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jazz move, first nano-fest and Peter King

I ought to write something down about the little nano-fest and the move of  Torfaen Jazz Club to the Hearth for anyone who  reads the jazz bit of this blog.

It was a necessary move from the club and reviewing the attendances since, it appears it was the right thing to do.

From the purring sound of Mike Britton‘s opening notes, I instantly relaxed and thought the thing was going to be OK. It’s always nervy putting on a festival, even a nano-fest!

Mike was just as always, superb, the new venue’s long room has a chatter allowance, people can watch and listen at the front, or sift it through at the bar whilst having a natter. He rattled off wash after wash of new treatments of classic standards that every one wants to play well e.g. Have You Met Miss Jones, All The Things You Are,  Killer Joe, and slid over the frets with reworkings of the harmony as fresh as a spring breeze in amongst the autumnal chill outside. He left the axe-men in the room dazzled, a shake of the head as if to say ‘how does he do that’ the most frequent body language. Following him Organmaster John Paul Gard, Ben Waghorn and Eddie John banged out blues-drenched swing and funk all night. Ben must be one of the most under-rated sax players in the UK, dazzling techniques and first-rate musicianship. There were lots of smiles on lots of faces as they charged through stuff like Beef Dumplin Stew, Perdido, My One and Only Love. John’s pedal control just does it on tender ballads, and everyone whooped along with the party atmosphere, a terrific night.

I was down there quite early on Saturday to see the BBC Workshop Band get set up. …It was quite a good idea as marginally away from an anticipated start time, I noticed that the front tables looked like it does on a workshop night, cases everywhere, music stands propped against tables etc. and as it was filling up steadily, I politely asked if they could move their cases. I was quite amused to see the reaction ‘oh, there are people coming are there?’ from a couple of the members. The BBC band played solid rock’n’blues  for over an hour and I had nothing but compliments on their enthusiastic set, it sounded great. Debbie Lear‘s band were as slick and sharp as ever, I didn’t catch it all but what I did hear was well tidy, Mucky McDonagh cranking out his angular, edgy, yet sweet solos effortlessly, The Port Pros on bass and drums are an immense duo, those who saw Mick Pini’s gig at The Drum and Monkey will know how terrific this pair is.

And then came Derek Nash…… it was just outrageous, Mercy Mercy Mercy, Tune 88, Winelight, The Chicken, all taken to the limit with the whole band firing on all cylinders, three notes in and I was hooked. Paul Carr, is not so easy to hear these days (unless your a student at Glam Uni listening to one of his lectures) but absolutely clearly enjoyed himself to the nines. He played searing lines of funk-dripped niceness it was a great privilege to witness he has lost none of the class he had back when he was a member of the James Taylor Quartet- he’ll be back as soon as we can secure his services (update 25th March!)! Jon Goode, Jim Barber and Damian Pugh were just fantastic and as watertight as a duck’s and provided the powerhouse backline for a memorable Funkathon that The Open Hearth will not forget in a hurry.

It was amazing.

On Friday 21st January, the legendary Peter King played at the club. The man is imho, a living legend. The best this country has ever produced and a player who commands respect around the world. Suffice to say his vast harmonic command and extraordinary technique left the audience in awe. I’ve never seen our two local whipper snappers, Bryn and Lawrence smile so much. I was utterly privileged when he invited me to the stage to have the opportunity to play alongside him. It was truly a magical moment and all I hope is that I did myself justice.

Torfaen Jazz Swing and Funk nano-fest 2010

DEREK NASH (JOOLS HOLLAND RHYTHM AND BLUES ORCHESTRA) HEADS UP SWING AND FUNK FEST

OPEN HEARTH PUB

WERN ROAD SEBASTOPOL

PONTYPOOL

NP4 5AR

BOOKING HERE >>>>> http://www.torfaenjazz.org.uk/joomla/

Brecon 2010

This year saw Brecon Jazz ring the changes with the Hay Festival team choosing some of the bright young stars of British modern jazz to form the backbone of the festival. Some stellar names from the ‘World Music’ camp headlined and there were as well outstanding international artists from Europe and USA, ‘a phoenix year’ , to quote the organisers.

