Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Michael Janisch & Aruan Ortiz - Whirlwind Maestros

Michael Janisch - Bass
It was the final throws of a heavy few days but every hour had been worth my undivided attention. Not every Whirlwind Festival gig had been sketched but still 13 in three days is worthy of a little fanfare. Its incomprehensible what organiser and record boss Michael Janisch must have endured but if you gamble big then I suppose the rewards are significant. This was the end and the beginning. The Saturday night 10pm (12/10/2013) slot brought it to a close while audiences and musicians alike left King's Place dreaming of what to expect in 2014.

Aruan Oritz - Piano
There was a serious no talking, no shit attitude to the last curtain finale. Seriously no anecdotes, very unlike a normal jazz concert. I believe there wasn't even one reference to a CD being on sale, which as you might know is de rigueur for journeymen and bright jazz sparks alike.

Greg Osby - Saxophone
Here there was an energy between the players as if they were held together by Nature's bond. Not too close though, mutual respect helped keep a healthy distance but you could feel the invisible force. Co-leader, Aruan Oritz  of course could survey from his poop deck, ducking the right shoulder when the storm wave from the quintet hit his piano.

Mark Ayza - Drums
Greg Osby by comparison barely flinched in the face of the night's peak and troughs. Gabardined in a tight Burberry and matching trilby he rivalled a stylish Shaft in style and power. Sparse doesn't do his performance justice but there was a streamlined directness and penetration that achieved its goal with the minimum of fuss.

Raynald Colom - Trumpet
Insert a section that describes the texture of the tunes and their themes it says on the label before me. That rule book went out the window when I started this Whirlwind odyssey, and this last gig was one that just washed over this storm battered man. Now two and half weeks later my gig notes are surprisingly absent but I remember the entertaining figure of Mark Ayza. He is becoming one of my favourites to draw. Never a muppet on drums but it seems one in my sketches. If his hair was a shock of orange then he would have unmistakably transformed into Beaker, the shy laboratory assistant.

Stephen Jay - Photographer
It was a night of hats and Raynald Colom's had an air of Shemp Howard with its comic air. These lips were not made for smiling though and Colom took his shift as the figurehead of this fighting ship frequently. A mature and inspiring set that propelled Colom to the fore early on with "Precisely Now", followed by "Please Stand By" and Osby with his directness.

Dan Redding
As if in harmony with the third tune "Orbiting" I quickly took a final sweep around the auditorium as I perched in its upper tier. Amongst the off-duty musicians there was Stephen Jay, Dan Redding and Steve Pringle, still photographing and filming. I imagine their films are still uncurling in editing suites throughout south London, slowly being sifted and honed.

This isn't a festival that talks solely of promise, it is ready for consumption now! Virtually all the musicians were at the top of their games, in the prime of their young lives and full of ideas for the year to come. Yes the future is significant, with a 12 month gestation period before us it is going to be some 2014 for the Whirlwind Record label and its flagship Festival.

Viva "The Maestro", their final tune.


Monday, 28 October 2013

Andre Canniere - The Thin Man

Andre Canniere - Trumpet
A cocktail of fate and a heavy work load means I'm fortunate enough to be writing this on the day of Andre Canniere's latest CD release "Coalescence". It was just over 2 weeks ago (12/10/2013) that we heard him launch his latest offering at the cutting-edge Whirlwind Festival. This was a concert of the highest standing, especially in Whirlwind record boss Michael Janisch's eyes, for Canniere and his band occupied the penultimate berth of the 3 day festival journey.

Ryan Treblicock -
There are those personas that you instantly feel an affiliation to, and Andre Canniere is one of these. What he lacks in razzledazzle he makes up for in thoughtfulness, and with a lanky elegance he is The Thin Man rather than a Sam Spade in demeanour. There is a wholesome louchness if that makes sense, like a modern day Dashiell Hammett antihero who is a determined trawler of society's trashcan, unearthing the evidence of venal weaknesses. I do not know whether he is a champion of the underdog but I suspect he could rally us mongrels with his depth of song and mind.

