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A bonus – Alcyona Mick and Tori Freestone, 20 (and 21) Feb

February 21, 2018

Always nice to be able to recommend something at first hand – so a quick note to say I caught Alcyona Mick and Tori Freestone’s lovely piano/sax duo playing their short lunchtime set today at Bath Spa University (happened to be teaching a session there in the p.m. so just had to roll up early).

It was delightful – they make a lot of music for just two people. Often Monkish (Mick has a Monk-flavoured number of her own that works especially well), but not all the time. They’re appearing – for a longer sets, I’m sure – at Future Inns in Bristol tomorrow night (Thursday). I can’t make that. But you should definitely get down there and hear them.

The venue blurb tells you more:

Tori and Alcyona formed their Duo in 2015 playing Monk tunes on & project in the Canary islands, and were given their first platform at Manchester Jazz Festival in 2015. The two have known each other for years, working together on the London scene in many different ensembles including the London Jazz orchestra.

In the duo setting Alcyona and Tori have & very spontaneous, interactive approach to playing, and like to follow whatever direction the music takes them in on the day, using the space to take risks and have fun, as well as explore the more quiet tender moments that are created. The two share a large range of musical influences that fall not only within the jazz genre, including Brazilian music, English folk, Latin, Arabic, free playing, Monk and more, and their aim is to take the audience on an engaging journey through this sound world.

Performances have included features at Manchester, Marsden, and Lancaster Jazz festivals, the Vortex, Museo del Grifo in Lanzarote (Spain).

The duo recorded their debut album ‘Criss Crossʼ at the Artesuono Studio in Udine, Italy in 2017, featuring special guest vocalist Brigitte Beraha, and will be released on transatlantic label Whirlwind recording in March 2018.

Tori and Alcyona are embarking on an Arts Council funded UK tour in the Spring 2018, and will also be performing dates in Germany, Italy and Slovenia.

The album features original material, apart from ‘Criss Cross’ which was written by Thelonious Monk, in the spirit of the origins of this project.


Bristol jazz this week, and next month.

February 19, 2018

Go here for the usual comprehensive coverage on Bristol247, including reminder that Greg Cordez’s  excellent quintet are performing to mark launch of Greg’s new CD at the Wardrobe Theatre tonight (Monday).

Also poss of interest, my preview of the Bristol jazz festival next month for LondonJazz, which you can find here.

Any jazz vinyl out there going spare?

February 15, 2018
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My friend Colin who helps runs the music side of Bristol’s Amnesty bookshop (and was a booker, then an A&R man back in the ’60s and ’70s…) tells me they’ll have a stall again at Bristol Jazz and Blues fest next month.

We’ve done well out of this in the past and have CDs, books and photos (many by David Redfern) to sell you. However, vinyl donations have been sparse recently. (Why? Who knows? Maybe everyone is buying new decks and revisiting their old collections?).

So if you have any jazz goodies on vinyl you’d like to part with in a good cause, donations now would be much appreciated, especially as we don’t know where the festival will be next year.

You can drop them into the shop  – a few doors down from the Co-op on Gloucester Rd in Bishopston – six days a week. Do it on a Monday morning, say Hi and I can thank you personally. Or we can collect. I’m going to have a rummage in my collection now. Just need to make sure the ones I might want to listen to again are on Spotify…

19621084_10155426385601487_6992848180747130982_o.jpgTreasure? Colin at work upstairs in Books for Amnesty.

Bristol jazz week – Jan 13th

February 13, 2018

Plenty to choose from this week, as usual. Tony Benjamin’s invaluable preview, here, lists 12 gigs in 11 different venues. True, Andy Sheppard and co’s date at the Fringe on Wednesday is already sold out (maybe he’d like to play a slightly larger space next time he’s in town with the Doctors), but there are lots of other good things.

In case that’s not enough, here are a couple more. The incomparable Quercus (June Tabor, Iain Ballamy and Huw Warren) are playing in Cardiff on Saturday night (Feb 17th). They don’t have any Bristol dates scheduled as far as I know so if you’ve not heard them before it’s definitely worth a trip.

Closer to home, bassist Greg Cordez launches his new CD at the Wardrobe theatre next Monday (Feb 19th). I mention that one partly because this note often doesn’t get posted until Tuesday, but mainly because the music is great. The compositions on the new recording (which I’ve just reviewed here) were heard at a gig or two last year, but the actual CD hadn’t been made then. This is the launch, proper, with the quintet heard to great effect at the Fringe –  the familiar sax and trumpet team of Jake McMurchie and Pete Judge, with guitarist Steve Banks and drummer Matt Brown. There’s also the promise of some even newer pieces by Cordez that are probably destined for the next recording later in the year. This is a rare outing for a band that does full justice to the leader’s satisfying writing.


Bristol jazz this week – Feb 5

February 5, 2018

A quick one. I’ve already pointed to the gig that stands out for me this week – Christine Tobin’s band at Colton Hall on Wednesday.  As usual, there’s plenty more on, as listed here on Bristol 247 by Tony Benjamin.

Also worth noting, Bath listings being hard to come by these days, that Josephine Davies’ excellent Satori are at St James Wine Vaults tomorrow.

