Friday, April 27, 2012

Babel Label New Release

Catatumbo cover artCatatumbo

In case you were wondering Catatumbo is a type of continuous lightening that occurs in the Lago de  Maracaibo/Catatumbo River Region in Venezuela. Their unique feature is that they occur in the same place at the same time. An apt metaphor for Ingrid Laubrock, Olie Brice and Javier Carmona latest offering. Catatumbo is a trio at the cutting edge of the avant-improv scene with each member offering something different. 

See Review Craig Premo

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Two Tony Marsh videos

The first of these, for which I am grateful to Dave Solomon, shows the concentration of Tony, just 3 months ago. Alison may have been unhappy because her back is to us.
The second is of Tony playing at the first performance of On Duke's Birthday. Mike Westbrook told me that Tony never played the same twice, even if it had been rehearsed but it always worked! Thanks to Chris Biscoe for that one. In his usual modesty, Chris fails to highlight his own vital role.

Tony seemed unwilling to have much of his material recorded. However, we must be grateful to the likes of Helen Petts and Andy Newcombe for getting great material together of him on video at Mopomoso and the like.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Three Reviews for Indigo Kid


Indigo Kid is the debut, one heckuva debut, by the British guitarist Dan Messore, fronting one heckuva quartet. Indigo Kid comprises two parts new talent and two parts young veterans. New talent is represented by Messore and drummer Gethlin Jones, experience by tenor saxophonist Iain Ballamy and bassist Tim Harries.
On this showing, Messore sounds like a contender-in-waiting for Pat Metheny's mantle. His sound is bright and warm, his playing lyrical and flowing, he knows how to use space, and he has technique to spare. He comes on remarkably like Metheny on his straight-ahead trio outings Day Trip (2008), Tokyo Day Trip (2008) and Question and Answer (1989) (all Nonesuch). Like Metheny's music, Messore's is a celebration of light and beauty, rather than an exploration of darker forces.
Not that Messore is a die-stamped Metheny clone. There are echoes of folk-rock guitarists such as John Fahey, Jon Renbourn and Bert Jansch in his harmonization. And neither isIndigo Kid indistinguishable from Metheny's trio and quartet outings; the input of Iain Ballamy—who produced and arranged in addition to playing—ensures a different character. The saxophonist, who emerged as part of the adventurous British big band Loose Tubes in the mid-1980s, and is best known today for his work with the Anglo-Norwegian jazz-electronica group Food, shares the spotlight with Messore on most tracks. Ballamy's far-ranging style sits well with the folk-rock resonances in Messore's music.
The other young veteran in the quartet, Tim Harries, played alongside Ballamy in drummer Bill Bruford's Earthworks from 1989 to 1993—both are featured on the Earthworks albumsDig? (1989), All Heaven Broke Loose (1991) and Stamping Ground (1994), all on the EG label—while also (and here comes another folk-rock strand) being a member of Steeleye Span, which he left in 2001. Since then, Harries' credits include ex-Loose Tube drummer Martin France's Spin Marvel (2006) and The Reluctantly Politicised Mr James (2010), both on Edition Records, and "magickal" storyteller and graphic artist Alan Moore's audio disc Angel Passage(Megaphon, 2008).
The fourth member of the group, Gethlin Jones, studied with Messore at the Welsh College of Music and Drama in Cardiff. He has worked with another talented young British guitarist,Cameron Pierre, and with trumpeter Steve Waterman, a member of Messore's other band, Lacuna Quintet, which will debut in June 2012 with the album Talk on the Step, also on Babel.
All but one of the tunes here are Messore originals. Like his playing, they reveal Metheny's influence, and echoes, too, of Bill Frisell. Most of his writing, Messore says, comes as a response to nature and landscape. The younger guitarist's melodies do not evoke the wide-open spaces of Frisell's Americana, but they do frequently suggest natural environments (and, on "Mr Lepard," the misty-mountain vibe of Led Zeppelin in its quieter moments). There are twists: "Ode to Gilly" has some of the spikey, metropolitan air ofThelonious Monk's work, and "New Man New Place" is bossa nova-based. The only non-original, George Gershwin's "The Man I Love," is given a gorgeous reading.
Messore is young, this is his first album, and he has yet fully to put his own stamp on the influences in his playing, but Indigo Kid is the business. Highly auspicious.