Hannes Riepler - guitar
Like a card player Canniere laid the album before us in a rising straight, "Sweden Hill" ascended slowly but accelerated along the fast switchbacks on trumpet. He won another hand with a flair of hip Hispania on "Gibbs and East" and finished by playing a supporting role on "Nylon" in clustering statics. Here he was joined by the bootleg guitar of Hannes Riepler, in hindsight, a warm up for the later "Point Zero" where Riepler was absolutely outstanding. Representing the sexy allure of the gun, the desire for control and power that is the 'high' of the firearm. If this protest song has the Newtown shootings at its heart, then the guitar was its flexing muscle and the trumpet our conscience.

Ivo Neame - Piano & Accordion
Ivo Neame held the placard high with an absorbing contribution on the fourth tune 'Gaslands', where Canniere's block capital letters were written in a 12 inch font, shouting 'NO TO FRACKING'. Neame's language was not a yell in contrast, his protest was longing and lost which created a wandering, powerful sentiment.

Dave Hamblett - Drums
It is the measure of the group that on this occasion the drumming member of Day 2's Whirlwind Supergroup, Dave Hamblett' was relegated to modest displays of valour, dowsing mere burning buildings rather than saving the world from certain destruction.

Andre Canniere is a valuable addition to our music scene here, our Thin Man has sprouted new shoots beside The Thames far from his American roots. Hopefully he will be here for years to come and swapping "Sweden Hill" for our more modest Richmond variety.


Check out "Coalescence" at Whirlwind HQ.

Friday, 25 October 2013

Zhenya Strigalev - Centrifugal kookiness

Zhenya Strigalev - Alto Saxophone
If this writing takes a surreal turn then forgive me, for it is neither an over exuberance of peyote nor an attack of the Dali's but in truth an exposure to the radioactive world of Zhenya Strigalev that has infected my brain. It you haven't ever experienced the Strigalev phenomena then lets say he is idiosyncratic and well worth dipping your soldiers in his soft boiled egg.

Mark Lewandowski - Bass
Joining him on stage during the final session (12/10/2013) of the Whirlwind festival was Jason Yarde, Ben Brown and Mark Lewandowski. The latter already taking a turn at the Kings Place on Rachael Cohen's album launch the previous day. He played the straight man to his leaders goon, puffing out both cheeks and raising an eyebrows or two because of the unpredictable shifts of music and Strigalev's opening monologues.

Ben Brown - Drums
Yes the bright and vibrant Zhenya Strigalev puts the kook into his opening tune "Cuckoo". His saxophonic diction like a rapid chatterbox who had just left the asylum. In the spirit of the man I jumped into his world with both feet, but others were more circumspect. Maybe it the nature of the beast that those in the eye of the Whirlwind remain calm. Ben Brown on drums is one who displayed remarkable restraint. He has a poetic delicate balance and bounce with sticks in hand.

Jason Yarde - Saxophones

"Unlimited Source of Pleasure" and Zhenya Strigalev's final tune were marmite watersheds for many in the audience but as an artist this was the sort of performance that butters my bread. Strigalev is thick and winding like a yoyo unravelling in slow motion, Jason Yarde joins him on stage, freewheeling, breaking apart, a whirling explosion of centrifugal jazz. Yarde is now the mechanic, building , fixing as Strigalev breaks, rolling his neck like an athlete, even jogging on the spot.

Despite the entrance of Sebastian Scotney with his vaudeville hook nothing is going to stop Zhenya Strigalev and his quartet. Yarde joins his partner in the destruction of the Whirlwind's tidy timekeeping, Strigalev is so engrossed and reaching for that final ounce of expression he squats like a chicken, elbows jutting and still he blows. Imagine an expressive Clarice Cliff tea set, full of colour and zest, now think of it in a hundred shards after smashing at your feet. This is Zhenya Strigalev and that was the sound of Jazz's Antique Roadshow falling off its pedestal.


Cloudmakers Trio - Anybody Hurt?

