Album Review Page – Sponsored By Jazz Views
Gaby Hernandez: ‘Spirit Reflection’ : Album of Week Monday 12th June 2017 RedTrain Express
On 9th June Mr Bongo present Spirit Reflection – the third album from Los Angeles singer and musician Gaby Hernandez.Latin, folk, electronica and jazz blend seamlessly on this sparkling, dreamy, wonder-filled masterpiece. Blissful layers of instrumentation, vocal harmonies and folkloric percussion intertwine with west coast feel to create a unique, beautiful and multi-layered album.
Spirit Reflection features a stellar line-up of LA talent; jazz star Kamasi Washington, Stuart Howard (AKA Lapalux), Kelis and Gaslamp killer collaborator Dexter Story, plus Ninja Tune, Plug Research and Soul Jazz artist Carlos Niño, Miguel Atwood-Ferguson and Gabriel Reyes-Whittaker all accompany Gaby, with stunning results.Even before Spirit Reflection had been finished, the demo mixes caught the ear and gained the support of Gilles Peterson, Lefto, Toshio Matsuura (U.F.O.) and J-Rocc (Beat Junkies).
Born, raised and based in Los Angeles and of Chilean descent, Gaby Hernandez has been writing and recording since 2001. She was a founding member of the ‘creative music ensemble’ Build An Ark alongside others including Carlos Niño, Dexter Story and Dwight Trible.Gaby was the only vocalist on Teebs’ debut Brainfeeder release Ardour. She made major contributions to AmmonContact’s Ninja Tune releases New Birth and With Voices, plus The Life Force Trio’s Plug Research album Living Room. She was also the vocalist on Dimlite’s Outernational Duet – released as part of his highly acclaimed Sonar Kollektiv longplayer This Is Embracing.
Hernandez was invited by Mia Doi Todd to sing on the Jonathan Wilson produced song Canto de Iemanja, which was included on Todd’s City Zen record Cosmic Ocean Ship and the Red Hot + Rio 2 compilation, which also featured Beck, Seu Jorge, Aloe Blacc, David Byrne and Madlib.
Among her main musical comrades is the prolific multi-instrumentalist, composer and producer Dexter Story, for whom Hernandez sang on the track Water Bearer from his LP Seasons, on Kindred Spirits
David and Graham from Mr Bongo met Gaby and Carlos Nino at the end of their hugely successful Arthur Verocai album launch and rare record sale at the Rappcats venue in LA. “Gaby and Carlos passed us a copy of Spirit Reflection. It immediately grabbed us and we couldn’t stop listening to it. When we got back to the UK we got in contact straight away and signed the album. We’re very proud to be releasing it”, says Graham Luckhurst.
Olli Hirvonen : New Helsinki
Olli Hirvonen is a dynamic and virtuosic Finnish-born, New York based guitarist. Winner of the Socar Montreux Jazz Electric Guitar competition in 2016 (the jury was presided over by John McLaughlin), Olli releases his second album, New Helsinki on Edition Records. New Helsinki is an album that promises to ignite the attention of the international media and fans worldwide with its deft infectious melodies, irresistibly bold grooves and intense inventive soloing. A musician with a larger vision and a commanding spirit, Olli Hirvonen, is a supremely gifted guitarist and composer. With New Helsinki Hirvonen has thrown down his calling card and demonstrated the promise that will inevitably thrust his career and profile in an upward trajectory towards international acclaim.
Presenting Wendy Kirkland : Piano Divas
The album features the talents of Wendy Kirkland, well known in the Midlands, North and beyond as a brilliant talent on piano and additionally an excellent singer, composer and arranger.
The idea of a show featuring the work of pianist singers such as Nina Simone, Eliane Elias, Diana Krall, Blossom Dearie came from the meeting of minds of the band members; but who could produce such a performance? There are few pianists in jazz today that can step up to the mark of singing whilst playing and rather than simply accompanying themselves, can exhibit superb technical and harmonic ability at the piano. Wendy Kirkland is that pianist singer.
