Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Hits By Brits (Part 1): Broaden Your Listening Habits

(NOTE: Please pardon the formtting issues; placing the pictures changed all sorts of setttings that I am having trouble redoing)

In April 24th's Jazz Blog by Peter Hum for the Ottawa Citizen, he reviewed the new CD by Phronesis "Walking Dark" (Edition Records 2012), which is another in a string of excellent recordings by a group not yet widely known in the U.S. and Canada. Hum has written on the issue before of our general lack of knowledge of European jazz scene and specifically the British jazz scene (see complained in the past for this link). There are some labels that do get to our shores -- ECM, Pirouet, Challenge come to mind -- so we do know artists on those labels, but there are many others that do not have much visibility here, and have some great music to be shared.  In Hum's 2009 blog post referenced above, he got this question:

A lot of the lists I have been reading today [Re Best of Lists for 2009] are American / Canadian and are in the main made up of American/Canadian artists. There are few Europeans (Bollani a frequent exception). Yet so much great jazz has been released in Europe (Stanko, Gustavsen, Helge Lien Trio, In The Country) and more specific it has been a great year for British jazz (maybe an oxymoron to many from the Americas) with excellent albums from Geoff Eales, Kit Downes, Ivo Neame, Gwilym Simcock (all pianists), Mark Lockheart, Portico Quartet and Empirical. So, quick question: is it that these are not being heard on the other side of the Atlantic or are they heard but just not rated?

Hum's response:

These artists, and in particular the British ones, aren’t being heard on my side of the Atlantic, I think. British jazz is far from an oxymoron, but it does take comments such as the one above to make me go out, discover it, and enjoy it. Given what I see on the North American jazz blogosphere and given my own experience, my impression — and I stand to be corrected — is that many European labels and especially British labels don’t identify North America as a market worth targeting via this continent’s jazz press.

If you have been reading my blog for some time, or my first post, you know this is an issue near and dear to me, and one I have tried in my way to remedy, with many posts highlighting British Jazz. I have to date posted 61 times, and in those 61 posts here is a list of those I have discussed, all very favorably:

  • Gordon Beck
  • Bobby Wellins
  • Kenny Wheeler
  • Norma Winstone
  • Nikki Iles
  • Martin Speake
  • John Law
  • Stan Tracey
  • Julian Siegel
  • Liam Noble
  • Tubby Hayes
  • Kit Downes
  • Julian Arguiles
  • Accoustic Triangle
  • Dave O'Higgins
  • Zoe Rahman
  • Gwilym Simcock
  • Ronnie Scott
  • The Impossible Gentlemen
The music is out there to purchase, sometimes from a local store, but if not from ,, and a personal favorite (The go to place for Basho and more). And if you want to know more about these artists and others, subscribe on-line to Jazzwise or to the print edition of Jazz Journal, , the British equivalents of Downbeat or Jazz Times; or look at JazzUK on-line and the blogs London Jazz, Jazz Breakfast, and the Manchester Guardian.

I decided to take this one step further today and pulled out from my collection as many CDs by U.K. artists that I could find (I unfortunately have my discs randomly around the room, as they are rapidly taking over my office) and highlight them with one sentence comments on what they are like or how I feel about them. Note there will be no John Taylor (piano) or Kenny Wheeler (trumpet) here -- they are too well known. So here is part one. Feel free to add others in the comments section; remember there will be more soon:

Product DetailsGwilym Simcock: Pianist, all of his music is exceptional, alone, in trios, and in other groups. Creative jazz.
     Blues Vignette (Basho Records 2009) -- Not to be missed.
     Good Days at Schloss Elmau (ACT 2011) -- Don't miss this either, a
             gorgeous solo performance
     Perception (Basho 2007) -- See how great he was even at a young age 
Product DetailsJulian Joseph -- Pianist, educator, classical music or jazz, he is another not to be missed
     Live @ The Vortex (ASC 2012) -- A triumphal live piano solo set. Incredible
             virtuousity. Get it.

Kit Downes Trio -- Piano trio, melodic modern jazz.
                                        Golden (Basho Records) -- Very good.
Product Details     Homely (Impure Music 2009) -- Two pianists produce
            exquisite music together.   
     Quiet Tiger (Basho Records 2011) -- Excellent trio recording with added
            woodwinds and cello

Huw Warren -- Pianist, Accordion, keyboards, in trio. Creative jazz.
     Hermeto+ (Basho Records) -- Very nice disc with lots of modern splashes

The Neil Cowley Trio -- Several good discs, and a really exceptional new one. Piano Trio
     The Face of Mount Molehill (Naim Jazz 2011) -- Enhanced trio with strings. For more modern  tastes
     Displaced (HideInside 2006) -- Trio setting, all songs by Cowley. Modern creative jazz.

Product DetailsTubby Hayes Quartet -- A classic post bop tenorist, played with most of the greats.
     Commonwealth Blues (Art of Life Records 2005) Great music with Gordon
              Beck on piano
     Tubby's New Groove (Candid 2011) -- Classics played with style by a post   
              bop tenor. Perfect.

Norma Winstone -- I already did a post raving about her singing.
     Amoroso...Only More So (Trio Records 2007) -- with Stan Tracey and Bobby
     Distances (ECM 2008)
     Stories Yet To Tell (ECM 2010)
     Somewhere Called Home (ECM 1987) -- With the exquisite John Taylor on piano

Product DetailsEd Puddick Big Band -- Classic 16 piece big band sound.
     Guys and Dolls (Diving Duck 2010) -- my favorite musical played with great
           style and fun.

