Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Dan Redding's Bandeokee 2014

Dan Redding - Power of Love
UNESCO's International Jazz Day is but an anti-climax in comparison with the annual event of Bandeokee in Kingston that I had the pleasure of attending earlier this month. It is the night when some of the finest musicians in the country emerge from the shadow of their talent, leaving their instruments at home and instead pick up a microphone and sing for their supper. It is an act of bravery, for not only are they exposing themselves in front of their contemporaries and peers but also sharing the stage with non-musicians who often outshine them in both style and purity of voice.

Bob McKay -
In the air tonight
The collective gleam of sweat that greeted me as I walked into The Cricketers pub on Good Friday (18/04/2014) was almost blinding, as musicians and non-musos alike awaited their turn to be called on stage. It is testament to the personality of guitarist Dan Redding that the room was filled with so many people willing to humiliate themselves, for this night was originally a birthday party but now has grown into a behemoth that will one day outstrip Glastonbury in its cult worship.

Chris Nickolls -
Born in the USA
The first tune is reserved for Redding himself for he knows that the earlier you get the monkey off your back and sing your song, then the quicker you can relax and enjoy yourself. He performed 'Power of Love' and in keeping with the mid eighties period had bouffed his hair to BIG proportions.

Marc Le Guerrannic
Not only do we, the audience, enjoy the spectacle but it seems the band does too, with a core of Paul Jordanous (Keys), Holley Gray (Bass), Marc Le Guerrannic (guitar) and Cem Andre (drums) who gently giggled away in the background. As well as being a terrific night of entertainment it is also a night of speed sketching on my part, with only one tune per performer you have to throw yourself into your work. Hence I have not drawn everyone, and apologies to those I have missed.

Leo Appleyard -
My Everything
After our host, came Bob McKay who is no stranger to the big stage, I remember settling down to watch a heady session of Songs of Praise one Sunday only to be confronted by Mr McKay and his piccolo in full flow. This night he sung Phil Collins' 'In the air tonight' in the style of Leonard Cohen and he was impressive with his soft sensitive drawl. The bar had been raised high.

David Horden -
Easy like Sunday morning
Chris Nickolls didn't knock the bar from it's teetering height either, and the normally shy drummer of Shez Raja fame puffed out his chest and gave it his all. I think he has the right idea, if in doubt belt it out, and he sang his lyrics as though he were Springsteen himself in a stadium rather than the more modest Cricketers.

Jonathan Bird -
It's raining men
Despite Leo Appleyard's lambasting at last year's Bandeokee gig he came back for more, foolish or courageous you have to admire the man. With those boyish good looks and heartbreaker eyes you would have thought he had the voice of an angel. Unfortunately Appleyard does not have all of God's gifts bestowed upon him, although his rendition of Barry White's 'My Everything' hinted that his prowess in the bedroom shouldn't be underestimated.

Bill Mudge - Keys
Now here is where I missed a sketch. The next performer was Steve Gilbertson who couldn't keep still longer than a second and ended up spread-eagled on top of Cem Andre's drum kit by the end of 'Dancing on the ceiling' where he was less Lionel Ritchie and more Roger Daltrey in his destructiveness. I did capture yoga champion and trombone supremo David Horden who continued the Ritchie vibe with 'Easy like Sunday morning'. I suspect that the way Horden was bolstering himself with Dutch courage that Sunday morning would have been the moment he cast off his Good Friday hangover.

Piers Green -
Baker Street
Paul Jordanous gave his Big Band leader Jonathan Bird his very best on the camp anthem 'It's raining men'. Bird's performance was one of contradictions, he played his trump card, a handsome face like a young Marlon Brando but it wasn't quite enough to convince even his most ardent groupies. Similar to his legendary jokes there was a squirm factor in his performance just like watching David Cameron dance the Macarena.

Sam Leak -
Purple Rain
Piers Green galvanised a team effort around him for Gerry Rafferty's 'Baker Street' with Bill Mudge (Keys), a superb contribution from Le Guerrannic (Guitar) and a scintillating Bob McKay (Sax). The finger in the ear like David Coleman displayed how seriously he was taking his singing. Next was Lynsy with 'Don't you want me baby' which was theatrical so say the least, I assume that she is a thespian of some repute

Chris Southwell
Bitter Sweet Symphony
The second set was stolen by last year's hero Sam Leak, who downed a quick shot before taking to the stage. His 'Purple Rain' was both comparable to Prince himself in voice but also in curly dark looks and a swarthiness that could blunt a razor within 50 paces. A jealous voice in the crowd called out for a Stewards Enquiry. He was that good!

