04th Mar2015

Cecilia Stalin ‘Step Like A Giant’ (Private Press) 3/5

by ukvibe

cecilia-stalinNow based in London, Swedish vocalist Cecilia Stalin personifies the new generation of singers who are adept at performing in the jazz idiom, but are equally at home in other black music forms such as classic soul and funk, hip-hop and nu-soul, and are interested in exploring fusions between the various genres for a younger audience that may not necessarily have been introduced to the key jazz recordings. The singer’s debut album has been showcased while touring late last year as opening act for Gregory Porter no less and her enthusiastic and engaging demeanour have certainly won over fans.
Stylistically, Cecilia Stalin seems to have listened to a variety of jazz singers from early Al Jarreau and going back even further possibly to Eddie Jefferson in the use of vocalese techniques, but in terms of female vocalists the phrasing of Dee Dee Bridgewater and Erykah Badu immediately spring to mind and Stalin’s range is wide, taking in as deep a voice as Bridgewater, or as light as that of Blossom Dearie. What is interesting about this album is rather than go down the traditional path of well-worn standards, Stalin has chosen a more experimental approach, tackling less obvious and arguably more challenging material and in the long-term this will serve her well provided she does not try to be too diverse and appeal to too disparate an audience. As the album title hints at, Stalin is interesting in revisiting some of the work of John Coltrane, but doing so by giving the pieces a more contemporary flavour. This is exemplified by the title track which features Lil’ Chif and is a mid-tempo hip-hop interpretation which works extremely well and is in direct contrast with Coltrane’s full steam ahead original. The ballad ‘My Naima’ is reworked and retitled as a hip-hop beat song with participation from Replife.

Stalin’s voice is best suited to gentler material such as on ‘Shining Star’ (not the Earth, Wind and Fire song) and on the bossa flavoured ‘Favourite things’ as well as on minor chord songs such as ‘So blue and green’ which has a dream-like ambiance and gentle drumming. Aimed squarely at the dancefloor, ‘One’ features Stalin in a lighter vein. The use of vignettes is inventive and should become a more regular feature of her recorded work and the experimentation with tempo should definitely be pursued, especially when the slowed down version of ‘[E] Quinox’ is so seductive and conjurs up echoes of Billie Holiday. The nearest Stalin gets to a more traditional stance is on ‘Afro Blue’, but even here there is a modern update with the instrumentation firmly in the 1970s Headhunters vein, especially on keyboards. What is promising is here that there are plenty of potential new avenues to work on and perfect over a series of albums. Cecilia Stalin needs to work firstly on the instrumentation which in places is a tad overproduced and then on focusing on one specific aspect of her craft and taking that as far as she can go. If she can deliver on both these fronts, then a bright future is assured.

Tim Stenhouse

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03rd Mar2015

Various ‘West Side Story Jazz. Impressions: Unique Perspectives’ 2CD (El/Cherry Red) 5/5

