How Jan Garbarek, Anouar Brahem and a Moroccan (mis-)adventure kick started my lifelong love affair with ECM records

I can distinctly remember the first time I heard the playing of Anouar Brahem, because the circumstances were so cinematically odd. As a wanderlust-struck student, sitting outside a cheap café in Tangier, Morocco – a day after completing a three-week … Continue reading How Jan Garbarek, Anouar Brahem and a Moroccan (mis-)adventure kick started my lifelong love affair with ECM records

Why writing about jazz is maybe just a little bit like ‘dancing about architecture’ – @robgarratt on jazz

The oft-quoted dictum that “writing about music is like dancing about architecture” – credited variously to sources from Laurie Anderson to Frank Zappa, but attributed by scholars to comedian Martin Mull – is, of course, clap-trap. Words carry meaning more … Continue reading Why writing about jazz is maybe just a little bit like ‘dancing about architecture’ – @robgarratt on jazz

Swing when you’re winning: Jay Phelps gets his groove

AS slick jazz trumpeter Jay Phelps hits the road, Rob Garratt found out what makes the former Empirical founder swing  FOR Jay Phelps, it really don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got the swing. In fact it may be hard to find someone who has lived their life more acutely in tune with Duke Ellington’s mantra. After all, Phelps is the guy who walked out of perhaps the biggestUKjazz band of his generation, at the peak of its powers, simply because it didn’t groove enough. That band was Empirical, a sharp-dressed quintet of classy young players in slick suits, … Continue reading Swing when you’re winning: Jay Phelps gets his groove

Lucky escape: Tony Kofi’s life-changing epiphany

Award-winning jazz virtuoso Tony Kofi has mastered a new songbook – and a new instrument – for his latest standards project, as he told Rob Garratt TONY Kofi could so easily have ended up a carpenter. Working on a building site aged just 16, a freak accident saw the teenager plummet three floors, landing in a coma he may never have woke up from. But when he came to three days later he had one simple demand – a saxophone. “On the way down I thought ‘this is it,’” remembers Kofi today. “Everything went into slow motion and I was … Continue reading Lucky escape: Tony Kofi’s life-changing epiphany

Easily Led: Tripping on Led Bib at the Southbank

NO ONE would want to inhabit Led Bib’s world – a dark, uncompromising terrain; an audio acid trip of relentless rhythms, harsh harmonies and seismic sonics. Named after a protective garment worn in painful dentists’ operations, the Brit jazz-noise pioneers conjure propulsive, frenetic riffing and moody drones; at their best sounding like early seventies Miles Davis – the ragged yet haunting Live Evil particularly – at their worst like Nirvana with a sax solo on top. The bombast of drummer Mark Holub and electric bassist Liran Donin tack up the picture frame, with Toby McLaren’s distorted Fender Rhodes creeping like … Continue reading Easily Led: Tripping on Led Bib at the Southbank

Brass Act: The London Horns live

IN the world of Jazz Top Trumps – where every famous collaborator would earn a high-scoring card – the London Horns would have a formidable hand. The group’s frontline brass trio have been seen on stage with the likes of Phil Collins, Quincy Jones, the Brand New Heavies, the James Taylor Quartet, and son-of-Clint, Kyle Eastwood. And to complete a formidable CV, they recently knocked off a world tour with pop princess Kylie Minogue. So the purpose of this not-so-inventively-titled outfit is for the polished session pros to let their hair down, and play what they want for a change … Continue reading Brass Act: The London Horns live

‘Jazz is hip hop’: Benet Mclean genre hops at the Hideaway

 “JAZZ is hip hop, hip hop is jazz – they’re the same thing,” pronounced Sonny Rollins  on stage at this year’s London Jazz Festival. Your average Joe jazz fan may not agree with the legendary saxophonist’s outburst – but Benet Mclean should would, as he melts hip hop songs forms into his traditional jazz quartet, while peppering the stew with elements of funk, fusion and pop. Lurching from covers of Sam Cooke and Michael Jackson to bebop-on-bendrezine workouts, Mclean’s playful piano approach draws on everyone from Art Tatum to Elton John, and Scott Joplin to Liszt. And while his voice is more … Continue reading ‘Jazz is hip hop’: Benet Mclean genre hops at the Hideaway

Six strings and no soul: Pat Metheny in action

As a guitarist, I’ve always endured a pretty love-hate relationship with Pat Metheny. Digging around the vaults I found this review, commissioned earlier this year by a national newspaper but never published, it still holds pretty true… Fusion guitar wizard Pat Metheny has left both jazz and pop fans scratching their heads for decades. A phenomenal player capable of making your average guitarist weep, he has been generally content to churn out pleasant, hummable records which are often accused of underselling his talents. His blatant commercialism means Metheny attracts a diverse mix of hardcore jazzers, guitar geeks and middle-aged soft … Continue reading Six strings and no soul: Pat Metheny in action

Good Vibrations: Gary Burton at the London Jazz Festival

Gary Burton Quartet and the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra – Queen Elizabeth Hall, London (November 17, 2010) Like any well-prepared host, vibes maestro Gary Burton brought two courses to the table. The appetiser was a small group set. Introduced pointedly as a “new quartet”, this freshly-prepared line up gigged for the first time just months ago. Opening with standard Afro Blue, Burton’s trademark four-pronged approach lent the deliciously relaxed set a fairground-like charm, tempered by guitarist Julian Lage’s impassioned attack. Standing where Pat Metheny once did, Lage’s remarkable solo work saw him repeating short, sharp phrases with fiery intensity. A … Continue reading Good Vibrations: Gary Burton at the London Jazz Festival