ‘Inside Dave Van Ronk’). Of note are the complete studio dates of Van Ronk’s last ever session. While not the complete picture, at three CDs this is pretty much definitive, and even completists will be impressed at the attention to detail and depth of the recorded legacy on offer.The gatefold sleeve is typically supplemented by a lavish forty page booklet and extensive essay plus photos that portray him as every bit the outsider his reputation makes him out to be.
Vocalist and harmonica player John Németh spent much of the 1980s listening to Chicago blues, and taking in some of the all-time greats (including possibly Syl Johnson and almost certainly the southern soul-blues influence of Bobby Bland) has clearly done him a power of good. Possessing a deeply soulful voice, Németh has come up with album in the old-school Memphis tradition that owes a nod to the Hi label (drummer Henry Grimes was a staple musician there), the grittier side of 1960s Atlantic soul from the Muscle Shoals era with punchy horns (could background vocalist Percy Wiggins be any relation to the great Spencer Wiggins?) and the early period of Stax. All but three songs are originals and they stand up in their own right with ‘I can’t help myself’ the pick of a tasty bunch, propelled by soulful keyboards and horns and featuring a lovely guitar solo. Hitting an equally soulful groove and a definite contender for a single release is ‘Sooner or later’ while for balladry the laid back interpretation of ‘If it ain’t broke’ is an emotional ride. Gospel hues emerge on ‘Testify my love’ and gritty soul returns on ‘Her good lovin’. Of the standards revisited, Roy Orbison’s ‘Crying’ is the most inventive and given a slower soul-blues treatment with some intricate guitar work. Only on the uptempo stormer ‘My baby’s gone’ does Németh really step into blues-rock territory and even then it is a pretext for him to ad-lib on harmonica.
Unquestionably one of the strongest new soul-blues releases of the year and fans of classic soul will be in their element here too.
Now then, this album surfaced without any great fanfare and various tracks have had plays on Mark Merry’s excellent ‘Soul Sermon’ show on Starpoint, immediately I jumped on and found the vinyl album, and having arrived its had several repeated plays. It’s an album you can put and leave no need to skip any tracks. Myles voice is light, appears mid ranged but on at least one track show’s the grittier side. Think Phase Seven “Sweet Love” from the early 80’s or Lenny Williams and you can then get an idea of what is presented here. All real instruments too, not a synth in sight including a gorgeous flute which we don’t get to hear enough. The title track is a very retro sounding dancer which owes a lot to the Motown sound of the 70’s, very danceable and soulful, “Light in my hand” starts off wistfully and morphs into a guitar led stepper, ”My Inspiration” has a wonderful understated Timmy Thomas feel about it, a real grower. The only real downer is the monologue instrumental “Lonely Dreamer”, superb musically and crying out to be extended and have a vocal riding it, would be a very exciting tune that I could see getting some serious radio plays, “To my surprise” is a cracking dancer complete with that flute and this is the track that appears to be getting the most attention, superb to dance too. And so to the album high, for me the down-tempo “Where we need to be” is the reason to have this album, lyrically, vocally and musically at the top of the game and so ripe for radio spins, could very well get spins in the clubs where us thinking soul men gather. Myles is accompanied by a tinkling piano for the most part, a very classy piece of modern day soul music. This album has come as a pleasant surprise for me, at least 2 tracks have gone onto my live playlist and my forthcoming radio appearance on 365Soul will see me plundering my “Where we need to be”.
One slight issue is that the vinyl was sent simply wrapped in brown paper with no protection from our post office historically handling of anything obviously fragile with contempt. The outer sleeve was creased in several places and there were issues with the actual vinyl, Myles happily sent me a replacement but it was worse than the first one that arrived, the outer sleeve looks like it has been deliberately damaged however the good news was that the vinyl was pristine mint and sounds quite superb.
