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30 NOV 2005

Four For Coltrane - Jazz i Växjö at Zelda'z 

Bobo Stenson, Gunnar Lindgren, Victor Furbacken and Rune Carlsson. The all-star band entered the stage without an introduction. The person from the local jazz club that used to be in charge of this had stopped due to health reasons, and nobody had the guts, or whatever would have been needed, to take over. Since I had booked the band there, and had come to Växjö to finally have a chance to hear what I had spent so much time booking a tour for, I made up an introduction, but somehow my guts where also insufficient to go up there an do it. Here it is anyway:

When I was 14, I started going to jazz clubs. That's a good age to start a lifetime commitment. In my case, it was a very good age since Dexter Gordon was still alive and I could go to Copenhagen and see him at the legendary club Montmartre which was still open (it closed in 1974). And I went to Gothenburg's old club Jazz Artdur once. There were two groups: Bobo Stenson Trio and Opposite Corner which was the same trio but with two horns added. The sax player was Gunnar Lindgren. Bobo and Gunnar have played together since then, (although not too often after Bobo quit Opposite Corner, round 1971) but I have not heard them together since then. 
And this is a unique line-up. Four For Coltrane is playing their third gig ever tonight. The opportunity to hear Bobo Stenson play this kind of repertoir, quite different from what his doing in his own trio today, is also unique. 
This is where I'm supposed to say: "I'm proud to present..." and in my case I really AM proud. When I was down there in the small basement club Jazz Artdur, I had no idea that I one day would have the honour to represent, and present, these musicians!

The concert was great! Although I'm not the right person to actually review it, because of my position as the booker of Four For Coltrane...
( The drummer on the picture is Mats Hellberg but he had to cancel the tour)  

3 - 4 NOV 2005

Thandiswa Maswai and others at SELAM's festival

The sixth edition of SELAM's afrofestival in Stockholm offered plenty of good music. Waldemar Bastos from Angola played music that moved the dancefloor, although his voice still had that "serious" almost opera-like character that I couldn't help making a remark about when I reviewed his latest CD Renascence in Lira. (sorry, only Swedish version here...)
Seckou Keita played kora fusion with contrabass and violin. Interesting mix, with plenty of improvisation and nice solos.
The South African Thandiswa Maswai delivered a fantastic show, ranging from influences from the kwaito music she used to do with Bongo Maffin to R&B and mbaqanga. She kept the show together with confidence, power and a nice sense of humour. The web site does not show us any of her great personality, but you can still read and listen at
www.thandiswa.co.za

29 OCT 2005

Louisiana Red at Eslöv's Blues Festival

The main attraction at this year's version of Eslöv's Blues Festival was Louisiana Red, backed by two local musicians: Jerker Allgulander (bass) and Sly Pagmert (drums). He's not an easy artist to back if you have never played with him before. (I've been on stage with him twice so I know what I'm talking about...) He can be quite unpredictable, he goes his own way as the true bluesman that he is. The Swedes handled it well, they followed him instead of trying to guide him as I've heard many times before: >He was recently on Swedish TV with Wentus Blues Band from Finland and they tried to take command, just like the German band I heard him with when we first met in the '80s. 

His performance in Eslöv was charismatic and powerful, showing that this man is still going strong, in fact stronger than ever. The only minus was that the arrangers did not have a spare guitar amp. A blown fuse put an end to the gig a couple of songs earlier than planned. No encores of course, just a slightly irritated artist that swore that he would bring his own amp the next time.

