Sunday, December 22, 2013

Svarc Hanley Longhawn – “For The Greater Good” album review

From the opening few bars of “Portals” there is an almost palpable sense that “For The Greater Good” will be a release that is built up on intelligent compositions, executed by musicians that are not only highly competent in their field, but have a sensitivity for the music that raises them up above some of the more pedestrian releases. Here we have Nik Svarc on electric and acoustic guitar/loops, Steve Hanley on drums and percussion and Martin Longhawn on organ and keyboards, and hearing the album through for the first time was almost akin to hearing an album by one of your favourite artists on the ECM label through for the first time. You are assured quality not just in the playing and composition, but also in the production and the packaging. The music progresses intuitively as each individual player subtly contributes to each piece without ever disturbing the delicate balance. “Portals” moves at a variety of paces and moods which are sometimes suggestive of electric era Miles Davis, particularly the organ sound which occasionally echoes that of Keith Jarrett and/or Chick Corea around that time. To many jazz enthusiasts, this one included, evoking electric Miles Davis can only ever be a good thing. The guitar playing here has a sense that it was informed by “Blow By Blow and “Wired” era Jeff Beck, in that is successfully crosses the jazz/rock border without losing the integrity of either genre. Built up almost on a number of differing musical movements, “Portals” displays stunning musical dexterity and composition that should be of interest to supporters of a wide range of musical approaches such as jazz, avant garde, rock and modern classical. “Like a Primate” features some beautifully restrained guitar lines that bristle crisply over the ethereal organ sound to create not only deeply moving music but also phrases that can almost be picked out as “jazz earworms”.

There is almost a discordant texture to the guitar work on “It’s Cold Outside” which suggests the guitar of Sonny Sharrock, but which Svarc infuses with his own personality. Looped phrases and plaintive guitar lines add further colour and dynamic. “Heavy Sky” showcases how contemplative and melancholic the organ and acoustic guitar can sound together, whilst the albums closing “Exit” brings together the delicacy and dynamism of the previous pieces and uses those qualities to put together music that not only may be loved by jazz enthusiasts but may also be appreciated by lovers of “progressive music” in general. The album closes on a majestic crescendo that is yet another of the many disparate characteristics that go up to make one of the album releases of the year for this reviewer. Gracefulness and power are very difficult to attain without upsetting the equilibrium, but this release manages that fine balancing act with a great deal of dignity.

Thursday, December 19, 2013


The new Northern Jazz Promotion website is up and running.

Norvoljazz are the network of Northern Jazz promoters – all the volunteer run clubs in the North West, North East and Yorkshire. The site was funded by Jazz Yorkshire and will take over the gig guide when the Jazz Yorkshire site ceases at the end of December. 

Clubs wanting to promote their gigs on the site should contact the webmaster Richard Gentle on

Monday, December 16, 2013

Interview - Jamie Taylor - Outside Line Album

I caught up with Jamie Taylor the Sheffield based guitarist for a chat (by email) about his latest project 'Outside Line'
In case you cant read the album cover the personel are:
Garry Jackson -Bass
Dave Walsh - Drums
Jamie Taylor - Guitar
Matt Anderson - Sax

MBS -  It's been five years since your last album, have you been working on this album since then?

JT - The last album (“Cat Dreams”) was with my previous group “Java” - which gradually ceased to be, as we all got busier with different things. I didn’t feel like doing anything of my own for a long time after the last record. I played and recorded with Jamil Sheriff’s big band, and worked quite a bit with other groups like Paul Baxter’s Give A Little Love Orchestra and Ben Lowman’s Django Project. I also did quite a lot of work with vocalists - two records with Sarah Brickel, and a string of dates with Rosie Brown’s “Where Light Falls” project. Eventually, I began to feel ready to get something going again, particularly once I started playing with Matt, Garry, and Dave - the group that became "Outside Line”.

I guess I wanted to wait until I was doing something distinctly different from what I’d done before, and I knew I wanted to switch the line-up to a tenor/guitar quartet, so that I could do a bit more comping. If there’s no piano, that can afford a bit more freedom harmonically sometimes. I also wanted to loosen up my approach a bit and experiment with some different textures and longer forms etc. Finally, just on a practical level, it’s a costly business, making records - I can’t afford to do it too often!