Tony Heiberg -
Norwegian Wood
A fine 'Bitter Sweet Symphony' from Chris Southwell could have left a pregnant pause after Leak proceeded him with such quality. To Southwell's credit he didn't let that phase him.

Kingston royalty was in the house with the arrival of Tony Heiberg on the dais and he inadvertently galvanised the crowd with his 'Norwegian Wood'. After the first verse his singing dropped away in preference to his beloved guitar and the sizeable crowd took up the reins.

Kate Reid & Gregor Ross -
Despite the next tune being authentic mockney in delivery I assumed we had stumbled upon the set of 'Made in Chelsea' with two such beautiful people before us. Gregor Ross with bottle of beer in hand commanded the stage with his textured voice while Kate Reid gave us the thrust of Blur's Parklife, definitely more Park Lane than Skid Row.

Michael Kew -
Easy Lover
I recognised one of last year performers with his shock of blonde hair and sailor suit stripes, Michael Kew cut quite a figure, musically he hit the highest of notes amongst the his fellow male voices. It is with regret that I didn't capture his fellow 'Easy Lover' Tom Woerndal as they would have made quite a couple. Although Woerndal, with his arran sweater looked like he had just come of the set of a Scandinavian Murder drama so perhaps it is better I kept my pen sheathed.

Jenna -
Blurred Lines
The night hit an upward curve at this point (or maybe the amount of alcohol had dulled the senses) and Matthew Cox steered the safe route through Kenny Loggin's 'Danger Zone' before a duet between Sam Gusson and Jenna brought the crowd to the peak of excitement. Jenna it seems is much like Cher, Lulu and BeyoncĂ© in only needing one name to advertise her wares.

Jonathan Lewis -
It seems Sam Leak had less than an hour to bask in his Number One status before it was cruelly snatched away from him in an audacious and powerful counter attack by Jonathan Lewis. His performance was so theatrical that it felt like we were watching a scene from Carmen rather than a Tom Jones pastiche of 'Delilah'. Yet Lewis is no imitation or parody, here is a man who has shorn his locks but unlike Samson shows no lack of strength or virility because of his shiny pate.

George Bone -
Use Me
Before I lost all ability to hold a pen and quite possibly the dexterity to get myself to the toilet without my wife's help later in the night I danced a little jig to George Bone and Bill Withers' 'Use Me'.

Matthew Cox -
Danger Zone
Another fantastic night was topped off by Helen Mayson with Skee Lo's 'I wish'. It wouldn't be too much to ask the genie next time I rub his lamp if we could have another Bandeokee next year. For my other two wishes I will ask for a 'Rhythm Stick' to help me perform a passable Ian Dury and the courage for me to step up on stage like the other brave singers.


Helen Mayson -
I Wish

Sam Gusson -
Blurred Lines

Monday, 21 April 2014

Purity not Parody - Nick Mills' Blue Note Project

Nick Mills - Trombone
The fur-cheeked trombonist Nick Mills brought his Blue Note Project to Twickenham Jazz Club earlier this month (10/04/2014) in a display of love and devotion to the long established record label. This was not a history lesson but a celebration of classic compositions by six intelligent performers.

Brandon Allen -
Tenor Saxophone
First impressions do not suggest that Nick Mills is a paid up member of the Jazz intelligentsia but as you hear him speak about his chosen subject you realise that still waters run deep. With his round face, furry chops and a face that turns a subtle shade of puce when in the groove I always imagine he sprung from the Jackanory episode when the BFG meets The lion who came to tea.

Jeremy Brown - Bass

Early exchanges were in honour of Wayne Shorter whose "Hammer head" and "Children of the night" could have been dedicated to saxophonist Brandon Allen who has recently became a father of an infant young enough to disrupt a few nights sleep. There is always a little knee bend in his expressive playing and his solo during the latter tune included a series of rhythmic small steps as though he were a toddler having a tantrum. This was grown-up performance though by Allen and he excelled on the subsequent Lee Morgan tune "Calling Miss Khadija".

