Fascinating Things : Issue 75

Well chums there’s been an extremely eclectic mix of things in this week so without further ado lets look at some of the exciting new music coming your way….

Los Angeles-based Cleopatra Records and artist-run cassette label Practical Records present Rachel Mason‘s new album ‘Das Ram’ LP on November 18th…

Avec Le Soleil Sortant De Sa Bouche release their second studio album “Pas pire pop, I Love You So Much on January 20, 2017″…

Keeping up my Antipodean musical obsession I was recently contacted about Fraudband. They are a duo from Melbourne with their own, rhythm based take on psychedelic-rock. They steer clear of the typical sounds within this genre by leaning on influences such as Sonic Youth, Dirty Three and The Birthday Party and they sound like this…

Berlin-based trio The History of Colour TV is back with new music, presenting ‘Wreck’, the first single from their forthcoming third album ‘Something Like Eternity’. You can stream the single here.


Hiphop pioneers Dälek will be touring this month for a week of live shows, following on from the release of their 2016 comeback LP, Asphalt For Eden (Profound Lore), the first new record from the NYC trio since 2009. Ahead of these shows, they have released a brand new track, ‘Molten’, and the wind-tunnel production and furious wordsmith delivery that have become the group’s calling card have been amped up to reflect the song’s theme… dates are

22/11 – The Louisiana, Bristol
23/11 – Saint Lukes, Glasgow
24/11 – Chunk, Leeds
25/11 – Thomas House, Dublin
26/11 – Corsica Studios, London
27/11 – Islington Mill, Sunny Salford

The Comet is Coming have released a new single, “Final Eclipse”, which you can stream and purchase now via Bandcamp. It is the first new music from the three-piece since the release of their critically acclaimed, Mercury Prize-nominated LP Channel The Spirits, though the band had also shared some remixes since it’s release. They are playing Band on the Wall on December 11th.

Lawrence English, composer, artist and Room40 curator returns with a brand new record “Cruel Optimism” on  17th February 2017, here’s a taster….

Camilla George is set to release “Isang” on Ubuntu Music early next year. This will be her debut album – the MOBO nominated saxophonist, composer and teacher is already an established musician on the jazz circuit ….not sure if this track is on the album but I’m having to use this rather than the ones I’ve been sent as they are can’t be shared at this stage. What i’ve heard sounds excellent so watch out for this artist…

Dallas shoegazers Bloodhounds On My Trail have released a single ‘Places Like This’ and announced  their ‘Haunted Isles’ EP….

Southern Lord are  reviving the music of Philadelphia’s lost punk heroes, Ruin. Long considered a treasured local delicacy of the city’s earlier hardcore scene, Ruin released two albums during their original run, 1984’s He-Ho and 1986’s Fiat Lux, both of which will be combined for a vinyl release this December.  The LP will see release on December 9th and pre orders are now live via the Southern Lord store.

Photo Credit : Dan Long

Canada’s budding Label Obscura has announced that it will release a limited run vinyl reissue of ‘The Coastaline Fire’ LP – the final album by Ontario indie rockers Chore before they disbanded in the early 2000s. All tracks have been remastered for vinyl. It’s a damn fine album and is well worth checking out…

And finally, Friday 18th sees the release of the latest collaboration from Ian Moss and Andy Quayle as Moss Skellington. Following on from two well received singles the duo have now completed their first album “The Lump”. Characterised by Moff’s unique musical vision and Ian’s sharp polemic and biting wit with words, the album brings together two iconoclasts to create a unique musical vision. With subjects as diverse as posh food, murderers and sibling relationships the album provides a heady mix and includes the magnum opus the 17 minute “The Mouse Engine” which was premiered in Leeds earlier this year. The album was mixed by Space Museum who also contributed to the title track.

You’ll be able to download the album from midnight 18th November via Bandcamp




Jazz Thoughts #003

I guess the big question is can you mix serial electronica (Phillip Glass, John Adams or Steve Reich with synths) and jazz? John Surman has managed in the past and Anenon appears to have achieved that with his new release “Petrol” which, on balance, is more electronica than jazz, but there is enough saxophone in the mix to give it the legitimacy of the jazz label.

The new album by Ryan Keberle & Catharsis is now available via Greenleaf.  “Azul Infinito” features Ryan’s longtime band sounding great playing original compositions and songs by Pedro Giraudo, Sebastian Cruz, and Ivan Lins. As with the Anenon the emphasis is on serial repetition but this is a far busier affair with some exceptional contrapuntal interaction, maddening time signatures and changes and impressive playing.  Chilean singer Camila Meza is stunning throughout. There’s a strong South American vibe with some strong jazz structures. It’s a New York sound with an international feel.