Joanna MacGregor – Tango trio. Wiltshire Music Centre, Feb 3.

February 4, 2018

Joanna MacGregor, a virtuoso who is also an eclectic in the best way, learnt to play tango with Astor Piazzola’s band: there’s nothing like going to the source. And it shows when she digs into the man’s music in the second half of this show.

There’s much more to it than that, with a broad sweep of South American music, Brazilian as well as Argentinian, and impressive pieces by a bunch of composers whose names are much less familiar.  Osvaldo Golijov and Alberto Ginastera, anyone? More familiar are multi-instrumentalist Egberto Gismonti (she’s worked with him, too), Jobim (a brief rendition of Insensatez) and Kurt Weill, whose Tango Ballad makes a witty encore choice.

Her trio – Adrian Brendel on cello and (once) voice and the brilliant London-resident Brazilian percussionist Adriano Adewale – match her verve throughout. Adewale’s solo tambourine feature is a concert in itself. Brendel digs deep into the South American melodies on bowed cello and, well, does his best imparting rhythmic punch when he plucks the strings. The concert is acoustic, and I wonder if the cello needs a pickup for pizzicato work to compete with the roar of the Steinway and the more unrestrained percussion when the trio are going full-tilt.

The whole evening was a delight, especially the second half – some outrageously flamboyant piano parts that lifted the spirits were worth the somewhat tedious trek from Bristol by themselves. It was billed as jazz in the Guardian listings – it really wasn’t, not that it matters. A duo improvisation between Adewale and Brendel (cello and doussn’gouni a potentially intriguing combination) didn’t really go anywhere, though, because improvisation isn’t really Adrian’s thing, it seemed, wonderful musician though he is.

Maybe there will be more of that when the full five-piece cello band, with violin and accordion added, convenes in London in a few weeks. But I don’t think we who heard the trio were left short-changed. The sight and sound of McGregor tearing through prodigiously packed scores, flicking the pages with her right hand with her fingers barely leaving the keys, was a recurring highlight, but there were plenty of more measured episodes to bask in the beauty of the South American melodies. A welcome, warming antidote to a dank Wiltshire Saturday evening. MacGregor, whose tenure as artistic director of Bath Music Festival produced some superb programming, is Artist in Residence at the Wiltshire Centre this year, when they celebrate their 20th anniversary, so it’ll be worth keeping an eye out for her future dates there.

Gig of the week – Christine Tobin

February 1, 2018

As a jazz lover who reads a lot of contemporary poetry I was pretty excited when a favourite singer, Christine Tobin, planned a set of songs using words by Paul Muldoon – perhaps the most influential living English language poet (he was born in Armagh but has taught in the US for many years). The resulting CD, Pelt, was one of my 2017 favourites. Jazz and poetry don’t come together all that often, and results are often mixed. This time, the combination works beautifully. I’ve said a few times that for me it’s the best collaboration like this since Annie Ross sang songs with words by Christopher Logue more than fifty years ago. (If you don’t know that set, Loguerhythms – which features Peter King and Gordon Beck – it’s on Spotify these days).

So it’s also exciting that Tobin, who spends much of her time in New York now along with partner Phil Robson, has fixed a tour for this new music. More, with Arts Council England backing, she’s bringing the eight strong band that graces the CD. The means we get Robson (of course) on guitar, and the likes of Gareth Lockrane on flute, along with drums, guitar, violin and cello, and piano. You can read about them all here.

What to expect? The arrangements are hugely diverse. This nice review from the Irish Times sums up the CD well.

Singer and composer Christine Tobin hooked up with Belfast poet Paul Muldoon at the Kilkenny Arts Festival a few years ago, and that one-off collaboration has grown into this sprawling, enthralling song cycle of mock epic proportions.

Pelt strikes that most elusive of balances between familiarity and strangeness, by turns recalling Tom Waits, Kate Bush and Joni Mitchell, without being beholden to any particular genre or influence.

The Dublin-born, New York-resident singer has set Muldoon’s wittily nuanced words (and some lyrics written specifically for the project) to music that veers from grungy, post-industrial grooves to wispy romanticism to abstracted contemporary classical, all played with punkish attitude by an excellent ensemble.

It all sounds like this brief rehearsal sample…


The words are pretty good, too. There are a couple of poems from Muldoon’s vast published output (the aforementioned Pelt from his most recent collection A Thousand Things Worth Knowing, and Longbones from Hay back in 1998.) The rest, I think, were all written as songs* – Muldoon has produced lots of those as well, and written interestingly about the distinction. Worth mentioning in case you know his work and think the songs might be hard to follow as, it’s fair to say, some of his long poems are. Not so. He’s a master communicator as well as a master of language, and knows exactly what to do to create words that invite you in to the music. Tobin, on the other hand, has written superbly varied settings that complete each one. It’ll be great to hear them live with this extraordinary band. They’re at the Lantern at Colston Hall on Tuesday 7th, and you can also catch them the night before in Cardiff at the RWCMD if you’re over that way.

*Not so – there are several more poems (Tobin talks** about “poems and lyrics” on stage.) They are mostly from very early in Muldoon’s output, which is maybe why I missed them when checking my Collected Poems. I also blame downloading the music, so I don’t have the notes!

** During the gig, which was fantastic!