06 July 2020Pianist Dave Milligan to release first new album in twelve years
Pianist Dave Milligan releases a new album, Momento, on Friday August 28th. It's Milligan's first album since his acclaimed Shops in 2008.
The music on Momento resulted from meeting Italian bass and drums team Danilo Gallo and U.T. Gandhi on an international project with Colin Steele at Edinburgh Jazz Festival. Milligan enjoyed playing with the Italians so much that, when a Creative Scotland artists bursary allowed him to travel to Cavalicco in the Italian province of Udine, he booked three days in ArteSuono recording studio with engineer Stefano Amerio and invited Gallo and Gandhi to join him.
Best known in the jazz world as the pianist and arranger behind the award-winning trumpeter Colin Steele’s success over the past twenty-five years and for his own acclaimed trio (described by The Guardian as “cracking”), Milligan is a musician of remarkable versatility.
As well as working with a prodigious list of jazz musicians, including Art Farmer, Scott Hamilton, Peter King, Joe Temperley and Charlie Mariano, he has featured with ace session guitarist Larry Carlton, percussionist Trilok Gurtu and Nashville gospel-soul legends the McCrary Sisters and has a parallel career in traditional music with international fiddle band String Sisters, Scottish folk orchestra The Unusual Suspects and ongoing projects with harpist-singer Corrina Hewat. He also collaborated, as musical supervisor, with Mark Knopfler on the stage musical version of Local Hero.
Tracks on the new album include Milligan's arrangement of the Scottish folk song Parcel of Rogues and the retreat march to which the late Hamish Henderson set his Freedom Come All Ye alongside seven Milligan originals.
Momento is released on Big Bash Records will be available on Amazon, Bandcamp, iTunes, Spotify and other platforms.
01 July 2020Young Scottish singer Luca Manning wins top UK jazz award
Young Glasgow singer Luca Manning has won the Newcomer of the Year prize at the 2020 Parliamentary Jazz Awards.
Already a familiar name on the London scene, Manning released his debut album, When the Sun Comes Out, with pianist Fergus McCreadie and saxophonist Laura Macdonald in 2019 and has just released A Sleepin’ Bee with Threebop, a vocal group where he appears alongside Ella Hohnen-Ford and Rosina Bullen.
The Parliamentary Jazz Awards are organised by the All-Party Parliamentary Jazz Appreciation Group (APPJAG) with the support of PizzaExpress Live. The Awards celebrate and recognise the vibrancy, diversity, talent and breadth of the jazz scene throughout the United Kingdom.
The full list of winners is:
Jazz Vocalist of the Year – Cherise Adams- Burnett
Jazz Instrumentalist of the Year – Sarah Tandy
Jazz Album of the Year - Finding Home by Kate Williams & Georgia Mancio
Jazz Ensemble of the Year – Nikki Iles Big Band
Jazz Newcomer of the Year – Luca Manning
Jazz Venue of the Year – PizzaExpress Jazz Club
Jazz Media Award – Corey Mwamba
Jazz Education Award – Jon Eno BEM
Services to Jazz Award – Blow the Fuse
Special APPJAG Award - Jazzwise
22 June 2020Move to rename Bristol venue after pianist Keith Tippett gains momentum
A petition to rename Colston Hall, Bristol in honour of pianist-composer Keith Tippett has gathered over 1000 signatures since it was launched at the end of last week.
Tippett, who died on Sunday, June 14, was a born in Bristol in 1947 and represented the city across the world in a career that spanned more than fifty years.
A church chorister, organist and classical piano student before he led his first jazz group in Bristol, Tippett moved to London in 1967 and became the leader of the young British jazz movement with the trailblazing Keith Tippett Sextet, which he formed with fellow students from Barry Summer School.
The group recorded two albums for the Polydor label, at the time home to Cream and the Bee Gees, before Tippett launched his fifty-piece orchestra, Centipede and expanded his activities to include solo concerts, duos with his wife, the former Julie Driscoll and fellow pianists Stan Tracey and Howard Riley, and groups including Mujician and the large scale Ark and Tapestry.
He leaves a huge body of recorded work and memories of concerts, especially in Europe, where he created magical events, whether they featured just himself at the piano or at the head of a huge ensemble.
The petition to rename Colstron Hall, one of Bristol's major venues, in Tippett's honour is available to sign here.