by ukvibe

west-side-storyThanks to the collaborative genius of composer Leonard Bernstein and lyricist Stephen Sondheim, ‘West Side’ has quite simply become one of the towering achievements of twentieth century music and as such has long served as the inspiration to countless musicians of all genres. El/Cherry Red have had the ingenious idea to bring together some of the truly classic jazz instrumental interpretations onto one double CD anthology and this enables the listener to both compare and contrast cool jazz, piano trio, Afro-Cuban jazz and myriad other forms of some of their most beloved tunes from the musical and this significantly enhances the listening experience. The only surprise is that it has taken so long for an enterprising record company to contemplate such a project. The first CD starts off in sedate fashion with the famous André Previn piano trio version that was a huge commercial hit back in the 1959 and though this was on the West coast Contemporary label known for its somewhat laid back approach, the music is in fact quite avant garde in approach in places with a definite touch of Monk in Previn’s phrasing and some tasty blues inflections. The pick of the bunch is a delicious take on ‘Tonight’ which begins with a trompe-l’oeil cocktail feel, but then gently shifts up a gear and morphs into a swinging blues. Of course the subject matter of the musical focused on Hispanics in New York and while the accuracy of the depiction can certainly be disputed, musicians picked up on this new component in American society and delivered some authentic and thrilling Latin jazz. Pride of place here belongs to Cal Tjader and the dream-like orchestral feel to ‘Prologue’ gives way to the big band plus vibes of ‘The Jet Song’ where the then recent influence of the Gil Evans and Miles Davis big band of ‘Miles Ahead’ and ‘Sketches of Spain’ orchestrations are all too apparent. In comparison the orchestrations of Stan Kenton are somewhat underwhelming and conventional in format, but there is some consolation for listeners on the understated brass of ‘Cool’ and the mid-tempo Afro-Cuban percussion that accompanies the intro to ‘America’. For fans of cool jazz, the stunning tribute from the Dave Brubeck Quartet is definitely worthy of mention they mange to capture the mood to perfection with a mournful take on ‘Maria’ and a rousing rendition of ‘I feel pretty’ with Paul Desmond soaring on alto. The second CD is marginally less cohesive, but on the other hand offers a wide range of styles as well as musicians. Arguably the best interpretations are the trio of Oscar Peterson offerings and one would have liked to hear more of these. Perhaps the only truly definitive version of the soundtrack missing here from a jazz perspective is possibly Sarah Vaughan’s ‘I feel pretty’, though it is readily available elsewhere and the singer also recorded a wonderful ‘Maria’ and regularly performed both songs live. The project is rounded off with a beautifully illustrated inner sleeve complete with original album covers, photos of the original film cast and a plethora of informative notes on the recordings.

Tim Stenhouse

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02nd Mar2015

Brian Parsons RIP

by ukvibe

Arrangements for the Funeral of Brian Parsons and the Celebrations following.

Brian’s Funeral will take place between 2.30pm – 3.30pm on Friday March 13th 2015 at Yardley Wood Crematorium, Yardley Road, South Yardley, B25 8NA (0121 708 1381).

The Celebration for Brian’s life will take place from 4pm onwards (till 2 am) at The Old Printworks, 506, Moseley Road, Balsall Heath, B12 9AH.

PLEASE SHARE AND FORWARD THIS INFO VIA ALL RELEVANT MEDIA TO ANY PEOPLE WHO MIGHT HAVE KNOWN BRIAN!

THERE ARE STILL PEOPLE WHO DO NOT KNOW… All Brian’s friends are welcome to either or both Funeral and Celebration.

Apologies for any cross-posting…

More details on FUNERAL:

The Funeral will be non-denominational. Feel free to wear bright clothes befitting Brian’s approach to life if you wish. Seats at the front will be reserved for Brian’s family, etc.

There will be a short samba parade to lead the hearse with Brian’s coffin to the doors of the Crematorium chapel. If you are planning to play in the parade, then please be at the Crematorium with instruments by 2pm ready to be in position by 2.15pm. (enquiries re: funeral samba procession to or via FB)

There will be a number of pre-arranged acoustic music acts performing during the Service as well a eulogy. There is no space for impromptu tributes musical or spoken in the Funeral now.* [*However, anybody else wishing to make a tribute (musical or spoken) to Brian, please contact Nigel Holt (see below) who is in charge of the Celebration at the Old Printworks (see below) as there will be provision for this during the early evening.]

Rather than flowers, you can make donations to the SIFA Fireside Charity (details at bottom of this announcement).

More details on the CELEBRATION:

The Old Printworks is at 506, Moseley Road in Balsall Heath, B12 9AH – almost opposite the old Public Baths. The entrance is via a courtyard to the right of the Ort Cafe. Please do not park in the courtyard. Mourners and friends of Brian are invited back to the Old Printworks from 4pm onwards to chat, relax and eat.

There will be Indian food available, but NO bar – so please bring your own drinks – soft or alcoholic – to the venue!

