Thursday 29 January 2015

Matildaz at The Enterprise

Matilda - Matildaz
It was a runaway train of a night at The Enterprise in London as Matildaz took to the stage last week(23/01/2015). This ploughing beast is no Orient Express, more an industrial hurtler on the tracks, the kind that passes you at breakneck speed and you wonder where it's heading. Who knows how far it will travel or where it will come to rest, but rest assured, no quarter will be given, and no mercy asked.

Matildaz are the duo of Jackson (bass) and Matilda (vocals/drums) who are set to release their new single 'Cupboard Love' on March 2nd 2015. With a UK tour ahead (in part supporting fiery legend Arthur Brown) in Worthing, St Pauls Centre (21st Feb),   Runcorn, The Brindley (26th Feb), Newcastle, The Cluny (27th Feb), Salford, The Eagle (06th Mar) and Brighton, The Prince Albert (16th Apr).

Jackson - Bass
Matilda marked their territory with the first beat of her drum, Jackson was uncompromising and the way words were delivered you feared there was just as much bite behind the barks. The music wasn't all about assault, River 7 was mesmerising like a dark pool, ready to suck you down, it was enticing and elemental, it was hard to resist.

Tyrannosaur did more than bite, it mixed its spilt blood in a cocktail of attitude and desire. Matlidaz didn't sugar their pill, for who wants a spoonful of the stuff to make the medicine go down. We want to taste every bitter morsel because it's time to feed all that Mary Poppins shit to the dinosaurs.


Wednesday 28 January 2015

Thea Wilsher - Darla In The Mirror

Thea Wilsher
We could open this chapter and say mirror mirror on the wall to see what stared back at us but it wouldn't nearly be as enchanting as what took the stage last Friday at The Enterprise, London (23/01/2015). London based Darla In The Mirror are a three piece weaving a mixture of sultry narrative and playful blues on the capital's circuit.

Josh - bass (vocal)
Darla are fronted by singer/songwriter Thea Wilsher who appears to have stepped straight out of a fairytale, such is her spell. With eyes that are both Snow White and Evil Queen wrapped into one it is unsurprising that many were captivated by the music and persona alike.

Maxi Curnow - drums
Their Tainted Love cover drew out the best of Wilsher as though she were being pulled apart on a medieval rack but this was no torture, more a raising of an already impressive frame to an even greater height. Dark Temperament was a favourite with atmospheric bowing from Josh on bass. It was simple, rich and the best of the sinister sultriness that Darla in the Mirror have perfected. A cover of Beyoncé's Naughty Girl showcased the multiple talents of Maxi Curnow who switched from drums to guitar.

Yet again it was the self-penned tunes that stood out with a finale of Writing Your Name. This was a proud march into the future, a premonition of a world with long drawn stares and a narrowing of eyes in both hate and desire.


Alen Ilijic - I Have No CoordiNATION

Courtesy of
Normally when writing about the art that adorns album covers we have to consider both the artist who created the artwork and those responsible for the music. Here we have an album and artist who is responsible for the whole process. Alen Ilijic is the man, I Have No CoordiNATION released on Ninety and Nine records in May 2014 is the album. He breaks the linear relationship between Music and Art too, neither one inspired the other, the cart doesn't come before the horse because both are one and the same.

Alen Ilijic
Alen Ilijic was born in the Macedonian 'Las Vegas' Gevgelija in 1975 and is both an avant-garde composer and multimedia artist. Formative years were spent in England studying film music at City of Westminster College but home is now Serbia where he completed his education in composition, orchestration, electronic music and sound engineering at the Faculty of Music in Belgrade.

Zelot by Alen Ilijic
Although the album, I Have No CoordiNATION, is a retrospective of Ilijic's talents over more than a decade (1999-2013) it is the album's art that represents a slap in the face of time itself. It signifies the moment that Ilijic woke from surgery, and before his eyes appeared a bright red cross as the nurse cojouled him. I am no doctor but this album asks that you awaken your senses too. This artwork was shown at the ’NOISYGENES’ exhibition (Belgrade 2014),which included abstract-expressionist painting and performance to help both viewer and artist examine the concept of noise.

Alen Ilijic told me about some of his inspirations, including a photo of a Victorian ’Penny sit-up’ that appears on the back of the CD.

