A documentary on Birmingham? Thanks but no thanks, I thought to myself while pondering the new series of Reimagining the City. Seriously, Birmingham? It's hardly Florence or Cairo or Cape Town. No one nudges their partner on a soggy January morning and says wistfully, "Darling, wouldn't it be just lovely if we could leave all this behind and disappear to Birmingham?"
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Friday 08 October 2010
This collaboration with Tango Siempre violinist Ros Stephen and saxophonist Gilad Atzmon finds Robert Wyatt in relaxed, croonsome mood on a mixture of noirish standards and items from the Wyatt repertoire, the tone of which recalls that ancient TV commercial for Strand cigarettes reworked for the Middle East market.
Sunday 26 September 2010
Debut release for new label dedicated to archive recordings of tenor saxophonist Hayes (1935-1973), the UK's greatest-ever modern jazzman.
Sunday 26 September 2010
Saxophonist Kinch is an engaging performer with an enviable social and intellectual reach (Ellington, Madlib and Delius are his touchstones here, along with worksongs and early blues), but this third album once again falls into the "promising" category rather than delivering a truly convincing musical message.
Friday 17 September 2010
Officium, the first collaboration between Jan Garbarek and The Hilliard Ensemble, proved one of the most popular releases in ECM's history; the follow-up Mnemosyne and now Officium Novum have continued the alliance of religious singing with sax improvisations into farther-flung areas, this time focusing on the Armenian music.
Sunday 12 September 2010
Should Elvis have made more rockabilly records? Definitely.
Saturday 28 August 2010
Back in the 1950s the alto saxophonist Charlie Parker, the undisputed king of modern jazz, invited Harry Klein to sit in with him and trumpeter Fats Navarro while they were playing at a New York jazz club.
Tuesday 17 August 2010
"If I'm bitter – and I'm sure I am – I have no feelings about that bitterness really. If there's a chip on my shoulder I didn't put it up there."
Wednesday 11 August 2010
Buddy Rich may have been the greatest drummer in the world, but he didn't have the charisma or the elegance of the tall and handsome Jack Parnell. As a fellow drummer Rich was Parnell's idol, and it was Jack who arranged for Rich's famous appearance in The Muppets television series. On the show Rich played an unforgettable drum battle with the puppet Animal, who was brought onstage in chains screaming "Kill! Kill! Kill!"
Sunday 08 August 2010
This stonking live recording features Hammond-organ trio Decoy in company with cult US saxophonist McPhee, whose wildly energetic squawks make it hard to believe he's over 70.
Sunday 08 August 2010
Mainstream jazz gets a bad rep as undemanding pipe-and-slippers music but it has become a valuable medium for players who really know what to do with a good melody.
Friday 06 August 2010
The most demanding job that any drummer could have was to play drums in the Oscar Peterson Trio and it was a testimony to Martin Drew's ranking amongst the best in the world that Peterson chose the Englishman for his group. A huge man who was unusually passionate about his music, Martin Drew would never compromise.
Sunday 01 August 2010
Someone needs to write a book about Dudu Pukwana, the late South African alto-saxophonist who came to London as an exile from Apartheid and played sessions with John Martyn and Mike Heron as well as jazz.
Thursday 15 July 2010
Sunday 27 June 2010
For some 20 years, alto saxophonist Steve Coleman – the anti-Pope to Wynton Marsalis's pontiff, and what a choice that is – has been pursuing a credulous obsession with numerology.
Wednesday 23 June 2010
Given the crippling costs of keeping 15 musicians in gainful employ, big bands are largely a thing of the past. But this sumptuous performance by Wynton Marsalis's stellar unit was a reminder that an orchestra remains a vital resource to any jazz musician. It offers both power and precision. Since the early 80s the New Orleans trumpeter has been exploring and extending the heritage of acoustic jazz, using 30s swing, 40s bebop and 50s post-bop as templates for his own creations and this final night of a five-day residency at various venues in London presented a panorama of those vocabularies. There were arrangements of legends like Herbie Hancock, Joe Henderson and Jackie McLean and there were also original pieces by JALCO members such as saxophonist Ted Nash. His Dali suite, set in the tripwire time signature of 13/8, was a highlight for the intoxicating swirl of the horns, which culminated in Nash's alto becoming a dramatic echo to a stabbing improvisation by trumpeter Marcus Printup.
However, the presence of British guest musicians also raised the bar. Vibraphonist Jim Hart, tenor saxophonist Jean Toussaint and pianist Julian Joseph all took hard swinging solos and vocalist Cleveland Watkiss was imperious on an express train rendition of McLean's "Appointment in Ghana", in which his scat choruses revealed a timbral richness and phrasal trickery that had the horn players nodding in approval. In a delicious passage of his solo, Watkiss quoted the first part of the theme of Thelonious Monk's "Green Chimneys" at lightning speed before twisting its harmony in an entirely new direction. Yet what became apparent throughout the evening was the relevance of big band music to other genres, simply because of its enormous sonic range.
On slow passages the ornate, rippling textures evoked ambient music, on faster numbers, as the brass plunged deep into the low register, there was funk aplenty, and when the whole ensemble was in full flow, there was a soundtrack in search of a movie. Decked out in sharp suits and seated in three rows under the Hackney Empire's proscenium arch, Marsalis's orchestra indeed offered a big-screen spectacle for eyes and ears alike.
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