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.






Fascinating Things : Issue 40

After what seemed like an endless Christmas/New Year break in which hardly any new music arrived suddenly I am besieged by virtual piles of new things to report on.

Mention, before we start with the new stuff, must be made of the passing of Mr Bowie. Oddly I don’t actually own much stuff by the great man, which is strange as there are several key releases in his body of work which have had a lasting impact. He was the soundtrack to late adolescence/student years and seemed to bridge the gap between “legitimate” rock music and the “pop” music of the day – the run of albums between Hunky Dory and Diamond Dogs remain essential listening to any one who professes to love music. That he could follow that with the Berlin stuff is remarkable and that he could give-away “Dudes” to Mott shows his generosity.

And so onto 2016……

The Norwegian multi- Grammy Award Nominee (Best Female, Best Composer) called Marie Munroe is soon to release her much-anticipated LP Under My Skin. Scandinavia’s answer to electro poppy Imogen Heap and Jessie Ware has already sold out the entire upcoming tour in her home country, and has just shared the official video to her latest single Can’t Go Back.

Chicago’s celebrated torchbearers of instrumental metal, Pelican, return to Europe for a string of dates this spring. This marks the band’s first European tour since the successes of their  2013 LP Forever Becoming and 2015’s 4-track EP, The Cliff (both released via Southern Lord) and their 2014 Arktika live 2xLP.

UK Dates are:

30/04/16 – Desertfest @ Electric Ballroom – London, UK
01/05/16 – The Fleece – Bristol, UK
02/05/16 – Audio – Glasgow, UK
03/05/16 – Gorilla – Manchester, UK


Photo credit : Mark Dawursk

The upcoming new track by the Grammy-award winning Scandi Teddybears featuring Gorilla Zoe (Boyz n da Hood, Joel Ortiz, Lupe Fiasco) proves to be an interesting ear-worm. After Teddys’ eventful 2015 which consisted of: writing hits such as Diamonds by Giorgio Moroder and Charli XCX, working on new tracks with Sia, John Newman, Ellie Goulding, Max Martin and Petite Meller as well as having tracks featured on FIFA, Peugeot and being the worldwide official Marshall Hedphones soundtrack, Teddybears have not forgotten about their “anti-pop though we make pop” vibe.

Bradford’s (UK) experimental/electro act ‘They Called Him Zone’ offers his debut album creation as an entirely free download. Self-produced in a psychedelic studio basement in West Yorkshire, TCHZ produces cinematic sound-scapes incorporating a fusion of dark electronica and acoustic instruments wrapped up with lo-fi integrity and electro -pop overtones.


Aural Delights – 16th February 2011

On this weeks show a preview of Helmets for Men 2011 Episode 1 and lots of new stuff, plus a couple of classics……..

Bâton Rouge – Fragments D’eux Mêmes – a french Emo band made up of most of the members of “Daitro” and one from”12xu”. Slightly less “Screamo” than what “Daitro” deliver and therefore a little more melodic.

Fall Fan Dave & The Lap Top Dancers – Yelling Boil – as yet unreleased promo version of said artefact came my way last week – see a review elsewhere on this blog.

Danny Short – Darkened Corridors of Winter – from a limited edition private only release cassette. Danny is in full experimental mode here, more akin to his DDS work than his more melodic tunes……lots of psychedelic references……

The Happy Fallen – EP  – the first of three tunes from bands playing the “Helmets for Men” gig at Islington Mill on the Friday of the week this show was broadcast. Neil James (aka Tickle) has out together a fine band to deliver his particular band of pysche-garage rock.

Warm Widow – Widower – amazing trio from Manchester who are second up at the Helmets Gig. Their particular amalgam of post-punk tropes evokes a mutant offspring of Thurston Moore, Mark Edward Smith, and, Nick Cave…….

The Black Knights – Sickle Sell Saturday Night – the band that do not need a bass player – so bass players get over it! Voodoo trash from the darkest heart of “margarine town” with more attitude than a crazed werewolf out on a bender with bigfoot. Vampiric intensity and soul they are the third act on at Helmets.

Kayo Dot – Blue Lambency Dot – a real treat for Mancunians is the appearance of New York’s post jazz masters of incomprehensible rhythms and maniacally complex arrangements at Islington Mill the night before the Helmets gig.

Bill Davro – as featured before on the show – another fresh new talent from Warrington that came to me through our unsigned page, as did Salford’s very own….

Skankadelia – infectious ska pop of the highest order……. as did

Andy Hay – great singer songwriter who does all his recording at home….

Corinna Jane – I have been waiting for a while to play the last of three songs this Bristol artist sent my way….a great writer and a fine voice…check her out on I Tunes….

David Bowie – Hunky Dory – a bit a guilty pleasure – a classic bit of riffing from the time when Bowie had a little more chutzpah in his mojo…..I was making venetian blinds in a factory in darkest Northamptonshire when this came out…..

Bare in the Woods – Manchester four piece with a good raw sound……they will be playing in Manchester on Friday 25th of February @ Gullivers, and, Saturday 12th of March @ Manchester Academy. Band members are: David Cross – Vox & Rhythm Guitar, Adam Logan – Lead Guitar, Griff Tilley – Bass, Adam King – Drums.

Blue Orchids – went to see Martin Bramah’s Factory Star a couple of weeks ago and they were marvellous – in anticipation of their new album i’ve delved right back to Martin’s first release with Blue Orchids  when they signed to Rough Trade Records, and in November 1980  released their debut single, a double A side, “The Flood / Disney Boys” the latter of which gets an airing.

and finally

The Christophers – another Manchester band with a new single which has a great psyche sound….highly recommended……

To listen to the show click below