Joined by the superb guitar talents of Pat Sprakes who was asked by Darius Brubeck to join his band on tour in Nottingham; Paul Jefferies who is a founder member of Gypsy Fire and Ben Holder Quartet; Stevie Smith who is a consummate professional drummer who has drummed with Blur on their iconic 90s tours. Between them they have performed with jazz luminaries including Jim Mullen, Bobby Shew, Dave O’ Higgins, Jean Toussaint, Bruce Adams, Alan Barnes, The Matthew Herbert Big Band, Tony Kofi, Nigel Price, Phil Robson.
The album was recorded over 2 days, the 13th and 14th of February, 2017 at Steinwayrecording.co.uk in Fulbeck, Notts which is owned by Spencer Cozens, keyboard player, arranger and MC for Joan Armatrading and John Martyn. Situated in an idyllic village, the studio boasts a fabulous Steinway piano which is kept at peak temperature and humidity by natural air circulation rather than air conditioning.
“Mellow and stylish” – Clive Davis, The Times
“This first recording could just mark the beginning of much deserved recognition.” – Alan Barnes
“Wendy is proof that great musicians are alive and kicking all around the UK and that they don’t have to be products of our music colleges to create high quality, entertaining music.” – Jim Mullen
“Relaxed attitude & superb musicianship – I always look forward to the next time!” – Roger Beaujolais
The album is out on Blue Quaver Records 24th March and is for sale on Bandcamp and CDB aby for download https://wendykirkland.bandcamp.com/album/piano-divas https://www.cdbaby.com/cd/wendykirklandquartet
Lets Get Swinging: Modern Jazz In Belgium (Released April 2017)
When thinking of jazz music, few would mention Belgium’s association with the genre. However, it was one of the first countries to embrace the form when it arrived in Europe a hundred years ago, and has yielded many internationally known jazz musicians and composers since.
A new, twenty-track compilation entitled ‘Let’s Get Swinging: Modern Jazz in Belgium 1950-1970’, released 7th April via Sdban/N.E.W.S. focuses on a twenty-year period of modern jazz in the little kingdom, and features the leading players from that era including guitarist Philip Catherine, saxophonist Jack Sels, multi-instrumentalist Jacques Pelzer and vibraphone player, percussionist and vocalist ‘Fats’ Sadi Lallemand.
Pre-1950s, Belgian jazz lovers had been starved of jazz music when it was banned from public life, going underground during the German occupation of WWII. However, jazz would soon go through a radical change when US jazz musicians such as Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and Thelonious Monk developed a new style called bebop or modern jazz. The big bands disappeared in favour of the small groups, the rhythms became more complex and improvisation was the new keyword. In Belgium, the epicentre of jazz shifted from Brussels to the industrial city of Liège in the east of the country. Inspired by the new sounds of Bird and Diz, a group of youngsters including Bobby Jaspar, René Thomas, Jacques Pelzer, ‘Fats’ Sadi Lallemand, Jack Sels and Francy Boland, joined each other in jam sessions and formed modern jazz combos.
But the complexities of modern jazz made larger audiences turn their backs on this new form of jazz and with very few working opportunities for the modern jazzmen in Belgium, most moved abroad to persue a career.
During the 50s, composer and pianist Francy Boland managed to distinguish himself in the United States, where he worked with the bands of Count Basie and Benny Goodman, and with jazz pianist Mary Lou Williams.
Bobby Jaspar remained a wonderful “cool” soloist on flute and tenor sax. In New York, he played, among others, with J.J. Johnson and Miles Davis. Shortly before his untimely death in 1963, he set up a last vigorous quintet with his friend and guitarist René Thomas from Liege.
Guitarist René Thomas also crossed the Atlantic and immersed himself in the Paris jazz scene of the early to mid-fifties, where he quickly became notable due to his distinct style, heavily influenced by Jimmy Raney, and ended up recording with Sonny Rollins in 1957. His most loyal partner and friend was alto saxophonist and flautist Jacques Pelzer who, after the adventure with the Bob Shots, imposed himself in this decade as an outstanding musician of European jazz.