“Amorandom” is the new major international release from Finnish pianist and composer, Aki Rissanen, described as a ‘rising star around Europe’ by Downbeat Magazine in 2015.
With Aki Rissanen piano, Antti Lötjönen bass and Teppo Mäkynen drums, this is quality music with a vital feel. Perhaps the long awaited successor to EST?

“One” is the new, highly energetic studio album from Tim Garland. Working with his regular collaborators Jason Rebello, Asaf Sirkis and Ant Law, the sax maestro has dug back into his past and re-examined his early interest in jazz-rock styles. With “One” Tim explores many of the influences that have guided him from the beginning, such as jazz-rock (his Canterbury roots); saxophone players from both sides of the Atlantic; the Celtic guitar music from long running project Lammas; the Latin and Spanish inflections that are so deeply a part of Chick Corea’s music; and a variety of rhythmic patterns learned from drum maestros Bill Bruford and Asaf Sirkis. It is released on 6th May 2016.

Pianist Gwilym Simcock will be playing some interesting a varied concerts this Spring ahead of the exciting tour planned with jazz legend guitarist Pat Metheny. Pat has picked Gwilym for his new quartet with Linda Oh (bass) and Antonio Sanchez (drums) to tour all round the world from May this year. Some of the Metheny dates have been announced, but many are still in the pipeline so I suggest you  keep checking his website for more information as it comes in.

Simock will be playing a solo concert at the Institut Francais in South Kensington on Saturday 19th March as part of their “All About Piano” Festival.  On 6th April Gwilym will be back at the Village Underground in Shoreditch with the City of London Sinfonia playing new arrangements of Miles Davis’ pieces from Sketches of Spain, Porgy and Bess, Miles Ahead and Quiet Nights and performing a new commission of arrangements of works by Bach. He will also be on tour in France with Celine Bonacina’s Crystal Quartet promoting her new album Crystal Rain. In the UK Gwilym will appear with top violinist Thomas Gould both at Kings Place and Chester Festival with a new Baroque project. On Thursday 28th April Gwilym will be at the St. James’s Theatre in Victoria with singer Norma Winstone MBE and just before he heads off on tour with Pat Metheny he will play three nights at the Pizza Express on 1/2/3 May. Details of these concerts will be announced shortly. More information on Gwilym’s website: gwilymsimcock.com

Snarky Puppy collected their second Grammy Award for ‘Best Contemporary Instrumental Album’ for their album “Sylva” with Metropole Orkest. While the collective take stock and look to their next project, Band on the Wall, Manchester presents shows with Snarky Puppy members across the UK this Spring as they tour their various solo projects. Keyboard player Bill Laurance plays at Band on the Wall, on 8th March and at The Wardrobe, Leeds on the 9th. Guitarist Mark Lettieri plays Band on the Wall, Hare & Hounds Kings Heath , XOYO, London and The Hope & Ruin, Brighton in April. And organist Cory Henry presents The Revival Project at St Philip’s Church, Salford, Union Chapel, London and Colston Hall, Bristol in May. Snarky Puppy aren’t the only Band on the Wall affiliated artist to have success at this year’s Grammys – American jazz bassist Christian McBride won ‘Best Improvised Jazz Solo’ award. Band on the Wall has hosted McBride twice previously and he returns to the venue alongside fellow bassist Edgar Meyer on 22nd March.




Jazz Thoughts #002 – Charles and Bill

Charles Lloyd begins his latest album with a fascinating  eight minute version of Bob Dylan’s “Masters Of War”. The veteran saxophonist has brought together a new line-up for the release on Blue Note records. The notable addition to the ranks is guitarist Bill Frisell, who also has a new album out, more of which later.  Lloyd has used the rhythm section of his New Quartet outfit, bassist Reuben Rogers and drummer Eric Harlan for this album but also regular Frisell collaborator, pedal steel guitarist Greg Leisz. The album opener comes across more like a Frisell album track than a typical Lloyd performance, being reminiscent of something from the guitarists late 90s albums.