MBS - Did you take a collaborative approach to writing this music or was it arranged first?

JT - I think what we do is pretty typical of how most contemporary jazz groups function. Someone writes a tune (they're all mine, on this album, but Matt has started writing for the group now as well) which will have a melody and harmonic structure in place before it’s brought to the quartet. But then, when we start playing it, everyone’s free to make suggestions. I think you have to get a balance between clarity of vision and collaboration within a group. It’d be crazy to take musicians like these and then try to limit their contributions. At the same time, though, I feel it’s almost as bad to ask really fine players to work with you and then just coast along in their slipstream - you have to know what each player’s special qualities are, and why you think they will combine well together.

MBS - When writing music do you start with the melody, chord structure or a different starting point and build from there?

JT - It can be either. With this record, the stuff on Side One is all quite melody driven so, there, the melodies definitely came first. With the “Three Colours: Blues” suite on Side Two, the idea was to come up with unusual variations on the basic 12 bar blues theme, which meant that structure and chords were perhaps more pre-determined.

MBS - I understand that it was recorded in a secret location, any reason for this?

JT - I wouldn’t call it a secret location exactly but, like all studios, Wharfe Valley Sound doesn’t like to advertise its exact whereabouts for the usual security reasons. In terms of the process, it was lovely. Sam Hobbs is an amazing producer, engineer, and musician. He does everything he can to make you feel like you’re playing live - we were all the same room and there were no headphones in sight! That’s no mean logistical feat, especially in a fairly small space, and it makes such a difference to the music. Almost everything on the record was a first take, which I think says it all really. The kettle was always on as well - music is impossible without a plentiful supply of tea.

MBS - Have you been gigging the album's music before recording or have you recorded it first?

JT - We’ve gigged most of it - the exception being “Fugue (Hazy)” which came together shortly before the sessions. Generally, it’s always better to have gigged material first, I think - you’re more familiar with it and, also, live audiences are brilliant at letting you know what the shape of something should be; they help you to answer questions like: Where are the climaxes? Are there any bits that could get boring? etc.

MBS - Are the musicians on the album, long -time associates or specially selected for this music?
JT - Both. Garry Jackson and I go back to the Jurassic Period, and I’ve known Dave and Matt for several years as well. But, as I said previously, just because you’re friends with someone and know they’re a great player, it doesn’t necessarily mean that a particular combination will work. So, yes - in that respect, they were absolutely chosen for this music.

MBS - You have treated this album as whole rather than a collection of songs, why did you decide to have longer pieces?

JT - Well, I have a great fondness for the golden era of vinyl - you know that sort of 1970s British art-rock thing where you had the gatefold sleeves and pieces took up one whole side of an album? The LP was invented almost by accident, but it’s always felt like the perfect size of canvas to me. I keep waiting for the digital music thing to emulate that - people at the moment seem to prefer convenience, which is fine, but with all these playlists and everything - I don’t know… with some music it can be like shuffling the chapters of a novel. Lots of people have said that, I know...

MBS - What was the inspiration for this album?

JT - Various things, but quite a lot of it was inspired by the arrival of my nephew and niece in the last three years, and the album is dedicated to them - hence “Someone New: Suite”. When my niece was born, I remember going out for a long walk in the Peak District and, when I got home, the first section of that piece came to me in a flash. It’s really funny how that happens; I think the scientists are starting to explain it now, in terms of how certain activities can stimulate other areas of the brain.

MBS - Is the music telling a story?

JT - Not in a strict programmatic sense, I don’t think, but I hope there’s a journey involved. The first suite certainly travels from music that sounds quite uncertain and mysterious in the beginning to a fairly uplifting and positive conclusion - that probably reflects my feeling about life in general. It’s scary at times, but if we have the right people around us, it’ll all be ok!

MBS - Will you be touring the album?

JT - We will, but first I have a UK tour in February with Tom Harrison, Conor Chaplin, and David Lyttle. Once I get back from that, it’ll be full steam ahead with the Outside Line project. I’m just in the process now of trying to get everything organised - I wish there were eight days in the week sometimes. If only The Beatles had been right about that… All my live dates are on my website at so that’s the place for people to go if they want to check the progress.