Tracks: First Light; Waitent Wantant; Mr Lepard; New Man New Place; Indigo Kid; Pages to a Friend; One to Gilly; The Man I Love; Bioluminescence.
Personnel: Dan Messore: guitar; Iain Ballamy: tenor saxophone; Tim Harries: bass; Gethin Jones: drums.

‘An auspicious debut from guitarist Dan Messore and some accomplished colleagues’.

10/4/ 2012

Guitar and tenor saxophone provide, in the right hands (and mouth), a rich palette of sounds. Because that particular horn can be cheerfully light as well as broodingly low, lending tonal depth without being overly bulky, and the string instrument can be both delicate and incisive, their union has scope for sensual, fluid lyricism that retains ballast.
In other words, music that is sharply gentle rather than sleepily genteel. It is a fine line, but guitarist-composer-bandleader Dan Messore, a 2006 graduate of the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama who has also played with Kevin Figes and Trish Clowes, adroitly stays on the right side of it on this auspicious debut. Iain Bellamy the tenor saxophonist role, so Messore has a frontline partner of considerable experience who brings the requisite poise and drive to make this kind of endeavour work.
Ballamy’s breezy, airy timbre is perfect for the floating character of many of the melodies; yet he hardens his sound on occasion, which is important for moments when the guitar chords are wiry and not so note-heavy. The music doesn't feel invertebrate as a result. Double bassist Tim Harries and drummer Gethin Jones reinforce this balance, hovering right between a mellow simmer of swing and straighter folk-blues rhythms to good effect.
Messore puts his stamp on the set with some authority though, moving from woozy yet always understated pitch bends or distortions à la Bill Frisell to the kind of rapier-like single note solos that have a concision that is sometimes missing in younger musicians gripped by an impulse to play rather than think and serve the story of the song. With dreamy, hazy themes being the order of the day it’s fair to quote names like Pat Metheny the aforesaid Frisell as references, but the seam of jazz Messore is mining goes further back to such as Charlie Byrd and Jim Hall.
Messore invites us to imagine that grand old guitarist deconstructing Greensleeves with  warne Marsh rather than Sonny Rollins. Talking of colours, Indigo is an apt name for Messore’s dark subtleties – but his future is bright.



The cow-poke on the sleeve and the album title suggests that this is some kind of tribute to the American West and maybe it is. However, given the personnel, unsurprisingly, this is no clip-clopping along c & w hoe-down. The feeling instead is one of vastness, of open spaces, rolling plains. A wayfaring stranger venturing into the unknown. The musicians blaze their own trails with respect and acknowledgement of each other's space without building fences.
Ballaimy's tenor sax, melodic yet probing as if in wonderment of his environment. A picture may be worth a thousand words but music is surely worth a thousand pictures? His solo on Gershwin's The Man I Love - the only non-original - is musical poetry.
The final track Bioluminescence brings the setting sun and the conclusion of a highly evocative album
Composer and guitarist Messore solos effectively in a manner that brought Bill Frissell to mind which is praise indeed although the young musician is no copyist.
Indigo Kid isn’t solely a western music exercise, and his (Messore's) search for cultural roots and their meaning stretches further afield. “Much of my composition comes as a response to nature and surroundings,” says Messore. “I have travelled a fair amount, whilst doing so I always try to get off the beaten track: hitching, sleeping out, working locally. I am attempting to create music that has a strong sense of landscape with improvisation”. On the way he has looked to Africa and its folk music, especially inspired by the gentle rootsy jazz guitar of the unique Benin-born NY-based star Lionel Loueke. And to Brazil, the great Hermeto Pascoal being a subtle but pervasive influence throughout the album. But it’s the accessible combination of all these lyrical song-like forms and deeply rooted improv aesthetics that appear throughout these sensual and very striking compositions that this highly gifted guitarist has recorded for his band debut Indigo Kid.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A Review of Tom Arthurs / Richard Fairhurst’s Postcards From Pushkin
By John Fordham