By the second track we are back in familiar Lloyd post bop territory, with parallels to Charles’ work with Gábor Szabó in the Chico Hamilton band in the 1960s, and indeed the tune  “Of Course, Of Course,” originally appeared on Lloyd’s 1965 Columbia album of the same name with Szabó, Ron Carter and Tony Williams. Another previously recorded track the traditional lullaby “La Llorona” is back into Frisell territory and then again album flips back to the Lloyd sound with another folk song, the dreamy “Shenandoah”. It’s only by the time we get to a masterful reading of the Lloyd classic “Sombrero Sam” that we get to the best example of the new sound emerging from this collaboration. Frisell opens with one his typical song deconstructions, and moves into the riff organically as the rhythm section takes him into new terrorties as Leisz offers an almost theremin like second lead to this mix until Charles enters on flute.

It’s back to traditional folk song form with a leisurely reading of 60s protest staple “All My Trials” which edges into into country territory, giving a hint of what is to come. Again the band manages to balance the two main players styles. A straight reading of “Last Night I Had The Strangest Dream” features Willie Nelson on vocals and is a bit too safe for my liking. Although the bands very short reading of “Abide With Me” is beautifully played I am not sure how it fits in the overall mix, it is followed immediately with a straight reading of “You Are Too Beautiful” with Norah Jones guesting on vocals. I don’t know if it’s the extremely slow pacing but, other than a delicately fractured lead line from Lloyd, it all feels too chocolate box/coffee table jazz/country to me.

The album closes with a 16 minute meditation called “Barche Lamsel” which is the strongest item in the set and to my mind should have been more the direction the collaboration should have moved in. The delicate interplay between Lloyd, Frisell and Leisz is worth the price of admission with the guitar tones mixing beautifully with Charles breathy flute explorations. Around five minutes in Frisell starts an understated riff and the whole thing drifts off into modal reverence with a feel that wouldn’t be out of place in the Radio Gnome Invisible Territory.

A strong, if somewhat schizophrenic start, a strangely disappointing and radio friendly middle, and a masterful closer make “I Long To See You” a curates egg of a release, on balance the stronger tracks outweigh the more mainstream offerings.

At more or less the same time Frisell releases his latest solo album “When You Wish Upon A Star”. Two years on from the disappointing “Guitar In The Space Age” this is a themed set with all of the music being derived from Film and Television Music. Viola player Eyvind Kang, bassist Thomas Morgan, drummer Rudy Royston, and singer Petra Haden are the band for a release which is back to Frisell at his best.  It’s not his first “covers” album of course, there have been a number over the years from “Have A Little Faith” onwards. Petra Haden is in fine voice and the song choices ensure that the music does not drift into easy listening territory,  you can’t really go wrong with John Barry, as evidenced by her first appearance, with a great reading of “You Only Live Twice”.

Kang has always worked well with Frisell and their partnership here delivers some of their best collaborations, a jaunty reading of the theme from “Psycho” is a manic tumble of klezmer inflicted fun.

Following Tony Bennett and Ella Fitzgerald, amongst many others, with a version of “The Shadow of Your Smile” is a pretty daunting endeavour but Petra copes admirably with a great performance backed by some understated playing and a beautiful arrangement from Bill which feels very Gallic in places, and calls to mind cold war thrillers.

A quick gallop through the theme from “Bonanza” is a bit of fun before we get into the serious business of Ennio Morricone  and a trilogy of tunes starting with a magnificent version of “Once Upon A Time In The West” which has been featured by everyone from Zorn to Springsteen over the years. This is Bill at his best, golden notes cascading over of a rich backing with Petra floating over the tune.   “As A Judgement” is another Morricone classic from the same film with Bill going all Tex-Mex and Kang providing ethereal notes before moving into the stately core of the tune. The trio is completed by “A Farewell To Cheyenne” which mixes Caribbean rhythms with 60s French Cinema elements to create a delightful piece of music.

A quick slip into Disney territory is perhaps the least satisfying point in the set but is soon redeemed with Bills own “Tales From The Far Side”, originally debuted on the 1996 Frisell album “Quartet”, a de-constructed “Moon River” and a mammoth reading of “The Godfather”.

Overall we have the best of Frisell on display here, consummate playing, a great tone, and great arrangements of classic tunes blending jazz and americana to create a very pleasurable listening experience.

Here’s the whole gig from the Lincoln Centre that launched the album and as the announcer says at the beginning, if you like it go and get the CD.


Jazz Thoughts #001

It only seems sensible to concentrate some of these blogs on jazz given it forms a good third of my podcast output (and sometimes 50% when doing the Band on the Wall playlist). So here is the first of a series of semi-regular set of thoughts on current jazz.

