Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Samuel Eagles Quartet - Next Beginning launch

Samuel Eagles - Alto Saxophone
Eric Ford - drums
The Samuel Eagles Quartet kick-started their new album with a packed launch party at the EFG London Jazz Festival earlier this month (16/11/2014). Although this was a lunch time gig at the Pizza Express in Soho the capital's jazz night owls had been attracted to this doubleheader from record label F-IRE.

Ferg Ireland - Bass
The quartet smashed into their first tune, neither saxophonist Samuel Eagles nor drummer Eric Ford holding themselves back. It was an uncompromising clarion call to all those, young and old, who thirst for this new brand of original composition that bubbles away on the current British jazz scene.

'We were meant to be' preceded second tune 'Remembering myself', here Samuel Eagles mixed his rich hued Mediterranean motifs with the legendary cowbell of Eric Ford. If I were to remember myself while listening to this music then I would imagine that I had been reborn a Moor. While the other spelling of Moorish would also be applicable here too. The serene and unflappable Ferg Ireland brought our revery to an end with a solo that exercised his comprehensive talent.

Samuel Eagles' writing is melodic and aspirational, this is an expressive debut release from a young man who knows when to throw himself into the fray and when to stand back. In fact its is one of his signatures, when his lines are exhausted and complete he steps back to enjoy the men around him. I even had the time to sketch him in repose rather than on the attack.

Ralph Wyld - Vibraphone
The album's title track 'Next Beginning' was the tune of the set. Ireland (bass) once again gave us his melodic edge and combined with Ford (drums). They elevated the swing until it became the joyous. Ralph Wylde swayed too on vibes and the threesome skipped along together. Meanwhile Eagles stood on the sidelines, smiling broadly as the young vibesman danced his sticks.

The Pizza Express, Soho was a playground for the Samuel Eagles Quartet on this day. The future that lies before them is now merely an obstacle to enjoy, a climbing frame from which to throw themselves with enthusiastic abandon.


For a comprehensive review of the album please read Adrian Pallant at

Monday, 24 November 2014

Eyebrow - Garden City - album inspiration

Typography and additional design is by Jason Ewing at
The Group of Seven
Pete Judge - Jazz Café 05/03/2014
Today is the official release of Eyebrow's album Garden City on the New York label Ninety and Nine Records. Here at Art of Jazz we like to champion the art and artist's who help us visualise the music. Paul Wigen's it seems is our Renaissance Man of the day. He provides us not only with drums, percussion and violin on the album but also the photographs that adorn the 6 page CD sleeve.

Photo - Paul Wigens
Eyebrow is a trumpet and drums duo based in Bristol, UK, formed in 2009. Its music evolves out of improvisations which are reassembled into structured pieces. Paul Wigens studied with American jazz drummer Clifford Jarvis (Sun Ra/Archie Shepp/Pharoah Saunders) and has played with Grand Drive, The Blue Aeroplanes, Limbo, Cousteau and alongside the warped genius of Ted Milton in Blurt. 
Pete Judge recently played at the Jazz Café here in London with Get The Blessing where I had the pleasure of drawing him live. He has also composed music for film & live ensemble projects for Shetland Arts Trust, Portland Royal Manor Theatre, Gloucester Royal Hospital, Bristol’s Brunel 200 and Aberystwyth Silver Band.

The photos which wrap the Garden City album together were all taken by Paul Wigens. He cites the Hipgnosis album art of the 1970's as an influence but Eyebrow's is much more subtle. No melting face of Peter Gabriel or chewing gum breast like the Scorpions. The images talk of the detail and subtlety amongst a harsher landscape. Underneath the clod of grass on the cover is hidden a brick. The album's concepts are those of growth and decay, and the transitory narrative of Nature’s cycle. The title "Garden City’ refers to the ambitious town planning movement whose self-contained communities were surrounded by greenbelts of land, containing proportionate areas of residences, industry and agriculture.

album centrefold
Paul explains "The cardboard packaging reminds me of 1960s brutalist architecture and my parents had a red Heinkel bubble car which I remember travelling in as a child (It konked out in the end and dad gave it away to the milkman). I put them together in homage to my birthplace of Stevenage New Town; one of a number built north of London following WW2 to alleviate housing shortages."

