|Pete Churchill directing the band at the Kenny Wheeler Memorial Sevice|
Photo Credit: Yazz Ahmed
There is an astonishing range here of the favourite moments of 2014. Please add more in the comments. Here are ours in alphabetical order:
Cyrille Aimee’s London debut as part of the EFG London Jazz Festival. A sold-out Elgar Room and an incredibly high level of musicianship from her and her band.
Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society in Gent, Belgium on his very brief European trip still stands out months later. His Brooklyn Babylon suite was an hour of brilliantly detailed musical tale-telling – inspired writing; superb orchestral performance. Come back soon!
Beats & Pieces Big Band at Millennium Hall Sheffield. A cold, wet night. A sell-out concert to a noticeably younger audience. What could go wrong? Well, absolutely nothing! Ben Cottrell has honed his award-winning ensemble into something special – a range of moods and textures, the mix of old and new original material, great soloists and a ‘bone’ section that would have Mahler purring!
Norwegians Annlaug Børsheim (Hardanger fiddle and guitar) and Rannveig Djønne (melodeons) playing folk music in a stunning location: 1000 feet above Bergen on Mount Fløyen.
The Brooklyn Based Jazz Band (sextet led by percussionist Eric Frazier, with pianist Anthony Wonsey, vocalists and a poet) performing at Emmanuel Baptist Church, Brooklyn.
Billy Cobham’s 70th birthday Q and A at Ronnie’s. After a hilarious interview with Guy Barker during which Billy talked candidly about playing with Miles, Herbie and McLaughlin, he got behind the kit to demonstrate some trademark grooves and killer concepts. For once, the cliche ‘a humbling experience’ was justified!
Two celebrations of the music of John Coltrane.
– Scottish National Jazz Orchestra had Courtney Pine and Tommy Smith sharing saxophone duties. Hearing ‘Tranes music powered by a forceful big band for nearly three hours was exhilarating.
– Paul Dunmall Quartet played music from Coltrane’s “Sun Ship”. Powerful and astounding.
Calum Gourlay and Friends at The Jazz House.A sign of the (independent music production) times: Packed-to-the-rafters Golders Green Jazz House hosted an intimate live CD recording session featuring bassist Calum Gourlay in solo and duos with friends Michael Chillingworth (alto), Cevanne Horrocks-Hopayian (harp), James Maddren (drums). A CD on Two Rivers Records due in July 2015.
Fire! Orchestra at The Laundry was truly mindblowing! The mainly Scandinavian 28-piece, marshalled, guided and inspired by saxophonist Mats Gustafsson, flipped from blasts of group and individual improvisation to ultra-tightly arranged scores. They made an overwhelming impact. (Geoff Winston)
Juliet Kelly. The UK singer has a new CD on its way (Spellbound Stories). Her gig at Oxford’s Spin Jazz Club in October was part of an Arts Council-funded tour, to air her newly-written songs based on her favourite novels. Her lustrous deep voice and her impeccable jazz phrasing were combined with warmth and humour.
Charles Lloyd at the Barbican. A twitch of Charles Lloyd’s leg and the slap of a brush on the snare signalled an acceleration of the groove and Lloyd-ian bluesy growls and whispers deepened the spell the newly endowed NEA Jazz master had cast on the Barbican. A magical end to a mindblowing London Jazz Festival.
|Loose Tubes, Cheltenham Jazz Festival 2014|
Photo credit: © John Watson/jazzcamera.co.uk . All Rights Reserved
The Loose Tubes reunion at Cheltenham. The first few bars were spine-chilling. (Our review posted on the day, by Luke Davidson)
Loose Tubes’ 30th anniversary celebrations at Ronnie Scott’s were a triumph. The quality, joy and sheer inventiveness of the group remains infectious, and you can hear the show again on Jazz on 3 (29 December 2014). Listen out for Steve Berry’s beautiful new tune Smoke and Daffodils.(Jon Carvell)
Rene Marie‘s July Pizza Express live performance with the Bruce Barth Trio was even more spectacular. My favourite: spine-tingling a cappella rendition of Make Someone Happy.
Marius Neset at Brecon Jazz Festival. Serene, delicate, howling, powerful vibrations resounding around the Cathedral. Marius gasping for breath like an athlete, transformed from human to angel. A friend said “I never saw John Coltrane, but it doesn’t matter now because I have seen Marius Neset
Phronesis at Union Chapel. A diverse audience packing out the ever atmospheric Union Chapel where Phronesis approached a semi-religious experience. It was also a reassuring reminder of the depth and breadth of small independent venues programming jazz, particularly in the fertile stretch of North London following the overground tracks between Kentish Town, Camden, Highbury Corner and Dalston. (Dan Bergsagel)
Sun Ra. 2014 marked 100 years since his birth. Well that was his earth birth, which he didn’t recognise. You know the way it goes. The highlight of my Jazz year was working with Somethin’ Else producer Joby Waldman to get The Arkestra under the direction of 90 year old Marshall Allen in to the studio to record an exclusive session for Jazz On 3. After a twelve hour day most of the band and production staff headed off for some well earned rest. But Marshall, he just wanted to stay and talk about music. The session will be released by Gearbox in 2015. The legend continues.
|Kalle Kalima, Andreas Schaerer, Lucas Niggli performing the Saslonch Suite|
Photo credit: Ralf Dombrowski
The Saslonch Suite at the South Tirol Festival. Dramatic! On a ridge at 2300m and also up the mountain at 2800 metres, accompanying slack-lining and freestyle climbing on a rock face going up a further 1000 metres. Made all the more dramatic by the wind, and by unpredictable weather.
Snarky Puppy midnight gig at Ronnie Scott’s on the Monday of the London Jazz Festival – such a great vibe from the group and exemplary playing – they are really tearing things up and their move into the limelight has been well deserved.
Soft Machine Legacy. Seeing/meeting those iconic 1970s jazz/rock pioneers of my youth – John Etheridge, John Marshall and Roy Babbington (Soft Machine Legacy) – at Manchester Jazz Festival was a totally captivating hairs-on-the-back-of-the-neck moment, and felt a huge privilege. In their sixties/seventies, they’ve still ‘got it’!
The Umbria Jazz Festival in Perugia. Incredible atmosphere, excellent wine and food, and seamless organisation.
The Kenny Wheeler Memorial. Nick Smart and Pete Churchill wanted, demanded, and got a burning urgency from the band they were directing. The occasion absolutely required and deserved that. The speeches were full of emotion, especially John Taylor’s. A day to be overwhelmed by the incalculable scale of the legacy that Kenny Wheeler has left in every ear and soul.
An unknown alto sax player on the beach in Menorca as the the sun was going down.
OUR FOUR 2014 YEAR -END LISTS
LIST 1 THE BEST MOMENTS OF 2014
LIST 2 JAZZ MUSICIANS OF 2014 (UNDER 35)
LIST 3 JAZZ MUSICIANS OF 2014
LIST 4: JAZZ WISHES FOR 2015