17 OCT 2005

Caroline Henderson + Eivor Palsdottir & DRBB at the Copenhagen Opera

The new Opera house of Copenhagen is well worth a visit, and the opportunity to listen to jazz is immensely more appealing to some of us than attending an opera. Without getting too much into the architectonic details, I'll just mention that the partly glass-walled building with a couple of amazing large sparkling globeshaped lamps is beautifully situated on the waterfront, with a small shuttle boat bringing the visitors from the centrally located Nyhavn area. The size of the concert room seemed surprisingly small until I discovered the four large balconies covering all of the back and side walls, making the room's height exceed its width. This concert was sold out (1.500 tickets) already about four days beforehand, and the expectations were great when Caroline Henderson and her band, including a string quartet, entered the stage.
This is Denmarks own jazz diva (although born in Stockholm, and daughter of an American musician) who went a long way, through various rock, pop and soul projects, before she found her true home in a genre where she is so natural that she seems to have been born into her tight black dress and her relaxed jazzy vocal style. She carries herself like a true diva, and her casual jokes both with the band and the audience shows that she's perfectly at ease, using her rich voice with no strain. And with none of the mannerisms that some of her fellow vocalists display, revealing that they've been studying the style of their favorite icon a bit too closely…
Although her presence is impressive, there is one band member who is equally stunning: drummer Kresten Osgood, who is by any definition of the word extremely talented - and the audience reactions to his playing confirm my opinion. I would even call his playing genial: here, as in every other context I heard him, he's ultra-dynamic and creative, deeply into each moment of the song and with a thoroughly inimitable style all the way through the show. He has done several interesting recordings lately, and we'll just have to wait and see how far his move from Denmark to New York this winter will actually take him. His heavy drum beat on Since I Fell For You is creating a perfect setting for Caroline Henderson's voice, making this tune more powerful than the usual ballad style version.
Jesper Nordenström's piano playing was fine and Paolo Russo added flavor with his bandoneon. The tempos were slow to medium, with only a few exceptions such as a nice version of What'll I do, Ray Charles' old tune. I would have liked to hear more of another side of Caroline Henderson's voice than the cool and sensual (the word husky is tailor-made for voices like this… ) It would be interesting to hear what would have happened if she let herself get really carried away into something wild and uptempo...

One stunning diva was followed by another one, quite contrary in style. After the intermission, it was time for singer Eivør Palsdottir from the Faroe Islands to enter the stage, backed by Denmark's Radio's Big Band (DRBB). They recently released an extraordinary CD with Eivør's own songs, Trollabundin (Spellbound, although the word Troll indicates that the spell has been cast by those small mythic creatures out in the woods). From the atmosphere of the smoky jazz club, we were taken to a totally different world: very Nordic, almost Arctic, with truly excellent big band arrangements, mostly by Jesper Riis and Peter Jensen from the band's horn section. Nature is an important source of inspiration in Eivør's songwriting, and she's using her voice in an amazing way. Still in her early twenties, she's also been singing opera and her crystal clear soprano along with the grandiose sound of the big band is creating quite a magic atmosphere, with a feeling of ice, blue skies and vast mountains - but there's also plenty of fire. Freezin' hot! I don't know what Eivør's compositions sound like without the fabulous DRBB sound, but the combination is congenial, resulting in a very unique Nordic sound, sometimes jazzy with an avantgardistic feel, but also leaning towards the classical and symphonic. 
And the show was nicely tied together by Nicolai Bentzon, keyboard player and director of the band, who took care of introductions and other small talk in a quite personal and humoristic way, as if the amused 1.500-head crowd were his personal buddies.

10 - 11 OCT 2005

Malene Mortensen at Cph Jazzhouse

Malene Mortensen recorded her solo debut in 2003 with world class musicians, Niels Lan Doky, Niels Henning ørsted Pedersen and Alex Riel. On her latest release, Date With A Dream, recorded with other players on the same level, she has written a large portion of the compositions: uptempo, more or less funky stuff with nice personal lyrics. Very good material! Among the standards on the new CD are great versions of Take Five, Joni Mitchell's All I Want, You Don't Know What Love Is and of course the title track. This stunning vocalist performed two days at Copenhagen Jazzhouse, backed by the rhythm section from the new CD, with whom she also did a fantastic show during the Copenhagen JazzFestival last summer. Avishai Cohen is really not playing one uninteresting bass note during the whole concert (it was not for nothing that Chick Corea selected him for his trio),  but Malene is sparkling so brightly that I have to focus on Cohen's brilliance during the instrumental parts, where he was, fortunately enough, quite generous with his solos, ever inventive and unconventional in his playfulness. Having fun and avoiding all clichés, just totally fresh playing, making his bass sing with a warm and heavy tone.
Kasper Villaume is one of Denmark's leading pianists today. Producer of Malene's latest CD Date With A Dream, he is the backbone of this quartet, as well as a great soloist. A nice stage presence and a casual way of keeping the show together contributes to the relaxed atmosphere. Morten Lund is a hard working drummer, ever present and responsive to his fellow players. His playing is spontaneous and very creative and he has a quite personal style and attack, that I could probably identify in a blindfold test. 
This quartet is well balanced when it comes to talent, but Malene is the one that still amazes me! When I first heard her version of Take Five through streaming audio on the Internet, not knowing who she was, I was so delighted at the way she was taking liberties with her phrasing, just claiming the song as if it was her personal property and had not been recorded by hundreds of artists before her. And this kind of boldness is even more striking, coming from a 22-year-old. She's claiming her own territory, creating her own musical world. Improvising, playing around with the musicians, answering and answered by their phrases. On a few songs the bass and vocals are left alone and she sings off microphone, showing the full (but totally relaxed) power of her voice. On the second night, Willow Weep For Me was performed as a truly magic duet between these two. They chose the song together backstage right before the gig, and gave us an exciting, almost breathtaking performance. Excitement was a key word during these two great concerts. I don't know where Malene will be in ten years from now, or even five, but I expect her to be twinkling even brighter, in a sky vaster than Copenhagen's.

