Monday night was Freedom night at Vortex Jazz Club and a very good one it was too. It's about a year on since I first met someone who has become a muse of mine, Marta Capponi, and she was back in fine voice. There was so much talent on offer and the old place was packed to the gunwales. The Vortex community, of musicians, fans and volunteers (and let's not forget who keeps the institution running) come together in a celebration of music made in the moment, of the moment and for the moment. Bless them all and everyone of them. And a big thanks to Orphy Vibes Robinson, Cleveland Watkiss and Tori Handsley (pictured) for making it happen.
A great gig at Ronnies tonight, with the up-and-coming talents of Binker & Moses, followed by headliners Jaimeo Brown Transendence, which is sure to be one of the highlights of 2017 when the dust has settled on the year.
I know there's always a tendency to think that the last gig you attended was "the best", memories of those tasty nights from the previous eleven months start to fade, condemning us to live in a narrow window of time starting with the day before yesterday and what you're planning to have for tea tonight. But no, this genuinely was one of the gigs of the year for me. And it's because they just get it, they know instinctively, or from the famed 10,000 hours of practise, what works, what connects us together in a community bound up with the love of music, the only language we humans cannot fully live without.
Hail to the Sumochief! They were performing at Mau Mau Bar for Jazz re:freshed.
A great end to the 5th year of Jazz In The Round, as John Fordham was reviewing for The Guardian, I have borrowed part of his review.
"The three-set show began with a Robert Glasper-influenced opener from promising young Trinity Laban pianist James Beckwith, with bassist Joe Downard and the meticulously propulsive Ben Brown on drums. Double-bass virtuoso Michael Janisch followed with a rare and dramatic unaccompanied exposition of percussive detonations, cello-like grace and huge-toned pizzicato lines. Hawkins and Mitchener opened with You Thrill Me, a favourite vehicle for 60s experimental singer Patty Waters, unfolded by Mitchener in a cool jazz-ballad murmur, but soon vaulting into precisely stuttery chatter and long pure tones, while Hawkins sustained a free-jazzy piano stream, and powerful bassist Neil Charles a mix of pizzicato throbs and growling bowed sounds. A soft groove from drummer Steve Davis introduced a steadily striding vocal theme, from Mitchener a torrent of bird-sounds and pugnacious exclamations, a graceful drift through the seductive poetry of 13th-century Persian mystic Rumi, and a scintillating flat-out vocal inventory of life’s detritus (“Ticket stubs, shoes that don’t fit, kitchen utensils you have two of”) over a catchy bassline. It was constantly surprising and superbly executed cutting-edge music built on winningly familiar foundations."
John Fordham - Tuesday 29 November 2016 13.18 GMT
On the last night of the London Jazz Festival, 2016, I was lucky enough to be back in Ronnie Scotts in the company of the bluesey, funky, guitar virtuoso Oz Noy. The band kicked off with the badass "Get Down", a monster of a tune which shows off this band's talents to the full. With a drum masterclass from Keith Carlock, this was indeed a gig to savour. Nice one Oz!
A great night at Ronnies with the Charlie Hunter band. Apparently, it had been a few years since Charlie had graced the floor of the club, but man was his band cooking last night. Funny, virtuosic, with a funky beat never far away, a top night all round. In the band, Charlie Hunter - Guitar, Bobby Previte - Drums, Yelfris Valdes - Trumpet, Kieran McLeod - Trombone.
Shots of openers Mark Fletcher's band first up, with great saxophonist Mornington Lockett.
A massive double header at Ronnie Scotts tonight. In the main gig, the wonderful Kurt Elling and band. Kurt is a marvellous entertainer, raconteur and passionate speech maker on the current American political scene (it being only two days since the US presidential election). But that voice, that’s what we came for and you’ll no doubt already know about that. In Kurt’s band: bass, Clark Sommers; keys, Stu Mindeman; drums, Ulysses Owens; and last, but certainly not least, John McLean.
Up in the late gig, a new name to me, but one to watch out for again and one of a select bunch of musicians who bring the wondrous sounds of the harp into the jazz club, Brandee Younger. Brandee was leading her trio of Mats Sandahl, bass, and Marc Ayza, drum, in a tribute to the great Alice Coltrane and Dorothy Ashby. A great night in this most hallowed of venues.
UK-based outdoor enthusiasts, check out www.walkingworld.com. It’s full of user-submitted walks of between 3 and 12 miles apiece, the shots here are from walk # 4640, in the Kentish north Downs, around Crockham Hill. It was a sullen, moody afternoon today, but with a knapsack on your back, hot sweet tea in a Thermos as fuel, a couple of bananas (don’t toss the skin, they take two years to decompose), boots on, there’s nothing like it for blowing the cobwebs out and setting up the appetite for a good dinner later. You can stop for a pint half way round. Luckily we missed the rain, which came in cold squalls minutes after making it back to the car.
Jenny Hval at Oslo. This was an extraordinary gig. I loved her music since I heard it by chance in Rough Trade East when I popped in on the way back from Beigel Bake. I do love a performance, and this pulled out all the stops. Her silent partner was an essential part of it, underlining the emotional heft of the music with strange movements and dance. Brilliant night. One of the best of the year.
My cup runneth over. Having fallen in love with this band around 1975, it's been great to see them alive and kicking twice in the same year, over 4 decades later. Bringing their funktastic groove to a new generation, ladies and gentlmen, Kokomo!
I was over the moon to be asked back to shoot another night at Ronnie Scott's, with the lovely Stacey Kent and band. I feel truly blessed - there's a unique atmosphere in there, with the soft red lamps creating a wonderfully intimate, close atmosphere and the sound quality is always top drawer. It was the first time I'd seen Stacey live (I hope it won't be the last). I hope the shots measure up to how good the gig was.
The wonderful Stacey Kent and band at Ronnie Scott's. Wicked night.
The return of Jazz In The Round after the summer recess - and what a cracker it was: first up was the Ezra Collective (pictured below), showcasing some the rising talent of the next generation; then on solo piano was Nikki Yeoh; headlining was the Tori Freestone Trio
Maisha at Mau Mau. Don't go to Mau Mau enough (unfortunately, it's a long way from home), but to see an exciting new ensemble, including Nubya Garcia (sax) and Shirley Tetteh (guitar), going out of one's way is well worth it.