24 November 2020Dutch drummer's dreams come true with solo album
Dutch drummer-percussionist Joost Lijbaart realises a life-long ambition with the release of his first solo album, Free, on November 30th.
Known internationally for his work with saxophonist Yuri Honing’s trio and quartet over the past twenty-five years, and more recently for leading the ambient improvising voice-guitar-percussion trio Under the Surface, Lijbaart devoted six months during lockdown in Amsterdam to writing and recording the album.
“I love working with Yuri’s group and with Sanne [Rambags - singer] and Bram [Stadhouders – guitarist] in Under the Surface,” he says. “But for a long, long time I’ve wondered what it would be like to create something where I play all the instruments myself. So, I gathered lots of drums, tuned percussion, harmonium, vibraphone and much more, and got to work.”
All the compositions on the album are Lijbaart’s own, some being quite short but others, including the opening Strangers from the Sky, bordering on the comparatively epic. It’s very atmospheric in style and very considered but there are also passages where Lijbaart opens up his kit and rocks with considerable effervescence.
“The whole experience became what I’d describe as a journey inside,” he says. “Composing and recording the album gave me deeper insights about myself as a drummer but also as a man and as a human being. And of course, I was confronted with my own influences; classical percussion, my hero drummers, music from around the world, which also feeds into Under the Surface, and more. I’m really happy with the way it turned out.”
23 November 2020Brazilian music brings dance rhythms to Leith festival
Boteco Trio (Brian Molley, Mario Caribe, Stu Brown)
St James Scottish Episcopal Church in Leith is ending the year with music, following repeated postponements due to the Covid-19 pandemic, of concerts that were due to take place in the John’s Place building during 2020.
The church’s popular Adventfest, which runs from 27-29 November, is hosting streams featuring authentic Brazilian rhythms and melodies from bassist Mario Caribe’s Boteco Trio and accompaniments to author Andrew Greig’s readings by award-winning harpist Rachel Newton.
Robin Connelly, who runs the Jazz at St James series of concerts at the church and who has been partly responsible for organising the Boteco Trio stream, says that Saturday’s concert will bring some much needed light to a very dark year.
“We started speaking to Mario about bringing Boteco Trio to Adventfest before the pandemic took hold in March,” he says. “Ideally, we would have had the group playing to a packed audience, as was the case with the world class harp and fiddle duo, Catriona McKay & Chris Stout at last year’s festival. This wasn’t possible, of course, but having the trio’s music streaming to people watching from their homes is the next best available thing.”
Mario Caribe is no stranger to St James, having appeared with a number of the jazz groups who have appeared in the church. It’s a mark of the respect the Sao Paulo-born musician has earned since he moved to Scotland in the mid-1990s that he has become the country’s first-call double bassist.
In addition to working with klezmer adventurers Moishe’s Bagel, award-winning Edinburgh quartet Playtime, jazz-folk-classical crossover ensemble New Focus and saxophonist Brian Molley’s quartet, Caribe also teaches the emerging generation of double bassists on the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland’s jazz course.
“It’s actually an understatement to refer to Mario as Boteco’s bassist as he also contributes guitar, cavaquinho [a small Portuguese-Brazilian guitar], percussion and vocals to the group’s sound,” says Robin Connelly. “We promoted the group at our sister organisation in Linlithgow, Red Door, at the beginning of the year and everyone there was bowled over by Mario’s apparently effortless versatility and the other two musicians in the trio’s superb musicality.”
Joining Caribe in Boteco are saxophonist Brian Molley and drummer-percussionist Stu Brown, who was described as a ‘one-man samba school’ following the trio’s concert in Linlithgow.
“Stu’s percussive abilities are obviously more easily appreciated when the band are in the same room as the audience,” says Robin Connelly. “However, we have a good team working on cameras and sound and we’re confident that the people at home will enjoy the music. They can even dance if they want to – without anyone casting aspersions on their moves!”
05 November 2020Elling finds Somewhere to shine with Scottish National Jazz Orchestra
The stars align on the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra’s new video. With music by one of America’s greatest composers, Leonard Bernstein, and lyrics by master wordsmith Stephen Sondheim, Somewhere is a classic vehicle for one of the most distinctive and most beautifully toned singers of the current age, Kurt Elling.
