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Jazz South Presents: International Jazz Day 2020

A celebration of bands and artists in the South – with Spotify Playlist

Words by Sophie Wales

Playlist by Megija Petinena

Foreword: Tamsin Mendelsohn, Jazz South Manager:

‘We are excited to compile this playlist as part of International Jazz Day 2020. Since Jazz South’s inception in 2018, it’s been fantastic to engage with artists ranging from established names in jazz to newer talent from urban and rural areas across the huge region that we cover. This playlist is a snapshot of artists who are based in, have strong or past connections to the Jazz South region – helped by colleagues in the industry who made a number of nominations. Of course this cannot do justice to everyone, so keep an eye out for our ongoing series of playlists. Meanwhile, for this year’s International Jazz Day, we hope you enjoy the selection, be surprised at some of the connections or discover someone new whose music inspires you.’

The region that Jazz South encompasses boasts a plethora of musical talent, with established artists who have made their name internationally, and newly emerging up-and-coming talent. We’ve reached out to members of the jazz community in the South including musicians, venues and promoters to recommend their favourite tunes as well as new discoveries. The playlist of course features our very own Platform South artists, and can be found on Spotify.

When first compiling this project it only seemed natural to turn to established artists with roots or connections to the South, who have made their names nationally and internationally. Andy Sheppard features here with long-time collaborator Carla Bley; Django Bates with recent trio project ‘The Study of Touch’ (2017); Sarah Jane Morris collaborates with Papik on this classic uplifting track; Liane Carrol with her subliminal, effortless vocals, a master of her craft; Iain Ballamy joining forces with peers Ian Shaw and Jamie Safir; Jason Rebello who’s solo piece ‘Blackbird’ creates a perfect interlude to this playlist; Get the Blessing’s ‘Quiet’ brings the playlist towards a close. Saxophonist Jason Yarde is renowned for his ground-breaking music, melding classical, hip-hop, improvisation, R&B, reggae, and soul to name a few –  recognised by the first ever BASCA award for ‘Contemporary Jazz Composition’ in 2010. Olie Brice is a bass player of choice for a number of contemporary bands and on the free improvisation scene – here featuring the driving music of his own quintet. Founding musician and CEO of Edition Records, Dave Stapleton is also central to this list. We include Edition super-band Phronesis (with particular connection to the South through pianist Ivo Neame) and also Dave Stapleton’s own project Slowly Rolling Camera, amalgamating trip-hop and jazz grooves over cinematic soundscapes, featuring Dionne Bennett’s emotive lyrics and dulcet voice.

Also exceptional within the South is the constantly emerging new talent; musicians who are pushing the boundaries of jazz, incorporating experimentation, eclecticism and new flavours, putting their own stamp on the genre. Brighton based collective Yakul, blend Neo Soul grooves over jazz chord progressions. ‘Streetlight’, recommended by Jack Kendon of New Generation Jazz features heavily syncopated rhythms and a drum break down section, building up again into the main theme. Also from the south, Hastings area, Tom Clarkson traverses musical genres with heavy acoustic bass, electronics and vocals. The Ishmael Ensemble is a project of Bristolian multi-instrumentalist and DJ Pete Cunningham. The track ‘Full Circle’ features the entrancing vocals of Holysseus Fly; it feels almost rebellious in its refusal to stick to the status quo and holds nothing back. Mark Cherrie’s Quartet incorporates the angelic voice of Sumudu, with classic jazz melodies and progressions. The unique sound of Cherrie’s steel pans bring an astonishing sense of warmth and colour to the music, an ode to his Caribbean roots. Hippo opens the playlist – not only pushing the boundaries of jazz, but tearing them down. ‘Binary Diet’ epitomises the sound of the trio: electronic, futuristic jazz, with vivacious rhythms and themes.

Rob Luft (photo credit Dave Stapleton).