There will be DJed world music in the background throughout the afternoon and there will also be opportunities for people to do impromptu tributes, acoustic performances, poems etc should anyone wish to during the afternoon.

Later on (after 7pm) there will be a selection of DJs playing tropical music throughout the night and after 10pm live bands (forro, cumbia, samba) performing too. Party ends at 2am.

All enquiries relating to the Celebration (4pm – 2am at the Old Printworks) please direct to Nigel Holt ( or 0121 551 7725)

REQUEST: Anyone wishing to help on the morning of the 13th of March with preparing the venue for the Celebration (eg decorating, shifting things, etc!) please contact Nigel on the number or email above.

Also anyone wishing to do a tribute to Brian (speech, poem, short music performance) please contact Nigel Holt so he can work it into the early evening programme (approx 5-8). Thanks.

Details on donations instead of flowers:

The family has asked for any donations to be sent to a charity close to Brian’s heart, Sifa Fireside. Here is the link to the Donate page: www.justgiving.com/sifafireside/donate/

The Donate button will take you to the JustGiving page where you can donate and leave a message (eg. In memory of Brian Parsons, or similar), so they can identify the amount put in Brian’s name. You can click on the Home page if you want to read about SIFA Fireside. Alternatively people can Text “SIFA30 £x” to 70070.

Details on Coffin and Farewell Messages:

A bright yellow coffin has been custom-made for Brian(!) so it can be written upon, and will be ready on Saturday 7th March from 9am to 11.30am for people to write their name and perhaps a brief message on it, as it was a joke Brian had shared with Jay. The (empty) coffin will be at the Co-op Funeral Services, 1290 Pershore Road, Birmingham, B30 2XU. Please go at the allocated time as you won’t be able to pop into the undertakers at any other time.

For those who would like to send a tribute to go inside the coffin but cannot get to the undertakers, they can send them to the Co-op (in an envelope in Brian’s name, marked to the attention of Helen or Jodie) and the family will make sure they are put into the coffin. I will send a printout of all the tributes which have been posted on facebook or emailed to me.

The hearse will be decorated by the undertakers, with Bongo Go posters.

The funeral details will be posted in the Birmingham Mail on Friday 6th March 2015.

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01st Mar2015

Bettye Lavette ‘Worthy’ (Cherry Red) CD/LP + Deluxe Edition CD+DVD 4/5

by ukvibe

betty-lavetteOne of soul music’s true divas and with a career spanning some five decades, Bettye Lavette is in a rich vein of form at present and this latest offering, her fifth album in the last ten years, fits like a silky glove into the rootsy Americana side of soul that Mavis Staples and Candi Staton have carved out during the last decade. For those unfamiliar with Lavette’s work, she first came to prominence in the 1960s with some gritty southern soul 45s and then in the late 1970s scored an unexpected soulful disco hit before leaving mainstream activity. Enlisting Joe Henry as producer was a master stroke and this is where the roots combination of soul, country and blues comes into its own and unsurprisingly the album has been receiving heavy airplay on various musical radio formats. A well rounded selection of songs takes on board James Brown, Dylan, Lennon and McCartney and the Stones among others, yet still comes out sounding distinctively like Lavette alone. One of the writer’s favourite interpretations here is actually a Joe Henry composition, ‘Stop’, which is a groove-laden ditty with acoustic gospel-infused piano and an achingly slow accompaniment from the four piece band and Bettye Lavette excels on the soul-blues repertoire. Another winner is the final number, ‘Worthy’, which is earthy and the soulful delivery of the singer is matched only by the lovely guitar solo. While some might argue that Lavette’s vocal range is not what it once was, within the ballad and mid-tempo territory she is almost without equal and the subtle intimacy of her balladry is showcased wonderfully on the Beatles’ ‘Wait’, originally on the ‘Rubber Soul’ album. A funky rendition of Dylan’s 1990 album song ‘Unbelievable’ works well and only an overtly uptempo blues-rock take on the Stones’ ‘Complicated’ seems somewhat out of place here, but nonetheless adds to the varied choice on offer. There is even a dramatic a cappella version of Sinead O’Connor’s ‘I do not want what I haven’t got’. Devotees of Bettye Lavette will be interested to know that the deluxe edition of the CD also includes a full DVD of the singer live in concert at the Jazz Café in Camden in July 2014. 4/5

