Friday, December 28, 2012

Barbacana review, Culture jazz

Barbacana's first review.

From Culture Jazz, December 2012

Voilà ce qu’on pourrait appeler un "projet Eurostar". Grâce au tunnel, les musiciens britanniques et français s’associent de plus en plus souvent et construisent à leur façon une branche "underground" de l’Europe de la culture !
On retrouve ainsi Matthew Bourne avec Laurent Dehors, Robin Fincker à Londres avec Loop Collective, Loop en France avec le collectif Coax et, dans le cas que nous présentons ici, Kit Downes et James Allsopp avec nos frenchiesAdrien Dennefeld et Sylvain Darrifourcq pour composer Barbacana.
Publié sur le très dynamique (et londonien) Label Babel, cet album est une vraie boîte à surprises. La musique qu’on y découvre n’a pourtant rien d’un bric-à-brac sorti du coffre à jouets d’enfants espiègles et pourtant on pourrait le croire à la première écoute. Chaque titre est un construit sur un maillage serré de sonorités assemblées méthodiquement. Des structures rythmiques souvent répétitives, des cellules mélodiques se soudent et se scindent, des moments d’errance mènent sur de nouveaux espaces aux climats changeants. Les musiciens interagissent avec une grande liberté dans une atmosphère toujours contenue, sans coups d’éclats (ce que certains pourront regretter).
Barbacana invente une architecture sonore singulière reposant sur des fondations à l’instabilité très maîtrisée (Sylvain Darrifourcq en maître des rythmes bizarres), habitée par les sonorités croisées des claviers de Kit Downes (musicien à l’inventivité débridée ici et pianiste remarquable ailleurs), des cordes d’Adrien Dennfeld et des anches de James Allsopp. Rien que de très brillants musiciens plus soucieux de défricher des sentiers broussailleux que d’emprunter les voies du conformisme musical.
Pour ceux qui craindraient de s’égarer à l’écoute de ce disque, on évitera de chercher ses références dans le swing pur et dur ! On se place plutôt dans la continuité des formations mythiques du rock-progressif des seventies (de Soft Machine à Hatfield & The North et consorts) avec une pincée de Michael Nyman, Steve Reich et autres penseurs du minimalisme en musique sans oublier les polyinstrumentisme venu du free et des musiques créatives.
Un projet qui ne manque pas de caractère et qu’on espère découvrir sur scène. Ce disque ne peut que nous y inciter.
. ::Thierry Giard ::.

Here's something that you could call a "Eurostar project". Courtesy of the tunnel, British and French musicians are collaborating more and more and are building in their way an "underground" style of European culture.
Thus you find Matthew Bourne with Laurent Dehors, Robin Fincker in London with the Loop Collective, Loop collaborating with Collectif Coax and, in this particular example, Kit Downes and James Allsopp with "Frenchies" Adrien Dennefeld and Sylvain Darrifourcq, to comprise the band Barbacana.
Released on the very dynamic (and London-based) Babel Label, this album is a real box of surprises. The music discovered is nothing to do with what one might expect from a toy box of mischievous kids - which one might think from the first listen.  Each track builds on a tight mix of sounds put together methodically. Often repeated rhythms, melodic cells which coalesce and then split, moments of wandering lead to new spaces with changing climates. The musicians interact with a  great freedom though an atmosphere always contacined and without extreme shots (which one might regrret from time to time

Barbacana invents a unique sonic architecture  very controlled instability (Sylvain Darrifourcq as a master of bizarre rhythms), inhabited by the sounds of keyboards Cross Kit Downes (a musician of unbridled inventiveness and also remarkable pianist), the guitar playing of Adrien Dennfeld and the reeds of James Allsopp. Nothing but brilliant musicians more concerned with clearing overgrown paths than using the lanes of musical conformism.

For those who might be put off listening to this disc, they shouldn't look for references in hardcore swing! We  should rather think of a  continuity from mythical progressive rock line-ups of the seventies (Soft Machine, Hatfield & The North and others) with a pinch of Michael Nyman, Steve Reich and other musical minimalists without forgetting polyinstrumentalism that came from free and creative musics.
A project that does not lack character and which one would hope to hear live. This disc can only inspire us.

For those who fear getting lost listening to this disc, shouldn't be looking to the swing tradition for his references! One should rather place the it in the continuum of mythical progressive rock line-ups of the 70s (from Soft Machine to Hatfield & the North and their consorts), with a pinch of Michael of Nyman, Steve Reich and other progenitors of the 
This disc can only incite us

Twinkle Twinkle - year end best of....