Leon Greening -
Behind band leader Mills I caught brief glimpses of bassist Jeremy Brown who looked every inch the corduroyed  professor complete with spectacles and wild hair. Leon Greening also lurked in the shadows, and visually he was even more incognito under his 'Cousin Itt' bouffant. Not for long, the Twickenham Jazz Club crowd were not going to let him lurk at the back of the stage and he received the strongest response from these wise men and women. In fact Greening was central to the overall performance, his musical motifs during another Shorter tune "Ping Pong" was as light and esssential as the air in a table tennis ball.

A murmuration from the audience greeted Henry Armburg-Jennings on "Skylark" but it was the lines of attack opened up by drummer Matt Home that continued to impress especially on Curtis Fuller "Buhaina's delight" where his direct playing rolled down from dexterous clenched paws to a driving twisting left leg. I raise this Low's hat to his high-hat in admiration.

Henry Armburg-Jennings
Flugel and trumpet
Matt Home wasn't the only player with attack and drive on the Fuller tune. Nick Mills was territorial on his fellow trombonist's composition and roamed the stage with lager in hand like a man eager to once again engage in combat.

Matt Home - Drums
The familiarity of "Caravan" as their final tune could have signalled this as a pastiche of past glories, but in the hands of the Nick Mill's Blue Note Project  it had a sinister and discordant edge that made one feel alive like a kick in the vein. It was frantic and leftfield. It reflected a time when drug addiction was synonymous with moments of creation and originality but in this case it proved that this was not a night for parody but for purity.


Thursday, 17 April 2014

London Piano Trio - Robert Caesar Atchison

Robert Atchison - violin
It is the third time I have sketched the London Piano Trio at St John's Smith Square, but my first opportunity (05/04/2014) to put words on paper. This is because I have spent the past 18 months happily serving my apprenticeship under the nurturing eye of critic Mr Rich Rainlore.

The venue is one of the most dramatic for a lowly artist like myself, who is more used to the low ceilinged burrows of the jazz world. The huge pillars that adorn the back of the stage dwarf the performers, and the long drape of the plush red curtains rain down behind the musicians, I always expect James Mason to stride in and herald the fall of the Roman Empire.

Our Caesar for the night is the London Piano Trio's violinist and leader Robert Atchison. A man with an infinite desire it seems to serve us a silver platter of violin/piano/cello themed nights, and I greedily gobble them up as he dangles his grapes into my mouth. Alongside Olga Dudnik and David Jones it was Atchison's turn to conquer the Czech musical culture with a foray of Suk, flanked by Smetana and a breaching finale of Dvorak.

Olga Dudnik (Piano) and the page-turner 
Within seconds of Suk's Trio in C Minor glistening diamonds of sweat dotted Robert Atchison's brow but it his stance that always catches my attention. Just like Caesar, Atchison sits in a confident and heroic pose upon the stage, or maybe even a tribal chieftain with his legs akimbo in an open display of fertility. The Andante was playful in his hands, like a childhood game that had been filmed on a cine camera by a enthusiastic uncle and slowed down to half-speed upon projection. The Vivace was a game of speed chess between 2 older gentlemen, their wooden pieced battle striking them alive. It ebbed from aggression to camaraderie. The piano gave us a lightness while Atchison's violin signalled the endgame, all 3 instruments dramatically  came together for the inevitable checkmate.

Smetana's Trio in G Minor saw my pen linger over the stoic beauty of Olga Dudnik, her deeply lashed eyes and rich red flash over the shoulder gave her the untouchable air of an empress. There was power here too and during the Moderato Assai you could feel the pathos, see the tremble in her chiffon petticoat as her head whipped back and she struck. Although the whole piece was poetic, even tragic in its themes there were several moment of frustration or comedy that caught my eye. Despite there being 3 performers on stage there is also the page-turner who must do his job too. Apologies for my ignorance in not knowing his name, I have seen his exemplary performance many times and never seen him falter, this was not one of those nights. Once or twice he missed the subtle nod of Olga Dudnik's head and I saw two pages get stuck together in a mad scramble of hands and blushes.