MBS - Do you like marmalade?

JT - Now we get to the heart of the matter. If someone gave me hot buttered toast and marmalade, I’d be very grateful, and I’m sure I'd enjoy it. But, if I was making it myself, I’d probably stop at the butter stage.

Thank you to Jamie for the chat, I understand the album will be out mid Jan 2014 all details will be on Jamie Taylors website there is a preview on sound cloud:
Having had a sneak preview, ealier in the year and of the album, all I can say is this is a great album, we have an early copy so will be posting a review here soon!


Thursday, November 28, 2013

Gig Preview and Interview with Ronnie Bottomley

Gig Preview and Interview with Ronnie Bottomley
Lee Gibson and RBJO@Leeds Irish Centre,
York Road, Leeds, LS9 9NT 
Thursday evening 12 December 8-11pm
£16/£14 concessions

This year Seven Jazz have moved their big band spectacular to the Irish centre York Road Leeds because the previous venue always sold out! I caught up with Ronnie for a chat (by email). Most people in Yorkshire who know about the jazz scene will have encountered Ronnie Bottomley, who was the inaugural winner of the Jazz Yorkshire Lifetime Achievement Award.
Ronnie who has years of experience as a jazz drummer, is also an educator and a band leader. Now in his 80s, it appears that he is working as hard as ever in all 3 guises.

On the 12th December he brings a fresh set of arrangements for the first set and then internationally acclaimed jazz singer, Lee Gibson joins the band in the second set.

Was it always going to be music for you or did you have other occupations before or during?
RB -  If I numbered all the jobs that I had had from being ten years of age to when I turned pro in 1960 you wouldn't believe it - looking back, even I can't believe it. At ten I had two paper rounds and washed mill owner's cars on Saturday morning. When I was twelve I added to all this by caddying on the golf course all Saturday afternoon then from midnight until Sunday lunchtime I cleaned inside mill chimneys and de-scaled mill boilers. When I came out of the navy I couldn't settle, I worked at Covent Garden as a potato porter , then at Billingsgate Fish Market pushing barrows up the hill opposite the gate, then sold Encyclopaedias door to door and on and on - I had twentyfive jobs in just over two years. I took a hairdressing course open to ex-servicemen and, as I'd had selling experience, ended up working for Raymond, better known as 'Mr Teesie Weesie', the TV personality. Due to befriending drummer Phil Seaman when I was in the navy in Portsmouth (and everyone who is a jazz fan should know who he was) I was playing around the North London area as a semi-pro during all this and, eventually, music won me over.

Has it always been Jazz that you have played?
RB - No, although jazz has always been my first love, as a pro one has to go where the money is so during the 60s, 70s and 80s I played for a variety of stars on the cabaret circuit from Matt Munroe, Johnny Ray, The (original) Drifters, Howard Keel, Edmund Hockridge, Alma Cogan, Ruby Murray, Dorothy Squires, The Beverley Sisters, Bruce Forsyth, Bob Monkhouse and toured Europe and Australia five times with Gene Pitney, at the time. I was also doing regular TV work on the Les Dawson Show, Emmerdale, The Royal and Stay Lucky. Added to which, fusion, or jazz/rock, emerged in the early 70s and I loved it and embraced it whole- heartedly.

How does running a big band differ from when you started?
RB - Well, every town and city had one, if not more, Palais de Dance halls like The Mecca and The Majestic Ballroom in city square where people danced nightly, so running a big band was quite different then (in the Bradford, Halifax, Huddersfield, Wakefield, Harrogate and Leeds area there were over forty, full time, seven nights per week drummers working, if the cabaret clubs are included). Now, to run a big band, it has to have in it, at least, sixteen members who, because they love jazz, are willing to travel miles and work for next to nothing just to play. These are now known as 'rehearsal bands' and, usually meet once a week to play, sometimes before an audience, sometimes not. My Jazz Orchestra is full of the top soloists in the country and travel from as far away South Wales, North wales, Cheshire, Nottingham and Doncaster, plus the local people from Leeds and Harrogate. All this means that we can't rehearse and so in all the concerts that have been attended in the past the musicians have had no more idea of what the arrangements were going to be like than the audience. It's all 'seat of your pants' stuff and makes for a very exciting performance but, they're all excellent readers and, so far, it's always gone without a hiccup.