From the Bird is the Worm blog, by Dave Sumner

28.  Dialogues Trio w/Julian Siegel – Twinkle Twinkle
I’m enamored with the premise of building an album around compositions based on the children’s lullaby “Twinkle Twinkle.”  It’s the right kind of clever.  However, while there is a soothing nighttime quality to this music, these ain’t song to fall asleep to.  When I first sat down to listen to this recording, my assumption is that it would be something not unlike an ECM piano trio snoozer.  But, actually, most tracks are quite lively, and far more representative of Babel Label’s inventive catalog of releases.  Solid, from first note to last.
Released on the Babel Label.

Friday, December 21, 2012

How the BBC is emasculating new British jazz

Please note: I am not knocking the quality of output from programmes like Jazz on 3! Rather the quantity that is allowed by the schedulers.

The upshot is a limited ability to show the range of what is going on over here. 

The pressures on Jazz on 3 have clearly been growing. We now have such a range of exciting music here. For example, at the Vortex alone, we have it from the "youngsters" such as World Service Project and Match & Fuse through to visitors coming such as ICP Orchestra in January. It is clearly impossible for the programme makers to cover this properly in the limited time slots that they have.

The vibrancy is increasingly being recognised abroad.

So - and strangely  perhaps - while, for example, Jazz on 3 has been unable to schedule airplay of Dice Factory, especially because they've been recording sessions by Brass Mask (both including Tom Challenger), the album has already been played on France Musique (the French equivalent) at 7 p.m. on a weekday.
Also, Austria radio had a one hour (i.e. full 60 minutes) interview with Led Bib's leader/drummer Mark Holub on ORF 1(which is a mix of Radio 3 and Radio 4 in its programming).

The BBC schedulers no doubt would argue for similar criteria amongst their classical programming - how many hours a week of artists like Gergiev or of particular composers. But of course they have so many more hours to play with that they can afford to be much more expansive.

Of course, the BBC can seem quite defensive. But I think that it shows a limited focus on this music on the main music channels. Bits and pieces do, thank God, creep in elsewhere in non-specialist scheduling. Stuart Maconie and Cerys Matthews on 6 Music. 

I look at this with dismay all the more, as I have my own show, Babel Babble, on NTS ( And I am finding the range of new stuff that I have to balance with other things, thrilling. So we have another example of people taking advantage of the internet to move away from the more well-known outlets. But the BBC has been, until now, a sign of quality, which is why we listen to it and has a listenership which is much much higher.

By the way, the BBC does have some available bandwidth for jazz. It's BBC 5 Live Extra. We wouldn't mind the few hours a week of football, cricket or whatever, if we could have the other hours. 


Jazz Pianist and Steel Pan player Russ Henderson (MBE)
Benefit Gig at the 606 Club 8 January 2013

Russ Henderson wears two musical hats: one as a jazz pianist and the other as a steel pan player. He is also part of that early generation of West Indians who came to England in the early 1950s. Henderson now aged 88 was born 7 January 1924 in Belmont, a lower middle-class neighbourhood in Port of Spain, Trinidad. Little is known about his childhood and growing up in Belmont. While in his early 20s he founded the Russell Henderson Quartet that was popular with Trinidadians and provided the background music for local recordings of calypsonians such as Roaring Lion, Growling Tiger and Lord Pretender, in addition to playing piano for Beryl McBurnie’s dance troupe.  His early years in Trinidad coincided with the birth of the steel pan and the American occupation of Trinidad from the late 1930s and throughout the 1940s – the local calypso Rum and Coca-cola was adopted by the Andrew Sisters who thought the song was a quaint Caribbean ditty when in fact it was a piece of social commentary by Lord Invader about rampant levels of prostitution that emerged with the arrival of American service men on the island. It was through the Trinidadian dance legend, and founder of the Little Carib theatre,  Beryl McBurnie,  that Henderson encountered Ellie Mannette one of the pioneers of the steel pan along with Winston Simon whom he helped to achieve the correct notes when playing melodies, presumable as he perfected the shape and performance of the steel pan as an instrument. Henderson left Trinidad for England in 1951 to study piano tuning. A year later he gave up his studies to work as a pianist and soon after formed his own band playing a combination of jazz and calypso. Interestingly, he learned to play pan while in England through fellow Trinidadian Sterling Bettancourt: bearing in mind that during the forties steel pan beating was not considered appropriate, let alone respectable recreation which may explain why Henderson only learned to play pan in England. Henderson’s ensemble doubled as a jazz quartet and a steel band at different London venues. For the quartet he played piano, Sterling Betancourt drums, Max Cherrie double-bass and Gigi Walker trumpet.  In addition to performing regular gigs the band appeared on the radio, films and TV shows including: Danger Man; The Saint; The Persuaders; and Doctor Terror’s House of Horrors.  Henderson was a major contributor to the development of the Notting Hill Carnival initially playing for the first children’s carnival in 1964. In Pan Mana,  a short documentary, Henderson says ‘ the steel pan started in this country with me’ and this is no exaggeration since Henderson was awarded an MBE in 2006 in recognition of his services to the cultural life of the UK. Henderson did not stray from his first love – the piano and Jazz –  establishing a relationship with the 606 Club that lasted for over 25 years. Did he fall out of love with the rhythms of the Calypso which was now Soca in a variety of forms - Raga, Groovy, Power and Rapso?