Guitarist Rob Luft (and Edition artist) has been making his name as BBC New Generation Jazz Artist 2019-2021. With strong links to the South growing up, his music has gained critical acclaim for its vibrancy and innovation. Singer-songwriter Rue from Cornwall is one to watch, bringing a refreshing sound that mixes Neo-Soul, R&B and Jazz. In ‘Peaches’ Rue conveys important messages over uplifting music, with effortless vocals shifting from mid to low ranges with ease. China Bowls also brings sweet melodies throughout, her resonant tone and vocal runs cutting through a laid-back guitar groove. Another emerging talent is Quartet AuB. Put together by young saxophonists Tom Barford and Alex Hitchcock, this grouping has links to the South through drummer James Maddren from West Sussex.

‘Together with bassist Fergus Ireland and drummer James Maddren, AUB melds contemporary Jazz sounds, an adventurous and risk-taking spirit with a degree of unpredictability, nuance and intense improvisation’.

Mike Gavin, Edition Records.

We could not approach this playlist without taking the opportunity to celebrate and shine a light on extraordinary female musicians within the South. In addition to those already mentioned, these include artists such as Kate Westbrook: renowned, accomplished singer-songwriter, known for her vivid lyrics and various projects with long-term partner and collaborator Mike Westbrook, including the most recent: GRANITE. Band leaders such as Rebecca Nash with her originals project ATLAS (supported by Michael Janisch’s Whirlwind Recordings) and trumpeter, composer and improviser Laura Jurd with her band Dinosaur are certainly ones to celebrate.

‘I’d been hearing good things about Bristol-based pianist/composer Rebecca Nash for some time and we featured her in Jazzwise just as she was finishing her album Peaceful King with her fantastic Atlas quintet – when the album arrived a few months later I was really impressed with her compositions and the band’s superb performances. The title track is a great example of her work and a band that shows huge promise’.

Mike Flynn, Jazzwise.

Behind these up-and-coming artists are the labels (including Whirlwind and Edition), promoters, clubs and festivals who offer support throughout the region. From this playlist we note Bristol’s Worm Disco Club, Brighton’s New Generation Jazz and Jazz Stroud who create festivals, events and platforms to nurture new talent, support rising bands and collaborations. Based in Stroud, Gloucestershire, this has enabled musicians such as Imogen Dash, Roella Oloro, Alex Howley and Waldo’s Gift to develop, collaborate and create their own musical journeys.

Due to the expanse of jazz that the South has to offer, this is by no means an extensive list. Yet we hope this music inspires and excites you as much as it does for us. Don’t forget to listen to the playlist here, and do get in touch to let us know what you think.

If you like an artist check out their websites – if you can purchase a full album or other merchandise this would be a great support on International Jazz Day 2020 during these challenging times when live performance is restricted, directly effecting artists’ income.

To hear more from Jazz South, you can sign up to our mailing list.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stay at Home Soundtrack: Rue

Jazz singer-songwriter Rue from Devon/Cornwall shares five albums to listen to during lockdown. 

In these challenging times we need music more than ever. While live gigs are cancelled we want to shine a spotlight on the jazz community in the South. We’ve been in contact with artists, venues and promoters to ask them for their listening recommendations.

1) Jarrod Lawson – Jarrod Lawson

This gospel and soul inspired album reminds me of sunny days and happy times. I saw Jarrod Lawson live for the first time at Love Supreme Festival in 2015 and have turned to his music for inspiration ever since. If you’re a bit of a vocal gymnast, you’ll be super impressed at how effortlessly he plays with the natural rhythm of certain words and subtly puts in complex vocal runs here and there.

2) Robert Glasper Experiment – Black Radio

This was one of the first albums I really got into when I started my degree in Jazz. Not only is Glasper one my favourite pianists, Black Radio also has a stellar line up of guest vocalists including Lalah Hathway, Musiq Soulchild and Stokley from Mint Condition (who you should also check out!). As well as writing and performing, I love to paint and this is a great album to listen to whilst doing anything creative during the current lockdown. 

3) Esperanza Spalding – Esperanza

This album is beautiful and so is Esperanza Spalding. I’m not ashamed to say that I cried when I met her. This album is a real win for the female musicians of the jazz world and is definitely her best in my opinion. Esperanza plays upright bass and sings as though she has two brains.  