How did you meet Lee Gibson?
RB - I first worked with her on a concert in Rotherham when I played in the Colin Yates Big Band twenty-three years ago. I then met Lee Gibson through her association with LCM as an external examiner. I worked there for thirty-three years and during that time whenever she came up she would bring quintet charts then we'd play somewhere locally in the evening or lunchtime in college or whatever.

What do you feel sets her apart from the other big band singers?
RB - Most other jazz vocalists usually sing with small groups which allows them more freedom but Lee is equally at home with both small groups and big bands.

What songs can we expect to hear on the night and why have you chosen those particular songs?
RB - I have yet no idea which songs Lee will choose sing on the night (I did mention that we didn't rehearse, earlier, didn't I) before the concert we will all meet to have a quick look at the programme and, perhaps, blow through some of the more tricky numbers and get the sound engineer to make any adjustments where necessary. For the first half I've written entirely new arrangements that feature certain members of the band, "Without A Song" (Joel Purnell, tenor sax); "Emily" (Neil Yates, flugel horn); "Prelude To A Kiss" (Tony Harper, baritone sax); "West Side Story Medley" (Dave Walsh, drums); "Billie's Bounce" (Derrick Harris, guitar); "I'm Not Yet Over The Hill"- very fitting - (a blues featuring Graham Hearn, piano) plus a whole lot of other numbers. Bill Charleson has arranged "A House Is Not A Home" which features Bill, himself, on alto sax).

Do you like marmalade?
RB - I do like marmalade, the one that has all bits in it like was originally. 

For more details of the gig please check:

For a taster of the gig here is a youtube clip from last year!

If you are looking for Ronnie he can be found on facebook!
Lee Gibsons website is:

Hope to see you all at the gig


Monday, November 11, 2013

Arun Ghosh – “A South Asian Suite” Camoci Records

According to the press release for “A South Asian Suite”, the music takes inspiration from Miles Davis’ “Sketches of Spain” and Duke Ellington’s “Far East Suite” and reflects Arun Ghosh’s respect for South Asian music in the same way Vaughan Williams paid homage to the English countryside in many of his most important works. Certainly, on first hearing this collection, one cannot help but be drawn into the sensuality of the instrumentation. There are tunes of love and devotion and there are tunes that evoke imagery, which is at times melancholic and sacred, whilst at others joyous and uplifting. The Suite features six movements, which can be regarded as Ghosh’s interpretation of the subtle variations in musical styles of the Subcontinent. This cauldron of musical ingredients is achieved through blending clarinet, harmonium, table, dholak, alto saxophone, flute, bass drums, Tibetan bowls and piano. What may initially sound like disparate confusion skilfully intertwines to produce a sound that has both beauty and significance.

Opening with “The Gypsies of Rajasthan”, a praise song, inspired by Rajasthani folk and Gypsy music, the mood is bright and exultant, and illustrates perfectly how music can speak to differing cultures with dialogue which is not so different wherever you are on the planet. “After the Monsoon” demonstrates a far more meditative quality, one that is as soothing to the soul as it is to the listener’s ears. “River Song” is inspired by bhatiyali music, the folk style of Bengal, which is Ghosh’s parental homeland. Again the imagery that flows from the music captures perfectly essence of the waterways and culture that surrounds them. An altogether sprightlier piece, “Sufi Stomp (Soul of Sindh)” is up-tempo and celebrational, and utilises compositional structure and phrases from swing to rock and roll, without ever losing the overall mood. “Mountain Song” is a contemplative love song evocative of Nepalese panoramas. “Ode to the Martyrs” is one of a number of pieces which form segues between the dialogue, and like the others, “Pilgrimage to the Ganges”, “Arise Dancing Dervish!” and “Guatama’s Footsteps”, is a transitional vignette created through musical improvisation and mutual understanding.
 The saga ends with “Journey South” a dramatic progression which builds upon layers of repetition into an almost trance like euphoria. 

