Jazz Vibes Top Ten for 2011
2. Lina Nyberg Quintet “Invisible”(Prophone)
3. Gregory Porter “1960 what” /Black Nile (Motema)
4. Mattew Halsall "Music for a dancing mind" (Gondwana)
5. Maciej Fortuna Quartet “Lost Keys” (4Tuna)
6. Tomet Grochot feat: Eddie Henderson “Headprints” (Zaiks)
7. The Core - "Invitation" (Moserobie) .
8. Mel McGary “Black Narcissus Alttk (Meluke Music)
9. Simple Acustic Trio “Simple Jungle” (Not Two)
10. Our Park “Park” (HOOB)
from Nat Birchall on Gondwana Records.
Over the last few years British saxophonist and composer Nat Birchall has carved out a singular niche for himself. A deeply soulful, spiritual saxophonist whose beautiful recordings for the Gondwana label have moved people to suggest that the spirit of Coltrane was alive and well in Northern England. But Birchall is more than a slavish imitator of Coltrane's sound there is a sense of tranquility and depth of feeling in Birchall's music that recalls more than just Coltrane's notes and a desire for honest, soulful communication.
For Birchall Sacred Dimension is a clear progression from his two most recent albums, building on Akhenaten's spiritual wholeness and Guiding Spirit's fuller sound, but with a new richer, deeper sound.
Harpist Rachel Gladwin features on all tracks bringing her own beautiful, folk tinged, take on jazz harp to the music and vibist Corey Mwamba guests (who Birchall met in Arun Ghosh's band) and brings a soulful openness to the music as well as a real energy. Wonderful, empathetic pianist Adam Fairhall remains from the last two recordings. A beautiful player who manages to sound free while always serving the music. Fairhall's luminous playing and complete commitment does much to illuminate the music as does new bass player Nick Blacka whose big strong sound and ability to vary the bass line without losing the essential character of the music does much to drive the album. There is a change in drummer with Andy Hay, who Birchall describes 'as a force of nature' bringing a powerful conviction to the music playing as he does 100% in the moment.
Finally, where Guiding Spirit featured a percussionist for this album Birchall decided he wanted something rawer and less skilled so he handed out bells and percussion to the band members and just asked them to play as they felt it, even roping in Rachel's brother Rueben, who was hanging around the studio, on one tune.
The album's title track, `Sacred Dimension' is inspired by the concept of elevation through music, and the cover painting is by Birchall. A painter before he took up music Birchall was inspired to take up the paintbrush for the first time in nearly 30 years by the recording of the album. The track Ancient World is partly named for the sound of Gladwin's harp (which brings a timeless quality) but also as the song is based on the 'Phrygian' mode. A first take, you can hear how the band locked into the groove immediately. Dance Of The Mystic is based around a repetitive rhythm that takes on an almost trance like intensity. While the serene Peace In Nineveh takes inspiration from the poem 'Cargoes' by John Masefield and an opening line reference to "Quinquireme of Nineveh from distant Ophir, rowing home to Haven in sunny Palestine..." and finally Radiant Will takes it' s title from a Stanley Crouch essay on Coltrane, where he describes him as "a man of radiant will", which chimes with both how Birchall feels about Coltrane but also with the soulful honesty that Birchall brings to his own music, music that with it's own radiance succeeds in defining Birchall's very own Sacred Dimension!
Released on trumpeter Matthew Halsall's Gondwana label, the album is also available on a strictly limited 180gram vinyl pressing on Birchall's own Sound Soul and Spirit record label. It was a decision inspired by Birchall's long held passion for vinyl and the desire to hear his music through the same medium that he first fell in love with.
The Jazz scene in Boston – A Look Back -The Jazz Workshop – Paul’s Mall
(The following is based on my personal knowledge and experiences)
Jazz is the art of expression set to music! Many say it is “the fundamental rhythms of human life and man’s contemporary reassessment of his traditional values”. Hundreds, if not thousands, of books and articles have been written on the origins of Jazz based on Black American life-styles. The early influences of tribal drums and the development of gospel, blues and “field hollers” seem to point out that Jazz has to do with human survival and the expression of life. Jazz soon came to describe a musical art form, whether under composition guidelines or improvisation, it reflected spontaneous melodic phrasing. Many who play/played have expressed the feeling that Jazz should remain undefined, and “should be felt”. When the great Louis Armstrong was asked about the definition of Jazz, he stated "If you gotta ask, you’ll never know" The standard history about Jazz is that it was started in New Orleans and moved up the Mississippi River to Memphis, St. Louis and finally Chicago. However, the influences of what led to those earlymNew Orleans sounds goes back to tribal African drum beats and European musical structures.