I couldn’t make Friday as we had the marvellous 5 Go Swing at Torfaen Jazz Club but I’ll start by thanking the huge generosity of Peter ‘Santa’ Florence in kindly offering the Adamant Band, (a fixture for 25 years at the festival but not this year), tickets to events they wished to see. I wished it was Christmas and Santa delivered.

I arrived, parked up and arranged to meet a mate to pick up tickets. Mrs Parper was already in watching the Tubby Hayes tribute so I caught a few numbers from the door at the back of the Market Hall. Hard swinging, ripping big band sounds from this troupe gathered together by Simon Spillett, a noted authority on Hayes, and Dave Bishop. Paul Morgan on bass made Mrs Parper drool and the transparent but god-like frame of Peter King glittered during a slow ballad, the name of which I forget (note to self-write things down there and then sieve-head!), rapturous applause duly ensued the master’s performance. Spillett lives and breathes Hayes and torrents of notes pour at breakneck speed from his powerful tenor. Tickets in pocket I headed to Christ College and the Roland stage…

Phronesis had already started their set so I sneaked into a packed-out Roland stage, Mrs Parper already there, in a trance. The next hour of my life was filled with some of the best improvised trio interplay I’ve ever seen. They were performing tracks from their latest release ‘Alive’ which features tunes from the previous 2 albums Organic Warfareand Green Delay. Mesmerizing playing from all three musicians, leader Jasper Hoiby, Ivo Neame and Anton Eger. From the angular, driving funkiness of Abraham’s New Gift featuring glued-together melodic lines from Hoiby and Neame interspersed with crackling,  propulsive percussion from Eger. Eight Hours reminded me of the Debussy and Ravel-like nature of some Bill Evans’ work, with added rhythmic complexity. Love Song’s stark, bitty opening grows into smoother Eastern-influenced melodic fragments and again, the unison playing of Hoiby and Neame was watertight. Untitled#2’s dreamy lyrical theme makes way for yet more driving but elegant ensemble work. Phronesis are a veritable towering equilateral triangle of a trio, no voice more prominent than the other, what a start they were to my BreconJazz, catch them if you can.

After some spectacularly good fish and chips, I and Mrs Parper headed for the cathedral to catch a glimpse of trumpeter Matthew Halsall. Halsall's album Sending My Love met with critical acclaim from some DJs and his easy-listening brand of modal jazz is uncluttered and harks back to Miles' Kind of Blue cool-school. Lilting silky soporific themes and Nat Birchall's soaring soprano on top of fish and chips caused Mrs Parper to dig me in the ribs as the swirling rhythms sent me into a light slumber, (albeit for a good 3 seconds before said rib-dig).

30 minutes later I was back at the Roland Stage to see Portico Quartet. These four young men make an incredible sound incorporating electronics and hang-drums (like  steel pan UFOs) as well as reeds, drums and double bass.  Danceable grooves and a melange of influences from gamelan orchestras to Steve Reich and Philip Glass and Coldplay and Radiohead create a unique sound that has catapulted the band to the forefront of nu-jazz. Tunes like Clipper and Line enchanting both young and old. Layer upon layer of electronic and acoustic soundscapes drenched the audience in a sea of sonic charm. I had a blast and will certainly catch them again.

Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club cooked up a treat in the Market Hall with young and old members having a ball. Old boy Guajiro Mirabal still playing notes with snow on, relative youngster Jesús 'Aguaje' Ramos MD and trombone, Manuel Galban on guitar and Barbarito Torres on laud ensuring the crowd's toes were tapping for the entire set. Idania Valdez and Carlos Calunga taking the vocals until La Grande Dame Omara Portuondo took to the stage. Electrifying triple trumpet riffs and incessant exotic rhythms made this a fiesta of latin joy.

Lastly, down to the Theatre Brycheiniog to catch the last 45 mins of Kyle Eastwood. Wicked bass playing on acoustic and electric, funky and slick. Eastwood gives a modern reworking of the classic Big Noise From Winnetka, (the composer of which- Bob Haggart, I met). Was mightily impressed with Graham Flowers’ pyrotechnic fingerwork on trumpet.

All in all a marvellous Saturday of fabulous music and a veritable buzz around the gig venues.

I couldn’t help noticing how empty the street s appeared though.

