Jacob Collier: Fascinating Rhythm
The EFG London jazz festival returns next month, with a typically spectacular agenda for more than 2,000 artists and 300 gigs running from 13 November. A few weeks back, organisers Serious unveiled a last-minute booking for the most prestigious of surprise guests – Keith Jarrett, playing solo at the South Bank on the 20th. The tickets naturally flew within hours, but if the multi-instrumental prodigy Jacob Collier isn’t the obvious consolation prize for Jarrettistas looking for something else to do that night, this 20-year-old Londoner has already taken popular contemporary music by storm, and he has the firecracker energy, charisma and virtuosity to represent exactly what the LJF is all about - jazz for everybody, not just buffs. Collier opens for US trumpeter Terence Blanchard’s E-Collective at the Barbican on 20 November.
Sons of Kemet: In the Castle of My Skin
The festival’s opening night (Friday 13 November) pans a wide jazz horizon, from saxophonist Joshua Redman’s lyrical postbop with James Farm, to the cutting-edge sounds of Swiss avantist Nik Bartsch or Australian improvisers The Necks, to the popular song-celebration Jazz Voice. But if the inimitable world-music foursome Sons of Kemet’s new album is any guide, their first-night show at Rich Mix will be giving the LJF as rousing a send-off as anybody.
Maria Schneider: Jazz à Vienne 2008
A lot of partying goes on at the festival, but a lot of captivating slow-burn music gets made too – the American composer and former Gil Evans protegée Maria Schneider’s concert on 17 November is sure to furnish the latter, without losing that undertow of cool grooving that so often characterised the work of Evans himself. Schneider’s powerful New York big band join her for an all-too-rare UK appearance.
Colin Towns: Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds
Colin Towns, the British composer with as distinctive a personal take on big-format jazz as Maria Schneider’s and with almost as much rarity value in terms of public sightings here, released a terrific album of his theatre music this month and played three launch gigs with his long-running Mask Orchestra. The thrilling intricacies of Towns’s ambitious scores are often driven by elemental rock grooves – and much of his non-soundtrack work reveals his fascination with classic pop songwriting, like that of Frank Zappa or the Beatles.
Bill Frisell: Music for Strings
Bill Frisell is usually more comfortable evoking imagery with guitars than words, but he comes out with a cracker in this clip – that music-making is like exploring “a giant tree … you go off on this branch for a while, then you grab this one … and you’re just in there, with the music”. Frisell visited London this month with the amiably elegant hoedown sounds of his Music for Strings quartet, the group originally formed for the Richter 858 project, and with whom he has since celebrated the lives of other artists with interesting angles on America, like Allen Ginsberg, Hunter S Thompson and Woody Guthrie.
Pianist Errol Garner’s Concert by the Sea, one of the best-selling and best-loved of all jazz albums, was reissued this month. Garner was an extraordinary self-taught virtuoso, who couldn’t read music but played like an angel. Here’s his gracefully offhand treatment of his most famous composition, Misty.
Armenian piano star Tigran Hamasyan liked prog-rock as a child and has said he still nurses the fantasy of being a thrash-metal guitarist – but if he’s often turned the funk up to 11 during his meteoric rise, it’s deep study of the ancient and modern music of his homeland that has illuminated his newest project, Luys i Luso – a set of atmospheric yet often startlingly spontaneous treatments of traditional Armenian songs, for the Yerevan State Chamber Choir and his own improvisations at the piano.
Brad Mehldau’s transformations of pop hits can be mesmerising to witness, as this merger of Moon River and the Beatles’ Dear Prudence is, but even the faithful might find five hours of Mehldau is a lot to handle at one go. That’s the challenge of this month’s multi-vinyl release of solo selections from his European concerts over the past decade. But if 10 Years Solo Live is a set you need to take time living with, it rewards close attention just as his concerts do. This thoughtful and thought-provoking original is due to return to the Wigmore Hall, for solo gigs on 17/18 December.
Alan Broadbent/Georgia Mancio: Songbook
When Alan Broadbent was playing piano for the late Charlie Haden’s cool-jazzy Quartet West, he often managed to be a sympathetic accompanist and a quiet show-stealer at the same time – through the qualities of pin-sharp listening, empathy and narrative sense that had brought him work from stars including Paul McCartney and Natalie Cole, and won him two Grammys as an arranger. Broadbent and the subtle English-Italian singer Georgia Mancio recently toured the UK – premiering the original songs, often modelled on classic American Songbook forms, they’re about to record together.
Marcus Miller, the virtuoso bass guitarist and former Miles Davis producer, is on tour in the UK this week and next, with the world-music programme from his recent Afrodeezia album. Miller’s astonishing technique can give his shows an exhibitionistic air, but Afrodeezia is packed with strong themes and heartfelt playing, and it’s palpably a venture close to this creative musician’s heart.
Matthew Halsall and the Gondwana Orchestra: Into Forever
Lastly, to Manchester trumpeter and composer Matthew Halsall’s Gondwana Orchestra – another jazz venture with plenty of world-music references in it, but of a much more meditative disposition than Marcus Miller’s. Halsall and the Gondwana band, featuring the fine northern R&B and gospel singer Josephine Oniyama as an influential guest, are touring Carlisle, Manchester, Hastings and London over the coming week.