Vibraphone player, percussionist and vocalist Sadi Lallemand, nicknamed ‘Fats’, was another Belgian who took up residency in Paris. He recorded with Django Reinhardt in 1953 and the same year he debuted as a leader with Fats Sadi’s Combo, an album that was even released by the legendary Blue Note label in the USA. Sadi was a much in demand sideman, playing with Lucky Thompson, Martial Solal, Jimmy Deuchar and many more. In the sixties, he was one of the core members of the Kenny Clarke-Francy Boland Big Band and often worked for Belgian radio and television.
At the end of the 1950s, guitarist Philip Catherine was one of the leading young musicians who came to prominence on the Belgian jazz scene. Even before his twentieth year, he jammed at la Rose Noir, played at the festivals of Comblain and Ostend and toured Europe with Lou Bennett. After 1965 he also started to compose.
Even though the most talented Belgian jazz musicians lived abroad during the golden era of modern jazz, Belgium was not a complete jazz wasteland. Clubs like La Rose Noire and the Blue Note were the go-to places for touring musicians seeking an after-work jam session.
In Antwerp, the jazz scene was dominated by saxophone player Jack Sels, who was also very productive working for Belgian Radio and Television. A highlight in this small discography is a recording with Lucky Thompson from 1959.
In 1959, the jazz festival of Comblain-La-Tour became the annual jazz center of Europe, and featured concerts by American jazz stars like Bill Evans, John Coltrane and Cannonball Adderley. With tens of thousands of visitors at almost each edition, the little village of Comblain-La-Tour was dubbed ‘The Jazz Capital of Europe’. In 1961, Comblain outdid the Newport Jazz Festival with a crowd of 30,000 jazz enthusiasts, giving the most famous jazz festival in the world a run for its money. It would continue until 1966.
Jacques Pelzer went on to work in Italy and toured with Chet Baker while René Thomas set up a new quartet with Bobby Jaspar, and played with Pelzer and Lee Konitz at European festivals, before falling back into a lean period in 1966. Still, despite these tough times for jazz, new clubs opened: The Blue Note and Pol’s Jazz Club in Brussels, the Jazz Inn in Liege, and the Jazz Clu Hnita in Heist-Op-Den-Berg.
Due to the absence of its main players during the heydays of modern jazz, Belgium will not be remembered for a unique jazz sound or an extensive discography. However, the little country produced a number of highly talented musicians who played lead roles on the international jazz scene. ‘Let’s Get Swinging: Modern Jazz in Belgium 1950-1970’ retraces their steps and presents some of their finest works.
1. Jack Sels – African Dance
2. Jon Eardley – Subtroyan Influence
3. René Thomas-Bobby Jaspar Quintet – Bernie’s Taste
4. Jacques Pelzer And His Young Stars – Don’t Smile
5. Philip Catherine & Robert Pernet – Grelots
6. Francy Boland – Dark Eyes
7. Saxorama & Jack Sels – Minor 5
8. Herman Sandy Quartet – Digging Chick
9. Fats Sadi Quartet – Ensadinado
10. Bobby Jaspar Quintet – Clarinescapade
11. The Clouds – Cecilia
1. Lucky Thompson & Jack Sels Sextet – Minor Works
2. Francy Boland Trio – Night Lady
3. Bobby Jaspar – Coraline
4. Jacques Pelzer Sextet – There’ll Never be Another You
5. René Goldstein And His Group – Witch Of Salem
6. The Clouds – Hall’s Blues
7. René Thomas Et Son Modern Group – Get Happy
8. Jacques Pelzer Quartet – Work Song
9. The St. Tropez Jazz Octet – Let’s Get Swinging
Out on the 7th April 2017 through Sdban/N.E.W.S.
SDBANCD07: Deluxe Edition 2CD.
SDBANLP07: Gatefold 2LP on 180gr.