Penny sit-up
"The story about homeless shelter was very unusual, and I immediately equated to it personally. What made this shelter unique was that in exchange for a penny, clients would be allowed to sit on a bench in a reasonably warm room all night long. Moreover, they were not allowed to lie down and sleep on the bench. At the same time, I imagined the sound of their talk and the shelter in general, ranging trough various dynamic levels and other musical parameters which can be found in my compositions."

Alen Ilijic - Gavrilov put
A favourite from the album is My Suspicious Look which holds the tension and drama from Ilijic's film score training. The listener occupies a space where the other inhabitants actions are amplified. Casual steps take on an unknown significance, as does that of fumbling fingers in a pocket or the stirring of a cup. A magnetic field keeps the protagonists apart so that deepening shadows and hate are also exaggerated. An escape is needed, a crashing of incidental delights as we run to a space where our thoughts are our own once again.

Listen to the title track of Alen Ilijic's I Have No CoordiNATION below and keep and eye out for a new book about his work by art historian, curator and Alen's wife, Milica Ilijic.



Tuesday 27 January 2015

Nomad Soul Collective - Anthemic glows

Henry Spencer - Trumpet

Although moved from the Southbank's Front Room into their into their not unsubstantial back parlour, the Nomad Soul Collective made the most of their wandering credentials to take up residence in the Clore Ballroom last week (23/01/2015).

Henry Lawry - Piano/Vocals
 It is one of London's great public spaces, filled with a mixture of music lovers, end-of-week johnnies, captivated toddlers and an ever rotating carousel of bodies escaping either the inclement weather or meeting new friends. The swell and heave of the crowd  reminded us of Nomad Soul Collective's Murmuration, the tune which propelled them to viral success. Tonight it was but one composition amongst eleven original tunes.

Jamie Beaumont - Bass
Alongside the regular NSC cast list of Emmett Glynn (guitar/vocals), Henry Lawry (piano/vocals), Jamie Beaumont (bass), Kiran Bhatt (drums) and Samuel Eagles (saxophone) was a bolstered brass section that included both Henry Spencer (trumpet) and Tom White (trombone).

Emmett Glynn -
One of the constant themes in the Nomad Soul Collective's portfolio is the balance between a Human's influence and Nature. Their pace has an organic ebb which unfurls like a awakening fern, leaving the mind to wander at its leisure, yet the instrumentation possesses a modernity that anchors you in the Now.

Samuel Eagles -
Origins is one of many tunes starting with the air of a lazy day, perhaps in a city park. A stretch of grass that catches you in its green while all about you is hot yellows and angry blues. Samuel Eagles' saxophone turns up the thermostat while bodies bubble and buzz. This is a people tune, a pulse, a force, it is for people who attract people. This magnetism was obviously working in the Clore Ballroom as the audience swelled.

Lucinda John-Duarte
Forever brought Lucinda John-Duarte to the stage for this evolving tune, its petals and leaves continually opening in invitation. An understated honesty pervaded the majority of NSC's performance and this was no exception. Excuse my sparse realisation of the Holy Milk's singer but she lasted for but this one moment, and not for longer as the song suggested.

Kiran Bhatt - drums
Into the Ocean was not the kind of tune you dive into, if anything, it helps you glide above the inviting water. This is music for the third eye in all of us, the third person perhaps, the aid that helps us to look at ourselves from a higher vantage point. It was emphasised frequently but particularly on this tune by Henry Lawry's scudding piano.

Tom White - Trombone
On the whole the Nomad Soul Collective puffed us up with optimism, especially the aforementioned Murmuration, with guitar and bass which ruled like gods whilst the brass literally and metaphorically added the gilt, the anthemic glow that bathed us in gold. In contrast Solstice let a discordant wind cut through the Ballroom's doors. It spoke of uninviting paths, undecided days and a half-finished, half-eaten malaise. As the trumpet of Henry Spencer looked into the stage lights, the weak shadow from his fingers played across his own face. You couldn't help but think of the shapes made by naked branches as they dance in the low horizon sun.


Face in the crowd -
Steve Marchant

Friday 16 January 2015

The interzonal Alya Marquardt

Alya Marquardt - Alula
The breaking wave of anticipation hit London's shores way before the woman herself stepped out of the water. The influence of Alya Marquardt has already been felt in the capital with the recording of three albums for her new label Two Rivers. Both Calum Gourlay's solo bass album and the Tobias Delius/Olie Brice/Mark Sanders offering are to be released on 4th March 2015 at the Vortex. Her own album and performances are destined to reach further than the boundaries of the London and the UK.

