Monday, December 10, 2012

Paul Stone – “Reprise of Swing” Linn Records

Reprise of Swing

According to Leeds based singer Paul Stone, “...a record is a living breathing thing which is never finished so why take years over recording it?” Consequently his latest release on Linn Records, “Reprise of Swing”, was recorded over two days at Sphere Studios in London, and taken as a complete piece of work, has a loose, comfortable feel, that indicates how such an ambience can be achieved with dedication and enthusiasm. “Reprise of Swing” takes an eleven piece band and a collection of both familiar compositions and original material, and produces a coherent album of big band swing, silky jazz and uplifting easy listening arrangements.  Simple Minds’ “Don’t You Forget About Me” is given an arrangement that will bring a grin to the face of even the most cynical listener, whilst U2s’ “With or Without You” manipulates the mood and tempo of the original to produce something wholly unrecognisable yet somehow familiar. “Lovely Day” by Bill Withers and “Wicked Game” by Chris Isaak are nearer in essence to the originals, but here without the baleful melancholy that Isaak infused his version with. The Doobie Brothers “Long Train Running” is again virtually unrecognisable from the familiar version, but given a swing makeover is given a new life and personality.
Perhaps the cover version that would appear on the surface to take most risks, but which in reality, comes closest to the essence of what “Reprise of Swing” is aiming for, is “Sex on Fire” most likely recognised from the Kings of Leon version. Given a big band swing identity, the song bristles with vitality and polish. Stings’ “Englishman in New York” fits easily into its’ new jazz framework, whilst the version here of Barry Manilow’s “Could It Be Magic” although lacking the intense passion and romanticism of the original, is given a light hearted arrangement, which if not passionate to listen to is certainly entertaining.  The original pieces fit in beside the covers with ease and indicate a level of musicianship that feels comfortable with this area of jazz. Paul Stone portrays himself as the consummate entertainer who has the showmanship to pull off a collection of disparate covers such as these with effortlessness.
Of course “Reprise of Swing” is doing nothing new in covering contemporary and divergent tunes, as jazz has been covering show tunes and popular chart songs for decades. To criticise the album in this way would be missing the point however. “Reprise of Swing” is keeping alive a tradition of music that is about pure entertainment and ease of access. The listener has no need to analyse and critique these pieces; they are presented here to be uncomplicated and reassuring. At a time of national austerity and unease, music as inspirational and as joyous as this should be required listening for all.

Paul Stone "Reprise of Swing" on Linn Records

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Shatner's Bassoon - Aquatic Ape Privilege in Jazz Yorkshire

Any group of musicians, who name themselves after a fictitious area of the brain from the television series “Brass Eye”, out of the mind of Chris Morris, must come with a series of very welcome preconceptions. Shatners Bassoon is essentially a group of Leeds based improvisers/composers who, since 2010, as graduates of the Leeds College of Music, have been performing and collaborating under the influence of artists such as Frank Zappa, John Zorn and Mike Patton. It would be misleading and reductive however to label this collective as reproductions of those influences. “Aquatic Ape Privilege” is their forthcoming release, and three tracks are available to hear on the website Soundcloud as taster of their efforts.

“This Is How You Make A Buck” opens with a flurry of electronic scurrying, before a frenzy of scathing electric guitar, voice and saxophone cut through the chaos. The piece takes then on an air of sinister controlled pandemonium, punctuated by hysterical saxophone, guitar and keyboard passages. Certain elements of this piece are whimsical and eccentric and somehow reminiscent of early Soft Machine or Henry Cow, which may help anchor the music down for the passive listener. With the nine minute “This Is How You Make A Buck” drawing to a close in a more pastoral frame of mind, the next composition available to preview, “Leland” is all together more sensitive with skittering saxophone skirting gracefully, yet ominously, over the gentlest suggestion of keyboard, percussion and electronics. This then meanders into the final piece “Someone Killed My Panda” which continues to unsettle the listener with the merest hint of piano sprinkled over an ambient soundscape of brass, bubbling electronics, percussion and delirious spoken word passages simmering under the surface. The effect over the nine minutes is one of unease and perplexity, until the final few moments descend into a maelstrom of sound. ...

Read the full piece at Jazz Yorkshire

Friday, November 23, 2012

6 For 7 Thursday 22nd November 2012 Seven Jazz, Seven Artspace, Chapel Allerton, Leeds

Wind and rain lashed the streets of Chapel Allerton in Leeds as, within the confines of Seven Artspace, the faithful Seven Jazz audience waited good-naturedly for events to unfold. Seven Artspace has, for a number of years now, provided a home for a variety of events that would probably have not found an outlet within the city. This evening was part of a two evening event to mark the fifth anniversary of Seven Jazz who have helped nurture both established and new jazz talent in the area.

Seven Jazz run a series of instrumental workshops on a regular basis from Seven Artspace, to provide a platform for, and encourage, scholars of jazz music. The evening began with three tunes performed by the twelve piece Saturday afternoon workshop band under the umbrella of the “English Songbook”. The band itself, made up of players from an astounding range of ages, tackled “You Were Born to Smile”, Lennon and McCartney’s “Norwegian Wood” (or “Gledhow Valley Wood”) and Limehouse Blues. Under the direction of a number of participants, including Kim Macari, the players were allowed the opportunity to display their personal prowess within the framework of these tunes and gain experience in a performance setting.
New music made up the remainder of the evening programme, commissioned specially by Seven Jazz, directed and composed by trumpet player Kim Macari. Macari moved to Leeds in 2008 and studied Jazz at Leeds College of Music. She has had occasion to play alongside a veritable who’s who of musicians including Tommy Smith, Kenny Wheeler, Mike Gibbs and Arild Anderson. The ensemble for tonight’s 6 For 7 performance comprises Macari on trumpet, Riley Stone-Lonergan on tenor and soprano saxophone, Ant Law on guitar, Declan Forde on piano, Tom Wheatley on bass and Steve Hanley on drums.  “It’s Cold Outside” begins with a meditative bass solo, before developing into a series of melodic passages that illustrate how easy it is for these musicians to move among intelligent melodies, inspirational and rousing solos and the experimental and avant-garde. Each improvisation displayed a level of sympathy between the individual musicians which was both a pleasure and a privilege to be part of. 