4) Ben Cipolla – Jungle Kingdom

Ben Cipolla is a hidden gem and a genuinely lovely guy! I discovered his music a few years ago when I played at Cheltenham Jazz Festival and was completely blown away by his songwriting. Jungle Kingdom has such a big sound and is beautifully arranged. Listen to this album if you need cheering up during these strange times. 

5) Snazzback – Hedge

I adore these guys and this album because they are both musically fresh and interesting but also a lot of fun to see live. I was going to go to one of their shows soon but it’s sadly been cancelled (like many of mine) due to the current pandemic, so go check them out and make sure to support up and coming local artists. This album will excite people of all ages and is a great one to put on in the garden whilst it’s sunny if you’re lucky enough to have that luxury at the moment!  

Our next Stay at Home Soundtrack will be by Trish Brown, Operations Director at St George’s Bristol and published on Wednesday 6 May. Follow the series on our social media and hear about it directly when you sign up to our mailing list.

 

Stay at Home Soundtrack: Olie Brice

Double bassist, improviser and composer Olie Brice lives in Hastings and recommends five must-listen albums. 

In these challenging times we need music more than ever. While live gigs are cancelled we want to shine a spotlight on the jazz community in the South. We’ve been in contact with artists, venues and promoters to ask them for their listening recommendations.

Here are five albums that Olie has been listening to recently. Some are new to him, and others are old favourites.

1) Dave Holland – Emerald Tears

In this time of social isolation all musicians are doing more of their playing solo than usual, and this is one of the all-time great solo albums on my instrument. I’ve been studying this album really closely recently – incredible harmonic and technical clarity and imagination, truly inspiring.

2) Shirley Horn – Lazy Afternoon

This is one of my favourite albums for pure joy!  Definitely a good pick to cheer me up and get me dancing round the kitchen. Shirley Horn on magical vocals and piano, trio with one of the great rhythm sections – Buster Williams and Billy Hart.

3) The John Carter Octet – Dauwhe

This is an album I’ve been meaning to listen to for a while, but only recently spent time with. Astonishing writing and improvising from the great clarinetist and a seriously heavy band. This is the first of a five album series tracing African-American history, and one of my lockdown plans is to work my way through a close listening to the whole series.

4) Kim Kashkashian – J.S Bach, Six Suites for Viola solo

Bach’s cello suites, here played on viola, are some of the most sublime music ever written, and this recording is a really gorgeous take on them. Kashkashian is incredible, her Berio recording is out of this world and her Hindemith is also wonderful, but this recording would be a good place to look when you need some peace and beauty

5) Tarbaby with Special Guests – Fanon

The great Tarbaby (Orrin Evans, Eric Revis & Nasheet Waits) joined by Oliver Lake on alto and Marc Ducret on guitar. This is another one I’d been meaning to check out for a while. Rogue Art have one of the most interesting catalogues around at the moment, and while all this is going on they’ve been putting a whole album up to stream on their website, changing every two or three days. This is an incredible album, highly recommended, but won’t be streaming by the time you read this – check out what is here.

Our next Stay at Home Soundtrack will be by singer-songwriter Rue and published on Wednesday 22 April. Follow the series on our social media and hear about it directly when you sign up to our mailing list.

We can support you approach an Arts Council England application

The full criteria have been published for Arts Council’s Emergency Response funding packages for individuals and organisations. All details can be found here.

We would like to offer our support to any artists, creative freelancers or organisations * working in jazz in the Jazz South region with approaching an application.

This would consist of a 30 minute phone or virtual call to talk through the funding criteria, application process and articulating the impact of suspended programmes or lost work on you.

Email the Jazz South team at info@jazzsouth.org.uk to arrange a time.

* Outside the National Portfolio of funded organisations

Platform South Spotlight – Four Questions with Iain Ballamy

Jazz South interns Sophie Wales and Megija Petinena spoke to saxophonist Iain Ballamy about his ambitions for The Iain Ballamy Quartet and how it began.

As a band you are all highly established jazz musicians in your own right. How did you come together to form The Iain Ballamy Quartet?