Dave O'Higgins -- I reviewed this disc with Eric Alexander earlier. Great sound.
     Sketchbook (Jazzizit Records 2009)

Curios -- Trio with Tom Cawley shining on piano, Sam Burgess bass, Joshua Blackmore drums. Several discs of good solid creative jazz.
                                        Closer (Impure Music 2008)
Product Details     The Other Place (Edition Records 2010) -- my personal favorite to date
     Hidden (Jazzizit Records 2007)

Aquarium -- A bit more unusual, with Sam Leak on piano, James Alsopp on tenor and bass clarinet, Calum Gourlay on Bass, and Joshua Blackmore on drums
     Aquarium (Babel 2011) -- A bit more daring than the others for my taste, but still a good listen.

Sam Crockatt Quartet -- Sam Crockatt on tenor, Kit Downes on piano, Oli Hayhurst bass and Ben Reynolds drums.
      Flood Tide (Babel 2011) Creative modern jazz, flowing melodies.

Product DetailsTrish Clowes -- She plays a great tenor. Lots of solid straight ahead music.
     Tangent (Basho Records 2010) --  All songs by Clowes. Gwilym Simcock        
            guests on piano.

Zoe Rahman -- I wrote a post on this terrific pianist and her discography is exceptional. Creativity to the max.
     Kindred Spirits ((Manushi Records 2011) -- Trio plus her brother on clarinets.
          Just gorgeous music.
     The Cynic (Manushi Records 2001) -- Piano trio. Rahman wrote it all. Her debut is stunning.
     Melting Pot (Manushi Records 2005) -- Trio again with clarinet by her brother. Melts my heart.
     Live (Manushi Records 2007) -- I've run out of adjectives. Just get it and enjoy.

Stan Tracey -- One of the jazz royalty in the U.K. A pianist of great taste and feel.
                                        Tracy/Wellins Play Monk (ReSteamed Records 2007) -- With the outstanding
                                              Bobby Wellins on tenor.
Product Details     Senior Moment (Resteamed 2009) -- Quartet. Not a senior moment here,
           just great stuff.

Geoff Eales -- Another pianist with great sensitivity and a modernist approach.
     Red Letter Days (Black Box Music 2001) -- Trio plus guitar. Pretty traditional
             straight ahead music.
     Epicentre (33 Jazz Records 2007) -- Solo piano of great taste and interest.
     Synergy (Basho Records 2004) -- Solo outing. "My Romance", "Here's That
                                                Rainy Day" and other classics, plus some originals make for a tasteful
                                                 and enjoyable CD.
                                       Master of the Game (Edition Records 2009) -- Trio setting. Great music,
                                                 graceful compositions.
Product Details

Karen Sharp -- Tenor and baritone sax, has a really nice round sound and a great group dynamic.
     Spirit (Trio Records 2011) -- Great interpretations of classics with  pianist Nikki
     So Far So Good (33 Music 2004) -- Earlier disc with the same lovely sound
              and some classic songs.

Martin Speake -- I did a post on this great altoist, who has a string of great CDs to hear.
     Secret (Basho Records 2001) -- Quartet with Nikki Iles on piano, 14 beautifully arranged songs.
     The Tan Tien (FMR CDs 1998) -- Duets with Iles, improvisations, plus Evans, Monk, and Motian.
Product Details     Secret Quartet  (Basho Records 2001)-- Martin Speake and Nikki Iles are
                 great together again.
     Bloor Street (Edition Records 2010) -- A bit more advanced than Speake/Iles
                 discs, creative jazz.
     Change of Heart (ECM 2006) -- Classic ECM sound, Bobo Stenson and Paul
                 Motian. Outstanding.
     My Ideal (Basho Records 2003) -- Great pairing with Ethan Iverson. Great take
                 on some classics.
     Live at Riverhouse (Pumpkin Records 2010) -- Straight ahead jazz quartet. Another great disc.

Kate Williams -- In the tradition of Mehldau, Jarrett, Stenson. Creativity, great touch, expressive.
     Scenes and Dreams (Kate Williams 2005) -- Trio setting, a set of great charm and depth.
     Looking Out (Kate Williams 2001) -- Quartet with a mix of standards and Williams penned songs.
            Lovely, melodic takes on "Ghost of a Chance", "You and the Night and the Music."
     Made Up (KWJazz 2011) -- Wrote all but one piece for a septet. Colorful writing, great interplay of the
Product Details           musicians. Highly recommended.

Frank Harrison Trio -- Harrison is a pianist a relatively new to the scene.
     Sideways (Linus Records 2012) -- Tastefully played piano trio set of standards
            and originals. Great improvisational approach to the classic tunes. Great    

Liam Noble -- Creative pianist with an ear for modern takes on the classics.
      Brubeck (Basho Records  2009) -- Trio. Tasteful approach to a classic pianist.
            Outstanding disc.
     Romance Among the Fishes (Basho Records 2005) -- Solid outing
Upcoming in the next installment --- Django Bates, Nikki Iles, Alan Barnes, Julian Arguelles, Francesco Turrisi, Phronesis, Ive Neame Trio, Matthew Bourne, Portico Quartet, Paul Clarvis/Liam Noble, Accoustic Triangle, Julian Siegel, Gordon Beck, John Law.

A last point -- you won't see much in the way of experimental jazz or electronica, no Polar Bear, is just personal taste. In any case, please leave comments on players I have missed, and I know there are CDs by those I didn't miss as well.

Most importantly, try to listen to some of these, and hopefully we can start a trend here in the States (and Canada too). .

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