See the benefit line up here:

The original Rum and Coca-cola with a commentary by Lord Invader here:

Music from Oil Drums (1956)

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Babel dates at Vortex in January

Babel dates to look out for next month:

13 January Dominic Lash Quartet

Bassist Dominic Lash has recently relocated to Bristol after a year in New York. The Guardian has written of his "explosive bass-strumming" and the Newcastle Journal of his "endless efforts to veer left of every known note or chord". 

He formed his trio in 2009 with rising star pianist Alexander Hawkins (whose recent work has reached a "dazzling new apex" according to Downbeat) and drummer Javier Carmona (Ingrid Laubrock, Kicking Louise). 

In 2011 the band was expanded into a quartet with multi-reed player Ricardo Tejero (Ensemble Progressivo, Triatone), which toured Spain in the summer of 2012. 

"A real surprise ... expressionistic moments were followed by passages of a more introverted and descriptive mood". (Diario del AltoAragón)

18 January 2013 Eyes of a Blue Dog

In a double bill with Emile Parisien (who was recently selected as the French press's jazz musician of the year):
Rory Simmons and Liz Nygaard performing in a duo version, hopefully with some new visuals.

25 January 2013 The Rich Taylors

Blink (Robin Fincker, Alcyona Mick, Paul Clarvis) meets Vincent Courtois and Daniel Erdmann in this new collaboration as part of the Jazz Shuttle scheme (which recently spawned Barbacana's new album). "Blink's material is full of character and improv resourcefulness to match." John Fordham, The Guardian

27 January 2013 A View From The Tower 3.00 pm

Continuing the exploration of great British composition led by Dan Messore, the line for this month includes: Trish Clowes (sax), Elliot Galvin (piano), Dave Hamblett (drums), Gareth Lockrane (flutes), Dave Mannington (bass) and Rory Simmons (trumpet).

This event will be followed by the new quartet of Chris Batchelor, with Paul Clarvis, Liam Noble and Oren Marshall. Meanwhile...
Downstairs will be hosting its new jam session with Hannes Riepler (free). The evening will also include a special tasting of local Hackney beer from the Vortex Real Ale Society.

And at other venues....
16 January 2013 Alexander Hawkins Trio - Cafe Oto

Tuesday, December 18, 2012


Dear All

Dalston is facing a tsunami of development applications which will adversely impact on numerous local heritage assets – former cinemas, factories, religious buildings and historic buildings and houses having architectural and cultural significance. New buildings and towers totally out of scale to the area are proposed on various sites locally. If you are part of an organisation, or you are a well know public personality, your assistance is urgently needed. Please read on so I can briefly explain.

I have come into possession of a draft report commissioned by Design for London (DfL) which examines our heritage assets within the Dalston Area Action Plan area. The Report identifies the need to urgently protect these heritage assets in the face of local development pressure and it recommends :
-          the designation of the Dalston Kingsland Conservation Area
-          adding certain buildings to the national statutory list and
-          adding certain buildings to the local Council  list.
It points out that locally listed buildings have no statutory protection absent Conservation Area designation. CA designation is also a significant consideration where a proposed development affects the setting of buildings within it.

Local authorities have a statutory duty to consider the need to identify heritage assets and to designate conservation areas. You may think it surprising that it is DfL, and not Hackney, which has commissioned a heritage scoping report for Dalston. Where a local authority has a conflict of interest eg because it owns or has a financial or partnership interest in the sites, there are statutory powers  reserved to English Heritage and/or the Secretary of State to designate conservation areas.

I consider that Hackney has a conflict of interest in relation to the Western Curve sites because it has invested over  £1million with TfL to strengthen the slabs above the rail tunnels to enable more intensive development. The scale of development on these strengthened slabs which TfL is now proposing will do irreversible damage to Dalston’s historic assets and to the public realm,  on both the Northern and the Southern sites of the Western Curve.

I attach emails which I have sent, to Hackney’s Head of Conservation and to its Information Officer, to seek clarification regarding Hackney’s financial interest in the sites and in designating the new proposed Dalston Kingsland Conservation Area. However I do not think we can afford to let Hackney proceed at its usual leisurely pace

In view of the forthcoming planning decision in relation to the Western Curve sites I propose writing to  English Heritage and/or the Secretary of State to request them as a matter of urgency to :   
-          designate the new Dalston Kingsland Conservation Area and
-          to list the buildings identified in the report

If you are part of a local  organisation eg Hackney Society, St Marks CAC, Kingsland CAC, Dalston Lane (West) CAC, De Beauvoir Association, or part of a national amenity society, then I would be happy to write on behalf of your organisation as well because this would add weight to the application. Please let me know as a matter of urgency whether you and/or your organisation would like me to do so.