Garden City has 7 tunes that populate the album with varying degrees of city, industry and agriculture. Blind Summit has a cinematic dystopian edge which belies the utopian ideals of our Garden City theme. It is a steely assessment by a being (animal or human?) purveying its domain. There is control and superiority emphasised by Wigen's drums, and a toll of bell across hollow landscape.

Unused album photo  -
Paul Wigens
As we traverse Eyebrow's world along Golden Road there is a distortion that affects you physically. Your body feels like it is being made into jam. It simmers, squeezes and amongst the viscosity there is a sweet tang. Mr Choppy brings back the mean beat after the refreshing wash of Pete Judge on the preceding LustreChoppy challenges you to makes everyday living into a piece of performance art if you are willing to play the game. Slow your pace to that of the music, be complicit in the pleasure of doing this for yourself, for your body, experience the new Bristolian Tai Chi.

The 13 minute Thaw is a sawing, repetitive piece that reflects the gentle textures of the album art. Mosses, lichens and imperfections are flattened to pattern. Amongst the shards of drums sit the soft dewy beds of a pulse. Scrim is an impressive swell of a much larger force that features the rumbling Jim Barr (Bass guitar and pedals). It is a living mountain of a tune. An elder god is contained within it. Garden City ends with a puzzle in Pinch Point. The thought wanders the mind like it was trapped within a Perspex 3D maze until the inevitable pinch, the moment which asks as many questions as it answers.

Pete Judge sums up the album, "the title and the artwork suggest, in a beautifully succinct way, the city-dweller’s search for space and wildness. We both live in Bristol, a city which still has at least one muddy boot in the farmland that surrounds it. Eyebrow’s music seems built on the interlocking patterns of buildings and traffic movements, but also stretches out and up, journeying slowly through real and imagined landscapes."

Listen for yourself (below) or see Eyebrow release the album on Sunday 30th November at The Brewery Theatre, featuring live visuals from Kathy Hinde, and special musical guests Jim Barr (Get The Blessing, Portishead) and Tim Allen (Bat For Lashes).
8pm, £8 (£6 concessions).


Thursday, 20 November 2014

Rachael Cohen - London Jazz Festival 2014

Rachael Cohen - alto saxophone
Rachael Cohen kicked off the EFG London Jazz Festival this year on the Southbank (14/11/2014). The Royal Festival Hall is not only one of London's great public spaces but a hub, meeting point and cultural cauldron. It is the heartbeat of the jazz festival. It offers the everyman and everywoman the chance to experience this most innovative of genres for free.

Jim Bashford - drums
This year's festival is better than ever with an even broader mix of styles, ages and venues to choose from. Rachael Cohen played it relatively safe, for this was a lunchtime concert that embraced an audience from toddlers to those surfing the silver freedom-pass wave. The majority of tunes were from her debut album Halftime on Whirlwind Recordings which was released this time last year at the suitably named Whirlwind Festival.

Steve Marchant
That launch gig showcased the talents of Phil Robson on guitar and once again he gave us what we hoped for here. He has been thrilling the jazzerati recently with the latest Partisans'  album  'Swamp'. They have toured North America and are now at the end of their UK leg. It is Leeds tonight at Seven Jazz and then the Vortex, London tomorrow (21/11/2014).

Phil Robson - guitar
Rachael Cohen socked us a couple of easy punches with 'The Manor' and Ornette Coleman's 'Just for you' to start proceedings. It was packed out in the Festival Hall, and I perched in the crow's nest above the bar. 'Groove Envy' gave us the chance to sail to more ambitious shores. The tune steps up and steps down like riding the escalators in a department store but when you hear Rachael Cohen alone it conjures more naturalistic sentiments. Maybe it her height and elegance alongside her playing that makes you think of reeds and rushes. From afar she sways in the wind, soft and mesmeric, yet you know the edges are sharp and whippy.