The lullaby “I Need You Here” featuring trumpet, bass, drums and piano conveys a fragility of playing which at times became reminiscent of Chet Baker in its naivety and purity. If circumstances allowed, this would be essential cigar smoking music. “Puella Aeterna (Eternal Girl)” is measured, yet brimming with hope and expression. A tune concerned with bees and ants such as Macari’s “Hive Mind” one would expect to be hectic and demanding, and, hanging on hysterical piano lines, one was reminded at times of the free form performances of pianists such as Cecil Taylor. Intimate saxophone and piano, an almost caricature of the husband and wife relationship, characterises “Delius”, whilst the concluding arrangement of the evening “Settled” is good-natured and blissful.  The obligatory encore was, good humouredly, provided by “The Usual Suspects” which, again, was agreeable yet mischievous and frenzied. 

The atmosphere within the venue was welcoming and gracious, and made more so by a raffle during the interval, which helped draw musicians and audience together as one. For the thirty or forty people present, an intimacy was created which was entirely conducive to creating and listening to these intelligent and wholly gratifying arrangements. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

News - Seven Jazz

Sorry for the lack of news posts....
My news is that I have been moving house!

Well Steve at Seven jazz popped me a note with the November gigs:

"Seven Jazz Leeds programme for November includes US tenorman Benn Clatworthy, US baritone sax star Gary Smulyan with the Yorkshire Jazz Orchestra, a fifth birthday commissioned piece written by Kim Macari, the Al Woods Nonet, Katie Paterson’s Allsorts, Kevin Holbrough’s quintet and much more. Details here…

If you have missed the, sorry!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

JazzFM Jazz Awards


It looks as though the 1st Jazz FM awards have announced the nominations.

Congratulations to the only nomination from Leeds ‘Roller Trio’ and to ‘Band on the Wall’ to be the only other nomination from the North of England.
Interestingly the favorites (as they are in 3 categories) Troyka’s next gig will at the Sela Leeds, 19th November. Well that is about the only connection to these Southern jazz awards I can reap.


Thursday, October 18, 2012

RIP Colin Watson

News The sad news that Colin Watson died on 11th October has reached us.

Colin was an educator, guitarist, supporter and promoter of Jazz in Leeds, one of the Seven Jazz comittee and a volunteer at Scarborough. The last gig he played was at the Grove Leeds the Monday before.

The funeral will be held on 24th October, further details -



RIP 1949 - 2012

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Friday, October 12, 2012

Trish Clowes Tangent Nonet. The Venue, Leeds College of Music, Saturday 6th October 2012

Photo by Alex Fiennes

The audience at The Venue sit patiently as members of the band move their cars in the car park due to the imminent threat of car crime. Already the barrier between audience and performer has been broken down, and despite the short wait for the show to begin, a relationship has begun. Recently being given the title “New Generation Artist” by BBC Radio 3, tonight Trish Clowes proves to everyone present that she is not only worthy of that honour now, but is worthy of close consideration for the future. The set list tonight showcases material from her two albums, “Tangent” and her latest release “And In The Night-Time She Is There”, and is indicative of her abilities to mix classical and jazz music seamlessly together to produce original and elegant results. The first half of tonight’s show features quintet versions of her catalogue and opens with the sinister ‘On-Off’. ‘Seven’ has a more baroque quality, and showcases Clowes’ soft, tantalizing approach to the saxophone. ‘Green Circle’ is further evidence, if that were required, that Clowes’ abilities as a composer and player display a maturity and eloquence so relatively early on in her career.
Gwilym Simcock’s approach to the piano has been well documented, and tonight’s performance sees him in and out of the piano with composure and intrigue. His solos are a squall of phrases which appear restrained yet mischievous.  His manner of playing, which marries a classical training with a love of jazz, perfectly complements Clowes’ approach to composition. Simcock has been instrumental in producing her recorded output, and has contributed piano to a number of the tracks on both releases. ‘Little Tune’ is achingly beautiful, whilst ‘Atlas’ which closes the first set, is soothingly paced and harmonious. Mike Walker, Simcock’s colleague in The Impossible Gentlemen, contributes some genuinely eccentric and novel guitar to these pieces, which again, display virtuosity and self-discipline which he appears to do effortlessly. Having said that, watching him play, there is a palpable sense of enthusiasm and delight.
The second half of the performance expands the quintet into a nonet with the addition of a string quartet. Opening with ‘Coloured Eye’, originally a vocal piece, the compositions now take on a further level of sophistication. The strings, rather than being used to boost the authority of the music, are integral to its development.  ‘Animator’, again originally a song on the album, is romantic yet angular. The ‘Iris Nonet’ trilogy is dedicated to Clowes’ grandmother, who, it transpires, financed her soprano saxophone and flat, and whose cardigan she wore during the composition phase of the album. Each section features agility, comedy, tenderness and density, and utilises the improvising string quartet to achieve astonishing results. Moving through each section the listener can sense a multitude of classical influences informing the writing. Closing with the platform for free improvisation ‘The Master and Margarita’ from her first album release, Clowes may appear a delicate figure on stage and display economy in her saxophone technique, but the performance this evening suggested someone who is totally in control of her playing and production, and will entice future audiences away from their television sets over the next few years.

Trish Clowes page