Jim Hart - Vibes
The Cloudmakers trio created the buzz of the festival on Day 3 (12/10/2013) of the Whirlwind Festival with a combative and ambitious set of just five tunes. Variety and verve were the themes in a numerically challenged set, raining down on the audience until they clapped in jazz soaked revelry.

Jamie Skey - The Quietus
Jim Hart on vibraphone leads from the front, a pathfinder, opening doors of perception in the fearless pursuit of cerebral gymnastics. These contortions aren't just contained between his ears but physically too. On more than one occasion sticks were replaced with bows and he attacked the vibraphone from both sides. Hart, like a Sunday-lunching patriarch carved his roast simultaneously from North and South, jettisoning our emotive stuffing to all four corners of his melodic table.

Michael Janisch - Bass
To my left I spotted an equally animated scribbler, a man with a heroic profile and a beard of Norse proportions. He too seemed energised by the Cloudmakers repertoire, in fact here's the proof. This was Jamie Skey, recent appointee to The Quietus stable as their jazz tip reporter. Check out his review here.

Dave Smith - Drums
The second tune, "Conversation Killer", was anything but. Engaging and upbeat with an ease that ultimately started a germ of an idea, when would the social faux pas be revealed amongst the funk and swing. Although a favourite of mine it was the third, "Post-Stone" that brought the house down, while Hart carved his vibraphone chicken, Michael Janisch's chin worked overtime, proudly thrust in the air, his bass was a rumbling tummy and he eagerly sniffed the vibes' wafting delights. Spikey, aggressive and unforgiving, it swept the audience in a powerful collective moment. The spell was broken by Jim Hart as he reached the microphone and enquired "Anybody Hurt?".

Steve Marchant  - @yorks111
One man with no broken bones was the jazz and cricket 'face', Steve Marchant.  I had seen him at every Whirlwind gig I had attended over the past 3 days, he complimented Jim Hart's development since his Gemini days of the noughties, so I know he had survived a few Hart skirmishes already.

Dave Smith swept us into the "Early Hours" and with Janisch in tow they allowed our minds to wander once more. Creating spaces for playful thoughts after the previous tune had repressed our imaginations by kidnapping them in its high speed chase. They both had time to throw us down a metaphorical escalator in the rhythmical cascade of "Angular Momentum".

Once again no one was hurt but a few swapped tales of jazz bruises as they congregated outside, galvanising constitutions before the final triple bill of the festival.


Thursday, 24 October 2013

Patrick Cornelius - Infinite Whirlwind

Patrick Cornelius - Alto saxophone
Patrick Cornelius got the last day (12/10/2013) of the Whirlwind Festival underway for me at King's Place. Arriving in a state of disarray after being pressed into action for one of London's Big Draw events, his quintet had an immediate calming effect. In fact I felt at home, here was a concert revolving around Cornelius' second album, Infinite Blue, and taking its title from a crayon no less.

Jason Rebello - Piano
Patrick Cornelius has a disarmingly unassuming demeanour yet he must possess a cohesive personality that builds a group around himself rather than play the despot. Looking every inch an old fashioned bank manager, bespectacled and tidy he brought his fellow players together with performance and composition.

Jason Rebello challenges preconceptions too, I had been banned from looking at his publicity photos for years by my mother. With a wild intense stare that reached beyond poster and flyer, I would have nightmares that Rebello had the power of ESP and telekinesis.
Michael Janisch - bass
Upon reading in John Chilton's "who's who" that he had entered a Buddhist Temple to hone his intense meditation skills I feared he might explode my head from 50 paces if our eyes ever locked. Of course totally unfounded, he looked absolutely approachable and yes there was an intensity to his playing but a buoyancy too.

Nick Vayenas - Trombone
"The Incident" wound every one up, audience and musicians alike. The hatless Michael Janisch giving way to Whirlwind Festival favourite Nick Vayenas, playing as crisply as his starched white shirt. Andrew Bain's nostrils flared wider than an asthmatic maori as he got involved too. It was the next tune "My Green Tara" that brought the performance of the set, the aforementioned Rebello producing a breath-taking turn. Delicate and balanced it described a shifting light that alternated between the opaque and transparent. Between these two planes I was caught like a fly in amber.