Sunday-

After some terrific coffee from the courtyard of the cathedral the service started at 10. The Adamant Brass Band crashed in with ‘When The Saints’ and I have to say we must look a sight but the singing was fairly woeful for an opening number as more were intent on watching us parade than singing! Due to the stage set up we had to snake our way to the appointed sitting place. The band played along with the hymns during the service (and if any readers were there and can remember what they were, let me know ;-)). We led out with ‘Over In The Glory Land’ and played a couple more in the courtyard. Duly, we marched up to the Castle Hotel and partook of the stellar selection of Breconshire Ales the gaffer had racked up in the beer tent. After our set, which, as we were sat down, was probably the most musical session we’ve ever done as a band (its a pain jazzing and marching, and being a bloke, multitasking isn’t our thing), I headed back to the cathedral with my mate Baron von Blowpipe and bumped into Baji (below) and Saiph from the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble outside the Hotel, they said they’d heard us and we ‘wuz cool man’.

First on was Amrit Sond who provided incredible fingerstyle guitar with tapping and slapping techniques to colour his compositions. He was followed by Nik Linnik and Roland Chadwick, shredding Al Di Meola/Paco De Lucia style, particularly the final track with Nik Linnik blistering through the changes and demonstrating technique influenced by De Lucia.

I caught a snippet of Bombay Baja which are a UK-based Indian wedding band and added a real splash of colour to the event but I have to say the jazz content was minimal in what I heard.

After sampling some of the fabulous tastes at the True Taste Wales stand I headed up to the Market Hall to catch the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble. This octet delivered such high-octane pumping brass tunes with a solid funking drummer and howitzer-sousaphone that the majority of the Market Hall were on their feet within minutes of the start. The whole set was high-energy rasping, ass-shaking dance music and the crowd loved them!

After a short wait for Mrs Parper who as usual, was customarily tardy, we went to see Andy Sheppard. I have a couple of mates who know Andy but apart from hearing a few tracks on CD and knowing his band won the Schlitz competition 300 years ago, I knew little about him. After this gig I Spotified him and listened through the playlist. Sheppard’s band consisted of Arild Anderson-bass/electronics and a stunning technician, as is John Parricelli (guitars), Kuljit Bhamra on tabla and percussion and Eivind Aarset on guitar and electronics provided a range of colours and washes that was beyond the conventional jazz landscape. Machine-gun tabla and swirling electronics cushioned Sheppard’s thoughtful and often deeply moving compositions through poignant melodies, dense textures and uplifting chord sequences. His sinuous but huge-toned soprano just joyful on La Tristesse Du Roi , Arild Anderson soloing like a happy king. Other highlights for me included We Shall Not Go To Market Today and the truly majestic Dancing Man and Women. A delightful sumptuous gig.

If there was one complaint, it was that the extremely loud band playing at the Boar’s Head bled across the river into the final bars of Andy’s gig and spoilt the delicate quiet ending, grrr.

The final gig was grand master flash Hugh Masekela. Big fat-toned flugel, dancy African fusion beats, as political as always. John Cameron Ward delighted Mrs Parper with his vocal/guitar unison singing- ‘an angel’. The rest of the line-up contributed to a truly joyful and fitting end to a tour de force of a festival.

Hats off to Sarah Dennehy and the programming committee!

On a closing note, perhaps just a little more from the first half of last century would bring more Moldy Figs and traddies back in, and add a broader balance to the festival? I don’t mean to go backwards from here, but as much as the Guildhall hosted some of the older styles as part of the fringe, I don’t think Acker Bilk and Scott Hamilton were enough main-festival programme representation of the older styles of jazz that helped shape the music we heard over the weekend. There are some world class old and mainstream-style practitioners out there  and I’m sure ticket sales would be up again if the festival catered for the more ‘silver surfer’ generation as well as turning youngsters on to the older idioms of jazz if there were a few more diamond performers from the 20’s, 30’s and 40’s styles .

All in all a fabulous feast of music and I’m already looking forward to next year.

parp.