8 OCT 2005

Branford Marsalis Quartet in Copenhagen

As soon as the band enters the stage of the concert house of Danmark's Radio and starts playing, there's a feeling of excitement - these guys are taking bebop and hardbop out for an adventure with all of us as passengers. Branford Marsalis and Jeff "Tain" Watts are closely linked from the first note, their lines intertwining, steadily supported by bass player Eric Revis while Joey Calderazzo is just sitting there listening, throwing in a couple of occasional notes. Soon the tempo is going from walking to running, but the exhilarating tempo sounds so easy, almost casual, Some cascades of shimmering notes from the piano, like quicksilver pouring out of the stage, filling the spacious concert hall The second tune is featuring Joey Calderazzo (his own composition, which is so new that it has no title yet, but is simply being referred to as "New One") It just smoothens us all out, leaving us refreshed through its melodic breathing.

Jeff "Tain" Watts' drumming is very powerful, yet so sensitive. He is extremely melodic and inventive, adding lots of unexpected accents and licks in response to the other players and to the compositions themselves. His way of playing the more funky grooves of the third tune, "16th Street Baptist Church" from Requiem (1999) is both intriguing and exciting. And Branford Marsalis is getting a wonderful bright and clear tone out of his tenor, never screaming, but constantly singing with musical joy. The joyfulness is everywhere to be found, also in the amused faces of all four musicians who are frequently smiling at each other as a part of their musical communication on stage.

Gloomy Sunday was played in such a clean and simple way, and loaded with emotions, deep, soulful, never leaving the essence of the song, that gloomy, somewhat melancholic, Sunday morning mood. Giving one of the strongest audience responses of the whole show (besides the roaring applause that produced an encore, giving the one-set concert a length of about 100 minutes). In this song, Tain displayed his whole range of dynamics, from ultra-light to the roaring thunder towards the end. 

Branford Marsalis says in an interview that he chose to record mostly ballads for his latest album Eternal after somebody wrote to him that his music had made her/him cry and he had not realized until then that jazz could have that effect. I would not be surprised of his interpretation of Gloomy Sunday produced a few tears…

Joey Calderazzo is free from obvious role models and influences. Very present just like everybody else in the band, he gives us fluid playing with impulsive breaks and mood changes. Not shying away from clean beatiful playing, without ever sounding too "sweet". Eric Revis' bass playing is very solid but also elastic, strong but subtle, steady but extremely flexible, fitting this quartet as a glove. Technically advanced passages, such as the walking line in the first tune of the show that I referred to above as "running", being performed with total ease … "A breeze" it seems to be for him, to play in such an exhilarating tempo.

"An evening with the BMQ " turned out to be filled with musical joy. Magic! Delightful! Excellent! Enough said. This is simply one of the best groups today! And their concert was truly outstanding!

Go to www.branfordmarsalis.com for more info.
This is a preliminary version of a concert review that will soon be published on www.allaboutjazz.com along with my review of Bill Stewart. 