Andrew Bain - drums
The stillness of "In the Quiet Moments" was timely before the final "Regents Street" but I was still trapped in the resinous aspic of Jason Rebello's performance and his stare as the band took a bow in response to the audience's applause. My head didn't explode of course, well not through any Jedi mind tricks anyway, just good old fashioned music.


Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Phil Robson - Whirlwind Slap

Phil Robson - Guitar
With a gauntleted slap we were challenged by Phil Robson on the final session of Day 2 (11/10/2013) at the Whirlwind Festival. To engage with the music we did not need to discover all the hidden secrets of his album 'The Immeasurable Code' but the brain had to be in its most alert and functioning state. This was not a concert that revealed all its delights in the short 50 minutes format, in fact the music has lived with me longer than any other. Armed with the recorded music and a fast broadband speed I am only now appreciating its full depth.

Ernesto Simpson - Drums
Phil Robson's music has a burning intensity that is written all over his face, his trilby was the kettle lid perched upon a furrowed brow and his red head looked as though it was touching boiling point throughout the performance. Hot and fierce on the outside, I suspect his cerebral cooling system is exemplary because his playing was measured, assured and direct.

Gareth Lockrane - Flute
Gareth Lockrane and his flute had certainly regained some of his pep from the previous day and Robson squeezed every conceivable facet of this man's talent out of him. 'Nassarius Beads' with its short cascades had the audience swaying with shoulders and heads before Lockrane's misty funk worked down to their hips.

Stan Sulzmann - saxophone
Second tune "Telepathy and Transmission" with its fractious beat/sound gave Ernesto Simpson the chance to dig deep and Robson showed that he is willing to dirty his hands to provide us with a gritty challenge. We were asked to roll up our sleeves too.

Michael Janisch - Drums
In contrast "Telegram" gave it to us on a plate, its title and introduction from Robson served its themes like an Edwardian calling card. Stan Sulzmann provided the shiny train tracks on which the rest of the group steamed along, whilst we in contrast, had time to stare out the window and let our imaginations blossom from the safety of our chairs.

Michael Janisch was resident on the bass, supporting his long time friend Robson and stepping into the latter's new tune "Berlin". After several attempts to sketch him, this is one of my favourites, capturing his strong angular features and that often slack mouth with bouncing lower jaw which is an indicator that  he's really in the groove.

Stephen Jay
Gareth Lockrane brought us to a sleepy conclusion with "A Serenade" and for the first time I watched Whirlwind photographer Stephen Jay put down his camera and just take it all in, probably partly in exhaustion. Lockrane drew out the subtlety of the composition as if transforming his flute into a slender rolling pin and slowly flattening our soft pastry edges. I was cooked too after sketching for 6 hours and was happy to retire and contemplate Phil Robson's music at my leisure.


Tuesday, 22 October 2013

New Focus - Whirlwind Uplift

Konrad Wiszniewski - saxophone
Fresh and bright the New Focus project heralded the halfway point (11/10/2013) of the Whirlwind Festival at King's Place. After the audience had already devoured a plump meal of rich Jazz, they were in dire need of a cleansing breeze to reawaken their musical taste buds. Amongst the traditional quartet of sax, bass, piano and drums were the green shoots of violins, viola, cello and harp to give the crowd the chance of revival.

Euan Stevenson - piano
Playing from the their self titled debut album, we were immediately cast into a different landscape from the one we had trodden so far. The strings widened our blinkered perspectives to enable us see the horizon line rather than that which had previously been thrust in our laps. In poetic terms a chance to close the eyes and dream a little.

There was no chance of flying blind of course with a busy stage full of personalities and a short sandwiched set to negotiate. Front man Konrad Wiszniewski took the eye at centre stage but it was his writing and composition that left its mark rather than his stage prowess, except on their fourth tune "Music for a Northern Mining Town" when on soprano saxophone he was memorable. With more than just an echo in title with Basil Kirchin's "Abstractions of the Industrial North", there was a pastoral sound to this gritty theme, opening with Harp and then transporting us into expansive worlds.
New Focus' music helped us wander their set like a punter lost in the corridors of an arts cinema, opening doors onto imaginary letterboxed views.

