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Review: Wayne Shorter and Wynton Marsalis with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, Barbican

A landmark meeting that lives up to the hype

Wayne Shorter and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra – that sounds like a dream pairing. Shorter, now 82, is one of the true greats, a saxophonist and composer with an enchanting and unpredictable approach that makes him instantly recognisable. He had a defining influence on Miles Davis’ Second Great Quintet and on Weather Report and, for many, his current quartet represents the pinnacle of modern small group performance. Under the leadership of Wynton Marsalis, the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra have come to represent the pinnacle of repertoire big band playing, so this collaborative rummage through Shorter’s back catalogue with arrangements by JLCO members ought to be sublime.

But we’ve been here before, and as we take our seats in Barbican Hall I’m sure I’m not the only one feeling a little nervous. Read On…

10 Questions for Jazz Quartet Empirical

Empirical bassist Tom Farmer on musical risk-taking, scientific method and taking jazz to bleary-eyed London commuters

Described by Courtney Pine as “the most exciting jazz band to come out of the UK” and hailed in the press as the new young lions, Empirical broke cover in 2007, topping album of the year charts with their self-titled debut and picking up wins at the prestigious EBU/European Jazz Competition and the Peter Whittingham Jazz Award all within a few months.

Read the rest on theartsdesk.com

Review: Brad Mehldau, Wigmore Hall

Genre-fluid brilliance from one of the giants of contemporary jazz piano

Contemporary jazz is a world full of magpies – artists who flit between genres and build glittering nests of disparate musical influences. Rock up to a so-called jazz night today and the repertoire can come from anywhere, you’re as likely to hear Jimi Hendrix or J. Dilla as Jerome Kern, and pianist Brad Mehldau has played a role in making that happen.

Over the course of the past twenty years, Mehldau has established himself as one of the most distinctive and influential pianists of his generation, a musician with a healthy lack of respect for musical boundaries. Cast an eye over the tracklist of10 Years Solo Live, a four disc compilation of his work released this year, and you’ll spot “contemporary standards” by the likes of Lennon and McCartney and music by Brahms alongside traditional jazz repertoire – and the pianist’s two sets at Wigmore Hall were just as wide-ranging. Read the rest at theartsdesk.com

— Thomas Rees

— Photo by Simon Jay Price

We Made It: Watchmaker Roger W Smith

The world-leading horologist keeping British watchmaking alive, crafting exquisite timepieces by hand

Long before the Swiss came to dominate the watchmaking world British horologists were leading the way, grappling with miniscule screws and the vagaries of time. In the eyes of many collectors and aficionados they still are, thanks to Roger Smith, who spurns quartz crystals and mass production techniques to make his exquisitely crafted mechanical timepieces almost completely by hand. Read my interview with Roger on theartsdesk.com

— Thomas Rees

— Photo courtesy of Roger W Smith Watches

2015 EFG London Jazz Festival Reviews

Four reviews from this year’s London Jazz Festival

Cassandra Wilson (Mark Seliger)

Cassandra Wilson/Lionel Loueke, Royal Festival Hall        

The Grammy-winning singer’s angsty, delayed performance sparks a public row

“I’m sorry I’m late,” said Cassandra Wilson to a half empty Royal Festival Hall, after a sulky rendition of “Don’t Explain”, the opening track from her Billie Holiday tribute album, Coming Forth By Day. It was an hour and fifteen minutes since the singer was due on stage and half an hour since the directors of concert promoter Serious had arrived in her stead – amidst boos and irate whistles – to tell us she was refusing to leave her hotel room. A good chunk of the 2,500-strong audience had gone for their trains, demanding refunds on the way out and venting their frustration on Twitter, and those who were still there wanted answers. Read the rest here

 

Maria Schneider Orchestra Peerless At Cadogan Hall

No one in the jazz world writes music like Maria Schneider. It’s mercurial and richly evocative – full of stories, images and emotions that range from tenderness and nostalgic longing for the prairies of Minnesota, where she grew up, to frantic, barely-restrained aggression. Sometimes it sounds like Messiaen, at others like the work of Schneider’s great mentors, Gil Evans and Bob Brookmeyer, but more often than not the composer is in a musical world of her own. Read the rest here

 

Terence Blanchard’s E-Collective (Tim Dickeson)

Terence Blanchard’s E-collective And Jacob Collier Electrify The Barbican

There’s a rich tradition of mentoring in jazz. New Orleans trumpeter Terence Blanchard benefitted from it when he joined the great Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers and now he’s passing on his knowledge. Read the rest here

 

The Langston Hughes Project (Roger Thomas)

Ice-T And The Ron McCurdy Quartet Preach The Gospel Of Langston Hughes At The Barbican

Ask Your Mama: 12 Moods For Jazz, an epic poem about the struggle for artistic and social freedom experienced by Africans and black Americans during the early 1960s, was never performed in Langston Hughes’ lifetime. By 1967, the writer, social activist and leader of the Harlem Renaissance had written the poetry and some equally poetic musical cues (“drum, alone, softly… but gradually building to uptempo as the metronome of fate begins to tick faster and faster”) and was in talks with the great bassist and composer Charles Mingus about a score. But Hughes died before the project could be realised. Read the rest here

— Thomas Rees

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