Boston native George Wein opened Storyville at the Hotel Buckminster in Kenmore Square in 1950, and a steady stream of Jazz greats performing in Boston increased further. Billie Holiday, Dave Brubeck, Charles Mingus, Sarah Vaughan, Erroll Garner, etc. all set up there. The tradition of legendary venues continued in later years, with the Jazz Workshop, Paul's Mall, Lulu White's, Wally's, the Regattabar, and Scullers among the most noteable hosts of memorable jazz performances.
The Jazz Workshop, Boston, Massachusetts, was actually opened in the early 1950s. Charlie Mariano encouraged Varty Haroutunian (Hart), Herb Pomeroy, and Ray Santisi, a quartet of local jazz legends, to start a school, aworkshop, that offered classes and private lessons, and also hosted jam session. They created a place where students could play with professional musicians. They rented some space on Stuart Street near Copley Square, moved in a few pianos, and in 1953 the first Jazz Workshop opened.
Varty Harountunian at the Stable in 1959
The manager of a bar around the corner, the Stable, on Huntington Avenue, met with Haroutunian and Santisi with a proposal that they play gigs in his club. They started in early 1954, and that was the beginning of the jazz policy at the Stable. It began as a trio- Haroutunian - tenor sax, Santisi - piano,and Peter Littman - drums. After a while other musicians started coming around. The trio became a quartet when bassist John Neves joined and eventually Herb Pomeroy and joined the band. This was not the same as the Jazz Workshop itself, it was a separate entity, and teaching activity began to fade. But the musicians kept "Jazz Workshop" as the unofficial club name. The room soon became packed with enthusiastic listeners. Other Boston musicians were often regulars there, including Joe Gordon, Serge Chaloff, Lennie Johnson, Dave Chapman, and everybody wanted to sit in; and even singers like Barbra Streisand took a turn on the bandstand.
In 1962 the club (Stable) was torn down in order to build the Mass. Turnpike Extension. Harold Buchalter told the Stable crew that he planned to open another room on Boylston Street In 1963 that club, named the Jazz Workshop, opened. On opening night, Stan Getz was the headliner.
In 1965 Fred Taylor, Tony Mauriello, and Peter Lane assumed ownership of the club. Taylorand Mauriello were successful in building the Jazz Workshop and another club, Paul's Mall.
Both clubs played a major role on the Boston jazz scene for the next 15 years. I recall hearing about a Jazz performers in the 60’s and seeing some of the most prominent Jazz artists, around the early to middle 70’s, at the Jazz Workshop and Paul’s Mall. The atmosphere was “intimate and cool” and the energy was phenomenal. Artists such as Duke Ellington, John Coltrane, McCoy Tyner, Jimmy Garrison, and Elvin Jones, Charles Mingus, Sun Ra, etc. played theses venues.
(Left ) John Clotrain with McCoy Tyner, Jimmy Garrison and Elvin Jones - Jazz Workshop (1964)
(Right) Duke Ellington & his Orchestra Paul's Mall (1970)
(Left) Charles Mingus - Jazz Workshop 1974 (Middle) Charles Mingus and George Adams
(Right) Sun Ra and his Arkestra, Jazz Workshop, Boston, 1975
Right) Marshall Allen and June Tyson
(Left) Ronnie Boykins, John Gilmore, Marshall Allen
Gondwana Records GONDCD 004
(distribution by Baked Goods)
Saxophonist Nat Birchall has always been something of an enigma, a sublimely soulful saxophonist hidden from view in the Northern hills. His debut album Sixth Sense (1998) first announced him to the jazz world as an urgent tenor saxophonist with a feel for pulsing modal hard-bop. But it was his cult hit and now highly sought after soulful slice of spiritual jazz Akhenaten (released on trumpeter Matthew Halsall’s label, Gondwana Records, in 2009) that suggested that the spirit of Coltrane was alive and well in Northern England. Acclaimed by the critics (MOJO for one hailing its ‘spacial sunship beauty’ and ‘lyrical heat haze hypnotism’) Akhenaten together with Halsall’s own releases ‘Sending My Love’ and ‘Colour Yes’ helped create the unique sound that the Independent On Sunday described as ‘rain soaked spiritual jazz from Manchester”.