Written for the multi-award-winning romantic musical drama West Side Story, the song was selected by Elling and SNJO director Tommy Smith to represent Love and Beauty in Synopticon, the critically acclaimed song cycle depicting human emotions, virtues and experiences.
The video is being released on Remembrance Sunday, November 8, to acknowledge the song’s message of reconnecting with a loved one.
“Like all poetry, everyone has their own interpretation of a lyric,” says Tommy Smith. “We chose this release date so that when the nation unites this weekend to remember and honour the fallen and those we have lost, no-one is forgotten.”
Following on from Elling and the orchestra’s enthusiastically received Courage: Jeep on 35°, also taken from the Syntopicon series of concerts, Somewhere is a superb example of a singer and instrumental ensemble working together in harmony and common purpose in a live setting.
From the simply executed introduction by pianist Steve Hamilton, who carefully follows the score’s musical instructions to keep the opening statement pure, the performance is brilliantly considered. Elling’s clear, mahogany-toned singing brings out the poetry of Sondheim’s yearning lyric and both Hamilton and alto saxophonist Ru Pattison improvise with expression and creativity in keeping with the song’s sentiment and New York pianist Geoffrey Keezer’s apposite, warm brassy arrangement.
“This is the fourth video we’ve released during the Covid-19 pandemic,” says Tommy Smith of the recording which was made at the Queen’s Hall in Edinburgh. “The idea behind these releases is that they help us to stay in touch with our audience while we are unable to give live performances. But this one, like Courage: Jeep on 35° and its predecessors with the marvellous young Texan Jazzmeia Horn and New York vibes virtuoso Joe Locke, is also a reminder of the resources we have in our concert catalogue. It’s a great performance by Kurt and an illustration of the understanding we have developed together over a series of collaborations.”
Somewhere will be available on the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra’s YouTube channel from 9:00am UK time, Sunday 8th November.
Kurt Elling (photo by Derek Clark)
27 October 2020Pianist Brian Kellock spearheads new label launch
Award-winning Scottish pianist Brian Kellock spearheads the UK launch on 30th October of New Zealand-based Thick Records, with two of the label’s three initial releases featuring the Edinburgh-born, Glasgow-based Kellock’s talents.
The launch is built around Think About It! - the long overdue follow-up to Kellock and his trio’s 2002 BBC Jazz Award-winning album, Live at Henry’s – and includes two albums by label owner and drummer, John Rae.
Rae’s trio, with Kellock and Kiwi bassist Patrick Bleakley, features on Where the Wild Clematis Grow, whose six tracks include three Rae originals and a highly individual take on Artie Shaw’s Nightmare. Rae, who moved to Wellington in the late noughties, also celebrates his Scottish roots on Uncouth and Without Form, with a new band formed in the cultural slipstream of his popular and critically acclaimed Celtic Feet.
Kellock has earned an international reputation for his work with, among other notable names, saxophonists Herb Geller, Joe Temperley and Scott Hamilton, trumpeters Warren Vache and Red Rodney, singer Sheila Jordan and Australian multi-instrumentalist James Morrison.
His long-time partnership with fellow Scot, saxophonist Tommy Smith has produced three duo albums and work with the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra that includes Rhapsody in Blue Live, for which Smith rearranged the Gershwin classic especially for Kellock as the featured soloist, and In the Spirit of Duke, with Kellock taking the Ellington role.
The piano-bass-drums format, and particularly his trio with Rae on drums and Kenny Ellis on bass, has a special place in Kellock’s affections, however.
“I’ve known John since around 1982 or 1983 and we got on really well from the start, both on- and off-stage” says Kellock. “We’ve played in each other’s bands and worked together in other people’s bands and have always had a good musical understanding.”
With bassist Ellis, Kellock and Rae formed the rhythm section of the John Rae Collective, a group that featured trumpeter Colin Steele, saxophonist Phil Bancroft and guitarist Kevin Mackenzie and that, along with their contemporary, Tommy Smith, represented a resurgence in Scottish jazz during the mid to late 1980s.
For John Rae, Kellock is the ideal musician to lead his label’s launch.