Pete Canter Sky Ensemble – Strange Bird
Described by listeners as “dreamy and joyful” Strange Bird is an album of Pete Canters highly original, folk-inflected jazz compostions for cello and jazz quartet. Melodic, lyrical and essentially groovy with open modal harmonies, strong rhythms and great tunes, the album features fine melodic playing from Pete on soprano saxophone, inventive and exciting piano solos by emerging talent Matt Johns, gorgeous cello lines played by Lucy Welsman and the twin powerhouse of Jim Rintoul on double bass and Garry Evans on drums.
Strange Bird builds on the success of Pete’s two previous well received albums of original jazz “Ununbium” and “Lightflight” – both of which were awarded 3-star reviews by Jazz Magazine.
The CD is available direct from Pete Canter – Purchase details here
Graham J – Wild Is
On his debut album Wild Is…Graham explores elements of jazz, blues, classical and alternative contemporary. The avant-garde, almost vaudevillian, presentation underlies themes of evolution and transformation which define the work. The strictures of Grahams extensive operatic career as a rarely found tenore contraltino, though strongly acknowledged, are overthrown by his broader breadth of influences including Nino Simone, Shirley Bassey and Karen Carpenter.
Barry Guy – The Blue Shroud – Review Reprinted with Permission from Jazz Views
Given the imminent publication, in the UK, of the report from the Chilcott Inquiry into the Iraq war, the release of this composition from Barry Guy is very timely indeed. The composition was inspired by the events surrounding US Secretary of State Colin Powell addressing the UN Security Council to seek their support for military action against the Saddam regime. Powell was originally due to speak in front of a tapestry of Picasso’s ‘Guernica’ but the cameramen felt that this was too busy a backdrop and requested that it was covered. A blue UN cloth was hung over the tapestry to make filming easier. However, the symbolism of covering an artwork depicting the horrors of war in order to make it easier to film a statesman seek support for a war is not lost on Guy. The composition uses the words of Irish poet Kerry Hardie (written as a description of, and meditation on, the images in the painting) as its recitative, with Yannatou sometimes speaking and sometimes singing the words. ‘Guernica’ was a small town in Spain that was bombed by Nazi’s at the invitation of General Franco, and Picasso’s painting presents a troubling image of the suffering that this produced. The centre page of the liner notes has a great photograph of the orchestra playing in front of a projection of this painting.
Barry Guy is as well known on the improvised jazz scene as he is in Baroque music circles, with a long and successful career in both camps. The composition bridges these two genres superbly to produce a deeply compelling piece. Throughout the composition echoes of the ‘Agnes Dei’ from Bach’s ‘Mass in B Minor’ appear (with a full rendition of this at the close), together with extracts from Biber’s ‘Mystery Sonata’. These extracts are played as straight classical, orchestral pieces with appropriate instrumentation and no attempt to ‘jazz up’ or interfere with them. Elsewhere, Dwyer’s flamenco guitar playing perfectly mirrors the poem’s themes to create a stirring sense of the fear and unease in Guernica; a sense which is elaborated by the free playing of the orchestra members in other sections (inspired by the superb playing by Fernandez) of the orchestra as the piece develops. The opening ‘Prelude’ showcases Pursglove’s impassioned trumpet voluntary, gradually developing through his drawn out playing (with what sounds like impressive circular breathing in a live recording) into the orchestra creating a stirring, rumbling introduction to the piece. This dissolves into the first of Dwyer’s flamenco pieces, accompanied by Guy playing mournful plucked and bowed bass lines before Yannatou sings the opening lines of the poem. As the piece develops, Yannatou deviates from the poem, either making strangled noises of impotent rage or quietly intoning words like ‘Resolution 1441’, ‘weapons of mass destruction’, ‘human sources’.
While Guy has built his reputation on a wide range of musical styles and his compositions for the London Jazz Composer’s Orchestra are well worth listening to, this piece is far and away his best work. A powerful message and an even more powerful example of integrating a range of musical styles into a seamless whole that gets better with each listen.