The art of creating a good band together involves intuition and musical alchemy. It’s not just a case of putting good players together, it’s the combination of the players with their unique individuality that creates a reaction. An inspired group of players makes a recognisable constellation, one that adds up to more than the sum of its parts. I chose my players carefully for both their human and musical characters. After playing some gigs in Bristol I got in contact with people like Percy Pursglove on bass and Mark Whitlam on drums. Jason Rebello (piano) and Mark Whitlam also live near me in Bath. The idea was that we can get together and play regularly, cutting down on travel time. We wanted to be more sustainable, whilst not compromising musically.

I haven’t started a new band for quite some time because my bands have tended to go on for number of years – for example, Quercus has been going for 15 years. I don’t do a quick project and next year think: “Oh I want to do something else”. When I established the quartet I tried not to think too much about it being a big deal or a new band because otherwise it’s like dating: there’s too much pressure. I wanted this project to evolve slowly and naturally. Through both Platform South and local gigs, the band have been able to play in places where I wouldn’t necessarily normally perform which has been a nice way to slowly develop together.

What are your hopes and ambitions for the newly formed Iain Ballamy Quartet?

I’m currently doing a tour in the South and Midlands. What I am enjoying is playing regularly with the same people. When you get the chance for this to happen the music evolves and you are tempted to try new things. Things move quicker when you have a row of dates, so playing often is something that I try to keep going. I hope to play regularly together to achieve ultimate familiarity and also to experiment with new repertoire for the band, working towards an album. Also I would like to play in places we wouldn’t normally reach, such as new towns and venues. It’s always nice to go to new places. This is where Platform South helps!

Through your experience of touring and creating music, how do you perceive the jazz scene within the UK to have changed over the years?

It has changed very little in some ways, existing at grassroot level in small venues around the country run by devoted enthusiasts, while the latest so called “jazz revival” comes and goes from time to time. The big difference is the standard of the young up-and-coming players, with so many great musicians and well-trained students coming through colleges and shaping the future. I think I am one of the last generations who didn’t go through formal study – I learned the old fashioned way, being hands-on and watching. There are positives and negatives for people being trained in college, because it makes the approach to the music more academic and sometimes more of a science than art. But the good news is that more skilled young musicians are making their way into jazz. We just need the audience to wake up and open their ears and actively support this great music!

Where can we find your music and where can we see you live?

Live dates are listed on my website

My most recent CD with Ian Shaw and Jamie Safir was released on Absolute music and the previous 5 releases before that were released by ECM records

Find music and social media feeds here

Iain Ballamy is available to book in 2020-21 with Platform South fee subsidy – click for details

Platform South Spotlight – Four Questions with We Are Leif

Jazz South interns Sophie Wales and Megija Petinena spoke to drummer Mark Whitlam and vocalist Louise Victoria from We Are Leif to ask about their first album ‘Breathe’ and their favourite touring moments.

As a young band crafting your sound and style, can you tell us about your influences and how you approached your first album Breathe? What is the meaning behind the name?

Mark: Lu and I met randomly on a gig and realised we had similar musical influences with regards to writing, which really became the prime motivation for forming the band. I feel our harmonic influences come from jazz and soul crossover artists, such as Norwegian band Rohey, Hiatus Kaiyote and Robert Glasper. Melodically, Lu brings to the table our shared love of singers like Gretchen Parlato and Becca Stevens. Often Lu tends to create a top line (melody) over a chord progression I may have started and we go from there together. A couple of the songs on that album differ in that Lu or I may have come with a fairly complete idea, but usually it’s a case of sewing the musical patchwork quilt together between us in one room.

Louise: The name for the album came about very late in the process of making the record. For so long, Mark and I were going to keep the album as self-titled, but after designing the album art with Bristol artists Brook Tate and Holyseus Fly, it felt like it needed a name – I called Mark one night having thought of ‘Breathe’ on a car journey home and we both liked it. For me, it felt like we’d spent a lot of time in the process of making the album, so it was important to remember to stay present, and ‘Breathe’ feels like a nod to that.

What is your favourite part about touring as a band, and do you have any stand-out moments from your album tour last spring?

Louise: One of my favourite bits of touring with the guys is all the funny little stories that arise along the way. For example, on the ‘Breathe’ Spring Tour, Chris & I found Dale’s deadpan observations of everyday events so funny, we started a Twitter account to post them. Spending time like that together is really precious, especially because they’re all my best mates.