“Brian’s such an extraordinary musician and yet, after all this time, he’s still an artist deserving wider recognition,” he says. “It’s no wonder that people like Herb Geller or Sheila Jordan have made him their accompanist of choice. But for me, what makes him so special to work with, apart from his outrageous virtuosity and fantastic knowledge of the jazz repertoire, is that I always know he’ll be committed to the concept, regardless of the consequences.”
The Thick Records releases are all available to download-only. Rae thought long and hard about the “to CD or not to CD” question and arrived at the decision to go digital when he realised that he had no CD slot anywhere – neither in his house nor in his car or computer – and found that a lot of people are in the same situation.
“I have boxes and boxes of CDs in my garage that I don’t play but I’ve probably listened to the music on most of them through downloading or streaming,” he says. “It boils down to the music, not whatever the music’s stored on, being what’s important and I’m happy that the standard of the music we’re making available is high.”
BK3 - John Rae, Brian Kellock, Kenny Ellis (photo by Louis DeCarlo)
27 October 2020Musician Steve Hamilton reveals what lies Between the Lines
Pianist and keyboards player Steve Hamilton has used the enforced inactivity of lockdown to record his first solo album, Between the Lines, with friends including guitar virtuoso, Martin Taylor MBE dropping by to guest on selected tracks.
The album’s release coincides with a period of recuperation for Hamilton following surgery to remove his right kidney after a tumour was found during a CT scan for another problem that has since been cleared up.
“I went into hospital on September 25th and had the kidney removed along with the tumour and hopefully any traces of it from my body,” says the musician who studied at Berklee School of Music and toured the world before returning to live in Stirling. “It seems we found it early enough to hope for a clear outcome moving forward.”
As the Covid-19 pandemic began to take its effect on live music, Hamilton had international tours with his regular employer, drumming legend Billy Cobham, as well as all his other bookings, cancelled. Having appeared on more than forty recordings by luminaries including drummer Bill Bruford’s Earthworks, saxophonists Peter King and Tommy Smith and guitarist Tony Remy, he felt this was an ideal opportunity to release an album of his own.
A hugely experienced musician whose CV also includes work with jazz legends Ray Charles, Freddie Hubbard and Pee Wee Ellis, Hamilton grew up in a musical family. His father, Laurie was a professional guitarist and was always on hand to share advice and musical discoveries.
Between the Lines is dedicated to Laurie, who died in 2013, and features Martin Taylor MBE and saxophonist Paul Booth, whose quartet Hamilton plays in. Guitarists Don Paterson and Davie Dunsmuir, Hamilton’s colleague from the Billy Cobham Band, also made stellar contributions.
Most of the material was written, often on the spot, by Hamilton alone or with his guests. Opening track Awakening explores the textures and tones available with the latest keyboard technology. The ballad Ealasaid, dedicated to Martin Taylor’s wife, Elizabeth, was created spontaneously by Hamilton and Taylor. For the powerful, atmospheric In a Flash of Light, Hamilton invited Davie Dunsmuir to add electric guitar to his keyboard and rhythm track, and Paul Booth’s tenor saxophone brought out the yearning quality of From the Embers.
Long-time friend Don Paterson, who is better known as one the UK’s leading poets, contributed his trademark filigree guitar picking to Look Up. Paterson’s evocative composition Nijinsky, which first appeared during his time with Celtic-jazz group Lammas in the 1990s, has always fascinated Hamilton and inspires a searching improvisation here. Paterson was also the source of the arrangement of Robert Burns’ Ae Fond Kiss which closes the album with a mood of poignancy.
“I really enjoyed the process of making the album,” Hamilton says. “I didn’t set out with any particular aim or sound in mind. Of course, I didn’t expect to be undergoing life-saving surgery once the recording was finished but I’m beginning to do some exercise, like slow walking, and I’m looking forward to getting back into some kind of musical action again. I’m just so grateful to my NHS consultant and the whole team who looked after me. They were all amazing.”
You can donate to the GoFundMe campaign that’s been set up to help Steve Hamilton here
Between the Lines is available on Bandcamp
19 October 2020The Scottish Jazz Awards 2020 winners announced
The Scottish Jazz Awards 2020 have honoured musicians across the generations, with Glasgow’s young scene winning the Best Album, Best Instrumentalist, Best Vocalist, and Best Band titles, as well as the Rising Star Award.