Babel Label

Here's a little gem from pianist Richard Fairhurst and Berlin-based British flugelhornist Tom Arthurs (a man who's probably tired of being compared to Kenny Wheeler, but it's a compliment to his imagination and beautiful sound, not his powers of mimicry) for anyone who thinks contemporary jazz is an exercise in hiding tunes. Postcards from Pushkin is the outcome of a 2008–9 BBC and Royal Philharmonic Society commission, in which the pair conceived pieces inspired by Pushkin's poems. Arthurs' unhurried themes and melodic dances are observed or embellished by Fairhurst, or the two unfurl them in harness. Their improvisations can be tit-for-tat swaps or seamless entwinings, and both play unaccompanied features: Arthurs a register-leaping piece of hypnotic poignancy and growing emotional intensity; Fairhurst an intonational and harmonic minimalist exploration of the nuances of a repeated four-note descent. It's all spookily tranquil and confirms a master flugelhorn improviser at work.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

              Up Coming Gig.... Alex Hawkins Quintet

Alex Hawkins is a young master pianist who receives nothing less than praise for his unique flair for free improvsation and composition. It is all about the technique according to his admirers...
Hawkins's Ensemble will launch their new album All There, Ever Out at the VortexJazz Club 22nd April 2012. With Shabaka Hutchins, Otto Fischer, Dominic Lash and Tom Skinner.
Listen / download here

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

New reviews from Downbeat - Dosados, Alexander Hawkins

From the latest edition of Downbeat. 4 star reviews form Dosados and Alexander Hawkins.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Tony Marsh

Today's Babel Babble on includes a tribute to drummer Tony Marsh who sadly died yesterday. What a great man! He was a person who belied his age, playing through to his last weeks. Just recently playing with Roscoe Mitchell.

He had what I would call a beautiful rolling style, with elegance and intensity.

His great trio with Evan Parker and John Edwards sadly never recorded. It was a privilege to hear them every month. Next week's gig on 19th was supposed to be this trio. It'll be quite a night. (Unfortunately, I won't be there!!)

Monday, April 09, 2012

Reviews for Twelves: The Adding Machine 

All About Jazz
April 3, 2012
Twelves: The Adding MachineTrack review of "Shallow Brown" 

The addition of guitarist Rob Updegraff to Twelves, the U.K. band that started as a trio in 2008, tenders a compact yet expandable group focusing largely centered on asymmetrical pulses, layered sound-sculpting, and toggling between the misty divisions of free jazz and free-bop. The guitarist and saxophonistMark Hanslip act as searchers perched atop oscillating currents, these being predominately designed with gradually climaxing theme constructions and effective use of space. Complete with transient mini-motifs, the bulk of the material is based on improvisation.
"Shallow Brown" is a piece configured with a stabbing pulse. With the front line's fractured bop choruses and Tim Giles' sweeping drums, the ensemble cleverly adjusts the current via reflective attributes and by shifting the pitch gradient up a few notches. They pick up steam as the soloists engage in call and response mechanisms, modeled with a conversational mindset amid various flurries consisting of Updegraff's animated voicings and Hanslip's ascending lines. Although some of these works yield an overly uniform slant that imparts an unwavering set of circumstances when viewed as a whole, this piece stands as a highpoint for a quartet that conveys a promising outlook.
Personnel: Mark Hanslip: tenor saxophone; Rob Updegraff: guitar; Riaan Vosloo: bass; Tim Giles: drums. 
John Fordham 
7 April 2011

Close on the heels of his fine, free-jazz duo album with percussionist Javier Carmona, young saxophonist Mark Hanslip makes a powerful impact on the second album by British group Twelves (formerly Twelves Trio, but now including alt-rock guitarist Rob Updegraff). The group once sounded somewhere between late-50s Sonny Rollins and free-bassist William Parker's straighter threesomes. Now they suggest, among many things, Joe Lovano's encounters with John Scofield, with the odd Bill Frisellian detour. Staccato, metallic-chord themes alternate with Hanslip's soft countermelodies; guitar and sax themes evaporate into drifting improv. On the uptempo Kerfuffle, the best track on the set, Hanslip's signature mix of cool school melodic seamlessness and Wayne Shorterish hesitancy spins over abrasive guitar chords, Riaan Vosloo's solid bassline and Tim Giles's lateral snare patterns. Though Mr Zero could perhaps use an edit, the contrast between Updegraff's rugged guitar solo and Hanslip's patient tenor development grips attention. Twelves have a real this-is-what-we-do presence and casual virtuosity to match.