Growing up in a Northern Village, Birchall was hardly exposed to jazz but through some friends fell in love with roots reggae and dub in the early ‘70s and it was the legendary Jamaican jazz-influenced saxophonists, Cedric Brooks, Tommy McCook, that inspired him take up the saxophone and through them that he discovered the music of John Coltrane. Lessons with an enigmatic local player, Harold Salisbury, followed as well as playing with various bands including Akay Temiz’s Zaman. Birchall led a hip-hop influenced jazz band Corner Crew in the early ‘90s and started to make a name for himself on the local scene but felt unsatisfied with the music and despite some encouragement from the legendary record producer Tony Hall (Dizzy Reece, Tubby Hayes etc) Birchall resisted the call of the London scene and continued to search for the music he felt inside. Meeting trumpeter Matthew Halsall and a group of like minded players (including pianist Adam Fairhall, bassist Gavin Barras and drummer Gaz Hughes) gathered around Matt & Phreds in Manchester proved an inspiration ‘Suddenly I felt something special in the music. My music is very simple, harmonically and melodically, so you have to play with as much conviction and soul as possible because there's nothing to hide behind, just the truth of how you feel the music.” And it is this soulful elegance that illuminates both Akhenaten and Birchall’s more expansive follow-up Guiding Spirit.
Guiding Spirit opens with Open Up The Gates invoking the idea of huge ancient gates being opened to allow the procession through but with a subtext of acceptance and recognition. Keep the Light Shining is a sunny tune, infused with the optimism of a new day, while Higher Regions has something of a McCoy Tyner vibe and features harpist Rachel Gladwin on kora. Going To The Mountain is inspired by a simple phrase that Birchall heard Pharoah Sanders play and has an eastern feel “I've always been in awe of how some musicians can play the simplest things yet invest them with so much meaning, I try to achieve the same quality when I play, and in working with this phrase I ended up with this melody”. The uptempo Becoming is named for something Duke Ellington once said, that he liked to have his music always “in a state of becoming” (which Birchall feels as something like a flower opening as you look at it rather than just seeing the flower already opened) and is enhanced by Fairhall’s luminous solo. Finally the rubato Guiding Spirit hints at the hidden forces or unconscious decisions (those gut feelings) that for Birchall drive both life and his own deeply felt music.
Further info from Kerstan : firstname.lastname@example.org : 077 7565 5573
PRAISE FOR NAT BIRCHALL’S AKHENATEN
"An album so exceptional it fell down the cracks of the Mojo filter... spatial sunship beauty...expansive and dreamy...lyrical heat haze hypnotism...this is the record you should be expanding the collective consciousness of the neighbours with. Truly transcendental.”
“Outstanding and most enthralling...Birchall is a wonderful player who wears his heart on his sleeve and plays with much warmth and sincerity.”
“Strikingly impressive...Birchall sounds amazingly soulful, each solo gathering intensity as it progresses. There’s an endearing lack of tricksiness, with everything serving the spacey aesthetic of the overall project.”
The Independent On Sunday
“ A quite remarkable album, Birchall captures the hypnotic flow of John Coltrane wonderfully on four extended hymn-like explorations. Think of Coltrane’s stark masterpiece ”Alabama” or parts of “A Love Supreme”.
“Nat’s rich tones echo throughout this effortless sounding recording from a man on a cosmic musical vision with top quality musicians backing him all the way. The album is a treat from start to finish and Birchall is helping to keep the spiritual jazz flame alight, just when we need it the most.”
Let’s remember drummer Billy James who worked alongside Etta James and Eddie Harris - sadly no longer with us. Of Rashied Ali, who lived his musical life ‘free’ climbing to great heights on Coltrane’s album ‘Ascension’. There is little more anyone could have achieved in music.
I would also like you to think of Blossom Dearie, somewhat of an underground hero, whose tune ‘I Like London in the Rain’ became a crate-digger’s anthem. She sadly died back in February aged 82 in her home in Greenwich Village.
One that struck a cord with us was the passing of John Martyn. There were few names within our world that elevate above so many. May he be sat beside his peers forever more.
What else in 2009? The Hypnotic Brass Ensemble at Birmingham’s Hare & Hounds tore it up live. An exciting mix of personalities with a real enthusiasm to entertain. A band that sounds oh so better live than on record.
There were others, many in fact, but none quite captured us like the aforementioned. There were some disappointments too, but lets not distance ourselves from what was special, better still, let us digest the pleasures of live music – how music should be heard! In the words of Frank Zappa… “Without music to decorate it, time is just a bunch of boring production deadlines or dates by which bills must be paid”.
2009 in Summary:
Domu hangs up his headphones.
Came to the conclusion that Carlos Niño is Jack Black with a beard.
Snowboy’s Jazz Dance publication fired up the boilers to full steam.
Dingwalls Sunday Sessions just went to show jazz still kicks ass.
Gondwana Records in Manchester prove that jazz can be played properly.
Discovered the Italian record label Horo.
Enjoyed the company of Dick Jewell, Swifty and Jerry Barry.
Reminded of Brian Goucher’s overwhelming enthusiasm for soul music.
Keep an eye out in the New Year for Nailah who will hopefully coming to our little Island to perform around February and look out for Marlena Shaw returning to England too. Terri Lyne Carrington is booked for Ronnie Scotts in January and what with a new album from Gil Scott-Heron, let us not rule out the chance of him touring again – with or without his bottle.
