Wednesday 22 April 2015

Darek Herbasz - Vapour trails

Darek Herbasz - Tenor saxophone
Darek Herbasz had an immediate presence upon hitting British shores despite being relatively unknown in these parts. He wound up his short tour of these isles with a final gig at Twickenham Jazz Club (31/03/2014). Part of this presence is musical and some physical for Herbasz cuts a figure like a bruising bouncer on a night club door. With what looked liked a permanent five o'clock shadow he spent his 2 hours playing with one eye cocked toward the audience and one screwed shut tight. This roving eye kept us all firmly in our seats, which wasn't an arduous task by any means.

Kelvin Christiane - Tenor saxophone
Although this was billed as an expression of our Polish guest's prowess the man who shone brightest was Kelvin Christiane. Forever the facilitator at the likeable Twickenham Jazz Club in the Cabbage Patch, here was a chance for Christiane to pull away from the curb of the quintet format with his headlights blazing. Dexter Gordon's 'Cheese Cake' was set up by the rhythm section of Julie Walkington (bass) and Simon Lea (drums) and then Kelvin Christiane switchbacked, turned around and slapped us with his sharp and fluid delivery.

Julie Walkington - Bass
There was gentleness too amongst the full bloodied tenor battle of Herbasz and Christiane. We woke up slowly to John Coltrane's 'Central Park West', our eyes at first dewy, the blurs dissipating as we reached the sunny day in our minds. It was the perfect spring fare, even more so than the habitual 'Joy Spring' rendition in the second set from Kelvin Christiane.

Simon Lea - drums
It was a first appearance in my sketchbook for both Walkington and Lea. The former was hard to tease out, often with head bent, the pincers of her hair drawing over her face. Lea sat upright and proud in contrast, his mouth more often than not turned down like a Easter Island head.
Alex Hutton - Piano
Alex Hutton is always a favourite at TJC and as usual he received cheer and applause that overshadowed the headliner but this wasn't a night set up for his spirited intensity. This gig was just days before he put the finishing touches to his latest album 'Magna Carta Suite' which is expected to be released in June 2015 on the F-IRE label.

Lesley Christiane - Sings Dindi
It wouldn't be a real Jazz night at the famous Cabbage Patch pub without our hostess opening up the second act with a couple of tunes. 'Dindi' is a favourite in these parts and Alex Hutton gave it a subtle exotic twist, like opening a can of Lilt when everyone else is drinking lemonade.

Coltrane's 'Lonnie's Lament' was the perfect foil for a night such as this. The lines of tenor sound crossed chaotically above our head, complex and overlapping layers scribbled designs in my sketchbook and mind. It was though both Christiane and Herbasz were burning vapour trails above our heads, their notes clear at first then blurring as the memory of their dexterity slowly faded.


Judith Owen - Ebb and Flow

Judith Owen
Never have I seen an audience purr like they did in the hands of singer-songwriter Judith Owen at Bush Hall (16/03/2015). You expect applause, a wolf whistle or two, maybe even a heckle if you rub them up the wrong way. The packed out crowd sat firmly in Owen's lap, eager to be stroked by her tender and heartfelt voice. Judith Owen is no Blofeld from James Bond fame but we felt as deliciously helpless as his unnamed pussy in You Only Live Twice.

Pedro Segundo - percussion
This was the end of her Ebb & Flow album tour, encompassing a group of songs that evoke the spirit of the halcyon days of the great 70s troubadours. There were songs about love and loss, pain and joy, dreams and despair. She touches upon the tightrope walk of the human condition with honesty and tenderness. Joining on her stage was a stellar line up of musicians with Leland Sklar (bass), Russ Kunkel (drums) and a man I have frequently drawn on the London circuit Pedro Segundo (percussion).

Leland Sklar - bass
Segundo was described as 'easy on the eye' by Judith Owen and his Dreamboat Willie demeanour hadn't gone unnoticed amongst the crowd although the man himself squirmed in modesty a few times. It was he who led us into 'In the Summertime' which had a rich and creamy consistency, rather than the hopping cricket of Mungo Jerry here we were lifted on one of those soft breezes that doesn't cool but elevates, invariably to higher planes.