Tim Stenhouse

This came out of nowhere and has dominated my music room. It’s a wonderful return from a lady most of us remember from the 70’s, she provided us with some stunning soul tunes that have without doubt stood the test of time, and I feel this album will go onto claim its place too. Dark, mean and moody, very like those Doris Duke albums that surfaced in the early 70’s, she has developed a gritty tone to her voice too, all very Mavis Staples, and on the title track it all comes together – the best track on the album for me. The sound track is superb, provided by Joe Bellerose – drums & percussion, Doyle Bramwell II – guitar, Chris Bruce – bass and Patrick Warren – piano, Hammond and chamberlain. On some of the tracks the guitar is quite prominent and may well put off the passing buyer, but to the purist, this is a monumental welcome back, what a way to kick off the year. 5/5

Brian Goucher

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28th Feb2015

Lage Lund ‘Idlewild’ (Criss Cross Jazz) 5/5

by ukvibe

lage-lundThis album reminds me of why I love listening to jazz. Ok, I’ll confess, I am something of a trioholic. The thing about a great trio is this; the instruments used are almost incidental, they all have their own place, it’s the spirit, understanding and togetherness with which they are played that makes the difference. Paul Motian trio with Bill Frisell and Joe Lovano, Pat Metheny with Charlie Haden and Billy Higgins, Keith Jarrett with Jack Dejohnette and Gary Peacock; all prime examples of how a living, breathing, evolving trio work so well. I often find it taking me to places that little else can. It’s a trio thing, that’s all.
And so when a good one, a really good one comes along, it feels very special indeed. I take it to heart. And I feel the need to shout about it from the rooftops in the hope that someone shouts back “Yes!, I understand exactly what you mean!”
“Idlewild” is the latest album from Norwegian guitarist Lage Lund. Released on Criss Cross Jazz, Ben Street on bass and Bill Stewart on drums complete the trio. Before I talk about the music itself, I’d like to give a mention to Michael Marciano who engineered these sessions and mixed the recording for Criss Cross, along with producer Gerry Teekens. Put the headphones on and you’ll hear the bass just a little to the left, the drums a little to the right and the guitar up the middle. No swamping of sound or over clever mixing, you can picture the trio performing in front of you. Simplicity is sometimes the hardest thing to achieve. Quality of the highest order.

Lage Lund was born and raised in Skien, Norway, before relocating to Boston. Now living in New York he has quietly, yet relatively quickly, garnered an enviable reputation as a highly skilled, thoughtful and inventive guitarist, having performed with the likes of Seamus Blake, David Sanchez and Maria Schneider. As a leader he has released previous albums with Criss Cross, working with both Ben Street and Bill Stewart on various sessions. “I’ve worked with Ben for almost ten years now.” says Lund. “His control and creativity when it comes to harmony and voice leading, is absolute. He is a bit of a rogue element in any band, always up to something possibly dangerous, musically speaking. That gives the music a certain edge that can be very exciting and keeps you on your toes at all times.” To my mind this is very apparent throughout this recording, as is the incredibly natural and vibrant understanding between bassist Street and drummer Bill Stewart. As for Stewart, little introduction is needed. His work over the years with some of the Jazz greats have wowed the listener time and time again. For me, he is one of the few drummers who truly have their own sound and style. Lund himself picks up on this: “He comes up with these drum parts that sound so unmistakenly Stewartish in nature, yet so absolutely perfect. Nothing with Bill is ever contrived or forced.”