David Jones - Cello
In comparison not a bead of sweat or coloured cheek blemished David Jones' demeanour. Apart from the sweet music from his cello the only indicator of expression comes from his left eyebrow which wrinkles like the contours of the Lusatian Mountains. The Andante - Vivace non troppo during Dvorak's Trio in E Minor gave us a quick energetic Jones who cascaded into the laps of the audience beside me while Dudnik's piano danced around us. This was matched by the verve of Atchison in the final Lento maestoso - Vivace and supported by the rich folding waves of the cello once again.

Never one to rest on his laurels, Robert Atchison is already teasing us with another classical offering, this time a trip to the cinema. Join us as we celebrate three composers who successfully wrote music for both the concert hall and the screen. Starting with Sakamoto’s music to the movie ‘Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence’, then an exciting new commission by Christopher Gunning (most famous for writing the music for the hit series ‘Poirot’) and finally Korngold’s score to ‘The Adventures of Robin Hood'.

I can never remember whether the Roman emperor's appreciation was shown by a thumbs up or down in the Colosseum so I played safe and clapped as hard as I could.


The Stars of the Silver Screen by the London Piano Trio
5th July 2014 at St John's Smith Square

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Terry Emm & Callum Rafferty - Shimmering

Callum Rafferty
Although this was a three-handed gig at the Borderline in London (04/04/2014) I had come to hear and see, Terry Emm, who was the meat in the sandwich between Callum Rafferty and Emma Stevens. Sometimes you must admit defeat, particularly when you've already had your fill and it was Stevens who dropped off my table after I sated myself on Emm and Rafferty.

Callum Rafferty defied his youthful status with an accomplished and confident performance in front of a building crowd at this legendary Soho venue.
The majority of his songs relied on him looping  his voice to create multi-layered sounds that washed over us, and yet his unadulterated voice still sailed on top.

The most impressive tunes of his set were when the backing loops competed with the clean cuts of Callum Rafferty's lyrics. The imperfections in his third tune "Second felt forever" let us gain some purchase and ride along with him. Especially with a looping sound that resembled a steam train with its short husky breaths which Rafferty's voice pushed against with a penetrating chill.

As Terry Emm came to the stage also with a guitar in hand it would be easy to make the assumption that it would be more of the same. His opening tune "Dove" wrong footed me and I expect many others who stood before him. The clarity of his voice, mirroring that of its subject matter in its purity was the first bolt to hit home, and in all honesty it continued to do so throughout his set. I cannot say in all truthfulness that he climbed to a greater height such was the impact of his opener. It was emotive and sparse, beautiful and elongated but most of all tender.

Terry Emm
"Sarah" was well received in the audience amongst me but it was "Monet" that created the ripples on the stillness of my lake. Terry Emm with his button down collar looked more like Cezanne than any other impressionist with a wide forehead and neatly trimmed beard, dark strong eyes but with Lautrecian glasses to throw me off the scent.

Emm is currently warming us up for the release of 'Starlight', his latest album on August 11th 2014. We heard of course a flurry of songs from the aforementioned and it was the anthemic 'For This' that gave us an insight into the struggles of this understated songwriter.

For this would be the opportunity to flourish my words in impressionist hues but my metaphors could not shimmer without the light from Terry Emm's voice.


Monday, 14 April 2014

Classical Kicks up Max Baillie

Max Baillie - Viola

Louisa Jones -
Man Overboard
These nights are always a gamble but not much of a risk when you have some of the best performers on your team. Violinist and musical curator Lizzie Ball brought us another episode of Classical Kicks at Ronnie Scott's late last month (30/03/2014) with a squad of the highest class, who were all ready to bring their A game to the ball.

Konstantin Lapshin - piano

Upstairs at Ronnie's is a modest affair in terms of numbers and understandably it was packed out, with punters standing and a few like myself lounging against the nearest wall. I do not know whether you can have too much of a good thing but with the promise of more quality to come Dunja Lavora's 8 tune run had me thinking too early of the future. There were plenty in the crowd though who hung on her every delicate note longer than I and it is with real pleasure that we've been given permission to publish (below) the work of poet Archie Swanson who was inspired by the night's performance.