Mark: We were really fortunate to play some lovely venues, and a couple which I’ve never been to on tours before. For me, and the others from what I’ve gathered, the gigs in Windsor at the Firestation Arts Centre and The Northern Quarter in Huddersfield were highlights. Curiously, they couldn’t have been more different and the approach we took them, but both had really vibrant energies in their different ways. The epic drive to Huddersfield from Bristol was less of a highlight though!

What can we expect from your up-and-coming second studio album?

Louise: Mark and I feel like we’ve gotten into the groove of song-writing and arranging for this album, definitely with a more conceptual vibe from the get-go. Various personal events have led it to being quite an emotionally restorative record too.

Mark: I wholeheartedly agree with Lu on this. The first album thankfully hangs together as a number of pieces we were exploring writing together. This forthcoming album has a clear voice and concept from start to finish. That’s clear in the writing, which is more focused and lyric-orientated through to the production, which clearly has echoes of the Bristol sound from downtempo bands whilst retaining a contemporary jazz-influenced vibe.

Where can we find your music and where can we see you live?

You can find more information and music on our website

Our new album ‘Breathe’ is available here

Find music and social media feeds here

We Are Leif is available to book in 2020-21 with Platform South fee subsidy – click for details

Platform South Spotlight – Four Questions with Kate Westbrook

Jazz South interns Sophie Wales and Megija Petinena spoke to Kate Westbrook about forming The Granite Band as a collective and her advice for young jazz musicians.

Your most recent album ‘Granite’ is rich in story-telling and poetry, conjuring up vivid imagery. How did this composition come about, and how did you form together as a collective to create this body of work?

All the members of the band live in Devon. Mike has run a big band here in the West Country for a few years. Gradually, each of the musicians (who later became Graniteers), joined. A German friend commissioned me to write a piece and we share a love of Dartmoor with its quarries, and the tramway. So together Mike and I wrote ‘Granite’, my texts inspired by that love of Dartmoor, and Mike’s music springing from that same source. As far as the story goes, we follow a granite creature through the seasons and over aeons of time. As the composition evolved each of the musicians took their place in the sound of the ensemble.

Roz Harding is a highly intelligent and inventive saxophonist that I admire. Jesse Molins is a fine guitarist who is classically trained and works well with Matthew North who comes from a rock background. Billie Bottle is an exceptional multi-instrumentalist. In the piece ‘Granite’ she plays electric bass, but on my forthcoming album she also plays piano and sings. Coach York is a fine drummer and considerable force both in Mike’s big band and in our 7-piece band. Mike plays piano and keyboard and I sing. We all get on famously together.

What inspires your approach to music, and which artists influence your style?

I studied Fine Art at University and I paint and exhibit. My interest in art, literature and music all feed into the song writing. I find there are basic approaches to painting and to song writing, in which one discipline informs the other. Much of my early years I spent in the States. I had a rich mix of classical, contemporary music, jazz, blues, musical theatre. When I was young pop was pretty rubbish until Elvis and The Beatles came along. Jazz became the main staple of my adult musical diet, right from New Orleans through giants such as Dizzy, Miles and Ellington. Singers I enjoy and who have influenced me include Anita O’Day, Billie Holiday, Ella, and I particularly admire and love Betty Carter.

In 1974 I joined a small acoustic band the Mike Westbrook Brass Band. Initially I played tenor horn and piccolo and sang a couple of songs. As time went on I sang more and I started to write lyrics which Mike then set to music. Sometimes Mike has composed an instrumental to which I write words. Over time this collaboration led to operas, music-theatre pieces, an oratorio and many individual songs. We toured through the year mostly in Europe, and occasionally as far afield as Australia, North America and the Far East. Most of my musical life has been working with Mike, but from time to time I have performed with classical composers such as Michael Finnissy and Philip Clark, and with jazz composer Heribert Leuchter. I have performed with classical ensembles from the LSO to a West-Country-based contemporary group called Lavolta. My influences are broad and my voice as a writer grows from all these influences.