Michael Janisch - Bass
None more cinematic than "El Paraiso" which started with a throaty jungle call from Michael Janisch on bass, rich and thick until the cello raised us into its lush canopy before the violins and viola dropped their threads of silk down with spidery dexterity.

Andrew Bain - Drums
Unfortunately I was stuck in my seat with only a view of Euan Stevenson's back, the hall was clearly filling up and spaces were more at a premium. I did however find myself attracted to the characterful Andrew Bain on drums in compensation. Difficult to capture but worth persevering with, he is a chomper, his mouth continually air biting as if he was a rabbit with a vitamin A deficiency.

It was an epic Finale with the penultimate "Dziadzio" juxtaposing a smiling Janisch, who was clearly enjoying himself, with a song that was a pinball of sadness and want.
The last tune "Parson's Green" with its chugging arrival like a underground train of ancient rolling stock, gave Stevenson's piano and Bains' drums the chance to shine after the introduction from the Harp's sweet levity.



Crowley, Gibbs, Burton and Hamblett - Whirlwind Supergroup

George Crowley - Saxophone
We stepped back into the era of the supergroup on Day 2 (11/10/2013) of the Whirlwind Festival, think Emerson, Lake and Palmer or numerically Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young to be more accurate. This day Crowley, Gibbs, Burton and Hamblett lived up to their super status with one of the performances of the festival. As the definition suggests a supergroup is a music group whose members are already successful as solo artists or as part of other groups, so let me give you a quick breakdown of their Whirlwind credentials -
George Crowley - Paper Universe, May 2102
Tom Gibbs - Fear of Flying, October 2012
Euan Burton - Occurences, May 2012
Dave Hamblett - Light at Night, Feb 2013

Tom Gibbs - piano
Normally I make notes alongside the drawings in my sketchbook but I was so energised by the performance I hardly noted which tune stood proud and which wavered a little. Perhaps to hide this personal oversight but in truth to highlight the complete performance of this quartet all the compositions were of the highest quality and the 50 minute set slipped through our fingers.

Euan Burton - Bass
Their fifth tune does need to be complimented though, Tom Gibb's "Rebecca's Song" presents itself as a swirling spiral stairwell with unexpected and unnerving false steps to trip you up. As if to balance this unpredictably and to represent Gibbs' muse (his 3 year old daughter) more accurately, the tune also ascends with tenderness. With an emotive twist that moistens the eyes when George Crowley rattles his saxophone with a frail breath or two.

Dave Hamblett - drums
As a quartet they juggled each others compositions like a line of rugby backs on a searing wave of attacks. Gibbs handling Crowley's "Paper Universe" with a deftness and skill while the whole team worked seamlessly on Burton "Part 6", drawing out its hurting subtleties while riding the tune's rollercoaster tempos.

Al & Lisa Buchan
I confirmed my suspicions about the concert when I spoke to two members of the audience, Lisa Buchan and husband Al. Lisa was bowled over by the lightfooted Crowley and Tom Gibbs caught Al's eye, but lets avoid embarrassing them with over-exaggerated praise. Instead lets have a little fun because if they did indeed possess superhero status then.......

......George Crowley would be The Atom, the diminuitive tough guy, packing an energy charged 'atomic punch' on his saxophone. Tom Gibbs is Plastic Man, with  his long limbs and the flexibility to mould himself to any tune. Euan Burton, doubles as the intelligent Reed Richards, sporting that trademark grey shock to his temples . Dave Hamblett would of course be Clark Kent/Superman with those glasses and handsome visage......

...and because of that strategically placed drum kit we will never know whether Hamblett wears his pants over the top of his trousers.


Monday, 21 October 2013

Rachael Cohen - Whirlwind Halftime launch

Rachael Cohen - Saxophone
Another day (11/10/2013) and another launch to kick off a Whirlwind Festival day in King's Place's St Pancras Room. This time we had different approach from the label's first female band leader, Rachael Cohen. The 'hair of the dog' after the night before was just the ticket with a rich mellow brew from Cohen's imminent release 'Halftime'.