All About Jazz
March 9, 2011

In 2008, Twelves Trio released its debut album, the evocatively-titled Here Comes The Woodman With His Splintered Soul (1965 Records). The band has since added guitarist Rob Updegraff, dropped the Trio appellation, changed record labels, and released album number two, the more prosaically named The Adding Machine. The band's intention to explore, improvise and develop sonically remains strong on this release.
Twelves is one of a growing number of young British jazz groups characterized by technical ability and a willingness to transcend musical boundaries. Polar Bear, the Kit Downes Trio, Outhouse and The Golden Age Of Steam all readily spring to mind; as does Compassionate Dictatorship, a band that shares an identical instrumental lineup with Twelves, but uses it to deliver a punchier, more rock-oriented style of music. Members are often shared between these bands, with Twelves' drummer Tim Giles also in The Golden Age Of Steam, for example, while the musicians also collaborate in collectives such as Loop or F-Ire.
The band's sonic approach is a gentle one, characterized by subtle shifts in tempo, rhythm or instrumental emphasis. Tenor saxophonist Mark Hanslip takes the greatest responsibility for lead lines, and has a soft-toned and, at time, surprisingly quiet style. The most intriguing tune on The Adding Machine is "Shallow Brown," a traditional folk song recorded by Sir Peter Pears and June Tabor, among others. After Riaan Vosloo's languid bass introduction, Hanslip plays the melody in a similarly laidback style, underpinned by Giles and Updegraff's soft and fluid percussion and guitar. The band is almost in folk-rock territory here, the arrangement reflecting Fairport Convention's seminal recording of "A Sailor's Life" on Unhalfbricking (Island, 1969).
The rest of the tunes are originals. Hanslip and Vosloo are the band's main writers, but the packaging gives no clue as to who wrote which tune, and Giles and Updegraaf could well be involved too. "Kerfuffle" kicks off with a fine bass and drum groove from Vosloo and Giles, echoed in the entrance of Hanslip and Updegraff that follows. It soon slides into a darker, more fractured, sound courtesy of Hanslip's tenor, even though Giles and Vosloo keep up a more persistent rhythm. The dark side of the Twelves sound is also present on "Eyeballing" and "Mr Zero," although "Party Girls" shows its more humorous side.
Twelves is undoubtedly a band full of talented players, taking inspiration from some unusual sources and turning it into some complex but subtly nuanced compositions. At present, the band's sound may not be sufficiently distinct to make its mark on an increasingly crowded scene, but The Adding Machine suggests that this is just a matter of time.
Track Listing: Many Splendoured Thing: Part 1; Part 2; Spiders; Kerfuffle; Shallow Brown; Party Girls; Eyeballing; Mr Zero.
Personnel: Mark Hanslip: tenor saxophone; Rob Updegraff: guitar; Riaan Vosloo: bass; Tim Giles: drums.

BBC Review

'A tight yet exploratory set that neatly balances brains and brawn'
Daniel Spicer 2011-05-17
Twelves Trio’s 2008 album, Here Comes the Woodman With His Splintered Soul, announced the arrival of a promising new jazz unit, led by double-bassist Riaan Vosloo, and featuring two of the bigger hitters from the 21st century Brit-jazz revival: ex-Outhouse tenor saxophonist Mark Hanslip and Fraud drummer Tim Giles. Boosted to a quartet with the addition of guitarist Rob Updegraff, Twelves deliver on that early promise – and then some.
As on the previous album, the basic template for The Adding Machine is the kind of swinging free-bop exemplified on US bassist William Parker’s 2005 quartet album, Sound Unity. Like Parker, Vosloo’s playing holds a warm throb that manages to inject a hint of soul into even the most fractured abstractions. Party Girls whips up a loose yet propulsive groove, not unlike Miles Davis’ Felon Brun; while Kerfuffle starts with a brief, strutting head before hurtling into a tough lope, with bass and drums ruggedly intertwined like gnarled roots. Giles – surely one of the most talented drummers of his generation – is on flaming form throughout, delighting in rhythmic games and, on tracks like the opening Many Splendoured Thing: Part 1, rolling in and out of time with the muscular daring of a young Tony Williams.
Against the background of this sturdy rhythm section, the two melodic voices react with a surprising, almost counter-intuitive lightness of touch. Hanslip is rapidly becoming one of the more original voices on the London improv scene – as recently illustrated on his duo album with percussionist Javier Carmona, DosaDos. Here, he studiously avoids macho histrionics or post-Ayler over-blowing, sticking instead to a clear, straight lyricism, largely occupying the middle range of the horn with a cool, unflustered maturity. It’s an approach that leaves room for Updegraff to explore slightly heavier and more extended techniques on electric guitar, with echoes of Hendrix’s dive-bomb feedback control jostling with some of the atmospheric echo-shadings of the much under-appreciated British guitarist Ray Russell.
It all adds up to a tight yet exploratory set that neatly balances brains and brawn. Here’s hoping it’s not a one-shot deal from this impressive new quartet.
Twelves: The Adding Machine is available for download on bandcamp
Twelves on Myspace

