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Even more London Jazz Festival, etc

November 29, 2011

Last year’s London Jazz Festival indulgences were confined to a single weekend. After, that seemed like not enough, so this year’s London visits stretched to a Friday, and the following Friday-through-Sunday.

Which was great, but means, those reviews for LondonJazz aside, too much music to write about. So, as usual mainly for my future reference, a few things seen, with minimal comments.

Blazing Fiddles – Colston Hall.

Actually we went to see this on the Wednesday night before LJF, on a last minute whim. And the four (sometimes five) fiddle players exploring Scottish tradition were great. Their unison playing was something to marvel at, and the various solo features  full of wonderful, heartfelt music.

Friday, LJF  Siegel/Noble – St James, Piccadilly

Friday I was in London alone, and caught Julian Siegel and Liam Noble in St James Piccadilly at lunchtime. They pulled in about 300 people (entry was free), and played a bunch of tunes from Siegel’s CD Urban Theme Park which I took home. Without the bass and drums from the quartet, who contribute a heck of a lot to the recording, this was still fine music – Noble’s use of the Church’s pretty Fazioli piano and Siegel’s lovely bass clarinet resonating with the Church’s echo especially well. Also caught a little of Phil Bancroft’s project on the South Bank later, another free gig which was packed out – to the extent of needing crowd control! – but had to peel off to meet folks. Then Jeff Williams in the evening, as reviewed separately below.

Saturday, LJF

The day was spent in keen anticipation of Henry Threadgill. But in the day we caught some long stretches of the Adventures in Sound sessions in the QEH foyer, with the impressive stuff from Dave Kane, the always remarkable Paul Rogers and, particularly beguiling, a duo from vibist Corey Mwamba and Robert Mitchell on the piano. They successfully avoided Burton/Corea territory, partly by use of the bow on the vibes, but mainly just by being original.

Leg-stretching while this was going on allowed a sample of the other radio three session being recorded simultaneously in the Clore Ballroom – brief, but long enough to establish that Trish Clowes’ excellent Tangent are still developing their delivery of her excellent compositions.

Sunday, LJF – Arild Andersen, QEH.

Threadgill on Sat evening and Ornette to come on Sunday was *almost* enough music, even for me. But couldn’t resist buying late tickets for Arild Andersen and the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra in the afternoon at the not very full QEH. This was the orchestra’s ECM tribute, playing arrangements of pieces by ECM artists for big band. Some, such as K. Wheeler’s Heyoke, worked perfectly, others not so well, though the band performed them all immaculately. The deal with SNJO, at this gig anyway, seems to be very much Tommy Smith and his band – he took nearly all the horn solos – but the main delight was hearing Andersen, freed of rhythm responsibilities by the presence of the admirable Calum Gourlay, taking the lead and many solos on all the tunes. Hard to think of anyone better to front an ECM repertoire band, and he did the occasion proud. A deeply wonderful musician.

Brass Jaw, Colston Hall, Friday 25th Nov

And a final mention for the first gig back in Bristol, an hour’s fun from Brass Jaw down in the uncongenial space (musically speaking) of the Colston Hall foyer. They just about overcame that handicap with their engaging set of mainly hard bop standards. A few foot-operated percussion instruments have crept on to the stage since I last saw them. Seems to me like a mistake – they just thump away in the background. Face it, guys, there’s no ryhthm section! Making a virtue of that, as they do the rest of the time, with the baritone sax punching out the bass, works better. At their best, they sound like the World Saxophone Quartet without the free bits, and with one alto replaced by a trumpet. Which is to say, not half bad.

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