7 OCT 2005

Abram Wilson + WonderBrazz in Kristianstad 

The young trumpet player/singer Abram Wilson made his first appearance in Sweden at Kristianstad's Jazz Festival. His equally young band (in jazz, the word "young" in jazz is used about anyone under 50 but these guys seemed to be in their upper 20's, Wilson himself is 30) played a refreshing verion of groove jazz, which has been quite successful internationally. The reviews for his album Jazz Warrior has been excellent and the band is touring world wide. Besides being a good song writer and musician, Abram Wilson has a very nice personality and created a warm and enthusiastic audience. Although the Friday program had a more youthful profile in the (compared to the following day headlined by The Charlie Parker Legacy Band, featuring Jimmy Cobb),  a big part of the audience was aged 50+ - but Abram Wilson definitely had the whole room in his hands. 

He was followed by WonderBrazz, five Danes plus Swedish trombone player Ola Åkerman, doing funky grooves with the unusual line-up of three horns, a Hammond organ and two stand-up drummers. Martin Seidelin took care of the bass drum and Esben Duus had the snare. The music was funky in the Tower Of Power direction - less slick and more rootsy, and with a great deal of humour. 
And the audience, still enthusiastic, managed to do something that's extremely difficult: to sit down, almost still (maybe wiggling their toes, or ears?) while the music is swinging like you-know-what. Not easy, but many Swedish audiences have practised this to perfection... 
Well, after having heard three bands (including Miriam Aïda's tribute to Monica Zetterlund) maybe we have to excuse them, they might just have been too tired...
www.wonderbrazz.com

Among the other bands appearing this year were Ibrahim Electric and Hector Bingert's Latin Lover.
The festival is organised by Blue Bird Jazz Club, founded in 1951.
www.bluebird.m.se 

28 SEPT 2005

Ravi Coltrane at Mejeriet, Lund

Everybody that came to Ravi Coltrane's clinic must have been surprised at the turn-out. Over one hundred persons showed up in mid afternoon at Mejeriet. First he gave a short resumé over his life, growing up as a "ordinary kid", at a period when jazz had such a position that some people would say "John - who?" JC certainly wasn't the icon that he is today. 
The first time Elvin Jones asked him to come on tour, he said no, since he felt he wasn't ready to play with him. But then Elvin asked again, and as Ravi put it: "You couldn't say no twice. He was a very forceful guy." So he accepted the offer.
There was some more talk, about Steve Coleman, about how some of the young jazz musicians were "wearing suits, trying to sound like the '50s" 

And then the clinic started. audience was divided into two halves, one clapping a 6/8 beat and the other one a 7/8 beat, while Ravi played the theme of his tune named 6/7. Although the majority put their hand in the air at the question if they played an instrument, only Mattias Carlson had the guts to bring his tenor sax and joined Ravi along with a couple of vocalists. 

At the concert the same evening, the sound of the large audience reminded us of a rock concert. Unlike the jazz brunches at Mejeriet, we saw more people in the age group 20 - 35 than 50+. The band opened strongly for a very enthusiastic audience, although the performance weakened somewhat through the show. The interplay was very impressive, this quartet has been polishing that to perfection and followed each other very closely through the sometimes complicated compostions (Ravi even admitted, in an announcement between two songs, that the previous song was difficult...)

That might be the reason why the band was sometimes lacking the casual, relaxed mood that many groups at the top level of jazz display. (Bill Stewart Trio, see below, is a good example of a band that seemed to be enjoying every second of their performance - what's wrong with having fun when you're gigging?). At solo time, bassist Drew Gress delivered powerful stuff with great timing, showing how much of the band's groove depended on him. The drum solos by E J Strickland were less impressive, displaying more speed than groove and making the bass player's role even more obvious. Ravi has impressive great technique, but never quite dared to let go and just blow all his emotions out of his horn. The pianist Louis Perdomo, who is soon due to release a solo album on Coltrane's own label RKM, gave us some beautiful, melodic solos - although sometimes lacking in dynamics. The tight interplay is the band's strongest plus, besides interesting compositions, far away from predictabitity and mainstream boredom - on the minus side, besides the above mentioned, a certainly intellectual coldness. Anyway, the band had a cheering audience bringing it back for an encore.

At www.ravicoltrane.com those who missed the gig can download a few tracks, although not from the latest release In Flux (Savoy) which by the way is quite strong all the way through... Ravi can also be heard on several of Steve Coleman's recordings, available for download at Steve's site www.m-base.org. Eventually the concert will be broacast by Swedish Radio P2, and for one week afterwards it will be available on the web radio. Keep an eye at my news page, where I publish P2's jazz programs.