Upcoming Gig ...

Glockenspiel will be at the Vortex Jazz Club Wednesday 11th April 2012 band's new album on Babel Label will soon be available with the official release marked for September.

Friday, April 06, 2012

All There Ever Out - Guardian review

Alexander Hawkins Ensemble – review

All There, Ever Out
4 out of 5
Alexander Hawkins' name was all over the newcomers-to-watch lists last year – unexpectedly, considering how unflinchingly experimental the 30-year-old Oxford pianist and composer is. Hawkins clearly understands classical music and free-improv equally well, but also enjoys South African township jazz and even the sound of the Hammond organ. Jazz history is always an undercurrent to this remarkable session: Thelonious Monk's knotty thematic style plays a major role, and there are connections to early piano genius Art Tatum, to bebop and the 1960s new wave. But the references have been absorbed so deeply that they never sound like quotations. Hawkins' piano and Hammond organ are joined by bass and cello, electric guitar and marimba, and a Hammond-playing Kit Downes on one track. The Monkish opener lurches out of squealy bowed-strings improv into an ambiguous pulse in which the bass walks fast and the cello slow. Tatum Totem is a mix of guitar-noise textures and snatches of pre-bop swing. There are also passages of Hawkins' bleepy-electronica Hammond sound, long classical cello swoops and a beautiful solo piano meditation (Elmoic) that shifts to another Monklike strut. The album is full of surprises, it rebalances premeditation and spontaneity, and Hawkins' themes are genuinely memorable.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

A Review of Dialogue Trio...

Bruno Heinen’s Dialogues Trio (feat. Julian Siegel) – Twinkle Twinkle (Babel BDV 1192. CD Review by Tom Gray)

London-based pianist Bruno Heinen formed his Dialogues Trio with bassistAndrea Di Biase and drummer Jon Scott in 2005, yet it has taken until now for them to release an album. The long gestation period has paid off with some cohesive, mature ensemble playing and a refreshingly simple concept at the album’s heart - a set of pieces based on the theme of ‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star’

The nursery rhyme is sliced and diced into fragments, deftly interwoven by the Guildhall alumnus into a suite of compositions which take in a broad vista of styles and some unexpected lurches of direction. ‘Waltz for Rossie’ is a contemporary take on the urbane, conversational approach of the Bill Evans trio, contrasted on‘Spins Wins’ with a jagged stop-start theme giving way to uninhibited free-bop.‘Venus’ begins with an EST-like hook which soon dissolves into a rubato reverie, while ‘Jumping Rocks’ is based around an infectious 6/8 Afro-Cuban groove with the theme material serving as a bass-line.

Special guest Julian Siegel makes an outstanding contribution, echoing the primal cry of Eric Dolphy on bass clarinet and bringing something of Wayne Shorter’s enigma on tenor saxophone. Heinen, meanwhile, is a cool-headed and resourceful improviser with a beguiling touch, favouring slow-burning legato lines over overt displays of chops.

This is a striking debut that marks out Heinen’s ensemble to be far more than just another piano trio.

The launch of Twinkle Twinkle is at Rich Mix on April 10th. For other tour dates see


Upcoming gigs

Bruno Heinen: