Thursday, March 15, 2007

Are we in an era of the jazz BAND?

More and more the groups of musicians are showing their commitment to performance by being a band rather than a project with a band leader - so that a band such as Polar Bear has a nominal leader/composer (Seb Rochford), but the performances definitely have a group dynamic to them. It's certainly not the Seb Rochford Quintet, nor a short-term project commissioned for a festival or similar. Nor is it "Seb Rochford's Polar Bear". Of course, bands become associated with particular members, sometimes wrongly - how often is Acoustic Ladyland thought of as having Seb as leader and not Pete Wareham? - but there's more to it than being a leader with sidemen. That approach is of course still very important to jazz but even then too often allowed the sidemen to be submerged. For me the trail has been blazed by Partisans which has now reached its 10th anniversary, but I know that Phil Robson and Julian Siegel have battled against fuddy-duddy promoters who thought that it was past its "sell by"date because they have viewed it as a short-term project.
It's something that existed here with bands like Soft Machine. Partisans is a link to the new generation. Polar Bear and Acoustic Ladyland helped matters further, while now Babel has releases about to appear by Led Bib (with Mark Holub as leader) and Fraud (music and leadership by James Allsop and Tim Giles), both fearlessly and proudly to be bands. (Last night I heard Curios, which for some could be regarded as Tom Cawley's piano trio, but it has more than that with the interplay between Tom, Sam Burgess and Josh Blackmore as crucial in the interpretation of Tom's music.) Gwilym Simcock had a similar unanimity of purpose when he performed with Phil Donkin and Martin France at the Vortex a couple of weeks ago. It was billed as Gwilym Simcock, but in my view that underestimated what went on. I hope that he gives this line-up a name, which can then contrast with a Gwilym Simcock trio gig, which would consist of leader + X on bass + Y on drums. When band members are hand picked to give a particular edge to performance and the group develops and develops, then it's a good sign for the group to become a band with a specific name.
Another stimulus to this blog has been that I noticed on the Cheltenham Jazz Festival programme that they bill Fulborn Teversham as "Sebastian Rochford's Fulborn Teversham". WRONG. Pete Wareham and Nick Ramm have been vital members all along.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Blues at the Vortex - The Chess Sessions

Grandmaster Supports Vortex Chess Sessions!

Chess grandmaster Daniel King is giving his support to the Here Is The Blues! - Vortex Chess Sessions!

Here is The Blues is a duo consisting of Steve Morrison and Billy Jenkins. Billy was the mastermind behind the jazz meets football for the World Cup. (Check out the video.)

Mr King has been a professional chess player for over 20 years. In addition, he is a games consultant, television presenter, freelance journalist, and an award winning author of 14 books. He also has a reputation as a rather fine double bass player.

"Chess, jazz and blues have a lot in common", says King, "as both involve daring spontaneous manoeuvres over pre-determined complex and myriad theorems and structures."

Daniel will be in attendance on the opening afternoon (1st April) to informally wish the series well and listen to the gentle twang of 'Here Is The Blues!' - but if you ask him nicely he might advise on a hot move or two!

Then, on the final afternoon (29th April) he'll take on ten players simultaneously at 2pm before the music gets underway!

Find out more about Daniel at

Monday, March 05, 2007

Babel - part of a worldwide conspiracy

There's a great underlying rumour spreading around the BBC Jazz messageboard - that's there an unholy alliance between Babel, F-ire Collective and Jazz on 3. We all meet weekly at a tapas bar in Islington....
What makes it all the more amusing is the reasoning given, such as about Babel. While, ultimately, they got the ownership right - i.e. me - they argue that there must be a secret backer, as Babel does something that jazz labels don't do, which is market its product and artists!
I hope that this thread runs and runs and gets more and more ridiculous, because it's great fun. I am flattered. (Next point to bear in mind. Jazzwise is clearly also part of the conspiracy, as there will be a Babel compilation on the cover next month. While the Vortex shouldn't be left out either. And Chris Parker, who writes the reviews in the Vortex, is clearly at the centre of the web of intrigue. The first man, not even the fourth.)
It's excellent how the internet can shoot off about things, and get stories moving. However (and there often is a "however") rumour can disinformation can become fact. The people doing this messageboard, such as King Kennytone, are clearly passionate, but make 2+2 equal any number between 3 and 5.
When this happens, who knows? It was probably much slower in the world of print, word of mouth and so on. Now, the internet speeds the story round the world in hours or minutes.
Blogs are becoming an important means of communication, but of course have little check that a professional journalist is supposed to have.