Elizabeth Ball - Violin and Vocals
Lavrova and Ball are old college friends. Where the latter has embraced the new and expansive it is the former who flies the flag for the old school with an air of nostalgia. Alongside Konstantin Lapshin on piano they made a sweeping gentle entrance with Rachmaninoff's "Hungarian Dance" but it was the third from Rachmaninoff and Heifitz, "Daisies", which thrust the first emotive lunge into this wizened heart. If nostalgia sometimes talks of loneliness then Dunja Lavrova's playing was the thinnest of smoky wisps that rose from a wooded landscape. My eyes rose too as they slowly climbed the large flowers that embossed her dress from toes to her intense expression.

James Pearson -
Despite my earlier protestation I wouldn't have cut short Lavrova and Lapshin's performance if I was to lose their final composition, Pablo Sarate's "Gypsy Airs". In their hands it was a seduction, a tease and they dangled this gift just out of my reach. I watched Dunja Lavrova as though through a plate glass window, I on the outside, transfixed by her elegance and the spark of her crackling charm within.

Emma Smith - Bass
Lizzie Ball herself grabbed the Classical Kicks baton next alongside her quartet of James Pearson (piano), Emma Smith (bass) and Pedro Segundo (drums). It is all too rare to hear her sing and she started with "Time after Time" but it was how she finished her short 3 tune set that fired this night into life. Alongside Ball's frantic and mesmerising power it was the rubbing tapping handwork of Segundo that got pulses racing on "Libertango".

Pedro Segundo
Our third act of the evening was the pinnacle. Max Baillie stood alone, with his viola and a penchant for JS. Bach. It was a freewheeling performance of skill and charisma, one that was encircling and disorientating. If I was to describe Baillie's performance as one you drifted in and out of then you would think it an insult but this was the type of spiritual experience that kept ambushing you.

Thomas Gould - Violin
Before a joyous performance by Man Overboard we were treated to a world premiere by Thomas Gould of Tarik O'Regan's "Alice Changes", a piece written especially for the thin London born violinist. Despite being influenced by Charlie Parker's "Blues for Alice" it talked more of the unease and surrealism experienced by the  younger young lady from Wonderland.

Ewan Bleach - Clarinet
Man Overboard were an artist's delight especially clarinettist Ewan Bleach whose expression looked like he had just sucked up a Sarsaparilla through his instrument. Their second of the evening "Good Morning Heartache" was a dripping delight of melancholy washes. Despite their performance overflowing with colour it was this tune in particular who's hues of Paynes Grey penetrated our blotting paper minds.

Dave O'Brien
(Man Overboard)
Upstairs at Ronnie Scott's is perfect for flirting around and meeting new people and it was ideal for Lizzie Ball's Classical Kicks with its lyrical surprises. The new discoveries kept coming thick and fast with not only Max Baillie improv twist and turns but a poetic encounter. I finish this story with the work of Cape Town scribe Archie Swanson........


Dunja Lavrova
dunja lavrova
at the claret walled bar above ronnie scott's on frith street
nature has been extremely kind to you
you must have poured yourself
into your skin-tight
gilt petalled full length black dress
golden haired with sparkling gentle grey eyes
high cheek-boned
wasp waisted
young and gorgeous

you bare your soul
as you caress your beloved pedrazzini violin
konstantin lapshin stroking the keys of the black upright piano
eyes closed
and yes
we are all bewitched 
as your serpentine body
sways like a reed
touched by the gentlest of lyrical breezes
as you coax every gamut of emotion
from the humming strings
it’s as if the music has possessed you
yet it is we that are exorcised
freed for a moment 
from out right hemisphere driven lives
to worship
at the altar
of your craft

Archie Swanson
30 March 2014

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Momentum - Sunshine Desserts

Yosi Marshall - Soprano Sax
Ever since a brief but intense stint as the artist-in-residence at the legendary Bull's Head in 2012/2013 I have wanted to sketch Momentum again. Those sketches made the backbone of an exhibition of 50 prints and drawings that lasted for over a year until the Bull's Head changed hands. Luckily Momentum have outlasted the exhibition and once again I preserved them in my sketchbook, this time at The Swan in Hampton Wick (25/03/2014).
Kate de Freitas - Sultry

It was a relaxed affair at The Swan, with the football in HD screened just behind my head and the football chants appreciatively reduced to a murmur, it created an informal atmosphere. More than once during quieter moments frontman Yosi Marshall was transfixed by the contest between our two Manchester clubs those of City and United.