“A South Asian Suite” was originally commissioned by Manchester Mega Mela and PRS for Music Foundation, and was premiered in 2010 performed as an octet. Subsequently the suite has been rearranged to include table and piano, and on this recording, Nilesh Gulhane and Zoe Rahman perform these parts respectively. Where “world music” can sometimes be a phrase used to indicate that musical cultures have been bolted together, “A South Asian Suite” effortlessly fuses jazz and South Asian musical characteristics to form a cohesive piece that not only is a joy to hear, but is an education for the listener willing to engage and understand its’ influences.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Interview Richard Iles – Microscopic Seven Arts 24th November

I first came across Microscopic as part of the Jazz North – Northernline, those in the know will have encountered Richard Iles playing and composing before, either with the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra or The Miniature Brass Enssmble more recently. Microscopic premiered at the Manchester Jazz Festival in 2012 however my first encounter with Richards music was at the Northern line showcase gig back in the summer in Leeds where he was the last act on (following The Weave, Stuart Mcullum for strings and Djangologie all tough acts to follow).

For me; the music I heard had beautiful melodies, great harmonic choices and subtle rhythms. Well Microscopic are back this side of the Pennines at Seven Jazz on 24th November I highly recommend you attend! I already have my tickets reserved! I cant give a better description that what Seven Jazz say ‘Microscopic play warm, melodious home grown tunes, no amplification, just right for the ambient acoustic setting of Seven Arts.’

Microscopic are:
Richard Iles – trumpet/flugelhorn,
Mike Williams – alto saxophone,
Les Chisnall – piano,
Percy Pursglove – bass,

I caught up with Richard by the power of email to have a chat about this gig:

MBS – How is being a member of Northernline treating you?
RI - It`s been really good, especially the showcase event in Leeds where we got to hear 3 other bands which were all great and it was nice to catch up with some old friends. I think Nigel Slee and all the Jazz North team are doing a great job and as ex Yorkshire resident I can`t remember there ever being an opportunity like this for North west musicians being supported in this way so I’m very grateful for the opportunity to be part of a programme like this.

MBS – Why the small format from the bigger bands of the past?
RI - In the past I have co-led a big band with Andy Schofield and most recently I have had a Brass based group called the Miniature Brass emporium, I also have a jazz quintet called Prestwich Deluxe and I now run this smallest of bands called Microscopic! This band has come about because I really wanted to play some jazz with the people in the band, the format of the band is incidental to the people who are in it. I have had a long association with pianist Les Chisnall and Percy Pursglove is one of my old students, although I taught him the trumpet I was astonished to hear him many years later playing the Bass. Percy is an amazingly rounded musician who I really wanted to involve in this band. Finally Mike Williams is a colleague at Birmingham Conservatoire on the jazz course who I believe is a pretty unique talent and is very seldom heard performing in public.

MBS – Any reason you have decided against having drums?
RI - No particular reason although I always enjoyed listening to the Jimmy Guiffre trio with Paul Bley and Steve Swallow and the absence of drums obviously changes the dynamic of the music. It does have its challenges but playing with drums also has its own challenges. The format of the music allows the music to breathe in a different way without drums so I don’t think it is an issue for the musicians.

MBS – What came first the band or the music?
RI - Well I think the band came first really although some of the music is from another time and I thought it would fit in this context. I always feel that once I have written a tune and the musicians have played it, it no longer belongs to me as they hopefully put their own slant on it. I`m not precious about how it is played as I believe the musicians I have chosen can bring a unique interpretation to it and that to me is what its all about.

MBS – Is it all originals planned for the Seven gig or will you be including some   interpretations of peoples music?
RI - It will be some of my music and some other tunes which are particular favourites of mine which I hope will be appropriate for the day.

MBS – What is this music saying, is there a story behind it?
RI - With some tunes that I write there is a story behind it which relates to the background that is occurring at the time of writing it. I tend to think about writing tunes every day and I keep a little book with all my bits and pieces in and I keep everything that I write most of which is not that interesting but I only use the stuff that I can live with for a while. I’m not sure whether the stories are that relevant to the listener as I think it’s nice when the listener creates their own story for the tune. One of the things about instrumental music is, there are no lyrics to help the listener through, but I feel the melody, harmony and groove can help let the audience create their own story.