24 SEPT 2005

New Jungle Orchestra at Cph Jazzhouse

The word unique could easily be overused. How many bands can truly be unique, one of a kind? Well, for New Jungle Orchestra, it must be said - no other band plays this kind of global symphony! A fusion between tribal and futuristic sounds. A journey - that has been going on for 25 years and has taken them round the world, both musically and physically. China, Russia, Japan (where they recently played for the Emperor) - well it's probably easier to name the countries where they did NOT play. 

The show opened with a dark stage and then the horn players started playing from different corners of the room. And then they slowly entered the stage for their anniversary gig, the ten current musicians (four of them since the start) and later on they were joined by three previous members (Marilyn Mazur, Bent Clausen and Jesper Zeuthen). The show is hard to describe for anybody who has not heard the band. Or seen it - for example the rhythm wizard Ayi Solomon who is constantly finding interesting things to play, and constantly moving, fingersnapping, tapdancing, hilarious! And we must mention Pierre Dørge himself, the creator of the band, director and often composer (although Carl Nielsen, NJO's pianist Irene Becker and many others have contributed). The band does not need any exotic string instruments since Pierre is creating all those sounds on his guitar. 

Pierre's comment on those 25 years was that it is almost unbelievable. 
"When you think you're not going to make it any more, a helping hand comes and scratches you on the back".

The band has just now released a new CD on ILK, Negra Tigra. Read more on www.newjungleorchestra.com 
For an unofficial Pierre Dørge discography, which is especially interesting since it shows that he's played with just about everybody, click HERE. And for a NJO discography (1982 - 1997), click HERE.

21 - 24 SEPT 2005

Copenhagen Bluesfestival, Lilian Boutté

At the opening ceremony at Amager Bio, this year's "Danish Blues Name of the Year" award was given to Thorbjørn Risager who recently released a live CD with his band Blue 7. Read more on www.thorbjoernrisager.dk 
Kenn Lending was given the special Festival Anniversary award. The festival is five years old, and Kenn Lending's Blues Band is 25 this year. Read about Kenn on www.lending.dk 

A few days later, we caught Kenn's gig with Lilian Boutté, doing her warm New Orleans style blues. Besides the groovy band with great Hammond B3-sounds, Lilian's personality filled Mojo with warmth and she compared the place to her mother's living room. She has been in Copenhagen many times and has plenty of fans and personal friends here. If you missed her, you have the chance at Vega Sept 30 (New Orleans benefit show with lots of bands) and at the Jazz Party at Grand Hotel in Lund Nov 5th.

22 SEPT 2005

Bill Stewart Trio at Copenhagen Jazzhouse

At their first gig on their second European tour, Bill Stewart opened the show by telling us how happy he was to be back at the Copenhagen Jazzhouse, "one of the best jazz clubs in the world". Not a bad compliment!

Organ player Larry Goldings and pianist Kevin Hays have, just like Bill himself, been involved in many projects on the American jazz, fusion and funk scene. Names like Maceo Parker, John Scofield, Pat Metheny and James Brown absolutely helps to bring bigger audiences to the gigs. Without necessarily giving us a hint of what the music sounds like - because this group is on a higher musical level than all of those groups. If I would compare the sound to anything else, it sometimes reminds me of Tony Williams' Lifetime. The music is very dynamic, present and free from all labels and borders, letting us all share the magic of each moment. This is what keeps us coming to the jazz club - we can only experience it then and there!

The composition of this fairly new trio is a good example of the advantage of selecting band members out of your personal preferences rather than which instruments they play. Piano, organ and drums does not sound like the obvious instrumentation, but the deep level of communication between these guys make you realize that this is actually a perfect setup! We can hear how the keyboard players inspire each other, just like two guitar players in the same band do, since they can identify with and pick up on each others lines. Maybe I should not single out any one of these three great musicians, but Larry Golding's playing was truly outstanding: always inventive, moving in an incredibly wide range of expression. But then of course I must mention Bill Stewart's truly unique drum solos and the way he was smacking those brushes and Kevin Hays' hip, distorted Fender Rhodes sound.

