Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Manchester Jazz Festival 2014 - The Story So Far

Friday 18th July 2014

An ace first night from the ‘BBC Introducing’ event at the Band on the Wall. I didn’t expect to take to Newcastle’s ‘Brassy B’, but in the live moment it was hard to resist their youthful energy and fun. Good strong big brassy New Orleans style grooves abound. The sousaphone player, who really caught the attention of the crowd, is only sixteen I believe.

Brassy B. (photo @johntravis)

The Moss Project can always be relied upon for an engaging experience. Guitarist/composer Moss definitely has his own contemporary writing style which is frequently captivating. Vocalist Alice Zawadzki was as sensuously soulful as ever, especially good on the scatty ‘The Bubble’. Bass player Ruth Goller was sounding particularly punchy too tonight.

Moss Project (photo by Peter Fay)

I wasn’t so taken with the Peter Edwards Trio myself, although they went down a storm with the audience.  It was technically sound and reminded me somewhat of Robert Mitchell's very full playing style. It just didn’t quite do it for me.

Johnny Hunter (photo by Peter Fay)
The highlight of the night was the Johnny Hunter Quartet. The music is largely chord-less, giving space for the saxophone and trumpet to fully utilise the harmonic space. Tons of energy and top playing came from all four musicians: Johnny on drums/compositions, Kyran Matthews on tenor saxophone, Aaron Diaz on trumpet and Seth Bennett on double bass. Johnny’s tunes are excellent and the improv was of the finest. One to check out for sure.

Saturday 19th July 2014

For the first few minutes of the opening New Orleans classic in thirteen time, I thought Pigfoot might drive me slightly nuts. It calmed after that and ended up being a really cool gig. They take classic old New Orleans and Chicago tunes such as Basin Street Blues and give them a quirky angular twist. Think trad jazz meets Alice in Wonderland. Wonderful stuff.


Chris Batchelor / trumpet
Oren Marshall / tuba
Liam Noble / piano
Paul Clarvis / drums

The Arun Ghosh Sextet was one not to be missed, whipping up a storm in the Festival Pavilion. The recent writing from the South Asian Suite is as good as anything Arun’s composed, showing a thoughtful and maturing musician and composer.  The band was really on it tonight too, creating a phenomenal buzz in the tent. I loved way that Arun wrapped up inspirations from his Asian and North of England roots in his compositions. For example, 'Mountain Song' was inspired by the Himalayas and by the hills of the Lake District. In the second half the band were joined by Jason Singh who added some incredible vocalised scratching and textural effects, not to mention the odd ambulance.... (check out Longsight Lagoon). Mind blowing and ecstatic music. A magical night.

Arun Ghosh Sextet (photo by Benji Reid)
Arun Ghosh / clarinet
Chris Williams / alto saxophone
John Ellis / piano
Liran Donin / double bass
Dave Walsh / drums
Nilesh Gulhane / tabla
Jason Singh / Vocal effects

Sunday 20th July 2014

John Etheridge
I'm a big fan of John Etheridge’s guitar playing and I’ve been lucky enough to study with him on a jazz workshop. However, this was my first chance to catch him playing with the Soft Machine Legacy, accompanied tonight by the legendary Keith Tippett. King Crimsonesque mighty muscular grooves and 1960s avant garde classical are just a couple of the many bases that these players can masterfully cover. They manage to combine quite unusual sequences and time signatures in a really accessible and energetic way. The liberal use of echoes and textural effects added to a very enjoyable gig, and made me a happy man on Sunday night.

John Etheridge / guitar
Keith Tippett / piano
Theo Travis / tenor saxophone
Roy Babbington / bass
John Marshall / drums

The Manchester Jazz Festival continues through to the 27th July. More info on the above and stuff still to come at http://www.manchesterjazzfestival.com

Back From The Dead(ish)

Anyone who’s caught this blog in the past may have noticed that things have been exceedingly quiet around here for a while now, such that this blog is really just covering the Manchester Jazz Festival. There's no other good reason than that of the pressure of the day job in these challenging times. I had figured I wouldn’t review anything this year, but I’ve decided to at least note a few thoughts as the festival has been so damn good so far. If interested, read on above …..