Before a finale of the warmed toned 'Intermission' and boisterous 'Riggins Higgins,?' we were treated to a new tune. Mark Lewandowski warmed to it too, looking a little pale and with sleepy eyes at first, he brought the colour to 'Green screen'. It was cheeky and joyous, it made you wonder what gems are contained in Rachael Cohen's second album.

Mark Lewandowski - bass
A final note goes to the London Jazz Festival's most devoted jazzface, Steve Marchant, who I sketched listening intently. At the time of writing this he has racked up 20 gigs in just 6 days. He will inevitably make the marathon distance but will he become the first Jazz Ultra and hit the 50. You wouldn't bet against it.


Wednesday, 19 November 2014

The Lost Brothers - Dovetailing Dawn and Dust

Mark McCausland
It was a first sell-out London date for Ireland's alt-folk duo The Lost Brothers at St Pancras Old Church last week (12/11/2014). They had been preceded by Maria Byrne and Lisa O'Neill in this atmospheric venue dedicated to the Roman martyr St Pancras. It was packed out indeed, they would have hung off the rafters if they had been within reach.

It was a serene setting for two performers whose vocals floated above the everyday hubbub of the swarming metropolis beyond. It was an early foray into their latest album with opening tune 'Gold and Silver' followed by 'Derridae' which has caused a stir for BBC Radio 6 listeners, myself included.
The album New Songs of Dawn and Dust was released in September on the London based indie label Lojinx. This London gig was but one of 23 dates that sees them start and finish in Ireland via Scotland and England.

Oisin Leech
Beyond the lullaby voices of Oisin Leech and Mark McCausland there were narratives that spoke of wandering journeys, of caravans in the old world sense. Thoughts of Augusta John blossomed in the mind, and like the great artist The Lost Brothers are imaginative, cultivating the ability to catch a striking yet unfamiliar perspective of their chosen subject. Skilful too, there was a guitar dexterity that gave 'Can I stay with you' a jovial and upbeat wash, and took away the blues in the song.

The graveyard at St Pancras Old Church is famous for it's trysts between the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley and the future Mary Shelley. At times if felt like we were watching a modern experiment in Mrs Shelley's body quilting. If you closed your eyes The Lost Brothers 'became one' courtesy of their dovetailing voices.


Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Lisa O'Neill - Stronger than before

Lisa O'Neill
Sandwiched between Maria Byrne and The Lost Brothers we tasted the most satisfying filling of Lisa O'Neill at St Pancras Old Church in London last week (12/11/2014). It was a treat of zesty proportions and although it was a brief 40 minutes, there was plenty to get our teeth stuck into to.

Mossy Nolan -Guitar/bouzouki
The scale of St Pancras Old Church fitted the dimensions of this diminutive Irish singer but it's whitewashed walls barely contained the energy of her words. She commanded the space as she took the stage alone. She caught our attention, standing away from the microphone but attacking it when need be or leaning toward it as though sniffing a rose over a neighbours fence.

'England has my man' gave us plenty of Lisa O'Neill's meat and gristle to chew on. The toughest corners of her narrative were a pleasure to find rolling around our mouths and minds long after she had moved to pastures new. 'Nellie's Song' spoke of adventures across the USA, and I was lucky enough to be sitting with London's busiest gigsters, the legendary Dr and Mrs Fizzy. They had last heard O'Neill in Boston, so its seems America still calls.

Mossy Nolan joined O'Neill throughout, and played the straight and still man alongside his leader's springloaded jack-in-the-box. Many of the night's tunes come from Lisa O'Neill's second album Same Cloth Or Not (Song Seeds Records) which is anchored by Nolan's talents, from guitar to bouzouki. Trying to contain O'Neill on paper is like trying to capture the elemental, she is a force, a mysterious one that touches the cornerstone of our being.

Lisa O'Neill
You do not float on cloudy skies upon hearing her voice, even while listening to the penultimate tune 'Dreaming'. There is a Piafesque frisson as though the voice has been fragmented, it has been broken apart and been put back together even stronger.

That is how we felt after Lisa O'Neill had finished, we were stronger than before.