“Idlewild” is a stunning album. The trio’s performance here is cohesive, intuitive, bold, confident and exciting, with exceptional interplay between the musicians and a wonderful use of space and adventure that the trio platform provides. The album itself is a mix of Lund originals and well chosen standards. “Idlewild” the title track is a highly original piece, somewhat reminiscent of Pat Metheny’s “Story from a stranger” or an ECM era Bill Frisell composition. Lund cleverly uses an acoustic guitar to add some gorgeous textures and subtle colours that sit gently behind the main motif of the tune. As with many pieces on this release, the bass and drums provided by Street and Stewart are never quite what you might expect, always surprising you with a little unexpected twist and a bang on the money driving force. Another great example of this is heard on Bobby Hutcherson’s “Isn’t this my sound around me”, where Street and Stewart don’t just drive the tune, they practically reinvent it in their own style. Lund’s use of warm, chordal textures alongside some outstanding soloing is always well measured and thoughtful. His sound is so relaxed and at ease with what he’s doing it’s a joy to listen to. On “Mirrors”, a Joe Chambers composition, Lund serves up his melodic phrases and lush chords with a rare majestic beauty. This relaxed, lush feel is also prevalent on Lund’s intro pieces to “Chance” and “Rain” where he lets us hear the true clarity of his sound. “Rumspringa” reminds me of an old Marc Johnson tune in its easy-natured, sound of summer style. “Come rain or come shine” and “So in love” may be time-honoured tunes that any respectable jazz musician can recite by memory, but therein also lies the challenge; how to make something old new again. This trio have no problem with that, each bringing their own individual talents to the table and successfully combining them into a meeting of minds with a fresh and interesting take coming out the other side.

“Idlewild” is how a trio should sound… all three musicians contributing with sumptuous ease, sounding like they know each other well enough for insightful introspection, but still with an uncertain edge that sparks excitement and vitality. As with most great albums, repeated listening rewards the listener with even more delights than were evident on the first few plays. I’ve listened to Idlewild repeatedly for three weeks now, and it still keeps on giving. I so hope that this trio continue to develop and evolve and continue making music together for many years to come.

Mike Gates

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25th Feb2015

Clark Terry – Obituary

by ukvibe

Jazz trumpeter Clark Terry remembered – by Kevin G. Davy

clark-terry

The passing of the great jazz trumpeter Clark Terry marks the end of an era. He lived to the age of 94, and is perhaps the most recorded trumpeter in jazz history, having performed and recorded with all the jazz greats since before WWII. He was indeed the last major jazz figure of his generation.

Much has already been said about the stature of the man, as a leader, an artist, a consummate professional and master musician. Fellow trumpeters like myself, have followed jazz, and looked into the significance of the music and its African-American roots, and find a figure like Clark Terry, a benevolent and reassuring father-figure, who we have read, by all accounts, mentored other great musicians, including arguably the greatest jazz visionary of all, Miles Davis, both men coming from St Louis, Missouri, with Clark Terry being Miles Davis’ senior. His constancy over the decades and his discipline must have been so strong, and which he must have tried to instil in others, and also set such a high example.

His career spanned the various golden eras of jazz history, having worked with the greatest of jazz figures, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Billy Holiday, and many more.

Clearly also Clark Terry’s force of personality and ebullient, irrepressibly positive attitude, acted to elevate and inspire the musicians around him. He did work during the years of segregation pre-civil rights legislation in America, and along with his contemporary black musicians, suffered many indignities. These obstacles strengthened their resolve to continue the work. In his life he will have seen incredible changes.

It is well-documented that he was one of the first trumpet virtuosos, with a flawless technique in the execution of trumpet playing. Also it is known that he was one of the musicians known for “wood-shedding”, which was the term used to describe, long hours of diligent practice on a musical instrument. By his own account, he studied seriously from étude books, and was thorough on the technical, theoretical, and harmonic aspects, sight-reading, and the art of improvisation.

From a trumpet standpoint, he had everything. A wide variety of articulations in the tonguing techniques, in particular, legato and “doodle-tonguing”, which is a highly developed legato tonguing used within swing and improvisation. He was a master and pioneer of this technique.