George Crowley - Saxophone
Alya Marquadt is the British-Iraqi singer/song-writer, originally from Basrah in Southern Iraq but now living in London, UK. This night at the Green Note, Camden (11/01/2015) we had a mix of Iraqi folk songs, improv vignettes and original music influenced by Iraqi maqam and contemporary jazz. Her group Alula inhabit the 'cosmopolitan cultural interzone' (as described in The Independent) but this definition won't hold them for long, such is their desire for evolution and expression.

Shirley Smart - Cello
Word had spread and the Green Note was packed out with a who's who of journalists, players and music enthusiasts. I sat next to bassist Marianne Windham and jazz artist Elaine Breinlinger, across the darkened room I glimpsed London Jazz New's Sebastian Scotney beside trumpeter Yazz Ahmed and Shez Raja. The night's opener was just as deep and dark as the venue itself. Amongst the intricate motifs from saxophonist George Crowley were the dreadnoughts of bassist Olie Brice.

Nikos Ziarkis - Oud
The eye was taken by Alya Marquardt, while Nikos Ziarkis (oud), Shirley Smart (cello) and Sam Leak (piano) were hidden behind a BBC camera, such was the interest in this gig. They served up an exotic ploughman's by the fourth tune with an improvised dish. Asaf Sirkis (drums) was very much the crunch, a cracker perhaps. Nikos Ziarkis and Shirley Smart the tangy herbs. This was a flavour to excite, more than a meal in itself.

Asaf Sirkis - drums
Alya Marquardt was captivating throughout. She enchanted us with an unnerving desperation that made the escapist within express itself with desire.

Olie Brice - bass
Khadri El Chai put the smile on collective faces, including that of Asaf Sirkis who was obviously enjoying himself. The tune pulsed with an energy that propelled itself like a spinning top. Olie Brice's sound was the funboy at the party, like the buoyant bon viveur who knows all the best anecdotes. 
It was George Crowley who captured the hearts though. Despite a Gallic demeanour reminiscent of a young Inspector Closseau with a burgeoning moustache there was nothing haphazard or comical about his impact. Crowley was pivotal to the night, the music and pleasure.
Sam Leak - piano
Alya Marquadt is due to release the album Chai Party in early 2015. It will be launched on 6th April at Vortex jazz club in London.

Friday 9 January 2015

Giuseppe Solinas Scerbo: D'Agaro - Mella - Rivagli Trio's Bangalore

Bangalore album cover by Giuseppe Solinas,  AKA Scerbo
It is with bubbling excitement that I introduce you to the artwork of Giuseppe Solinas under his moniker of Scerbo. His art graces the new album, Bangalore, from D'Agaro - Mella - Rivagli Trio on the New York label Ninety and Nine records. Released at the end of last year (03/11/2014) it is a musical encounter between three established musicians on the Italian jazz scene. There is an enthusiasm which straddles original compositions and those of Leadbelly, Charlie Mariano and south African sax player Sean Bergin. The spirit of improvisation and sense of adventure lives on through this album and its artist. 

The artist Scerbo was born in Biella, Piedmont on Valentines Day 1984 and has been active on the art scene since 2007. His route to art passed along the path of philosophy, which he studied at the Vercelli University. Since then he has exhibited in Turin, Ferrara, Cigliano and most recently Rome in 2014. The curator, critic and journalist Danilo Jon Scotta writes about Scerbo, "The use of colour remains the main protagonist in his work, it is an interpreter of a renewed awareness." (excuse my basic translation skills from Italian to English)

Courtesy of Scerbo
Colour and energy are the first impression of Scerbo work and it seems they sit well together with the music of D'Agaro - Mella - Rivagli. The original album cover image is titled Soffio (Breath) and the idea came to Scerbo while listening to the music in the winery where he works. There was still plenty of room for improvisation on the canvas on which it was created, an act which reflects the spirit of the music.

"I was inspired by the symmetry between environment and Trio. I tried to link the idea of warmth through my spontaneous use of red, and to the concept of improvisation with the free and gestural act of the graphite." Scerbo

Aldo Mella (left), Elio Rivagli (centre), Daniele D'Agaro (right)
The trio of musicians on Bangalore are Daniele D'Agaro (tenor sax, clarinet and Bass clarinet), Aldo Mella (double bass) and Elio Rivagli (drums). It was recorded at Sound Sistemi Studio (Santhià Italy) by Paolo Guercio in June 11th 2013.

