How does Randolph Matthews’ singing taste? Like chocolate!

On November 1 at Stratford Circus, this was the funniest and sweetest gig ever! Not only Randolph Matthews presented an amazing solo improvisation performance integrating amusing story-telling and dancing (i loved that episode of samba dancing in the lift) into his music which has been inspired by jazz, African traditional music, soul and even Harry Potter movie (!) :), he also treated all the audience with delicious chocolate whilst singing one of his compositions. Everyone, i guess, was left convinced that his music indeed tastes like chocolate.

Randolph Matthews, a true master of voice. I bet, there is no sound on this Planet which Randolph cant imitate. Check him out if you can.

‘Jazz vs Opera’ or ‘Jazz and Opera’?

Yesterday Joshua Redman opened (Joshua’s words) Hakon’s gig in London, at the beautiful Wigmore Hall. It’s not so uncommon anymore to hear mix of jazz and hip hop, jazz and rap, jazz and rock, jazz and classics, jazz and folk, etc etc, but mixing jazz with opera came as a surprise. You may think these two styles are so distant, that there is not even a possibility of having a conversation between them. But, as Hakon is proving, jazz and opera can not only talk to each other, but also produce an enjoyable musical experience. This clearly was a special gig; also from audience’s perspective – just imagine jazz enthusiasts and opera fans sitting together..

Fascinating. And his TED talk is funny too. check out.

 

Phronesis, album launch “Walking Dark”, London

Yesterday (26 May) in London jazz band Phronesis had a launch of its new album “Walking Dark”. As per definition piano trios rarely disappoint me (i would not say that the form is all what matters, but probably this format simply generates an ambiance i favor), and Phronesis was not exception. Moreover, as they mature and grow stronger as a musical collaboration, it was a genuine pleasure to listen to their newest work with a good balance of mellowness and energy.

For me as someone following political/ economic developments worldwide quite closely, it was especial surprise to find few tracks hardly to be perceived ‘apolitical’. “Democracy” and “The Economist” speak for themselves. Jasper was saying that in these hectic times musicians do have to speak up too. Though he was slightly limited in terms of how detailed comment he could make on the stage about things happening in today’s society as the concert was recorded by BBC, his disappointment was well articulated and understood. He said, at times musicians feel like in one of those scenes from the movie Titanic when the ship was already sinking but musicians kept playing as if all was normal.

All three band members were amazing individually and all together.  Melody + technique + message = that’s Phronesis.

London Jazz Festival 2011 – through my eyes and ears

London Jazz Festival was like Xmas for me: an event once a year with lots of positive feelings, surprises, qualitative music and with the best of the best in the town.

On Day 1 i went to listen to a talk with Steve Coleman. I always find it very interesting to actually hear musicians talking about the music they do, their thinking/ feeling/ ideas behind musical notes, their interpretation of their work and their own musical/ creative development which has led them to the level they are in. This time however a couple of very talkative (read – drunken) listeners at times by being as loud as Steve Coleman did not allow me and few other listeners to focus on musician’s story, so unfortunately i think i missed some parts of this talk. My plan to attend a gig of Robert Mitchell later in the evening was ruined when I realized that tube’s Norther line was not working that evening. at times London transport can be really demotivating…

On Day 2 i spent all afternoon at Southbank centre listening to Julian Siegel and after – Arun Ghosh. Arun Ghosh is probably my discovery number 1 of this festival. I’ll be honest, though i knew about him, i never went actually to his gig as i thought that this synthesis of Asian influence and jazz (and whatever else) will not appeal to me. However, i was absolutely amazed. Combination of great a la Asian style solos with at times hard rock, funky rhythm and interesting improvisations made it all extremely enjoyable. My knees were swinging, my head was nodding to the beat..Next, i liked that Serious was continuing tradition from the last year and offered Jazz History talks by musicians. Last year Soweto Kinch and Shabaka Hutchings were leading listeners through the history of jazz based on their own understanding, perspective and  interpretation. This year Nathaniel Facey and Shane Forbes (Empirical) told their story with emphasis on those jazz history heroes who have had also a great influence on their own musical development and understanding of jazz. Such ‘talk sessions’ are very interesting and educational as it really gives a new perspective on what we hear and how music is ‘made’ an has been developing over years and decades and even centuries.

Day 3 was a beautiful sunny day (in London you really learn how to appreciate sun) and i went to Greenwich to listen to Martin Speake.  This was the first time i heard him live and well – in such a special venue – National Maritime Museum. Wow. Though music is music, i think, venue often can be such an added value and make it all so much greater. There is not much to say except – absolutely perfect music for Sunday afternoon (most of the pieces were Martin’s own compositions) in a perfect venue in the middle of the sunshine lit park.

On Day 4 i went to see Regina Carter who is one of the few violin players on the jazz scene and she must be seen for this reason alone. Beautiful performance mixing in Afro rhythms, traditional/ folk song elements and ‘cooking’ it all with a nice mild hot jazz sauce. 🙂 Some may want to categorize this as world music probably, however, i think, the improvisation with instruments (how often you can hear accordion in jazz music?) and melodies (from wherever they come) was there and nicely fit in the LJF programme.