Monday, 17 November 2014

London Piano Trio - Music under Stalin

Robert Atchison - Violin
It was the strangest of days in London town last Sunday (09/11/2014). Middle-age soldiers in uniform walked the streets with sweethearts on their arms. Behind these, a second wave of wizened veterans brought up the rear, a little slower but still with chests puffed out. Poppies rested beside brightly coloured campaign strips as people swarmed away from the nearby Cenotaph.

Personal emotions, like many other around me, are confused during the red tinted days between Remembrance Sunday and the eleventh hour of the eleventh month. Just as confusing and enlightening was the sentiments stirred up by the London Piano Trio as they celebrated Music under Stalin. For this day marked the 25th anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall. On the night of November 9, 1989, the most potent symbol of the Cold War division in Europe tumbled. Earlier that day, the communist authorities of the German Democratic Republic had announced the removal of travel restrictions to democratic West Berlin.

David Jones - Cello
The London Piano Trio of Robert Atchison (violin), Olga Dudnik (piano) and David Jones (cello) split the afternoon into two halves. The first belonged to Georgy Sviridov's stunning Piano Trio in A minor, Op.6. After the interval we were treated to Dmitri Shostakovich's Piano Trio in E Minor, Op.67.

The first movement of Sviridov's masterpiece, quickly highlights Robert Atchison's versatility. With bow tapping on string he gives us a tip-toeing tension. It is a peck of a bird, a drip of a gutter and with the cello of David Jones joining too it has a sinister Hitchcockesque edge. You hear the folk influences of Sviridov's early tuition in the second movement, Sherzo. As you would imagine it was vigorous and playful but it also talked of power and strength. There was a sparse modernity during the third that built the tension once again between violin and cello. The pulse was so strong in the fourth, marked Idyll, you almost believed there was a drummer behind St John's mammoth pillars. It had an incredible vocabulary that left us hanging between the height of the strings and depths of Olga Dudnik's piano.

Olga Dudnik - piano
The second half of the day's concert was equally inspirational as cellist David Jones cast a gossamer trance over all of us who sat in St John's Smith Square. You felt the chill and the ethereal qualities of his playing. It was almost suffocating, such was his grip on our attention during the first movement of Shostakovich's Piano Trio in E Minor, Op.67. This was short lived and Robert Atchison was released like a sling shot on subsequent movements. The London Piano Trio gave us everything in this second set, from sprigs of humour to full bloodied devotion to the motherland.

The pounding of proud breasts wasn't the only sound we heard on this day of double meanings. Juxtaposed beside the poetic fantasies we also heard the strings of Atchison and Jones under pressure, notes of pain and tension tempered those of patriotic fervour.


ps. regular readers will know I started my apprenticeship under Rich Rainlore of Rainlore's World. I was lucky enough to see him at the concert and spend some time with him and his beautiful PA Chetna Kapacee. I hope this means a return to London's live music circuit. We all miss him.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Josh Pyke by Naomi Hart

Josh Pyke by Naomi Hart
Today we welcome the talents of both Australian troubadour Josh Pyke and west country artist Naomi Hart to the Art of Jazz blog. Naomi sketched Josh on his recent The Beginning And The End Of Everything UK tour at The Cavern in Exeter (25/10/2013).
Before reaching these fair shores he released the UK single ‘Leeward Side’ (which for those lacking any knowledge of sailing is the direction downwind from a point of reference). It is an allegory for moving on from a past relationship in a positive way and maybe with a quick escape.
The new album hit #7 in the ARIA Album Chart back home, and explores ideas of desire, death and legacy using Josh's unique musical vocabulary.  As with previous albums, this is not only a period of time in his life but an exploration of the catalysts and the bookends that close our personal chapters. Exeter embraced the talented Josh Pyke and there is no end in sight for their relationship, he is welcome back anytime.

Josh Pyke by
Naomi Hart

Naomi Hart is currently based in Devon, having lived and worked in Africa, Canada and mainland Europe.  She has exhibited in Great Britain, France and Canada and has work in the permanent collection of the National Museum of Scotland and in private collections around the world.
Most of her work is concerned with the natural environment, and more recently, human interaction with it.

Josh is rounding off 2014 with a string of exciting tour dates in Australia....