The story starts with Aldo Mella who has been a stalwart of Turin's jazz scene since the 1980's. He earned his stripes in the same jazz hotbeds as Elio Rivagli, working together they became the 'go to' men in the studio as well as touring and recording with the best in Italian and international music. Although Daniele D'Agaro garnered critical acclaim in his native Italy with Best Reedman in consecutive years (2007 & 2008) it is his explosive time on the Amsterdam jazz scene which earns him the respect of jazz lovers throughout the world.
Courtesy of Scerbo
Aldo Mella explains what drew the trio to their preferred album cover image,
 "Those three chairs, which lodge in our imaginations, speak of the ancient and takes the listener to the magic world of India with colours that recall the earth. The two compositions that describe the atmosphere of the picture best are Bangalore and Haiti."
Listen to the title tune Bangalore and it makes it's entrance through a series of doorways, opening out onto a colourful tapestry of lanes and snaking corridors. It is playfully escapist with an energetic edge that relaxes into a colonial opulence. You feel it harks back to an era where what was said by a person was as important as what was left unsaid. There is a luxuriance and a beautiful simplicity that makes it a fertile bed for our imaginations.
Courtesy of Scerbo
Haiti in contrast has more of a rolling menace, it plays upon the listener's thoughts and fears. It is an oozing swamp of a tune, a bog which threatens to capture and possibly cut. There are beasts that lurk here in this viscous world, lumbering shapes that could be humorous if it weren't for the threat of their deadly intent. People inhabit the shadows too and keep out of your way, making you walk this composition alone.
You can find out more about the album and the D'Agaro - Mella - Rivagli Trio on the Ninety and Nine website -
Listen to the title track Bangalore below.

Friday 2 January 2015

Steve Trowell - Composure personified

Steve Trowell - Vocals and bonhomie
Retro waitress
A first visit to Jazz at Retro for Art of Jazz pulled us a cracker that had more inside it than the usual miniature surprise. Faint praise you say, well it was anything but. From décor to Maitre d', music to personality, the ambience had a warm glow that anybody's roasting chestnuts would be jealous of. The party never stops over the yuletide period and this eve of new year's eve was the perfect preparation for the debauchery that followed in the next 24 hours

Jamie Trowell - drums
Local jazz fixers Janet McCunn and Terence Collie run this popular night in Teddington once a month. It has seen a generous sprinkling of talent in 2014 with Gabriel Garrick, Gilad Atzmon, Gareth Lockrane, Ant Law, Rocky Winslow, Hannah Horton, Femi Temowo, Bobby Wellins, Orphy Vibes, Robin Banerjee, Christian Brewer gracing Retro's stage. The responsibility for pulling the final gig of the year together in a swinging fashion was singer Steve Trowell.

David Jenkins - bass

The Retro restaurant was a delight for this artist, a feast for the eyes if that isn't too much of a cliché. Not only did the glow from their feature wall bathe the performers in a honeyed light, it also created a sticky amber that was conducive to conspiratorial conversation and my favourite sport, people watching.

Janet McCunn
The performers were of course centre stage. Steve Trowell possesses that professional edge that both elevates him and allows him to effortlessly rub shoulders with the clientele. It is the stillness of intent that makes it easy for both sketchbook and audience to connect with. 'Nature Boy' in the second set gave us all of him and the band, especially David Jenkins on bass. Drummer Jamie Trowell had a glow even richer than a Rosa Gallica and a welcoming face that belies the physique of a cyclist's credentials below. 

Terence Collie - Piano
My eye invariably rests upon the talents of Terence Collie who I have sketched before with quartet Prison Break at the Southampton Modern Jazz Club. This time it was no exception with a swinging contribution to an upbeat 'Night and Day'. He is co-organiser of the TW12 Jazz festival alongside Janet McCunn, who joined the quartet on stage for two tunes early in the second set. It promises to be an exciting and fruitful 2015 for Collie with both the festival (July 19th) and a new Prison Break album in the offing.

Vincent Gerbeau -
Maitre d' Retro, Teddington
It was not only the band that caught my eye on this evening. I could have spent the whole night sketching flamboyant Maitre d' Vincent Gerbeau. The crackling energy that surrounds the man as he jinked between tables was mesmerising. Hopefully one day soon I'll be able to create a small animated sequence that befits the narrative of his body language. The story of Jazz at Retro continues with Dominic Ashworth, Gareth Lockrane and Nigel Price in 2015.