Lyn Edwards - drums
Momentum very much used this as a 'friendly' and like its footballing equivalent they kept their super sub on the bench for at least half of their two sets. This was the third gig in three days for singer Kate de Freitas and rightfully she took time to enter the action. Her first tune "Jigsaw" was a burner not in groove terms but the way she ground our desires in the dirt at her feet, in the predominantly male audience our subservient tendencies surfaced. "Voodoo Magic" saw the casting off of her 'fur' coat and no one saw Dzeko's second goal's as it hit the back of the net.

John Palmer - bass
My sketchbook is always unkind to drummer Lyn Edwards and my last painting represented him in zombie like hues and this time was no different. His playing was far from undead, with his crisp work on 'Howling Butterflies" with its evocative fairground themes that arrived in a helter skelter as John Palmer and Yosi Marshall rode tandem on it's hessian sack.

Urszula Szczepanek - Piano
Palmer with his boyish grin was very much the bounce of the second set, his easy going demeanour reminds you of a children's TV presenter just past his formative years, a kind of 'Gaz Top' who likes to smoke roll-ups and has a good line in humorous anecdotes.
Two aspects of tonight's performance that stood proud more than any others was firstly the contribution of Paul Viski who effortlessly it seemed created the backbone and tone of the evening. Secondly, a tune that epitomised its location in sound rather than title. "Deckchairs" was beautiful in its Reggie Perrin darkness, with John Palmer creating the bounce of a
suburban gent about to catch the 7.52 from nearby Hampton Wick. Yosi Marshall on clarinet presented the flip of the coin with the heartache and loneliness of the long distant commuter.

Paul Viski
As I got back home after a diverted bus journey, Reggie Perrin's spirit came to my aid and in true Sunshine Desserts style I said to my wife "Eleven minutes late, water main maintenance, Hampton Wick."


Thursday, 3 April 2014

Fergus Ireland - Southbank leftfield

Fergus Ireland - Bass
The Samuel Eagles Quartet took their debut CD for its first spin in public on the 14th March 2014 at the Queen Elizabeth Hall's Front Room. Despite the CD remaining unreleased at the present time, Eagles had received his personal copies just hours before this showcase gig. The album will break onto the scene via F-IRE's ever growing stable of talent during 2014, when, it still remains a mystery.

Samuel Eagles -
Alto and Soprano Saxophone

Samuel Eagles encourages mysterious musings through his music and demeanour. Never have I seen a front man take such a back seat on the jazz circuit. It is unnerving but also charming in this day and age of big mouthed performers. Despite Eagles reputation as an introvert the compositions on his debut album 'Next Beginning' are light and expansive, with more than a hint of a Mediterranean breeze. He leaves so much space for both the audience and his quartet to breath.

Ralph Wyld - Vibes
Much of the Samuel Eagles Quartet's levity is courtesy of vibesman Ralph Wyld. Tonight in the Frontroom he took the eye with a smock of gold and blue. His purple sticks taking control of a lush solo during second tune 'My Instigation', it was like shattering a slab of dark chocolate, the sweet jagged shards greedily consumed by a packed out Southbank audience. In fact I once again crossed paths with the busiest man on the London circuit, Steve Marchant.

Eric Ford - drums
The brushes of Eric Ford reflected beautifully the descent of the night's haze, as the colours began to bleach from beside the Thames. Despite the first warm drafts suggesting an end to the long winter I can't say in all honesty that 'Smells Like Summer' was the metrological cusp of better things but Eagles soprano reminded us of the dancing shadows that will warm our cockles in the months to come.

Throughout tonight's performance Samuel Eagles was true to form, stepping back again and again. Although he played his part too. Eagles tumbled straight into 'The Outsider' while Fergus Ireland's rich and thick musical presence made sure he wasn't alone. The lament of Eagles was a call, a sweet cry that pined for a response. It was answered once again by the ever impressive Ireland, whose playful solo never quite lost its grip despite Eagles vertiginous slide down a scree slope of melodies. Ireland continues to impress on the circuit and his growing reputation gains momentum, I am due another visit to SE Collective's den of iniquity at the Amersham Arms where he regularly plies his trade.