It was interesting to note the backing band David Bowie used for his swansong album was exclusively people normally associated with jazz. Donny McCaslin (flute, saxophone, woodwinds) Ben Monder (guitar) Jason Lindner (piano, organ, keyboards) Tim Lefebvre (bass) and Mark Guiliana (drums, percussion) all have existing impressive jazz CVs. I mention this only because so many of my chums who cannot abide jazz are avid Bowie fans. Hopefully this revelation will spur them to open their ears to the music. But I doubt it.

I finally got around to acquiring the latest John Scofield, his first on the famous Impulse! label.  Called “Past Present”, the line-up is impressive  Scofield on guitar, of course, Joe Lovano on tenor sax and the rhythm section of Larry Grenadier on double bass and long standing associate Bill Stewart on drums. First listens felt somewhat disappointing but I persevered and started to really appreciate where Sco was going with this latest set. There’s a good mix of funky blues licks, hard-bop, and post-bop with both leaders showing inventiveness. Along with Bill Frisell, Scofield is still one of the current leaders on jazz guitar.


There are a handful of new releases on the Whirlwind label coming soon which are worth checking out when released.

Russian-born, London-based alto saxophonist Zhenya Strigalev has followed up his 2015 sextet release “Robin Goodie “with his new trio project “Never Group”. Recorded over two days in Berlin with the rhythm section of electric bassist Tim Lefebvre (him again) and drummer Eric Harland, the album features  guest appearances from keyboardist John Escreet, double bassist Matt Penman, vocalist Charles Armstrong and trumpeter Alex Bonney. The music consists of original compositions and the contributions of respected Austrian electronics composer/musician Bruno Liberda (who also appears on the recording). Starting with a tongue in cheek “Radio 4” style band intro, and then some wacky free form stuff the band soon launches into an excellent  funky trio workout. Over twenty tracks which includes a series of codas which intersperse the main compositions, the band is on fire with Harland particularly playing his socks off. This is powerful improvised music with the three main players all showing excellent technique and the desire to incorporate new sonic elements into the mix, the bass/drum combination on “Strange Party” in particular wanders into  grunge/post-punk territory! A highly enjoyable al bum, which is released on April 1st.

Released on 11th March Jeff Williams album “Outlier” features Josh Arcoleo (tenor saxophone), Phil Robson (guitar), Kit Downes (keys) and Sam Lasserson (basses). Drummer Williams has an impressive jazz history and his decades spanning experience with some of the giants of the jazz world translates into a mix of modern jazz, fusion and south american rhythms. Robson, in particular, shines with a lyrical approach and a great tone.  I have not crossed paths with Arcoleo before but I am impressed by his playing which has a breathless urgency at times. Williams is an excellent drummer leading a fine quintet and the albums comes with a strong recommendation from this listener.

Bass player Matt Ridley’s second album on Whirlwind “Mettã” is released on 26th February and is a far more relaxed affair than the other two Whirlwind releases reviewed above. Almost straying into ECM territory the quartet of Ridley, pianist John Turville, drummer George Hart, and soprano saxophonist Jason Yarde, offer an introspective, reflective journey of listening. The playing is understated, mellow, and engaging. The music is delivered as rolling expressive extemporisation, soloing feels part of an organic whole, rather than as adjunct to a specific melody. Yarde is impressive throughout and needs to be investigated further. Ridley can deliver a solo passage without overplaying, indeed his ear for melody is excellent and unlike a lot of bass players who attempt to impress through technique rather than content he does deliver strong solo work which fits perfectly with the music. This album is my favourite of the three Whirlwind releases and comes with a very strong recommendation.

2015 was a busy year for Dave Douglas and he concluded it with an interesting album with the Melbourne based Monash Art Ensemble, which in typical fashion is a long way off musically from the other releases preceding it in the year. It’s been a while since we have had something from Dave with a larger ensemble, in this case a fifteen strong team. The music is reminiscent of the Third Stream jazz/classical movement. Essentially you have an improvising chamber orchestra which is described as drawing inspiration from composers of the early 14th century French Ars Nova, most notably Guillaume De Machaut. The compositions utilise techniques such as hocket (a single melody is shared between two or  more voices so that alternately one voice sounds while the other rests), isorhythm, and modal counterpoint to create a dizzing array of sounds, moving from medieval to modern with little regard for convention. Entitled “Fabliaux” I guess this one will divide the jazz crowd somewhat. I found it most entertaining, not as good as “High Risk” or “Brazen Heart” but as part of a trio of 2015 offerings from Douglas an impressive indication that he is still up there as one of the best current jazz musicians.






