Mose Allison, the William Faulkner of jazz, dies aged 89

Mose Allison, the William Faulkner of jazz, dies aged 89

Sometime in the late 1990s or early 2000s, on a trip to London, we were lucky to see Mose Allison perform a set at the Pizza Express which included such characteristically witty and sardonic songs, rooted in the blues, as Everybody’s Cryin’ Mercy,  I Love The Life I Live (I Live The Life I Love), Gettin’ There, Tell Me Somethin’, and Your Mind Is On Vacation.

Today, in his Guardian obituary of Mose Allison, who has died aged 89, John Fordham writes:

At the PizzaExpress jazz club in London, which he took to visiting twice a year in the 90s and early 2000s, Allison would sometimes seem to be in a fascinating private reverie, in which stomping bluesy figures would wrestle with swirling, wind-in-trees melodies, or turn into a jerky clatter like a silent-movie soundtrack. Ain’t Got Nothing But the Blues, Trouble in Mind and Knock on Wood might hurtle by in a blur.

‘Pizza Express has been a real godsend for me,’ Allison once said. ‘I’ve been working there for several years, six weeks a year. You can go to work every night and play. It’s a nice little club. It’s just about the right size for me, about 150 people.’ Continue reading “Mose Allison, the William Faulkner of jazz, dies aged 89”

At the London Jazz Festival: Mehldau and Redman deliver a jazz masterclass, but the Garbarek quartet disappoints

At the London Jazz Festival: Mehldau and Redman deliver a jazz masterclass, but the Garbarek quartet disappoints

Once again, we made the journey down to the capital to sample three events during the opening weekend of the London Jazz Festival. The music began with what was, for me, a welcome second helping of Tord Gustavsen’s collaboration with the German-Afghan vocalist Simin Tander on songs from their ECM album, What Was Said. The weekend concluded with a strong set but not totally convincing set from the Jan Garbarek Quartet at the Royal Festival Hall. But the outstanding event was a masterclass of breathtaking jazz improvisation by pianist Brad Mehldau and saxophonist Joshua Redman. That alone was worth the journey. Continue reading “At the London Jazz Festival: Mehldau and Redman deliver a jazz masterclass, but the Garbarek quartet disappoints”

Van Morrison at the Phil: in good voice and totally committed

Van Morrison at the Phil: in good voice and totally committed

On Tuesday evening we sloshed our way through the first real rain of this autumn to the Philharmonic for a performance by a man whose lyrics have revealed a man who loves nothing better than to walk in gardens wet with rain – Van Morrison. With a notorious reputation for grumpiness and offhand behaviour in his concerts, we were a little apprehensive about what we might get. But Van was in fine form and, supported by an excellent band, crammed 90 minutes with a stellar selection of songs from a career in which he has recorded an astonishing 36 albums. Continue reading “Van Morrison at the Phil: in good voice and totally committed”

Alan Barnes and Gilad Atzmon seek The Lowest Common Denominator

Alan Barnes and Gilad Atzmon seek The Lowest Common Denominator

The mercurial Gilad Atzmon has a new project, its purpose defined on the sleeve of his new CD as being ‘to revive the dwindling and complacent British jazz audience.’ At the Band on the Wall in Manchester last week a much-revived and expansive audience were treated to the result: an evening of straight-ahead jazz and lively on-stage banter.

The banter ricocheted between two stalwarts of the British jazz scene: Atzmon, no slouch in the motormouth department, and fellow saxophonist Alan Barnes who was once described as playing ‘music that was radical 50 years ago – hard, urban post-bop’ but infusing it with ‘so much passion and energy you could believe it was minted on the spot.’ With the sterling support from Frank Harrison on piano, Yaron Stavi on double bass and Chris Higginbottom on drums the pair led an evening of superb music that bore the name of The Lowest Common Denominator. Continue reading “Alan Barnes and Gilad Atzmon seek The Lowest Common Denominator”

Terence Blanchard and the Inner City Ensemble

Terence Blanchard and the Inner City Ensemble

Terence Blanchard is a magnificent trumpet player with a huge reputation. Even if you’re not into jazz you may have heard his music on the soundtrack of films, including most of those directed by Spike Lee – including, memorably When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts, Lee’s 2006 powerful film about Katrina and its aftermath.

So it was quite something to be able to hear Blanchard perform live at Parr Hall in Warrington recently as part of a new project – piloted by The Band on the Wall – in which he had worked with some of the UK’s most remarkable emerging musicians, as a mentor offering a bunch of thirteen musicians an apprenticeship culminating in live performances around the northwest.

What resulted was an evening of sensational jazz in which Blanchard treated us to stellar moments of trumpet virtuosity, while the young musicians of the Inner City Ensemble, left to their own devices by Blanchard for a major part of the gig, proved an equal match in both their collective playing and in individual  exchanges between instruments. Continue reading “Terence Blanchard and the Inner City Ensemble”

Markus Stockhausen and Florian Weber at RNCM: exhilarating, intuitive music

Markus Stockhausen and Florian Weber at RNCM: exhilarating, intuitive music

Among the galaxy of boundary-probing musicians recorded by Manfred Eicher’s ECM label, the name of Markus Stockhausen has a particular resonance. He’s the son of composer and pioneer of the avant-garde Karlheinz Stockhausen, regarded as one of the great visionaries of 20th-century music, with whom Markus collaborated on several compositions.

The flugelhorn player has got a new album out on ECM, Alba, on which he appears with pianist Florian Weber, and he was at the RNCM in Manchester last night to promote it, at the same time leading sessions teaching students the rudiments of what he calls ‘intuitive music’.  During the concert – in which the duo – a.k.a. Inside Out – played several compositions from the new CD, we were treated to two exhilarating examples of intuitive music, performed with a band of the brilliant students with whom he had been working. Continue reading “Markus Stockhausen and Florian Weber at RNCM: exhilarating, intuitive music”

In Movement from Jack DeJohnette’s Trio: history, yet very much of the present

<em>In Movement</em> from Jack DeJohnette’s Trio: history, yet very much of the present

I’ve been listening to what will surely be the finest jazz record of the year – and one that I reckon will come to be regarded as one of the classic releases on the ECM label. It’s In Movement, the first release from Jack DeJohnette’s new trio who have been playing together for a couple of years. Now they have produced a very fine album of contemporary jazz, full of historical resonances, on which all three musicians deliver stellar performances. Continue reading In Movement from Jack DeJohnette’s Trio: history, yet very much of the present”