The spacy interplay, going from cool to intense, from walking to funky, without a dull second, left the audience in the packed club almost breathless (except for the occasional enthusiastic screams and hollers). The compositions with funny names like "Good Goat", "How Long Is Jazz?" and "Don't Ever Call Me Again" were quite loose, serving as vehicles for the telepathic interplay rather than locking the music up in a fixed structure. And Bill Stewart's dry sense of humour put smiles on our already delighted faces: introducing "It Could Happen To You", one of very few standards, with "Can't remember who wrote it. Some old guy. Some old dead guy."
(By the way, I looked it up. Johnny Burke and James Van Heusen, whoever they were...)  
And the sense of humour and playfulness was ever present that night, not only while introducing the songs, but in the general atmosphere of musical joy and creativity that filled the room that night.

For those who missed this great concert, the new CD will be of some comfort. Keynote Speakers can be purchased on CD Baby, where you can also listen to samples. Click HERE.
This review is also published at allaboutjazz.com, the international web magazine (590.000 readers/month). Read HERE

15 SEPT 2005

 Holmes Brothers at the Tivoli in Helsingborg

We were several hundred music lovers at the Tivoli that evening, and everybody who had the chance to be there but decided not to bother, really missed something fantastic!
The band hit the stage and opened with a soul tune, and hearing those three voices singing in perfect harmony, with drummer Popsy Dixon's unbelievable falsetto voice on top, really gave me goose bumps! Not to mention his breathtaking lead vocals on "When Something Is Wrong With My Baby".

But besides Popsy's heavenly voice, the most remarkable individual output came from Wendell Holmes, whose guitar playing continued to surprise us through the whole show. This is not a conservative blues player, doing his standard licks with the majestic dignity of a "king". No, this guy is full of playfulness and mischief, having fun all the time, throwing in crazy fills between his vocal phrases, and keeping everybody's attention through his solos - sometimes long but without a dead minute. 

The band jumped between musical styles in perfectly composed sets (especially the first one) leaving us amazed at how brilliantly the set lists were put together. Not that they would use lists after 35 years together... You could sense that routine also in those small details, like when guitarist Wendell Holmes puts his bass playing brother's amp on standby when it's time to take a break.

And of course the whole band as a unit was extraordinary, especially the fantastic dynamics through the whole concert. This is where all musicians should listen and learn! I hear several examples of "undynamic" gigs every month here in Sweden (the last time at a festival in the same town, Helsingborg) where the band stays on the same level not only through  the whole song, but more or less the whole gig. And the singer screams the best he can, to cut through that wall of sound...

After the concert, club Chicago's booker Dan Jensen went up on stage and talked about the campaign to save the beautiful building where Tivoli is located, from being tore down - to give space for some avantgardistic architechture, or modern mausoleums. Let's hope that the Tivoli was sanctified, and thereby protected, through this soulful concert!

We can go to the blues club on a Thursday night for the same reason as some people go the church on Sunday: to have our souls saved! Well, those who look at life with a different attitude can just drink beer and have some fun...
                                                           By Annika Westman 2005-09-18

The Holmes Brothers have been on the road since 1968 with the same members. 
Sherman and Wendell Holmes och "Popsy" Dixon play the blues with strong gospel- and soul influences and New Orleans flavoured southern rock. They received the W C Handy Award 2005 for Blues Band Of The Year.

When being interviewed about how they have been able to stay together for more than 35 years, they said: 
We don't just love each other, we like each other too. And - we always have separate rooms...

When the Holmes Brothers started their career, the church was not too fond of the blues - but as these musicians put it:
”Let´s not forget that Jesus turned water into wine and not the other way round”.

The band played three gigs each in Norway and Denmark and one in Sweden on this latest Scandinavian tour.  The Tivoli is a club with live music several times per week, rock, blues, reggae, you name it. Hosted in a wooden building from 1898 it holds 575 persons and has a very nice club feeling, square shaped with balconies, and tiled in wood. This was formerly a steamboat station for the ferry to Helsingør, a Danish town a few km away across the water (today 20 min by boat) 
Presentation at Alligator's web HERE Listen to samples from the latest CD HERE and from previous records HERE
Interview with Popsy Dixon  HERE Listen to a radio interview with the Holmes Brothers by Niles Frantz at Chicago Public Radio  HERE
You will also find radio interviews with Hubert Sumlin, Lonnie Brooks, B B King and many others, on the same page!

For info (to you or from you) and comments, please contact Annika:                       annika.westman@bredband.net