Also, worth mentioning, before Regina Carter the audience was ‘warmed up’ by Trish Clowes led by female (!) saxophone player. As there are not many female jazz musicians in general, it was even more surprising to find one to be a leader of the band. For this courage alone to break the standard tradition, i applaud her. 🙂

On Day 5 i went to Dalston to see British Piano night led by Julian Joseph and with participation of Jonathan Gee and one more piano player whose name i cant remember. 😦 I love piano trios. My all time favorite is Bill Evans trio, so whoever gets near to that, breaks my heart. 🙂 This gig was what I would call a proper jazz in an intimate atmosphere and in a not-overcrowded, relatively small venue. An evening was like my mental yoga.

On Day 6 i went to see Nik Bartsch band from Switzerland. I saw them for the first time in 2009 in Bath Jazz festival and was totally ‘killed’. You cant find anything even close to this band. What they are doing is so unique, you just have to check them out. It’s kind of a hypnotic, at times trans jazz, sophisticated and at times completely minimalistic. What’s interesting, he does not give titles to his songs. Those are just numbers. Modules. I think, the venue was again crucial here (Kings Place) giving enough space for their music and visual ‘choreography’ to express and tell what they have to say.

On Day 7 I went to see Empirical and Archie Shepp. Empirical who have just released their third album Elements of Truth are getting a more and more distinguished voice on UK jazz scene and being recognized by their special style and musical ideas. I bet, it’s just a beginning and much greater things are still yet to come from this musical collaboration. Watch them out. Archie Shepp in duo with Joachim Kuhn  was beautiful combination of Joachim’s playfulness and Archie’s meaningful, juicy melodies. at times it felt like i was traveling back in time around 1960s or so.

On Day 8 i saw the performance which, i think, i was waiting for more than any other. Ladies and gentlemen, Gretchen Parlato! I just cant help myself but to repeat and repeat how much i like her latest album Lost and Found. It is fantastic and there is no other album to which at the moment i can relate my own state of mind, soul and heart so clearly as to this one. I have posted my favorite Gretchen’s song before in my blog, but i will do it again. Just in case, you have not yet heard it, but if you have, i am sure, you would love to listen to it again.

This was the end of my this year’s LJF due to unforeseen circumstances. Moreover, due to those unforeseen circumstances, i lost all my photos and videos i took during the festival and i am not able to neither add to my own collection nor to share some of them with you here. For this reason i’m using here some youtube material for reference.

But well, next year, they say, there will be another LJF. 🙂

Gretchen Parlato. I still love

Even if you said goodbye

even if a dream may die

even when my life is through

no matter what you say or do

even if it makes me cry

even if i don’t know why

even when things fall apart

even if you break my heart

even when i feel alone

even if i had no home

till my fears have gone away

let it go and come what may

through my joy and through my pain

like the sun that follows rain

no beginning and no end

love, so love comes back again

i still love

I highly recommend to listen to her most recent album The Lost and Found (which includes also this song – Still). Absolutely amazing. on iTunes available only for 7.99GBP.

Just booked a ticket to attend her gig in November when she is visiting London. cant wait.

13 years old prodigy jazz guitar player Andreas Prodigy, debut gig in London

Last Monday, 21 March at Ronnie Scotts was, i could bet, a historic day.When introducing the young 13 year old prodigy Andreas Varady, the host correctly noted that there have been many bigger and smaller Cats playing on the Ronnies’ stage, however never the headliner has been so young – just 13 years! Moreover, this gig was the first one outside the Andreas’ residence country Ireland (Andreas originally comes from Romania/ Slovakia) and at the end of the night there was no doubt that his name will be part of the jazz future.

Many musicians would spend many years in jazz until they get the chance to play at Ronnies the main act, while for Andreas  Europe’s jazz meka has been conquered already at the age of 13.

Andreas’ gig was amazing. Combination of jazz standards, some of his own as well as his band mate’s David Lyttle compositions made it a truly enjoyable night. Even more, because of his age quality was not compromised, though obviously there is a space for Andreas to grow, improve and potentially at some point in the near future become a source of inspiration and role model for other young jazz guitar players.

He started to play guitar at age of four when his father, who is himself playing guitar, introduced it to him. As immigrants from Eastern Europe Andreas and his father had been busking on streets in Ireland until they were noticed and recognized by Irish jazz musicians and brought into light.

This young jazz player is phenomenon with great talent and passion for music at such a young age. I doubt if he would have been where he is without the external conditions – having his father as his tutor (though they say he is more like self-taught prodigy guy) and rough, but musically useful experience of busking. I wonder, however, if, while developing his professional career, he has time at all to go to school and keep up with general education. Hopefully, he is not compromising too much.

Anyway, i feel that in few years time Andreas will be bringing us more and more great things. With his Leo character (btw, our birthdays are on the same day!) you should not expect less. so, watch his space.

Check him playing with Martin Taylor here.