Like Miles Davis after him, he had a great embouchure, which is the formation of the lips or “chops” and how they apply to the trumpet mouthpiece. Again on observation, he was flawless. It has to be emphasised that these elements were products of hard work. The “shedding”, and also the environment he was in, at the time. He was also able to play the trumpet equally well with either hand. He was ambidextrous. So in the end, he made it look easy. But we trumpeters know that it isn’t easy at all.

Clark Terry admitted that he enjoyed practicing and studying and was genuinely curious, and also keen to pass on that knowledge. So he was heavily involved in jazz education, conducting master classes, and music clinics around the world, managing to combine discipline with a good-humoured approach. Like Louis Armstrong, Clark Terry had a brilliant singing voice, and a distinctive tone and scat singing technique, working with contemporaries, such as Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald.

So these are just a short few notes on the great Clark Terry. He was gentleman, an exemplar, to his African-American community, and his music transcended his own community as Jazz music gained respect around the world, and emerged as a force. He broke boundaries with working in television, and commercial music as well, and broke the colour bar in that regard, thus paving the way for others to follow.

I’ve just spent some time listening to Clark Terry with alto saxophonist Donald Harrison and co., at the 2002 St Lucia Jazz festival. Incredibly, Clark Terry is over 80 years old in this concert, and his trumpet chops are as strong as ever. It is a brilliant gig, and shows him at the top of his game. His influence will continue.

Clark Terry – 14 December 1920 – 21 February 2015

Kevin G. Davy

Essential Websites:
http://clarkterry.com/

About Kevin G. Davy:
http://www.kevindavy.co.uk/
http://www.richmix.org.uk/whats-on/event/kevin-davys-monster-jam/

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23rd Feb2015

Charles McPherson ‘The Journey’ (Capri) 3/5

by ukvibe

charles-mcphersonIt is incredible to think that it was over fifty years ago that Charles McPherson was performing with Charles Mingus. Throughout the last few decades McPherson has been wielding his horn at concerts and recordings with the likes of Lionel Hampton, Jay McShann, Tom Harrell, Pat Martino, Wynton Marsallis and of course, enjoyed a long association with the aforementioned Mingus. Fast forward a generation or two and here we are, in the year of 2015, listening once again to the bebop alto of Mr McPherson. “The Journey” came about following a fortuitous meeting at the Colarado jazz club “Drizzle” in 2014. It was there that McPherson met saxophonist Keith Oxman. This musical encounter with Oxman led to the sessions we have here and with pianist Chip Stephens, bassist Ken Walker and drummer Tod Reid, the quintet is complete. One thing is for sure, McPherson has not lost his touch. Sharp, lyrical solos from both saxophonists are a feature of the album, especially on the swinging “Bud Like” and the opening track, a Chip Stephens composition; “Decathexis from Youth (For Cole)”. McPherson is keen to point out how the presence of another saxophonist adds tone and colour and of Oxman he says; “he is extremely creative and has a spirituality in his playing with a depth of feeling that is rare”. A more subtle side to the quintet can be heard on some of the slower numbers, including the ballads “I should care” – a standard favoured by Charlie Parker, and “Manhattan Nocturne”, expertly performed here with a warm maturity and a free-flowing elegance. It’s great to hear McPherson – now in his mid 70’s – still performing and giving it his all. “The Journey” may lack some of the fire and intensity of yester-year; it doesn’t have those heart stopping moments associated with some of the great bebop performances of our time, but none the less it still makes for a very enjoyable listen.