With your long and broad experience, what advice do you have for people who want to form their own jazz bands, or those who are making their own jazz music?

As well as a life in jazz I have worked in the contemporary music scene from time to time. I have to say I find the jazz ethos encourages creativity and is wonderfully democratic. But surviving, forming a band and making new work, are undoubtedly a struggle, but a struggle that is well worth pursuing. Many people teach or become session musicians. Mike and I have been fortunate over these many years to live by writing and performing with the occasional workshop. It has not been easy I have to say, but it has been immensely rewarding.

Where can we find your music and where can we see you live?

You can find information about The Granite Band on our website

Find music and social media feeds here

We will be playing live at Exeter Phoenix on Sunday 14th June and at the Swanage Jazz Festival on Saturday 11th July

Kate Westbook GRANITE with The Granite Band is available to book in 2020-21 with Platform South fee subsidy – click for details

Platforms South Spotlight – Four Questions with Sara Colman

Jazz South interns Sophie Wales and Megija Petinena caught up with composer and vocalist Sara Colman to discuss her song writing process and how she found her incredible band.

Sara, in 2019 you were awarded Lyricist of the Year – an incredible achievement. What’s your song-writing process and what do you find comes first – the melody or the lyrics?

My song writing process is ….. always different! Sometimes it’s the music, sometimes the melody, probably most often the words. I was especially delighted to have received that award because I really spend a lot of time on lyrics – they have to be exactly right. They are like sculpture, you keep chipping away until there is nothing extra, nothing left except exactly what you want to say – I guess that’s why it takes a long time. I love collaborating and have been doing a lot of that over the last year or two, with pianist Rebecca Nash, lyricist Hannah Hind and guitarist Steve Banks. I’ve also been doing some song-writing hideaways and workshops with friend and singer songwriter Sophie Bancroft. This has been so illuminating in terms of really seeing my own habits as a songwriter. We tend to limit ourselves and stick with what we know – working alongside someone else can make us all a bit bolder.

Your second and most recent album ‘What We’re Made Of’ has been praised by Jazzwise for its ‘refusal to be corralled by convention’. How important was it to give yourself complete freedom to experiment throughout the creation of this body of work?

Complete freedom is totally at the heart of how we developed and recorded this music. It was very much a studio album – we recorded lots of the tracks with what we thought would be guide vocals and then kept some of them with some overdubs. We added backing vocals, double tracks, percussion and so on. There was a lot of creation in the studio and that was a new experience for me – all the music I recorded to that point was pretty much live and recorded in a couple of days. This was a few months in the making. Nothing was set in stone and each song had its own momentum and settling point.

Sara, you’ve mentioned how lucky you feel to have worked with such an incredible group of musicians who have brought so much to your latest album. How did these collaborations come about, and how did you form your band?

The musicians on this album are true gems, full of integrity and musicality – I am very lucky to have been given the opportunity to collaborate with old and new friends. Steve Banks and I spent a lot of time working on the guitar arrangements and writing some of the songs together. He is my husband and blessed with patience I can only dream of! I have worked with Ben Markland for about 25 years – a mega bass player and superb sound engineer, who musically directs the band when we perform live. The talented Jonathan Silk plays drums and wrote the string arrangements for most of the songs on the album as well as the new Joni Mitchell celebrations in our live programme. I had seen but never recorded with Adriano Adewale and it was very special to have his authenticity and joy for music in our recording. Rebecca Nash is a fantastic piano and Rhodes player; we seem to like a lot of the same things about music and have a symbiotic experience when we play together. Percy Pursglove on trumpet and flugelhorn is my improvising inspiration, with his clear identity: lyrical and bold. The multi-talented Jules Jackson also co-wrote, string arranged and played on the album too. Nick Dover who owns Canyon Sound was a big part of the recording creating a home from home studio environment which was brilliant, especially as the album took so long to make! Nick is a talented jazz musician with broad musical interest who made tasty suggestions and co-wrote a song too.

Where can we find your music and where can we see you live?

You can see me live all over the place – I have dates up on my website

Find music and social media feeds here

Sara Colman Band is available to book in 2020-21 with Platform South fee subsidy click for details