MBS – When you compose is there a set way this happens do you have a starting point like a specific melody line or bass riff or do you start with the harmony or rhythm first?
RI - A starting point has many ingredients and there is no specific order to it. Sometimes it can start with a melodic idea, sometimes it can start with a mood created. Most of the tunes I write start when I am in the car driving to work so I sing the idea into my phone and record it (hands free!). I rarely start with a chord sequence as I find it doesn’t give the best results for me. Rhythm is created by interpreting the melody in different ways and sometimes I think of a bass line. I don`t really have a method that I use, I just like writing music for my own pleasure and when a new tune arrives I’m relieved!

MBS – Being a trumpet player how do you think this affects your compositions?
RI - I don`t really know, I just like music and I play the trumpet and I love listening to jazz so I think that along with all my past musical experiences have an effect on how I play and the stuff I write. My tunes tend to work on most instruments and they certainly aren`t particularly technical.

MBS – Do you like Marmalade?
Well as a child of the 70`s I do remember Ob-la-Di- Ob-La-Da but my favourite band of that type was Mud, Tiger Feet.

To hear some of Richards music and a video interview check out

Richards web site has more videos and sounds to check out

Friday, October 25, 2013

Preview - A gig that slipped the net Tonight

I have just heard via the power of twitter that there is a gig that was not on my radar!
Arun Ghosh tonight Fri, 25 Oct 2013 7:30pm - Seven Arts

If you’re not aware of his music here is a bit about Arun:
Conceived in Calcutta, bred in Bolton, matured in Manchester and living in London, Arun Ghosh's musical style represents his rich cultural heritage. The British-Asian clarinettist and composer is a leading light on the UK jazz scene, captivating audiences and critics with his passionate and dynamic performance style, eloquent musical expression and a healthy dose of rock 'n' roll spirit. His two albums, Northern Namaste and Primal Odyssey have seen him celebrated as a renowned innovator of the IndoJazz style; forthcoming album ,A South Asian Suite looks set to take this even further, and Ghosh is delighted to be presenting this work at Seven Arts tonight.

"…an upfront mix of South Asian melodies and western street-grooves, driven by a powerful Indo-western rhythm section" - The Guardian
"...extraordinary charisma and musicianship and a consistently riveting compositional skill" – Jazzwise
The original album line up are:
Arun Ghosh - clarinet, harmonium
Nilesh Gulhane - tabla
Aref Durvesh - tabla, dholak, tambourine, drums
Pat Illingworth - drums
Chris Williams - alto saxophone
Rastko Rasic - drums, tambourine, bells, Tibetan bowls
Idris Rahman - tenor saxophone, clarinet, flute
Zoe Rahman - piano
Liran Donin - double bass
We have heard that Dave Walsh - drums will be performing with the band.

A South Asian Suite is an original Indo-Jazz chamber work by Arun Ghosh inspired by the music, landscape and peoples (sic) of Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka as seen from the viewpoint of a British-Asian from a Northern town. The Suite consists of six movements and contained within them is Ghosh's musical response to each of the 5 countries of the Subcontinent, highlighting regional variations in style, tempo and mood. Originally commissioned and premiered by Manchester Mega Mela and the PRS for Music Foundation in 2010, presented in association with camoci, A South Asian Suite was originally performed as an Octet with a mix of traditional South Asian (sitar, Carnatic violin, percussion) and jazz (clarinet, soprano & tenor saxophones, vibraphone, double bass, drums) instrumentation. Its subsequent London premiere, at the Southbank’s Alchemy Festival in 2011 and 3rdSwaminarayan Mandir, Neasden, saw Ghosh rearranging the Suite to incorporate piano and tabla, typical in his IndoJazz Sextet format. Since then, 3 further performances have taken place at Tagore Festival Dartington, Corsham Festival and most recently, at London’s Vortex Jazz Club which garnered a 4 star live review from the Evening Standard’s respected jazz critc, Jack Massarik.

To check out more about Arun Ghosh:
Twitter: @arunghosh
Website: Soundcloud: