Thursday, December 22, 2011

John Donne

I'm reminded of this John Donne poem for the Winter Solstice. By chance, I read it to a friend of mine yesterday, in giving her a book of Metaphysical Poets.

A Nocturnal upon St. Lucy's Day

'Tis the year's midnight, and it is the day's,
Lucy's, who scarce seven hours herself unmasks;
         The sun is spent, and now his flasks
         Send forth light squibs, no constant rays;
                The world's whole sap is sunk;
The general balm th' hydroptic earth hath drunk,
Whither, as to the bed's feet, life is shrunk,
Dead and interr'd; yet all these seem to laugh,
Compar'd with me, who am their epitaph.

Study me then, you who shall lovers be
At the next world, that is, at the next spring;
         For I am every dead thing,
         In whom Love wrought new alchemy.
                For his art did express
A quintessence even from nothingness,
From dull privations, and lean emptiness;
He ruin'd me, and I am re-begot
Of absence, darkness, death: things which are not.

All others, from all things, draw all that's good,
Life, soul, form, spirit, whence they being have;
         I, by Love's limbec, am the grave
         Of all that's nothing. Oft a flood
                Have we two wept, and so
Drown'd the whole world, us two; oft did we grow
To be two chaoses, when we did show
Care to aught else; and often absences
Withdrew our souls, and made us carcasses.

But I am by her death (which word wrongs her)
Of the first nothing the elixir grown;
         Were I a man, that I were one
         I needs must know; I should prefer,
                If I were any beast,
Some ends, some means; yea plants, yea stones detest,
And love; all, all some properties invest;
If I an ordinary nothing were,
As shadow, a light and body must be here.

But I am none; nor will my sun renew.
You lovers, for whose sake the lesser sun
         At this time to the Goat is run
         To fetch new lust, and give it you,
                Enjoy your summer all;
Since she enjoys her long night's festival,
Let me prepare towards her, and let me call
This hour her vigil, and her eve, since this
Both the year's, and the day's deep midnight is.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Online presence

You can now download Babel CDs on Bandcamp, via the Babel site. Ah, the wonders of the new technology!

Also, with the help of Kathianne, you can pick up our tweets @babellabel. Actually, not always me, but they could be!

So you can get hold of many of our releases. Also, watch for many that are on the way  early in the New Year, into the shops. And the list is growing - Hans Koller with Francois Theberge, Vole and Gannets among others.

Hope that this gives a bit of a feel as to what is going on.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Duplicating service launched

Babel now has a CD duplicating machine, doing high quality CD-Rs for limited runs, along with great on body printing.

In particular, it's proving a hit for small runs (up to 100), such as for press demos, pre-album launch events where manufactured CDs haven't arrived or because CDs are not the main focus.

We also have some nice CD wallets which can be used - recycled cardboard 'gatefold' with window for sliding in a booklet.

More and more satisfied customers.
Contact me on

Friday, November 04, 2011

Alexander Hawkins - some videos

And buy the album here

Emilia Martensson - Some videos

Ahead of the release of And So It Goes, here are some videos from Emilia's gig at the Vortex in October, as well as a link to her interview in the Observer.

Observer article - THE PHOTO SHOOT


The singer who melds Swedish folk, jazz standards and classic pop.
"I don't like to say I'm a jazz singer," says Emilia Martensson. "People think of Broadway," she says, miming jazz hands, "but jazz can mean a lot of things."
For Martensson, 29, the genre encompasses Swedish folk songs and pop as well as jazz standards. Her lush, beguiling interpretations of all three can be found on her debut album, And So it Goes, made with the pianist Barry Green.
"I approach songs from a jazz musician's point of view when it comes to phrasing and improvising," she says. "I think the art is in finding songs that you really connect with."
Growing up in a village just outside Malmö in Sweden, Martensson discovered jazz at school. Hooked, she established a jazz night at her parents' restaurant. Two years later, she moved to England to study music at Trinity College of Music in London. She's lived here ever since and is now based in east London. "I like the London jazz scene a lot. It is a great community. Everybody is really supportive. And everyone knows each other," she adds with a mock-weary look.
So what sets her generation of musicians apart? "Quite a lot of us are going away from the jazz standards. People are writing their own music, using the harmony and the language of jazz in a new context."
Though she loves what she does, Though she loves her life, Martensson admits it's not easy. "We aren't in this for the money. If we were, we'd do pop."
The best gigs, where she can do her own thing, tend to be ones she does for free. She works as a singing teacher and takes paid gigs at weddings. But being on stage is where she feels most comfortable. "I especially love the smaller venues. That's another reason I do jazz, because the venues are often more intimate. Normally, you're playing with a good group of friends, and because of the way that jazz music works, it is very much about communicating and listening to each other; having a nice time and trying to get that across to the audience."Gemma Kappala-Ramsamy


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Concerts at the London Jazz Festival relevant to Babel

I don't like saying "Babel artists", as there is no actual contractual roster. But many of the gigs at the London Jazz Festival relate to Babel albums. Here are many of them. I'll add as time goes on. That's 20 so far

11 November:
Emilia Mårtensson - Ray's Jazz @ Foyles, 6 p.m.
Shabaka Hutchings & Kit Downes - The Forge 2 p.m.

Leafcutter Jhn + Dave Morecroft + Gina Southgate - Vortex 2.30 p.m.
Splice + Dice Factory + Mirror: The Loop Collective - The Vortex 8.30 p.m.

Township Comets - Vortex 4 p.m.
Convergence Quartet - Vortex 8.30 p.m.
Moss Project + Emilia Martensson - Green Note 8 p.m.
Sam Leak's Aquarium - Charlie Wright's 8.30 p.m.

Golden Age of Steam - St James's Piccadilly 1 p.m.
Mark Hanslip + Dave Mannington - Olivers 8 p.m.
Alexander Hawkins - Cafe Oto 8 p.m.

Phil Robson + Christine Tobin - Purcell Room 7.45 p.m.
Twelves - Green Note 8 p.m.

Emilia Mårtensson - Olivers 8 p.m.
Mustard Pie + Crump - Vortex 8.30 p.m.
Trio VD - C.A.M.P. 9 p.m.

Emilia Mårtensson - Royal Albert Hall 12 p.m.

Julian Siegel/Liam Noble - St James's Piccadilly 1 p.m.
Loop Collective Club Night - Blackheath Halls 8 p.m.

Portico Quartet - Purcell Room 3p.m. 7.45 p.m.
Ivo Neame + Alcyona Mick + Sam Crockatt - The Forge 8 p.m.
IRèNe + Metal-O-Phone + Pipeline - Vortex 8.30 p.m.

F-IRE Collective - South Bank Ballroom 3 p.m.
London Jazz Orchestra - Vortex 4 p.m.
Mopomoso - Vortex 7 p.m.
Hans Koller - North London Tavern 8 p.m.
Outhouse Ruhabi - Open The Gate 9 p.m.

Mark Hanslip extracts on Youtube

Alexander Hawkins on Youtube

Friday, September 09, 2011

Lost London Jazz Venues - music


Billy Jenkins talks about Wood Wharf

Brotherhood of Breath 100 Club

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Lost London Jazz Venues

Here are the slides from my presentation to Radio Jazz Research in Remagen. I'll add a few links for some of the relevant music. Please let me have details of any other venues that you know of, or any stories about the existing ones. 
The map can be found here

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The riots and the Vortex

Just to say that the Vortex is fine, though the impact of the current disturbances are economic and uncertain. First, that it's cost the club and the musicians money to be closed for the past 2 days - probably up to £1000 so far. Small compared to those shops who have been looted, but still important to us.
Second, there is the insecurity after the things have all calmed down. Already some people have cancelled tickets for future dates as they don't want to risk Dalston.
So the past days undo some of the successes of the club over the past 6 years. Hopefully temporarily though.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Vortex at London Jazz Festival

We've just put some more of our gigs on sale for the London Jazz Festival on Just search for Vortex. Also - and which have been up for a while - the Necks at the Bishopsgate Institute.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Babel Babble playlist on NTS, 19 April

Deller Consort, Gloria Laus (from Chant Gregorien, Harmonia Mundi)
Bobby McFerrin, He Ran All The Way (from Medicine Man, EMI)
Youssou N'Dour, Allah (from Egypt, Nonesuch)
Frifot, Flican och Pastorn (from Sluring, Amigo)
Leonard Cohen, Story Of Isaac (from Songs From A Room, CBS)
Kairos Quartet, Enough Is Enough(from Kairos Moment)
Emilia Martensson/Barry Green, Waltz for the Lonely Ones
Julian Arguelles, Sintra (from Home Truths, Babel)
Lothar Ohlmeier/Tom Arthurs/Roland Fidezius/Achim Kraemer, Track 1 of In The Dark (Babel, forthcoming)

Mostly Other People Do The Killing is at the Vortex on Wednesday and Thursday

Dan Messore's album has now arrived on Babel-Vortex

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Babel Babble playlist, 28 June

Sorry, a bit the wrong in the wrong order!

Bullfinch (from Bird Mimicry, British Library)
Benjamin Moussay, On Air (from On Air, Laborie)
Greg Lamy, Dance for Victor (fromJazz Guitar Duo, LG036)
Trio Grande and Matthew Bourne, L'Acrobate (from Un matin plein de promesses, W.E.R.F.)
Electric Barbarian, Shuffle, So Five (from Minirock from the Sun, EB0406)
Youn Sun Nah, Jockey Full Of Bourbon (from Voyage, ACT)
Huw Warren/Peter Herbert, Interlude/Whistling Rufus (from Everything We Love and More, Babel)

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Babel Babble playlist, 5 July 2011

Anouar Brahem, Pique-Nique à Nagpur (from Le Pas du Chat Noir, ECM)
Michel Reis, Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll (from Fairytale, WPR)
Bob Dylan, I Want You (from Blonde on Blonde, CBS)
Billy Jenkins, Invocation III and Everybody's Talking (from True Love Collection, Babel)
Henry Lowther's Still Waters, I'll Be Glad (from I.D., Village Life)
Steve Argüelles, The Peacocks (from Circuit, Babel)
Steve Lacy, The Rent (from Anthem, RCA Novus)
Outhouse, Foreign Meat (from Outhouse, Babel)
Oum Kalthoum, Gadet Hobat Leih (from Oum Kalthoum, Dejavu Retro)

Save Dutch Music Centre. Sign the petition.

Corner of an Eye by Christine Tobin. Nice video made in Margate showing the day to day life there.

And a bit of Oum Kalthoum with orchestra.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Babel Babble, 21 June 2011

A double length show focussing mainly on Poland, with Stephen Graham of Jazzwise.

Aga Zaryan, Like a He-Bear and a She-Bear/Falling Asleep/Sleepy Eyelashes (Blue Note, 2011)
Komeda Trio, Moja Ballada (Polskie Nagrania 1961)
Atom String Quartet live at Katowice
Zbigniew Namyslowski, Kujaviak Goes Funky from Polskie Radio 1975
New Trio, India Groove from Simultaneous Abstractions (Tokarnia 2010)
Tomasz Stanko, Sleep Safe and Warm (Litania, ECM, 1997)
Marcin Wasilewski Trio, Woke Up in the Desert from Faithful (ECM 2011)
Michal Urbaniak Group, Nanava, (Motown, 1980)
Milosc, Panska Brodka Mnie Dnerwuje (Gowi 1994)
MItch and Mitch, A Little Scratch from XX11 Century Sound Pioneers (Lado ABC 2010)
Tomasz Stanko, A Farewell To Maria from Leosia (ECM, 1997)
Pink Freud, Polanski from Monster of Jazz (Universal 2010)
Urszula Dudziak and Bobby McFerrin, Tico Tico (Polskie Radio, 1985)
Sing Sing Penelope + DJ Strangefruit, Electrogride Part 5 (extract) (Stow Art 2010)
Adam Makowicz Trio, Naughty Baby, (RCA, 1987)
Leszek Mozdzer, Ballad For Bernt (ACT, 2011)
Sam Leak, Strangers from Aquarium (Babel, 2011)
Bechet-Spanier Big Four, Squeeze Me from Sidney Bechet The Essential Collection (Avid)

The shows that I attended were at the Warsaw Uprising Museum

Friday, June 17, 2011

Playlist for Babel Babble, 15 June 2011

Marc Ducret, Interlude (Extract) from TowerVol.1 (Ayler)
Fanfare Ciocarlia, Mariana from Baro Biao (Piranha)
Bach, Sarabande from Cello Suite No. 5 (Andre Navarra)
Sam Crockatt, The Prophet from Flood Tide (Babel)
Christine Tobin, Stone Cold from You Draw The Line (Babel)
Julian Arguelles, Third Escapade from Home Truths (Babel)
Sam Leak, Shy from Aquarium (Babel)
Randy Newman, Louisiana 1927 from Songbook
Jason Yarde, Where Will It Take You from Now's The Time Vol. 2 (Babel-Vortex)
Hermetologists, Xibaba (Live recording 2003 from Vortex)
John Zorn, Battle Of Algiers from The Big Gundown
Bill Frisell, from The Intercontinentals

John Zorn is playing at Jazz Middelheim with his Book of Angels 13 August

For me the highlights at Moers were Chris Dave

and Stian Westerhus playing with Nils Petter Molvaer

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Playlist for Babel Babble, 8 June 2011

ONJ, Racing Heart, Heart Racing (from Shut Up and Dance)
Das Kapital, Ohne Kapitalisten geht es besser (from Ballads and Barricades)
Fraud, Wrong Brain (from Fraud, Babel)
Lenny Popkin, These Foolish Things (from Live at Inntoene Festival, PAO)
Michel Reis, Purple Rain (from A Young Mind, WPR)
Billy Jenkins, I Like Rain (from When The Crowds Have Gone, Babel)
Q, No Coffee No Speak, part 1 (from Q, Rude Awakening)
Robert Morgenthaler/Urs Roellin, Im Zug (from Off Road, UNIT)
Iner Demirer, Chesney (from You, Me and Char, Pozitif)

Check out this great video of Claude Tchamitchian, whom I heard solo in Berlin. Taken from ZJFT 2010 in Groningen.

Inntoene takes place in Diersbach Austria this weekend.
Moers festival takes place in Germany this weekend.
Zomerjazzfietstour is in Groningen in August. Get on yer bike.

Playlist for Babel Babble, 17 may

ONJ, Racing Heart, Heart Racing (from Shut Up and Dance)
Das Kapital, Ohne Kapitalisten geht es besser (from Ballads and Barricades)
Fraud, Wrong Brain (from Fraud, Babel)
Lenny Popkin, These Foolish Things (from Live at Inntoene Festival, PAO)
Michel Reis, Purple Rain (from A Young Mind, WPR)
Billy Jenkins, I Like Rain (from When The Crowds Have Gone, Babel)
Q, No Coffee No Speak, part 1 (from Q, Rude Awakening)
Robert Morgenthaler/Urs Roellin, Im Zug (from Off Road, UNIT)
Iner Demirer, Chesney (from You, Me and Char, Pozitif)

Check out this great video of Claude Tchamitchian, whom I heard solo in Berlin. Taken from ZJFT 2010 in Groningen.

Inntoene takes place in Diersbach Austria this weekend.
Moers festival takes place in Germany this weekend.
Zomerjazzfietstour is in Groningen in August. Get on yer bike.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Playlist for Babel Babble, 17 may

Playlist for the latest show:

Brahms: Wie lieblich sind deine Wohnungen (Bach Chor Boeblingen, Stuttgarter Philharmoniker, Roland Bader)
Georges Brassens
Phil Robson: Songbird (from Six Strings and The Beat)
Christine Tobin: Dreamland (from Secret Life of A Girl)
Eve Beuvens: Little Scorpion
Orchestre National de Jazz Luxembourg featuring David Laborier: Fast and Furious (From Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Band?)
Flat Earth Society: Edward, Why Don't You Play Some Blues? (from Psychoscout)
Geri Allen, Charlie Haden, Paul Motian: See You At Per Tutti's (from In the Year of the Dragon)
Zed-U: Forest (from Night Time in the Middle Passage)
Nils Landgren/Esbjorn Svensson: Lapp-Nils Polka (from Swedish Folk Modern)
Billy Jenkins: Donkey Droppings (from First Aural Art Collection)

A few little themes this week, with some things to do with European jazz, especially the little Belgian/Luxembourg section in the middle. I hope that Babel will have a Wallonie compilation out later in the year, while I would heartily recommend the Gaume Jazz Festival for some of the music from the region.

I played Z-U because I loved Sons of Kemet on Monday at the Vortex.
Charlie Haden is playing at the Barbican. He was also on Later with Jools. As wilful as ever, it seemed.

I may have lost a bit of the Landgren/Svensson track because of not flicking over the right button. So here's another track.


Suddenly found this track of Nivk Cave with Charlie Haden, Sanborn, Thielemans

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Babel Babble, 10 May 2011

Sorry, playlist not quite up yet.
Including Django Bates, Recyclers, Emilia Martensson,

But check out this by Big Air at Saalfelden

Thursday, May 05, 2011

A-Z of Jazzahead

Seb Scotney on Londonjazz put up his A to Z of Jazzahead here. Here's mine.

A - AFIJMA. This is the French jazz festivals organisation and which the Vortex has just joined as a foreign associate member.
B- Belgium. Unlike much of this divided country, jazz appears to be a unifying factor. They have a great range of promoters in both the Flemish and Wallonie regions, such as Jean-Pierre Bissot from Gaume, Wim Wabbes from Vooruit in Gent etc. etc. (Also, Oliver Belopeta of Skopje)
C - Copenhagen Jazz Festival. Preannouncing its highlights, the main festival has over 1000 concerts in July. Go for it Christian.
D - Dutch Jazz. A country which has the resources and musicianship. Mouthwatering venues (e.g. Bim Huis and SJU Utrecht) and festivals (such as North Sea)
E - Europe Jazz Network. The Vortex is a member. Anke and Battista have been doing a great job in bringing us members together.
F - Festivals. Lots of them.
G- Gerry Godley. The mastermind behind the 12 Points festival in Ireland and overseeing, with Bo Gronningstaeter its expansion Europe-wide.
H - Hungary. The BMC label seems to be the driving force behind a lot of Hungarian jazz, not just a label but also a festival.
I - ILK. One of the great young labels around, driven by the ILK Collective in Denmark. The guiding light is Lotte Anker, a great saxophonist.
J - Jazz Services. Joe Paice set up the British stand with limited resources, but managed to get a presence for us after all.
K - Kelman, John. The ubiquitous and hard-working creative mastermind of
L - Luxembourg. Much of the development of the scene here is due to trumpeter Gast Waltzing, who is also label manager, promoter, professor at music conservatoire.
M - Muetzelfeldt. Karsten, a radio journalist for WDR in Cologne and Deutschlandfunk, has an encyclopedic knowledge of European jazz and can be seen all around the place.
N - Norwegian. One of the main languages of the event, along with English, German and French. This is where all is moving towards over the next few years.
O - Orotone. A leading French agency. Laurent Carrier works hard to ensure that many of the young bands get around Europe. (Also Philippe Ochem of Jazzdor Strasbourg).
P - Panisset. Jacques has overseen the development of Grenoble Jazz Festival and its move to having a name including Babel!
Q - Quenum. Thierry is a great journalist, using his knowledge effectively for Jazz Magazine in France.
R - Rui Neves. A great promoter who runs the wonderful Jazz em Agosto in Lisbon. 
S - Sendesaal. This is the former Radio Bremen studio, now a concert hall where I heard Colin Vallon and Mathias Eick. I first went there in 1992 to help Iain Ballamy record All Men Amen. Its revival is a fitting tribute to the indefatigable Peter Schulze, who also initiated Jazzahead.
T - Tallinn. This year's European Capital of Culture with a great programme of music and also the home of the Free Tallinn Trio, coming back to London in October
U - Ulli Rattay is one of the best jazz publicists around in Germany. Understands the music but is also a realist.
V - Vortex. Todd Wills managed to survive insomnia and various alcoholic potions which were being offered to ensnare him for gigs.
W - Winckelmann. Matthias is one of the great jazz producers, with Enja now 40 years old. A mentor to me.
X - Xylophone. Or rather Vibraphone. Pascal Schumacher (at the Vortex in June)
Y - Youthful. What so many of the grey beards seem to have, in order to keep going.
Z - Zomerjazzfietstour. A festival around Groningen where you cycle from gig to gig. Marcel Roelofs is one of the happiest men you could ever meet - and a demon ninepin bowler.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Babel Babble playlist, 3 May 2011

Meadow (Iain Ballamy) from All Men Amen (B&W)
Bad Drummer (Stephane Kerecki/John Taylor) from Patience
River Man (Andy Bey)
Kill Your Jitterbug Darlings (Bushmen's Revenge) from Jitterbug (Rune Grammofon) [at the Vortex, 1 June 2011]
Slave Thing (Paula Rae Gibson) from You Gather My Darkness Like Snow.... (Babel)
John Cage: The Wonderful Widow of 18 Springs (Cathy Berberian) from Magnificathy (Wergo)
Ursula and the Wind Dance (Aka Moon) from In Real Time (Carbon 7)
Like Someone In Love (Huw Warren) from Infinite Riches in a Little Room (Babel)
Janits Sedej Kalnina (Ilgi)
Beautiful Indifference (Arthurs/Fairhurst) from Mesmer (Babel) [at the Vortex, 6 May]

The theme was partly linked to having been at Jazzahead in Bremen. Meadow was recorded at the radio station studios there. I picked up album by Bushmen's Revenge and Stephane Kerecki there. Babel also got the heads up to do a Now's The Time sampler on Wallonie jazz - hence the choice of Aka Moon.

This week's question: who originally sang River Man?

Answer to last week: Sphere was Monk's middle name.

Apologies for losing a few seconds before the last track of the show. I forgot to push a switch.

Podcast coming soon.

There was no Billy Jenkins track this week. So how about this?

And a lovely track by Graham Collier, with Harry Beckett soloing. (I am also smitten by JT's comping and soloing.) There's a Harry Beckett tribute at the Vortex on 30 May.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Babel Babble, playlist 26 April 2001

Mole People (Julian Arguelles) from Skull View (Babel)
Machine Gun (Finn Peters) from Su Ling (Babel)
Final Movement, Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 (Bach) played by Concentus Music (Harnoncourt)
Blue Sphere (Thelonious Monk) from London Collection (Black Lion)
The Priest (Christine Tobin) from Aililiu (babel)
Soleils (Rene Aubry) from Invites sur la Terre (Wagram)
Discovering Metal (Django Bates) from Summer Fruits and Unrest (Winter and Winter)
Golden Slumbers (Orquestra Mahatma) from Young Person's Guide (Babel)
Big Juice (Noble/Marshall/Buckley) from Bud Moon (Ping Pong)
Asturiana (de Falla arr Berio) from Fiesta! (BBC)
All I Really Want To Do (Bob Dylan) from Another Side of Bob Dylan (CBS)
Shower (Led Bib) from Sizewell Tea (Babel)
Love Takes Time (Selen Gulun) from Answers (Pozitif)

Contact me at about availability of the CDs.

The themes this week were how apparent simplicity creates universality, based on a discussion I had with Joachim Badenhorst at Vortex, since he was playing Bach. Django's piece shows, by contrast, how total complexity can be satisfying.

Also a few iconic Babel release solos - Huw Warren on The Priest, Django Bates on Mole People.

And, above, another sign of this simplicity leading to beauty.

Big Air (with Steve Buckley and Oren Marshall) play Cheltenham on 1 May and Vortex on 2 May.

And a couple of tracks from the Han Bennink season at the Vortex, playing with Steve Noble and Terry

there's a review here.

Jazz and its venues and its audience

Sebastian Scotney's Londonjazz blog (HERE) recently highlighted a debate that has evolved in France over venues, their status and their treatment of their musicians. Being involved in a venue myself - the Vortex - I realise constantly this discussion which often occurs internally, but also bubbles over every now and then.

I'd just like to make a few incidental observations:

1) Venues, and particularly those working daily, such as Duc des Lombards, have to look at all ways they can of survival. So putting food in people's mouths is one important way. In London, all the main venues (apart from the Vortex) do this. I sometimes fear that they are treated as supper clubs first and then as jazz venues. This was one of the original gripes of Laurent Coq.
Musicians of course do similar things. They sell t shirts, they sell CDs, whatever it is to raise their income levels.

Overall, it's a balance between quality and commercial!

2) The role of the audience at a jazz gig is vital, and often underestimated - usually by the audience themselves. So they think that, by talking, staring longingly in each others' eyes, or whatever, it won't affect the music. IT DOES! And of course, also the listening experience for the others wanting to appreciate their money's worth. Gail Brand's recent research for the Guildhall School of Music confirms this.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Babel Babble playlist on NTS, 19 April

The programme is broadcast live weekly on NTS on


If You Go Away (Emilia Martensson/Barry Green) from forthcoming Babel release
Chelsea Morning (Joni Mitchell) from Clouds
Mutawal from Yemen Traditional Music of the North (Auvidis)
Ooh Salamander (Christine Tobin) from House Of Women (Babel)
Toon Town (Chris Batchelor/Steve Buckley0 from Life as We Know It (Babel)
Concorde No. 1 (Disorder on the Border ) from Vol. 1 (Babel)
The Poacher (Ronnie Lane) from April Fool (NMC)
Xibaba (Huw Warren) from Infinite Riches In A Little Room (Babel)
Polcuta from Festive Musics of the Jews from The Botosani Region (Ethnophonie)
And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda (June Tabor) from Anthology (Topic)
Oliver North/Twisted (Billy Jenkins) from Entertainment USA (Babel)
Marching Dice (Acoustic Ladyland) Camouflage (Babel)
Norwegian Wood (Amit Chaudhuri) from Found Music (Babel-Vortex)

The programme covered iconic singers - people who send tingles down the spine but with a history. So indirectly covered Brel, Marlene Dietrich but included the moving June Tabor singing Eric Bogle's iconic And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda (ahead of Anzac Day on 25 April)

Alev Lenz, who does the show immediately after mine, played a song about the 15 year old Turkish boys forced to fight against the Australians. So, the two shows seem to be dovetailing into each other.

I mentioned Edith Piaf, part of the stimulation to this strand. Check out this video of La Foule

The competition was won by Graham Lee.
There's a version of The Poacher on Youtube with Charlie Hart on violin (top left)

For more information on how to get the releases - and many are available through the Babel shop - ask me on

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Babel Babble on NTS, 12 April

Listen here

Arrival of the Tourists (Billy Jenkins/Fun Horns) from Mayfest '94
Sun and Moon (Sam Crockatt) from Flood Tide (Babel, forthcoming)
Waltz for Rosie (Bruno Heinen) from Twinkle Twinkle (Babel, available summer 2011)
Gangar e Tarkjel from The Jews Harp World (Etnisk Folkklub)
Black Hole (Paula Rae Gibson) from Maybe Too Nude (Babel)
Strangers (Sam Leak) from Aquarium (Babel)
La Scaramella  (Josquin) from Une Fete Chez Rabelais (Harmonia Mundi)
Peonies after Hiroshige (Liam Noble) from Let's Call This (Babel)
Block Ice & Propane (Erik Friedlander) from Block Ice & Propane (Skipstone)
Vapors (Steve Lehman) from Now's The Time II (Babel-Vortex)
Bracken from Big Air (Babel)

Competition: La Scaramella is the alternative name for a Commedia dell'Arte character with strong associations with (the) Queen. How?
Winner receives a copy of Let's Call This\
Email me on

Next show on next Tuesday at 3 p.m. Broadcast LIVE!