Trombonist Liam Shortall’s corto.alto won Best Band and Best Album (for Live from 435 Vols 1, 2 and 3, Katie Doyle. Who sings under the stage name Kitti, took the Best Vocalist prize. Pianist Fergus McCreadie won Best Instrumentalist and trombonist-singer Anoushka Nanguy was voted Rising Star of the year.
The Lifetime Achievement Award went to drummer and band-leader Ken Mathieson, whose contribution to the scene includes his internationally regarded Classic Jazz Orchestra, programming the inaugural Glasgow Jazz Festival in 1987 and playing a crucial role in bringing top-flight American musicians to Scotland through his involvement in the Black Bull Jazz Club in Milngavie during the 1970s and early 1980s.
The full list of awards and sponsors is:
Rising Star Award sponsored by Musicians’ Union - Anoushka Nanguy
Best Vocalist Award sponsored by Whighams Jazz Club - Kitti
Best Instrumentalist Award sponsored by ESP Music Rentals - Fergus McCreadie
Best Band Award sponsored by Love Supreme Festival - corto.alto
Best Album Award sponsored by Birnam CD – corto.alto Live From 435 Vols 1, 2 & 3
Services To Scottish Jazz Award sponsored by Ticketmaster – Rob Adams
Lifetime Achievement Award in association with Help Musicians Scotland – Ken Mathieson
The awards are organised by Glasgow Jazz Festival and supported by the National Lottery through Creative Scotland.
02 October 2020Edition Records announces pre-order exclusives for new Fergus McCreadie album
Leading European record label Edition Records has opened a mailing list for fans of outstanding young Scottish pianist Fergus McCreadie to sign up for pre-order exclusive offers in anticipation of McCreadie’s second album, Cairn.
The album, which follows McCreadie’s Parliamentary Jazz Awards and Scottish Jazz Award-winning debut, Turas is due for release in January and fans are being given the opportunity to reserve signed and numbered copies of the CD and LP.
McCreadie signed to Edition Records this spring and the album has been recorded and photo sessions for the artwork have taken place.
“We're so excited to share this new music,” says McCreadie. “We're very proud of the result.”
Fergus McCreadie Trio (photo by Dave Stapleton)
10 September 2020Pianist McCreadie's trio returns to live performance with Leeds gig
Multi-award-winning pianist Fergus McCreadie’s trio returns to live performance in front of an audience with two concerts for Leeds Jazz, at Seven Arts at 7pm and 8:45pm, on Thursday October 29.
The trio, like musicians around the world, had live concerts curtailed in March and although McCreadie has been giving live-streamed concerts, he has missed the interaction with an audience on which musicians thrive.
“Our last gig was on March 5 in Altrincham and we didn’t think for a minute for that we would be inactive for this long,” says McCreadie, who signed to leading European label Edition Records earlier this year and will release the follow-up to his Parliamentary Jazz Award-winning album, Turas, in January. “We managed to do a live-stream together from our drummer, Stephen Henderson’s house, before stricter rules came into force. I think that one caught some of the spirit we create on actual gigs but there’s no substitute for being onstage and feeling the audience’s presence and support.”
McCreadie went on to play solo live-streams, including one for the massive Love Supreme festival, where the trio was due to appear in July, and another for Sheffield Jazz, which hosted one of the trio’s last gigs before lockdown. His Tuesday solo streams also attracted a strong following.
“It was good to keep in touch with people that way, even if you could only tell they were out there from the comments feed on Facebook,” says McCreadie. “Part of the Love Supreme stream was broadcast on Jazz FM, so that was also good from the point of view of reaching an audience.”
Ahead of the Leeds concerts, the trio will play a live-stream as part of Edinburgh jazz collective Playtime’s new online concert programme on Thursday September 17. Broadcast from Pathhead Village Hall, just outside Edinburgh, this will enable the musicians to play together in the same room with social distancing and as it’s part of a weekly series, including fellow pianists Dave Milligan and Brian Kellock, there will be a sense of being involved again in the jazz scene.
“We’re really looking forward to both the Playtime and the Leeds concerts,” says McCreadie. “We’ve had to postpone a lot of gigs this year – everyone has – so we’re hoping that it won’t be too long now before we can get back to playing live regularly.”
Fergus McCreadie (photo by Dave Stapleton)