Singer and guitarist Magic Sam (real name Sam Maghett) cut some of the funkiest Chicago blues albums in the 1960s and is the author of the seminal ‘West Side Soul’ which has now become a term for describing that particular style of the Windy City’s blues and ‘Black Magic’ (both on Delmark) and has subsequently influenced countless musicians. However, Magic Sam was by no means a prolific artist in terms of the output of his recordings and a combination of his earlier Cobra and Chief sides alongside the pairing of aforementioned Delmark’s represent the zenith of Sam’s recorded legacy. All the more reason, then, to cheer the first ever issuing of a live recording from some forty-five years ago by blues aficionado and at the time young sound engineer and producer Jim Chame who has captured Magic Sam in his prime at small club in Milwaukee in June 1968, the folk-oriented Avant Garde venue, that was both a coffee house and poetry reading establishment and even an underground cinema. In this somewhat cosy hub of 1960s counter-culture, the adventurous and radical selection of music included the likes of the reverend Gary Davis, Skip James and Fred McDowell as well as groups from the folk revival movement such as the New Lost City Ramblers. However, the electrified sounds of Magic Sam and group was an altogether different kettle of fish and just a ninety mile derive away from Chicago the new sounds permeating that great musical city were transported into the rural heartland of middle America. A classic selection of the modern blues repertoire forms the playlist of that particular June evening and reveals a profound love and respect for other blues musicians of the era. A strong take on Otis Rush’s ‘All your love (I miss loving)’ is an obvious highlight as is the take on Willie Dixon’s evergreen ‘Hoochie Coochie Man’. Others will marvel at the interpretation of ‘I don’t want no woman’ which for many typifies the West Side soul sound to perfection. This writer is particularly fond of an alternative version to Lowell Fulsom’s ‘It’s all your fault baby’ and ‘Still a fool’ which Muddy Waters wrote. As the excellent sleeve notes by Chame indicate, these sides were recorded at a time when the pop charts were full of bland easy listening material with Herb Alpert topping the US hit parade with ‘The guy’s in love with you’ and consequently the terrific music contained within must have come across as something from another planet altogether, so vibrant are the underlying grooves. Overall, the sound quality is crisp and clean (bass could be a tad higher, but that would be splitting musical hairs) and perfectly acceptable with the intimacy of the show conveyed extremely well.
Mancunian trumpeter and modal jazz champion Matthew Halsall returns with an album that places the emphasis very much on eastern musical horizons and the result is arguably his most harmonious recording thus far. The Gondwana Orchestra is made up of some familiar names, including long-time fellow modal maestro Nat Birchall on soprano and tenor saxophones and excels in his role of sideman, albeit one with a major role, Gavin Barras on acoustic bass, and Rachael Gladwin on harp. However, the reposing Japanese koto aound of player Keiko Kitamura is a very welcome addition to the ensemble and one that takes the overall sound in a slightly different direction. Likewise Lisa Mallett, who has regularly performed in world roots orchestras in the north-west, finds her natural spiritual home here with some lovely Indian bansuri flute playing that Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia would heartily approve of. Factor in drummer Luke Flowers who has been a regular member of the Cinematic Orchestra and you have a new formation that takes Halsall slightly away from the 1960s modal musings from which he is best known at this stage in his career and into more exploratory territory. One of this writer’s favourite pieces is the delicate number ‘A far way place’ with some fine bansuri flute from Mallett in tandem with the koto and this over a repetitive riff and sensitive use of percussion. Travelling in Japan has for Matthew Halsall served as the inspiration for ‘Kiyomizu-Dera’ where the trio of flute, harp and koto combine to marvellous effect and create a floating musical ambience par excellence. Of note is the inventive use of bass which sometimes sounds akin to a trombone. It should be stated that Halsall the composer is to the fore on this album while the trumpeter takes a more secondary role in the overall scheme of things. However, on the deeply melodic ‘Falling water’ where Birchall performs beautifully on soprano, after quiet a reflective passage including harp accompaniment, Halsall finally comes in for a restrained solo. For a welcome touch of variety. the mid-up tempo modal piece ‘Patterns’ provides a lovely contrast between flute and soprano saxophone and ‘Sagano bamboo forest’ is a soprano-led number with modal flavours. If here Japan serves as the thrilling backdrop to this recording, then Matthew Halsall should seriously consider devoting future albums to other parts of southern Asia including the Indian sub-continent.