It was a challenge to broadcast live for the first time. But I made it. There are great shows before and after me. James playing 1960s electronic music and then Alev Lenz. Check out the station on


Thursday, March 03, 2011

Babel sampler on Jazzwise

In April, Jazzwise will be including a new Babel sampler.
Here is the track listing and my write-up

Jazz is all about passion, commitment, obsession. In terms of the music, the musicians and their supporters. It is this which keeps jazz surviving even when the rest of the music “industry” wails.
This is the theme taken for the latest sampler of music on Oliver Weindling's Babel Label. Babel, in its 17 year life, has been about the same obsessive desire to bring to attention some of the great music developed and developing in the UK. An obsessive desire to continue.
Any album, be it from the early days of 1994 or from 2011 has a freshness to it. This means not just albums by Steve and Julian Argüelles, Huw Warren, Polar Bear, Acoustic Ladyland, Led Bib, Phil Robson.....
But they give a springboard for a major schedule of releases, some of which are included here, but also the likes of Alexander Hawkins and Lothar Ohlmeier, along with artists on our Vortex-linked imprint such as Dan Messore and Amit Chaudhuri. On this sampler, we look backwards and forwards, with classic tracks by Billy Jenkins, Partisans and Steve Argüelles, juxtaposed with some of the newer releases, such as Outhouse, Twelves, Sam Leak and the two latest BBC New Generation Artists (Tom Arthurs and Shabaka Hutchings)
Contact and get hold of exclusive online tracks by Christine Tobin, Paula Rae Gibson and others.

Billy Jenkins - Pointless Adornments from 'Suburbia'
Suburbia is a perfect merging of Billy Jenkins's angst and pride in South-East London. Great playing on the album from the likes of Mark Lockheart and Ramm père (Dave). He has recorded 8 albums on Babel and is certainly a national treasure, according to Penguin Guide.
trio VD - Rash (2:00) from 'Fill It Up With Ghosts'
The three Leeds-based Chris's – Bussey on drums, Sharkey on guitar, and de Bézenac on saxophone - show an exceptional focus and tightness, which understandably made this Mojo's jazz album in 2009 and the band making waves on the European festival circuit.
Blink - Mummy's Boy (5:13) from 'Twice' (forthcoming)
Chamber jazz by this trio, with the bass rendered unnecessary due to Alcyona's powerful left hand and Paul Clarvis's melodic drumming. The trio is completed by Robin Fincker on clarinet and saxophones. “Quirkily lyrical frames, with intriguing themes and sharp contrasts” (The Guardian)
Zed-U - Showroom Dummies (4:47) from 'Night Time On The Middle Passage'
BBC New Generation Artist Shabaka Hutchings towers physically above Neil Charles (bass) and Tom Skinner (drums) but certainly not in terms of the unanimity of purpose of the trio, shown to full punchy effect on this Kraftwerk cover. As John Surman wrote: “So exciting to hear young musicians who are prepared to branch out and explore a wide range of musical possibilities.”

Triptych - Dense Fur (6:31) from 'Amusia'
Richard Fairhurst is one of the few jazz Steinway artists in the UK and this is his foray into piano trio territory (with Jasper Høiby and Chris Vatalaro) where he confirms the importance of good melody and “great harmonic ingenuity” (Ivan Hewitt, Daily Telegraph)!

Partisans – By Proxy from 'By Proxy'
Together for over 12 years, and sounding better than ever on this, their third Babel album. Phil Robson (guitar), Julian Siegel (Saxophone), Thad Kelly (bass) and Gene Calderazzo (Drums) are now a supergroup and father figures for the bands that have followed. All have their own projects (with Julian just completing a German tour) but their work with Partisans (including a gig at this year'a Jazzahead) acts as a constant common thread.

Blue Moon In a Function Room - Vision On
In one of the earliest Babel releases, the ever-resourceful drummer Steve Argüelles recruits Stuart Hall, Billy Jenkins and Steve Watts to push standards to their limits. Not to be lost on this one is the irony of a great tune used on a TV programme for deaf viewers.

Twelves - Party Girls from 'The Adding Machine'
The “single” from the new release by a band led by bassist Riaan Vosloo now extended to being a quartet with Tim Giles (Drums), Mark Hanslip (saxophone) and given a rockier dynamic by Rob Updegraff (guitar)

Outhouse + Hilmar Jensson - Long Notes from 'Straw, Sticks & Bricks'
Outhouse is invigorated from the influences they have sought out individually and together over the years, such as Gambian Wolof drummers and a new core line-up with Tom Challenger and Robin Fincker on saxes, Johnny Brierley (bass) and Dave Smith (drums). Moving well away from their modest start in an outhouse in Golder's Green. They add Icelandic genius guitarist Hilmar Jensson for their latest album.

Golden Age Of Steam - Oboe or Glockenspiel from 'Raspberry Tongue'
The successor band to Fraud including both James Allsopp (reeds), Tim Giles (Drums) and with the addition of Kit Downes on organ. Prize winners all, and giving a bite and intensity to a strange-sounding choice of title.

Arthurs / Fairhurst - The Flirt from 'Postcards From Pushkin' (forthcoming)
Originally a BBC Proms commission, trumpeter Tom Arthurs and Richard Fairhurst have been working together for over 5 years as a duo, this being a follow-up to the album Mesmer.

Duw A Wyr - Bryniau Cassia from 'God Only Knows'
Welsh hymns interpreted as intense love songs. By the haunting voice of Lleuwen Steffan partnered by Huw Warren and often by Mark Lockheart on saxophone. Religion has rarely sounded sexier.