Russ Kunkel - drums
'Under the door' caught the imagination not only for it's narrative but for it's title. There is never an opportunity to comment on the title of songs for it is both a very personal decision by the musician and a shot in the dark. We sat in those shadow and the light did indeed peak under the aforementioned door. What started as finger tips of golden luminance crept in lengthening phalanxes and eventually cracked into tumbling sparks. These burgeoning stars came alive before our eyes and fizzed like fireflies in the blackness, it was a pulse, stronger than any electrical current.

There is a simplicity about Judith Owen's delivery, as well as putting the crowd at ease you could feel the tightness as they strained forward to listen. She squeezed the meaning from her words, gently plucking out meanings by capturing time itself. There was an economy with such a precious commodity and she never expelled it recklessly, nor wasted. It felt like time would never run out.

Throughout May and June 2015 Judith Owen will be opening for Bryan Ferry from Belfast to Bristol and plenty in between.


Tuesday 21 April 2015

The Daydream Club - Bush Hall

Adam Pickering - The Daydream Club

The Daydream Club charmed the audience at the Bush Hall (16/03/2015) in London with a set of heartening authenticity. The Leicester based duo lived up to their vaunted on-stage chemistry billing but not with a Potassium meets Water moment, something much more fragrant and appealing awaited.

Paula Walker

Adam Pickering and Paula Walker are the couple responsible for both music and dreams, and it was the latter who brought us into their set with tribal rhythmic percussion. Sometimes though it is what she does without instrument in hand that catches the eye and spirit. On The Move was a delicate rounded shape in both their hands, it talked of circles and hollows, holes and rings. Walker's hands turned as she sang, as though tenderly mixing a salad of foraged leaves in an invisible bowl.

Adam Pickering - Melodica
The procession of Adam Pickering's music came to us via the breath and tube of his melodica on English Rain. The charm of its chug was a gentle movement like that of a narrow boat upon a canal. Its long line of narrative was as thin and true as a towpath from Walker. We eased along on the song's still waters and ruminated on the people we passed by. Because we sat low in our boat, it was just their ankles and dogs we glimpsed. It was the kind of song that you enjoy for the guessing and if its not too obvious the daydreaming too.

The finale of their set was Found which roused the packed audience from any reverie, the words sparkier than their sentiment for once. That is not to say warmth was relegated to a bit part, in fact it was affection which took the plaudits and applause at the end.


Shirley Smart - Maurizio Minardi - Kate Shortt

Shirley Smart - Cello
Shirley Smart is one of the 'fixers' on London's music scene, creating groups, projects and collaborations on a regular basis. Rarely is a gig the same twice, either a twist in terms of personnel or a shuffle of the musical pack. This night (15/03/2015) at the Green Note she was alongside accordionist Maurizio Minardi and followed by the multi-talents of Kate Shortt.

Not only was it the birthday of Shirley Smart but also Mother's Day, and being a caring daughter she had her mother close by in the crowd. It gave this inquisitive artist the chance to learn a little more about Smart's roots. It is quite a musical family tree that grows around her, brother Tim is a trombonist of note but the line of musicality stretches further as her grandfather was an accomplished pianist as is her uncle and mother.

Maurizio Minardi - Accordion
Early exchanges with her stage partner Maurizio Minardi yielded dancing cutlasses, adventure and whole cycles of narratives. There was pathos too, long drawn breaths from Minardi's accordion, drags of pity and salty beauty. There was a primness in the Shirley Smart penned Waltz that descended into several lines of enquiry like an Agatha Christie novel. It was traditional but with a side order of murder and humour.

We heard that chuckle again within Marcello, who's theme reached us from another century, from a time of imagination, one that unfurled at a slower pace. You could see the narrative etched into the face of the song's protagonist, perhaps he inhabited the light and dark of the fairground. The extent of our collective 'perhaps' were endless, such was the number of mental worlds created by this composition. The black book opened our mouths with slack wonder, it's dramatic surges left us all gasping for more but alas the climax was all too soon, even in the hands of Minardi, our Italian lover.

Kate Shortt - Cello and wit
The second half of the night was a one-hander from Kate Shortt, bringing us her unique combination of cello and comedy. It was a performance that twisted the dials of our genre-sensitive minds, hopping from station to station like a pre-digital radio sliding in and out of wave bands. Linear time doesn't exist with Shortt, she occupies a zone of her own, a world where everything and everyone becomes either subject matter or an instrument to play with.

Shirley Smart and Maurizio Minardi will be playing at The Crypt, St.Martin-in-the-Fields on the 20th May 2015 with Minardi's quartet.
Book tickets HERE.