01. Stafford James ‘Ethiopia Suite’ www.staffordjames.com
02. Nat Birchall ‘Nica’s Dance’ [Gondwana 2009]
03. Nailah ‘He Speaks’ (Live) www.nailahmusic.com
04. Matthew Halsall ‘I’ve Found Joy’ [Gondwana 2009]
05. Jon Lucien ‘It’s Bigger Than I’ [Ampex 45]
05. The Chris Hinze Combination ‘Venga’ [Atlantic 1978]
06. Abdul Rahim Ibraham ‘Tropic Sons’ [Heavenly Sweetness 2008]
07. Fabiano Orchestra ‘Butterfly Island’ [Franck 1980]
08. Astrud Gilberto ‘Beginnings’ [Verve 1969]
09. Terry Durham ‘Crystal Telephone’ [Vocalion 1969]
10. Barbara Moore ‘I’m Feather’ [Celeste 1972]
11. The Relatives ‘Speak To Me’ [Heavy Light 2009]
12. Build An Ark ‘Sunflowers In My Garden’ [Kindred Spirits 2009]
13. Tom Lellis ‘E.S.P.’ [Inner City 1981]
14. Emanative ‘When On Earth’ Marc Rapson Remix [Futuristica 2009]
Until next time, remember… “Life is a lot like jazz... it's best when you improvise...” George Gershwin
With all the understandable emphasis on polish jazz and scandinavian jazz it is easy to forget about all the good music coming out of other european countries. This CD is a case in point. Recorded on the Zig Zag Territories label from France, the line up on this little gem is Thomas Grimmonprez - drums, Jeremie Ternoy - Fender Rhodes (also check him on the Jeremie Ternoy Trio, "Bloc" CD) and Christopher Hache - bass. Check out tracks like "Bleu", "Sphere" and "7040" to start with.
There seems to be no end to quality piano trio's at the moment and guess what here we have another one. Features Ronnie Lynn Patterson on piano, Louis Moutin of Moutin Reunion Quartet fame on drums and Stephane Kerecki on bass. Give a listen to the rather wonderful "Santa Fe", "Freedom Fighters" (either version), "Faith" the Keith Jarrett arranged "My Wild Irish Rose", "The Great Constellations", "Camarinas", I'll stop know before I name every track!
Excellent piano trio featuring Jeremie Ternoy - piano, Nicolas Mahieux - bass and Charles Duytschaever - drums. There's plenty of energy in evidence just check out the title track and the excellent "Souterrain," however for me its tracks like "Mets Du Charbon", "Tout Droit", and "Le Fil" that just steal the show. Highly recommended.
Halsall picked up the trumpet at just 6 years old after being taken to a jazz gig by his parents. From the age of 14 Matt has toured the world playing in France, Italy, Spain, Russia, Holland, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Australia and America.
His debut album ‘Sending My Love’ was released in October 2008 on the newly formed independent jazz label Gondwana Records. The album received rave reviews and heavy airplay from the likes of Gilles Peterson (BBC Radio 1), Stuart Maconie (BBC 6 Music), Tom Robinson (BBC 6 Music) and Mike Chadwick (Jazz FM).
In September 2008 he was asked to perform a live session at the legendary BBC Maida Vale Studios for Stuart Maconie’s Freakzone show on BBC 6 Music to coincide with the release.
Following on from this Matt began work on his first co-production project with saxophonist/composer and arranger Nat Birchall. The album titled ‘Akhenaten’ was released on Gondwana Records on Monday 22nd June 2009 and features four beautiful tracks composed by Nat Birchall.
In July 2009 Matt flew out to Genoa to spend a week working with world-class producer, songwriter, DJ, multi-instrumentalist, orchestral composer, and cultural pioneer Nitin Sawhney.
His second album ‘Colour Yes’ was released in October 2009 on Gondwana Records again receiving rave reviews and heavy airplay, which lead to an invitation from Gilles Peterson to perform at the prestigious Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in Soho, London to a sell out crowd alongside Nostalgia 77 and Keith & Julie Tippett. Following on from this Matt was invited to perform at the legendary Dingwalls re-union in Camden, London again to a sell out crowd.
In December 2009 Matt returned to BBC Maida Vale Studios to record a special live session for Gilles Peterson’s Worldwide show on BBC Radio 1. The session was broadcast in January 2010 and Matt was invited to do an interview live on the show. His album was voted 2nd place in the best jazz album of 2009 at the Worldwide awards.
In April 2010 he performed live on Cerys Matthews new show on BBC 6 Music.
BOOKING MATTHEW HALSALL LIVE SHOWS & DJ SETS CONTACT
JAMES WRIGHT @ ELASTIC ARTISTS