Saturday At The TJS gig

On the hottest day in decades, when lots of folk would possibly head for the park or the beach at Barry Island and get an instant sun tan, the music fest went off and we covered it . In blistering temperatures the TJS mini-fest kicked off with a set by Jim Barber, Jon Goode and Damian Pugh, nice. Jon’s bass funkingly clear and Damian’s propulsive drums allowed Dr Barber to flex his fingers over classics like I Hear A Rhapsody and There Is No Greater Love as deftly as  a butterfly hovering over a flower. His execution is full of rhythmic impetus, flying right-hand runs and chunks of chords in a style echoing characteristics of  Bill Evans, Keith Jarrett and Oscar Peterson.  I then ran over to see The Bryn Davies Quartet, a  bunch of schoolkids playing some fantastic music; Bryn, Scott, Andy, Frank and Ben play some classics like Yardbird Suite, Chameleon, Canteloupe Island, Georgia etc., given these kids are 16, they make a terrific sound and the future of improvised music in the local area is clearly safe. Following Jim’s trio, terrific guitarist Richard Jones strummed  and sang his way through some classic blues and bluegrass tunes like Sleepy John Estes’ Diving Duck Blues, Curtis Mayfields People Get Ready,  Shady Grove, as well as an incredible version of Somewhere Over The Rainbow, looking around at the audience as he played it I spotted nearly everyone had a smile on their face, I hope he records it.

After Bryn Davies, trombonist Gareth Roberts’ quartet came on and to a small but perfectly formed audience and belted out great readings of Lapwish Blues, In a Mellow tone, There is no greater Love, Angel Eyes, Recorda Me and introduced us to the the flugelbone or marching trombone, basically a curled up valve trombone. Gareth has a super sound and bags of technique and it was treat to witness some all-too-rare ace modern trombone-playing.

The Good Ol’ Spit & Dribble Jass Band cranked up the trad angle with some rumbustious and rowdy ensemble playing. To have Keith Little on piano was a delight and newcomer Clive Johnson on clarinet, soprano and alto played as if he’d been with the band years. Heavy-Duty treatment was applied to Salutation March, Louisi-an-i-a, Algiers Strut, Lily of The Valley, How Great Thou Art and other early jazz standards whilst a raucous but softer touch was applied to a delicate rendition of Winin’ Boy Blues and a gentle reminder of the late great Bob Gribble came when the band played Breeze in his memory.

Over at the Hearth, the sublime Mike Britton and Erika Lyons floated through classics Here’s That Rainy Day, I Fall In Love To Easily , I Love You,  500 Miles High etc, each tune showcasing Mike’s phenomenal technique and classy sound. I don’t think I’ve heard anyone else do that swooping thing he does, flying up and down the fretboard over diminished arpeggios and other sumptuous chord voicings, bliss. Back at Sebastopol, Paul Keddle’s Calling Card cranked their way through a set of punchy rock and country blues with Steve Shipmans harmonica punctuating Paul’s vocals.

Following Mike and Erika were newcomers Grumpy Old Guitarists, I didn’t manage to catch their set as I was running around like a proverbial azure-derriered fly. I did however get collared by Jim Hodges who told me to book them at the club soon!

Finishing the night at the Hearth ere John Paul Gard’s Pedalmania with Ben Waghorn on saxes and Eddie John at the drums. This organ trio is the epitomy of cool and JPG’s Hammond swirls and whoops through the funkiest laid-back grooves and charges through hard-hitting blues-laced swing. Ben Waghorn is simply one of the finest reed players in the UK, dazzlingly flawless technique, huge-toned and brassy, ideas come pouring out of his horn in a endless flow of invention. Eddie John’s drumming simply blew my other half away as she stayed to watch the whole set, I had to nip back to get Jay Phelps on the stage. I did however catch a couple of the numbers when Richard Jones guested with the band for the second set, breathtaking playing from all four musicians and apparently it got even hotter as they played into the night, serves me right for putting two top-notch artists on at the same time.

To head-up the festival, Canadian Jay Phelps, formerly of Empirical, took to the stage with Jim Barber, Erika Lyons and Mark O’Connor. Little did the audience know what they were in for. A quite spectacular display of pyrotechnic trumpet-playing the like of which the club has never seen before. Blues Walk,  I’ll Remember April, What’s New, Hot House, Caravan, I Remember You, Body and Soul, Well You Needn’t, and one other frighteningly fast tune I can’t remember the name of and it’s doing my head in. Phelps’ range of timbres is approaching Lester Bowie’s in him being able to elicit the most breathy, hushed tones through sweet and elegant to declamatory burning power. He possesses technique capable of fizzling speed and a rhythmic accuracy that leaves you in awe. Young Jamie Brownfield and myself had the opportunity to play with the master and we had enormous fun flying through Oleo to finish the night. Allin all, some fantastic music, lovely weather and enough people to cover our outlay. Roll on September…