Tuesday 7 April 2015

Wild Card - Organic Riot - Him You Ten

Wild Card, Organic Riot, Top End Records, TER003CD
All too rarely do our cartoon heroes leap off their pages and live up to expectations. For many years Clement Regert, Sophie Alloway and Andrew Noble of London Jazz trio Wild Card were stylised figures who I imagined lived in a colourful marshmallow world of bright colours and oversized footwear. It was only last year that I experienced Wild Card for the first time at Pizza Express in Soho and was able to calibrate real fleshy faces to those represented on social media by graphic personas.

Wild Card
Everything Changes
The artist who is responsible for 'Le Look' of Wild Card is Fung Voon Him You Ten. He has created the artwork for Wild Card's previous albums Mixity (2008) and Everything Changes (2012). The paths of Him You Ten and Wild Card's Clement Regert first crossed here in London and their friendship and working relationship still endures despite the Atlantic Ocean coming between them. Him You Ten returned to his native Montreal, Canada with his wife and two sons in 2010 before taking up a position as a Cloud Architect at Vice Media Inc in NYC.

Shinichirō Watanabe's
Samurai Champloo.
Our featured artist isn't just a man of the arts but one of action too. Him You Ten was a respected member of London's aikido community, training at Hikarikan in London Southbank University, UK. He started his training as a Shotokan Karate student and holds the grade of 1st Kyu. It could well be this interest in martial arts that inspires his art, and it seems both himself and Regert grew up watching and reading Manga cartoons. These have bubbled over into his creations for Wild Card especially the most recent album. The composition of this artwork is a direct homage to Shinichirō Watanabe's Samurai Champloo.

The hip hop influences of duo Force of Nature played a strong role in the soundtrack of Samurai Champloo and the lyric style makes more than a cameo in Wild Card's Organic Riot too. With rapper B'loon coming through loud and clear from the Intro to title track Organic Riot and finally the powerful Tchouks.

Clement Regert
This isn't the only voice on the album and it is here I could talk of the melting pot of nations and influences appearing here, from France, Japan, Brasil, Australia and the United States to mention just a few. No I play this with a straight bat and Natalie Williams does exactly that with two appearances on Feeling Good and Wash him out, but it is Regert's guitar which gives me the feeling on the former and Graeme Flowers' brass that aerates the latter.

This is truly a marmite of ideas and styles, the title Organic Riot is a fitting moniker to what is a fluid and satisfying nosh. Read the excellent review by Ian Mann on The Jazz Mann website for further insight.

Him You Ten
If we can weave the theme of Art and Music one last time then it would be to give you the definition of the word Champloo. It originates from the Okinawan word chanpurū, which simply means "to mix" as in the stir fry dish Goya chanpuru. Taste this Organic Riot for yourself on the 18th April, 2015 at Café POSK, 238-246 King Street, London, W6 0RF when Wild Card officially launch the album. and give you their mix of heavy grooves, swinging hard-bop and fleet footed Samba,


Sunday 5 April 2015

Geovarn James - Under the Bridge

Geovarn James
There is a time when too much of a good thing makes Jack a dull boy and this artists' sketchbook was in danger of being rubbed into oblivion. So before I left RADAR's showcase I just had to experience the slow joy of Geovarn James. Despite there being two more acts on the bill, it was this handsome singer that tipped me over the edge and it was without regret I left after his set.

The RADAR night (26/02/2015) at Chelsea Stadium's plush Under The Bridge venue is one of the hottest live events for both the music industry and fans alike. It is a platform to showcase the best unsigned and just-signed talent who are emerging from under the wings of Music Week, ILUVLIVE and MusicConnex.

Chris Johnson
Geovarn's debut single 4AM was the linchpin of this short appearance and there was enough oozing appeal in this tune to slide the topmost apparel from the back of this North London protégé. It was a mixture of smooth vocals and snapping lyrics that rolled effortless through the audience. The unrushed and unflappable presence of Geovarn created the calm vacuum that the rest of his band shone within.

James Paton
Those that lit up in the Geovarn headlight were Chris Johnson (vocals) and James Paton, whose multi talents were harnessed on drums but seem to be overflowing in other directions too. Tonight he will be playing at The Seymour Arms, Blagdon, Bristol from 7pm. Expect a blend of soul, jazz, hip hop and funk from his piano and loop pedal this time around.