Mark Hanslip / Javier Carmona - Nipple from 'Dosados' (forthcoming)
The duo of reeds and drums could hardly be more intense than this interplay between Mark and Javier. Focussing on a part o- Strangersf the body which is …...

Aquarium – Strangers from 'Aquarium' (forthcoming)
Pianist Sam Leak's debut is a “fine achievement” (according to John Taylor), where James Allsopp, Calum Gourlay (bass) and Josh Blackmore (drums) join him on what Jazzwise called “lush chamber jazz”.

Acoustic Ladyland - High Heel Blues from 'Last Chance Disco'
Highly charged and dynamic, Babel catalogued the early life of this band, with Last Chance Disco being Jazzwise's album of the year in 2005.The album from which this is taken is one of the most successful on Babel.

There's so much to choose. So additional tracks available online include:

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Oh dear! Whatever happened to Hackney' "creative quarter"?

On the wikipedia entry for Hackney it states that "Hackney Town Hall Square has been developed as a new 'creative quarter'." Oh dear! Ocean is bankrupt, though at least will re-emerge as a cinema soon. Hackney Empire is currently more dark than going (but it's a beautiful place, nevertheless), etc.
It's clearly attempted to move West a bit. Dalston has that creative buzz. The beacons are The Rio Cinema, The Vortex, Arcola and Cafe Oto. Meanwhile bubbling under are some venues such as the Boys Club on Boleyn Road, the Lux Cinema people and innumerable artists. This heartens me despite the arrival of the hen party brigade from Essex on Saturday nights. Thankfully, though not Downstairs.
Meanwhile we have our own square - Gillett - and even a small bit of open space for performances at Dalston Square to come.
But now, when the time is right, where's the money to give us the extra leg up? Nowhere. We have to live in hope however. 
It's all happened despite the powers that be at the ACE or the Town Hall, who threw too much at Ocean, Clissold Leisure Centre and placed their bets on Dalston Square rather than Gillett.
I'm glad however that there is now a healthy dialogue with LBH as we search for the resources to consolidate on our successes, and I hope that it appears soon enough.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Vortex benefit, Margate 4 February 2011

Benefit for the Vortex and Margate Jazz Festival at Margate Winter Gardens, 4 February 2011
Jamie Cullum, Ian Shaw, Liane Carroll, Christine Tobin with David Mossman.
Also some photos from party at Harbour Cafe, The Parade Margate.

And check out some audio here on Jamie Cullum fan site.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Penguin Jazz Guide

(Here are a few thoughts. I'll possibly improve it over the next few days to a proper review, but the assessment is one that I hold to.)

The Penguin Guide has changed form, now being a "best of", as selected by BrianMorton and the late Richard Cook. In reality, the onus of selection, ratherthan review, has been on Morton as Cook died in 2007.Overall it still links to a monumental task. The reviews seems to be the same, but this time there is an added bonus of a few pertinent quotes from the artist, or savvy musicians. It still makesenjoyable reading, due to their pithiness. 

But part of the fun of the oldereditions was that it wasmore a tour d'horizon. So there were some fun criticisms and comments.
It was always a joy to try and find out what was in and out and why, especially as both writers are those of immense respect.

The listing is now chronological. The problems with this have been widelydiscussed and it is with relief that there will now be an index.Nevertheless it's fascinating to see how the balance of jazz has changed. Thelargest era for recordings is the second half of the 50s. Unsurprising ifone thinks who was going strong then. Still
early enough to record the earliest generation on lp, it was the heyday ofbe bop and then.....

But how few Europeans there were until then – just 3 albums up to 1950!

So, overall, if you bought all the albums then your collection would indeed be amazing.But...

When I've looked at my own speciality in U.K. I have been surprised hy some ofthe selections. Arguably Dim Lit by Polar Bear is a good album. But reallythe only one to pick from the era of post Loose Tubes-influenced musiciansstarting with the "Partisans generation" and onwards via F-IRE and Loop? TinaMay, but no Christine Tobin? Brian Morton called Big Air "one of the mostimportant Uk albums of the last 25 years" when writing in Jazz Journal. Yet though, it was out in time to be included, but isn't. It would be intriguing to know why there was a reassessment.

A strongpreponderance of improv heavyweights, but do some of the shortcomings also reflect the rest of the scene. I had a chat with a leading French journalist. He though the Martial Solalchoices OK, but not his best.Of course they can't include what they haven't received, but if they want adegree of definitiveness then they haven't consulted widely enough.

So a great book with many caveats. The edition with index will once againbring it closer to the magisterial editions. Worth getting as part of theway to get albums when building a library. but unfortunately you'll probablyneed look at other sources too. The previous full editions were worth itbecause they could also warn you off some duff albums/artists. No longer canit be your only source - or at least 'not yet'! If only though we did have some other choices too.