If you are a well know public figure I would be pleased  to add your voice in support of the application. Again, please let me know urgently

Finally please note that my proposal is not merely an academic exercise. In Shoreditch we made similar representations to English Heritage on behalf of OPEN Shoreditch  regarding The Light and the effect of which was that Hackney eventually conceded and included it within the CA and the developer, Hammerson, agreed not to demolish and redevelop the site.

I look forward to your views

Very best

Dowse & Co
23 -25 Dalston Lane London E8 3DF
DX 46800 Dalston
t  020 7254 6205
f  020 7923 1497

Saturday, December 15, 2012

'All There, Ever Out', by Alexander Hawkins Ensemble Top Album for 2012

At Babel we are delighted that 'All There, Ever Out' by Alexander Hawkins Ensemble has been chosen as one of the Guardian's top five Jazz albums for 2012. Making his choice, John Fordham described the album as, 'ruggedly experimental free-jazz, classical South African townships bop, Hammond-organ blues ... with idiosyncratic tributes to Thelonius Monk and Art Tatum thrown in...'. The album was released in April and back then Fordham wrote, that the music sounded 'like all the future jazz you might imagine without ever being able to conceive of the details, but it also joyously invokes the past'. 

The ensemble consists of:

Alexander Hawkins: pianist, organist, composer and bandleader, works steadily in a vast array of creative musical contexts. His own distinctive sound-world is forged through a search to reconcile both his love of free improvisation and a profound fascination with composition and structure. Hawkins’ main vehicle as band leader is his Ensemble. 
Javier Carmona: drummer and percussionist from Madrid (now settled in Barcelona after seven years in London). He is very active in the European free improvisation scene, and has performed with musicians such as John Tchicai, Evan Parker, Carlos Zingaro and John Russell, and others. 

Otto Fischer: guitarist and songwriter. He has performed with a variety of top musicians, both from the UK and the US. His individual style led to him being dubbed ‘a sort of digitized electric griot’.

Dominic Lash: double bassist, although his activities also range much more widely. Now based in New York, from his native Oxford, he has performed with musicians such as Tony Conrad (in duo and quartet formations), Joe Morris (trio and quartet), Evan Parker (duo, quartet and large ensemble) and the late Steve Reid. His current projects include The Dominic Lash Trio.

Hannah Marshall: cellist, active within improvised music in London and Europe, playing with, amongst others, 'Zinc' with Roger Turner and Tim Hodgkinson, and string trio 'Barrel'. She also works internationally with Luc Ex's and Veryan Weston's groups SOL6 and SOL12, in a trio with saxophonist Gianni Mimmo and pianist Nicola Guazzaloca, and Swiss duo 'diatribes'.

Orphy Robinson: vibraphonist, multi-instrumentalist and composer. He has written music for television, film and theatre, opera and contemporary classical music. As a major figure on the jazz scene he has released records on Blue Note and played with Don Cherry, David Murray, Henry Threadgill, Courtney Pine, the Jazz Warriors, Andy Shepherd, and many others. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Babel Babble, 11 December

Debussy - Golliwog's Cakewalk
Omar Sosa/Adam Rudolph - Winter of the Flower
Aki Takase/Han Bennink - Baumkuchen
McCoy Tyner - For All We Know
Oddarrang - Psalm No. 3
The Dubliners - Roddy McCorley
Zbigniew Namyslowski - Gogoszary
Stompin' Al Decca
Mike Gibbs - Blackgang
Martin Carthy - Scarborough Fair
June Tabor - Cold & Raw
Eric Bogle - Silly Slang Song
World Service Project - Relentless
Stonephace Stabbins - Soul Train

WorldService Project is playing at the George, Commercial Road tonight
Mike Gibbs is playing at the Vortex tomorrow and Thursday.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Dice Factory review, Financial Times

From the Financial Times, 8 December 2012

The four members of Dice Factory deliver the choppy rhythms, odd juxtapositions and melange of styles that characterise London’s well-schooled and well-drilled experimental jazz scene. Here, they investigate the tension between organisation and chaos – their name references Luke Rhinehart’s novel The Dice Man – with angular rhythms, controlled improv and strong melodies for saxophonist Tom Challenger. Pianist George Fogel has a broad palette and an impressive range of mood. Tom Farmer and Jon Scott are a tight and expansive rhythm team.