Post Jazz?

I had not come across the expression “post-jazz” until I read the preview of the forthcoming Sons of Kemet gig at Band on the Wall (1st December 2015). I suppose it was inevitable, we have had post-punk, and post-rock so someone was bound to come up with a way to shoe-horn post-jazz into an increasingly crowded genre classification pile.

My take on this is that Sons of Kemet aren’t post-jazz. Their combination of Reeds, Tuba and percussion has been done before, Arthur Blythe’s “Spirits In The Field” album with Cecil Brooks and Bob Stewart (Savant 2000) is a case in point. The difference with Sons of Kemet is that there are two percussionists in play. An expression like post-jazz would imply a significant stylistic change whereas this band builds on a strong tradition and adapts and improves on it without necessarily delivering a paradigm shift in content.

Led by saxophonist, clarinettist, composer and BBC “New Generation Artist” Shabaka Hutchings, this is putatively a jazz ‘supergroup’ , with Theon Cross on tuba and  Seb Rochford (Polar Bear. Andy Sheppard Quartet) and Tom Skinner (Melt Yourself Down) performing the dual percussion role.


Their latest release “Lest We Forget What We Came Here To Do” is a marvellous set of joyous percussion dominated work-outs. Echoing the extensive workouts of Fela Kuti, absorbing a Caribbean party atmosphere, but also reflecting the sonic extremes of avant garde jazz in places, the talented four piece deliver a satisfying mostly up tempo selection of pieces. There is also a sense of klezmer, or eastern european culture, in some of the tunes, I was reminded of Pachora in places (Hutchings clarinet echoing Chris Speed’s approach with that band), with the riff centred lengthy workouts mixing several genres at once.

The more reflective “Mo’ Wiser”, the stand-out piece on the album, marries shuffling percussion with a funky bass line from the tuba and a middle eastern tonal/melodic feel from the reeds. There’s a nod towards John Zorn’s more relaxed Masada work in places. Hutchings’ playing on this track in particular is a delightful mix of textured growl and bitter-sweet melodic exploration. The playful “Breadfruit”, another memorable track, plays with calypso/carnival motifs and puts my in mind of the tongue in cheek approach of Sex-Mob. Another favourite is the marching beat riffing of “The Hour of Judgement” which allows Hutchings some space to let rip while the rest of the band maintain the pulse behind him.

I have no doubt people will be up out of their seats and dancing to this infectious and fun sound at the Band on the Wall next week. A great album and a “not to be missed” gig.

Some times dreamy, always engaging….

Andy Sheppard

Surrounded By Sea


June 2nd 2015

Andy Sheppard: tenor and soprano saxophones
Eivind Aarset: guitar
Michel Benita: double bass
Sebastian Rochford: drums

Extending the range of his widely-praised Trio Libero project with Michel Benita and Seb Rochford, Andy Sheppard adds Eivind Aarset (who made significant contributions to 2008’s Movements In Colour) to the band. With Aarset’s ambient drones and electronic textures as a backdrop, Sheppard and co seem to have even more space to explore. The music  includes new compositions, open improvisations, an Elvis Costello tune, and the Gaelic traditional ballad “Aoidh, Na Dean Cadal Idir” which appears in three variations, a thematic thread through the album. This is Sheppard’s third album for ECM.

I’ve long been a fan of both Sheppard and Aarset, particularly the work the latter did with Nils Petter Molvaer, and it is good to hear the two of them working together in this setting. I totally disagree with Ivan Hewitt’s comments in the Telegraph about the guitarists contribution to this release, rather than dominate Eivind adds beautiful colours and tones to the trio and delivers some of his most restrained work to date. Ian Patterson’s All About Jazz review is far more complimentary and more accurately reflects the graceful and measured feel of the album. Benita and Rochford work well together giving Sheppard the space to explore and extemporise.

It’s an ECM album so it is going to have that Nordic “Eicher” touch, Sheppard has embraced that fully and delivers one of his most beautiful sets to date. The music is serene, offering an often pastoral atmosphere, sometimes dreamy, but always engaging. Comparisons with Jan Garbarek are inevitable in this context and there is some read over between the two horn men although Sheppard employs a warmer and sometimes more breathy tone, and the music is more urgent and dynamic than Garbarek’s approach.

Sheppard brings his quartet to Band on the Wall, Manchester on 24th November (from 7:30pm) for what promises to be one of the stand-out jazz gigs of the year in the city. Tickets are available here