30 May 2020Style-setting Scottish band STRATA releases new single
Graham Costello's STRATA has released a single, Lyra, as part of the deal the band signed with London-based Gearbox Records.
Led by drummer Costello, the group has been winning audience approval for a style of music that combines rock minimalism with jazz creativity and released its debut album, Obelisk, early last year.
The group, which includes former Young Scottish Jazz Musician of the Year, guitarist Joe Williamson and award-winning pianist Fergus McCreadie, has gone on to work in an expanded line-up with a string section and was due to appear at the prestigious Love Supreme festival before it was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Lyra is available through Spotify, Amazon, YouTube, Deezer, Bandcamp, Apple Music, Tidal and iTunes.
You can read more about Graham Costello and STRATA here
Graham Costello (photo by Jannica Honey)
29 May 2020Glass artist creates new work with exhibition to follow
Glass artist Alison Kinnaird MBE has created a new work, 'Lockdown 2020' to highlight the problems that are common to everyone during a period that people the world over have been experiencing recently.
“Isolation is difficult for everyone to deal with,” says Alison, who works in her studio at home in Temple, Midlothian. “Creativity is hard to maintain, but some themes relate directly to our present situation.”
Alison has an international reputation as an artist working in glass. Her work ranges from small intimate pieces, to architectural scale installations and can be seen in many public and private collections, including the V&A Museum, the Scottish Parliament, the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, and the Corning Museum of Glass, in New York.
She is hoping that a solo 'open-studio' exhibition, due to take place in her home during August as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, will go ahead.
“We’re hoping restrictions will have lifted by then,” she says, “but visitors can always arrange an appointment.”
23 May 2020Tommy Smith streams video featuring solo saxophone and illustrious guests
Saxophonist Tommy Smith has added to the huge number of streams that musicians from the jazz scene have turned to in the absence of live gig opportunities during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Smith, who was unable to live-stream due to the poor signal available at his home in rural Lanarkshire, compiled a programme for the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland's Fridays at One series featuring new and archive performances.
The 60-minute film includes solo versions of Billy Strayhorn's Lush Life, his own popular composition from the 1980s Ally the Wallgator, and the eighteenth century hymn Amazing Grace. Smith also features with the all-star sextet with which he recorded his 2003 album, Evolution (Joe Lovano (saxophone), John Scofield (guitar), John Taylor, piano, John Patitucci (bass) and Bill Stewart (drums), with drummer Alyn Cosker, and with his current group, Embodying the Light (aka the Coltrane Quartet).
Smith can also be heard using looping technology and playing a gong that he sourced from Wuhan many years before the Chinese province hit the news headlines as the centre of the coronavirus outbreak.
The video is available on YouTube
Tommy Smith (photo by Derek Clark)
21 May 2020Key Workers Waltz sets fiddler on course for the heart of Midlothian
A Welsh fiddler who composed a tune for a nurse in Pathhead, Midlothian was surprised to discover that it was being played by some of her favourite musicians.
Angharad Jenkins offered to write tunes as part of her band, Calan’s Crowdfunder scheme to raise money to cover loses made through concerts being cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
She was commissioned by Andrew de Salis to write a tune for his sister, Ailsa Johnstone, who has been working for NHS in the frontline during the health crisis.
Angharad duly sent off Key Workers Waltz, not realising that Pathhead was home to a community of musicians, many of whose CDs are among the most frequently played in her collection.
“I’d never heard of Pathhead before and when Andrew got back in touch to thank me, I was amazed to learn that people like the singer-songwriter Karine Polwart and Martin Green, of Lau, were part of the community there and that they were all playing my tune,” says Angharad.
The tune, although originally written for Ailsa, is also dedicated to all key workers.
“Other musicians have taken it up,” says Angharad. “I saw someone on YouTube, with no connections to Pathhead, who had posted a video of himself playing it, and it’s the most exciting and thrilling thing to know that people are playing something I wrote.”
19 May 2020Influential advocate for jazz John Cumming dies
John Cumming, one of the most prominent figures on the international jazz scene as festival organiser, tour manager and agent, died on Sunday, May 17.
From Edinburgh, where he studied at Edinburgh University, became involved in theatre production and supported Hearts (he was very proud to be the namesake of a Hearts player who won every domestic honour with the club in the 1950s and 1960s), John worked in theatre before and after founding the Bracknell Jazz Festival at Southhill Park Arts Centre in 1975.