Mike Gates

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19th Feb2015

Stephanie Nicole ‘Soulutionary One’ (BBE) 4/5

by ukvibe

stephanie-nicoleSoulutionary One opens with a hypnotic track: “Diligence”. I find myself drifting. The voice on this song reminds me of someone… tones reminiscent of Siouxsie Sioux, but then they evaporate, Stephanie Nicole’s voice emerges triumphantly smooth, sweet and captivating. Soulutionary One is the new album by California-based singer-songwriter Stephanie Nicole. It is simply revolutionary. It awakens the soul, it speaks in a universal language. Stephanie’s “About” page on her website quotes: “All art is but imitation of nature” – Lucius Seneca. We have to bear this in mind, it is an important message and it is clear within the album. Listening not just hearing. Encompassing all levels, Ms Nicole manages to offer the listener an incredibly innovative album. Oustanding tracks, like the title track and “Be Strong” are only a few examples. It is beautiful to hear those soft notes, mellow and yet decisive, sink into one’s head and heart. Soulutionary One is too intoxicating and needs to be played over and over. Be Strong is moving and tender. And then “Maha Meditation” follows, 3 minutes and 41 seconds of pure bliss and intriguing sound. One is left wanting more.

Stephanie Nicole’s collaboration with producer and writer Craig Perkins, aka Classroom Craig, needs re-emphasizing. The perfect combination, it needs to stay and be taken forward so we will all be getting incredible works from Ms Nicole, always, like this very last album. One can perceive several influences in her music, rock, classical, jazz, and the always present message of the spiritual: never to be forgotten. Love, another universal theme present on the album, never to be taken for granted. “Vow of nevers” – a poem in itself, reduces one to tears. “Soulutionary One” deserves the listener’s complete attention. One will find delving into Ms Nicole’s world over and over. Play it in full and until it wears out. Absolute gem.

“I have been deeply affected by the healing of the arts” – Stephanie Nicole

Erminia Yardley

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18th Feb2015

Zhenya Strigalev’s Smiling Organizm ‘Robin Goodie’ (Whirlwind) 4/5

by ukvibe

zhenya-strigalevReturning with his second album for Whirlwind Recordings, alto saxophonist Zhenya Strigalev has served up one of the year’s most interesting releases to date. According to Strigalev, “Robin Goodie” is dedicated to the Russian’s time spent in England and is loosely based around the adventures of Robin Hood. “I haven’t read the adventures of Robin Hood,” muses Strigalev, “but I’ve seen the film! There’s a lot of nature, humour, heroism, strong personalities, love, rebelliousness and of course some stupidity…” And that could well sum up “Robin Goodie” too. Strigalev’s band of Merry Men (aka Smiling Organizm) do an awesome job of bringing his quirky, slightly eccentric music to life. No b-list actors here, the album features Strigalev on alto sax, Ambrose Akinmusire; trumpet, Taylor Eigsti; piano, Tim LeFebvre; bass guitar, Larry Grenadier; double bass and Eric Harland; drums.

A concept album of sorts, “Robin Goodie” is a highly original blend of straight-ahead jazz, grooves and beats. Rooted in bebop with a very modern twist, Strigalev’s compositions shine brightly. Joyfully imaginative with an edge to them that seems to border on insanity before pulling back from the outer limits to calmly sit down and have a quiet cup of tea; the tunes twist and turn, barely allowing us time to think. The rhythm section nail things down throughout, with the gifted and sought-after double bass of Larry Grenadier, fusing well with the electric bass and subtle electronics of Tim Lefebvre. Eric Harland’s performance here cannot be underestimated as he seamlessly slips from simple grooves into hard swinging, multi layered rich landscapes of sound. Meanwhile, Eigsti’s lush piano harmonies allow for some eclectic and dazzling soloing from both Strigalev on alto and Akinmusire on trumpet.

If the individual tracks show some excellent variation, with wonderful changes of pace and plenty of surprises along the way, then I would have to say that as a whole, the album has a wilful eccentricity to it that genuinely makes me smile. It leaves me wanting more. In Strigalev I think we have a musician that could potentially be writing and performing innovative, exciting jazz for many years to come. UK Vibe will be interviewing Zhenya Strigalev tonight and reviewing his gig at Ronnie Scott’s – Watch this space… we look forward to hearing what he has to say.

Mike Gates

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17th Feb2015

Words by Sun Ra

by ukvibe

sun-ra

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