Friday, 7 November 2014

Alexia Coley - Hot to touch

Alex Coley
Pearce Ranger - Bass
The charismatic London singer Alexia Coley gave us a delicious slice of her latest album at 229 The Venue last week (29/10/2014) but this was a feast for the eyes as much as the ears. Her debut, Keep The Faith, was released last month on Jalapeno Records and is set to springboard Coley beyond her current capital wide popularity.

Sam Montero - Keys
Underground in Great Portland Street the red pools of light ringed the stage while all eyes rested on the dynamic force that took centre stage. It was a role reversal on Robert Palmer's 'Addicted to Love' as Alexia Coley was anything but the window dressing. The male tottie behind sported their black tie and white shirts in Palmeresque chic. There was more role reversing  with early tune 'Jekyll and Hyde', making an impression, as did Sam Montero on keys.

Milton Mermikide - Guitar
She was punchy, soulful. She was rock n roll, but always there was control. With more than a hint of spell in Alexia Coley's big brown eyes she gave us a musical wink with the tune 'I Like a Drink'. She was strong and unpretentious, an attribute that will endear her to modern audiences tired of over-manufactured tat, particularly as we approach Christmas

James Miller - Trumpet
Toward the end of her short set there was a little more meat on the instrumental bone with the brass giving us something to chew on. Her current single ''Driving me Wild' was the highlight of the night, with the saxophone of Jon Gillies, trumpet from James Miller and drummer Michael Cairns adding that extra punch.

Michael Cairns - drums
The short set worked against Alexia Coley, and the crowd gathered before her wanted more.

I write this without barbed undertones. We wanted to hear more from the excellent musicians that played in the shadows. They were shackled by time constraints, that also made it hard to feel close to Coley. Her power on this night was epitomised by her glowing red demeanour that screamed 'Too hot to touch'. We pined and coveted in equal measure.


Jon Gillies - Sax

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Jon Allen - Rivulets and fountains

Jon Allen
Although he describes himself as a musical outsider, Jon Allen is anything but this. His ethos of being true to his ideals and a belief in his own musical journey override any desire to conform. This puts him squarely inside the embrace of most music lovers. His gig at the Jazz Café in Camden late last month (28/10/2014) was so eclectic it represented what many of us feel and experience in our everyday lives.

John E Vistic

Here he was sharing the music from his most recent album, Deep River (Monologue Records) rather than merely promoting it. He didn't just lay it before us in his shop window but took our metaphorical inside-leg measurement in a tailor made performance.

The night started with the honest narratives of John E Vistic. He was joined on stage by Katey Brooks for 'Long Time Gone'. Unfortunately I didn't get the opportunity to draw the tempting shoulders and deep dark eyes of this Bristolian singer.

Stuart Ross - Bass
Jon Allen was obviously the captain of the ship on stage, breaking the waves before us but he was no figurehead. It was an even handed night where the music did the talking and his band played their part in equal measure. During the night's opener he had a laconic and easy manner, with head tilted back and eyes closed, he shut out the audience in deep concentration. Soon Allen felt at home and his eyes opened, although they always hid behind a curtained fringe.

Rich Milner - Keys
By the time the second tune 'Night & Day' was put to bed you were already aware of his fellow musicians. The most striking of which was bassist Stuart Ross who appeared on The Who's 2006 album 'Endless Wire' amongst many others. Musically guitarist Simon Johnson caught the ear particularly on the album's title track 'Deep River'.

Tim Bye - drums
Again and again it was the keyboard of Rich Milner that took the groove and plaudits. He was instantly lickable on 'Sweet defeat', I would even go as far to suggest he was more effervescent than a sherbet fountain. The juices flowed again before long, and even rolled down the chins of the audience on 'Get what's mine' which was meatier than a slow cooked joint. Milner gave us the groove while Tim Bye (drums) was the buoyancy, the cool.

Simon Johnson - guitar
The eclecticism of Allen's talents were obvious in the light and beautiful 'Lady of the water'. It would be obvious to comment upon it's ephemeral nature with musical motifs like rivulets. It would be more accurate to describe it as a new sapling. The green wood of the song bent in our hands and like Jon Allen's music wound around our emotions.