Friday night

Phew…Friday at Torfaen Jazz mini-fest went well and the Jiveoholics got us off to a bouncing start at the Open Hearth turning out toe-tapping numbers from the great era’s of swing and jump n jive, Louis Prima, Louis Jordan and all that jazz…. Sing, Sing, Sing, Jump JIve, There Ain’t Nobody Here But Us Chickens. Glen Manby’s smooth quartet commenced proceedings at The Sebastopol Social Club and explored great standards like Joe Henderson’s Recordame, I Hear A Rhapsody and K.C. Blues. Glen’s tone seemd to have fattened and darkened, in a chocolate sort of way, since I last heard him and there is real depth to his sound. Nice.

Dave Lewis’ new band Wishful Drinkin’ cranked it up over at the Hearth slamming out Stormy Monday, Hoochie Coochie Man and more great blues hits, Dan Oliver’s guitar pumping out great lead lines. For me, hearing 18 year-old Jamie Brownfield was the highlight of the night, playing with a maturity way beyond his years and echoing all the masters; Louis, Bix, Roy, Clifford, Miles, Chet etc. He kicked off with All The Things You Are, a classic changes testpiece and it was evident the lad knows his stuff. In possession of a light but full tone, a mate commented he has a striking resemblance to the young Chet Baker and certainly there is evidence of the troubled-genius’ playing in his, producing lines of great clarity and poise. It was a blast to have a blow with Jamie on Quickfix, from his and  Liam Byrne’s albumKeepin’ It Cool’.  Jamie sent me the part (tenor sax) a while ago but whilst having had little time to practice it was a little hairy but I think I got away with it. We also had a ball on Donna Lee and I think Paul Seligman and Mr Brownfield got it on video so that may appear on the intraweb soon. Look out for this young man, I predict a glittering career.

All in all, a satisfying start, all we need now is for people to come out today, Saturday 10th April, afternoon starts at 1.30 with the Jim Barber trio. Come  and enjoy the fabulous jazz on offer, great real ales, and a wonderful atmosphere in this little village where they’ve just completed tearing down the remaing buildings of Panteg Steelworks, which operated for over a hundred years and once a major steel supplier to the world… and will build yet more houses…..ho hum..

Here we go

Well I’ve tweeted and Facebooked as much as I can and look to have about 50 already sold for tonight and still getting calls to reserve tickets, with the weather looking good we might have another successful Mini-fest. It starts at 7.45 at The Open Hearth with the Jiveoholics follwed by Wishful Drinking, while alto player Glen Manby, Paula Gardiner, Julian Martin and Keith Niblett get things underway at the club at 8.15 with some parker-ish bop and latin. 18 year-old trumpeter Jamie Brownfield tops the night off with the Rod Kelly trio and I’m going to do a couple of duets with Jamie, both of which I’m looking forward to….why oh why did I say let’s do Donna Lee………

One day to go till the festival

What a day, fixed the last few ads for the programme, went to take a photo of Sebastopol Club for the programme, got to school to sort the programme out , and the last alterations hadn’t saved, doh! Anyway, our kindly caretaker helped me sort the logistics out and finally got the programmes printed for Torfaen Jazz Mini-fest.

At tea time I went up to Brynmawr to the sacred ground that is BRFM community radio. These guys recorded a session a few weeks ago that Fraser Allibone put together, Andrew Fawcett on tenor,  me on trumpet, Erika Lyons on bass, Keth Niblett – drums and Jim Barber- piano. It went well and I’m waiting for the final CD master to be sent. I loved the atmosphere of the place, a back-street industrial estate, grimy surroundings but an oasis of enthusiasm and spirit, altogether 39 volunteers pushing out community radio from 8 in the morning to 11pm every day, and weekly live internet broadcasts to boot. The show went really well and I think it’ll be made into a podcast as they’ve just got the gear to do it this week. I had a great chat with Daryl, bassist with the Albino Frogs and presenter of the Smooth Show. We played tracks by Jay Phelps, Jamie Brownfield, John Paul Gard and Mike Britton, as well as the Michael Janisch gig next week.  I had a great time talking about the fest and Daryl made it very comfortable with his easy-going style.

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