Mark Lewandowski
The relatively new face of Rachael Cohen was hidden in the St Pancras Room's gloomy lighting but it suited her music, especially crepuscular tunes like her sixth of the set, "Intermission". Cohen has a stillness and calm about her playing, not so much punch and sway. With her slim long legs, teetering on wedged heels she looks like a hunting Crane, elegant and full of latent strength. In fact the sedate and emotive "Ask me later" has a sequence toward the end that suggests circular ripples in a still pool, the casting off of sound into a quiet hall and the powerful moments of silence in between.

Phil Robson - Guitar
After the opening tunes we encountered one of many compositions that highlighted the talents of Phil Robson on guitar. The disparate "Groove Envy" is an ambitious piece that was expertly bound by Robson's playing. Initial impressions predicted a darned repair, but Robson stitches were short and sharp and his darting needle left us richly embroidered. His precarious solo on "Just for you" was a simple delight on the strolling, wistful Ornette Coleman tune.
It brought out the swing of Mark Lewandowski on bass too. His playing wandering over the belt line of the groove, unlike the man himself, who kept his white shirt firmly tucked into his black trousers.

Jim Bashford - drums
The quartet gained more momentum toward the end of their launch. Jim Bashford stretched out a little without ever becoming musically inebriated, although "The Manor" let his bubbles rise to the top like a good champagne, subtly fizzing. The finale of "Riggins Higgins" gave Rachael Cohen the chance to rock off her wedges and onto her toes. She left both the crowd and the band animated for the day ahead. Rumour has it that this musical shot in the arm propelled Cohen well into the wee small hours of the night too, along with the album's photographer Pippa Evans.


Friday, 18 October 2013

Gareth Lockrane Grooves - Whirlwind Festival

Gareth Lockrane - Flute
Day 1 of the Whirlwind Festival came to a close with an hour set from homegrown favourite Gareth Lockrane. Bringing his award winning lips to lighten the heart of the Kings Place audience before their journeys home into Autumnal London.

Dave Whitford - bass
Not a stranger to my pen, Gareth has entered my sketchbook on a few occasions recently, most consistently as part of Mark Perry and Duncan Eagles' new release, Road Ahead. More importantly he has found his way into the hearts of many jazz lovers both on the local and international stage. His modest demeanour belies a vast talent and he is as you expect, approachable, good company and by no means intellectually challenged. He has been brave enough to choose strong stylised graphic image for his album covers and as a fellow artist they caught my attention some time ago.

Alex Garnett
Surprisingly with an initial sweep of his wand he didn't live up to expectation. A mere blip in normal service, maybe a fault of my expectations and desires or possibly a victim of his own success. The rigours of balancing teaching, recording, composing and performance may have taken a toll on energy levels. This was short lived and once Lockrane had "Put the cat out" he combined well with Alex Garnett on the second tune, "Dark Swinger"  where they both broke from trot to gallop and entwined in complex agility.

Ross Stanley - piano
 In fact the charts seem so engrossing that Dave Whitford on bass could barely raise his nose from the page. He definitely has the most low slung style on the circuit and with his left hand reaching high into the air, he has the air of urban cowboy on a mechanical bull.

Tim Giles - Drums
"Memories in Widescreen" introduced us to Ross Stanley on piano, a showcase for his emotive talents and the heart strings were ritually plucked. He is a man of two halves, the top half serene and bookish in appearance while his legs, in particular his left, pumps at a rapid rate. A repetitive stroke that could only be matched by a Viagra fuelled, foot pumping, mattress inflating desperado.

A favourite of the set was Lockrane's "One for Bheki", with its slow groove and harmonic threads which brought out an intensity in both Stanley (organ) and Tim Giles' subtle drumming. It suited the late hour too with the first flushes of sleepiness unveiling themselves. It wouldn't have been a fitting end to the first festival day so Gareth Lockrane's Grooveyard left us with the jaunty 'The Strut' to put a spring in our step.