Having built Bracknell into a major platform for international acts, as well as championing homegrown talents, he became the programmer for Camden Jazz Week and worked as a tour manager for the Contemporary Music Network, along the way forming lasting professional relationships with musicians including Carla Bley, Charlie Haden, and George Russell, whose Anglo-American Living Time Orchestra he created.
With the late John Ellson he went on to form Serious Productions, working closely with Andy Sheppard, Orphy Robinson and John Surman, and with promoter David Jones on board they created EFG London Jazz Festival in 1992.
John’s contacts book was full of musicians, international promoters and festival directors and he created innumerable special projects and tours that touched the lives of audiences across the UK and Europe.
His contribution to the UK jazz scene was recognised by Services to Jazz awards at both the BBC Jazz Awards and the Parliamentary Jazz Awards, and in 2014 he was appointed OBE for Services to Jazz. He is survived by his wife, Ginnie, and daughter, Kate.
23 April 2020Music mourns the passing of Aberdeen's quiet hero, Sandy Brown
The music scene has lost one of its great champions with the death, at the age of seventy-four, of Sandy Brown, proprietor of the Blue Lamp in Aberdeen.
By making the room next door to the main bar on Gallowgate available to promoters of all styles of music, Sandy turned premises that had been in his family since he was a young child into one of the great venues for musicians and audiences alike.
Its candle-lit atmosphere played host to numerous internationally renowned figures – the outstanding New York guitarist Mike Stern (in a group with French violinist Didier Lockwood), Venezuelan pianist Leo Blanco, and top British jazz duo Tina May & Brian Kellock are just three of this writer’s fondest “Lampie” memories – and provided a much valued platform for up and coming local players.
A quiet, thoughtful man, Sandy ensured that there was a suitable stage and power supply and saw to it that there was as little extraneous noise from the bar as possible during a performance. He could also be seen on occasion, standing smiling in approval of the talent that graced what appeared to be his home-from-home.
Organisations including Jazz at the Blue Lamp, Americana promoters Almost Blue Promotions and Hands up for Trad, who presented Sandy with a Landmark Award for services to folk and traditional in 2019, will feel Sandy’s passing with sore hearts while recognising the immense contribution he made to live music, not just in Aberdeen but in the wider music world too.
20 April 2020Funding campaign launched to support jazz legend Annie Ross
A funding campaign has been launched to support singer and actor Annie Ross, one third of the ground-breaking vocalese group Lambert Hendricks & Ross and creator of the classic Twisted, which featured Ross’s lyrics set to saxophonist Wardell Gray’s composition of the same name.
Annie Ross, who requires round-the-clock supervision, is in urgent need of financial assistance to pay for home care during the current pandemic. The organiser of the gofundme campaign, Scott Merrell, says, “Should Annie need to be transferred to a nursing facility during this time, she likely would not make it. We are trying to keep her at home and as comfortable as possible.”
As well as being known among jazz aficionados for her singing and songwriting, Annie Ross is an inspiration to Joni Mitchell, who recorded Twisted on her 1974 album Court and Spark, and many other musicians. She also made a cameo appearance on the late Scottish singer-songwriter, Michael Marra’s debut album, The Midas Touch, adding a scat vocal to the song Cheese for the Moondog.
All funds donated are going directly to Annie Ross's account to pay for her homecare giver.
16 April 2020Scottish jazz musicians add streaming counterpoint to lockdown
Scottish pianists Euan Stevenson and Fergus McCreadie have launched a series of solo live stream concerts from their homes to compensate for the removal of concerts from their diaries due to the COVID-19 lockdown.
Stevenson, who co-leads New Focus with saxophonist Konrad Wiszniewski, has collated a series of improvised miniature études inspired by Bela Bartok's great primer of piano mastery, Mikrokosmos, drawing influences from jazz, classical and folk sources into his Mikrovisations presentation. Having debuted Mikrovisations in a live stream curated by Chamber Music Scotland earlier this month, he will be broadcasting from his Facebook page on Wednesday, May 6 at 7:30pm and announcing further live streams shortly.
Fergus McCreadie, who has already released a live EP with his trio, Live at Black Mountain, during the lockdown, is giving improvised concerts from his Facebook page every Tuesday at 8pm. Each concert is completely spontaneous, with McCreadie choosing a key and seeing where his imagination takes him, with the addition of an occasional jazz standard requested by the audience.
Euan Stevenson Fergus McCreadie