Live review

LJN YEAR-END LISTS (2) Live Memory of the Year 2018

Natacha Atlas at St George’s Bristol
Photo credit: Evan Dawson

For this, the second of our three year-end lists, LJN contributors and friends remember their best gigs of 2018.

Natacha Atlas, St George’s Bristol. A car crash on the M4 meant no sound check, no rehearsal time – but one of the country’s most beautiful concert halls was packed with anticipation. Natacha Atlas and her band (Asaf Sirkis, Samy Bishai, Alcyona Mick, Hayden Powell and Andy Hamill) took breathlessly to the stage, bringing to life their unique blend of Arabic music and contemporary jazz. By the end, it was the audience that was breathless… (Evan Dawson)

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Aziza (Dave Holland, Chris Potter, Kevin Eubanks, Eric Harland) at Ronnie Scott’s. These musicians take you through the sound barrier. That’s the invisible wall where you pass from polite appreciation of their technical skill into wide-eyed awe at what they’re creating, together, right in front of you. I’ll never forget this gig in October. Sitting close by was the Head of Jazz at the Royal Academy of Music. I remember thinking: “How does he begin to teach people to do that?” (Matt Pannell)

Bopfest at Toulouse Lautrec. This was a musician-inspired series of gigs arranged by Alison Neale and Nat Steele, musically satisfying and well-attended. (Leonard Weinreich)

Vinicius Cantuaria at the Montreal Jazz Festival. The way Cantuaria just glides, slides through changes, particularly in Jobim songs, is something I never cease to find quite miraculous. He was at L’Astral with a quartet musicians who could match the feather-lightness of his touch. Helio Feirrera Alves at the piano and a ubiquitous New Yorker Bill Dobrow on percussion found absolutely the miracle of weightlessness that is required to support this remarkable musician. (Sebastian Scotney)

Capri-Batterie & Stewart Lee at Cafe Oto. The Devonian avant-garde improvising trio’s collaboration with comedian and free jazz enthusiast Stewart Lee has given us the landmark album Bristol Fashion, a peerless, hilarious, and monolithic act of folly newly re-released on vinyl. At Cafe Oto the group’s strong fellowship confidently sailed us keel-deep into the dark continent of Lee’s spontaneously-devised chronicles of “Non-musical music-related sounds recorded in the Dalston-Stoke Newington area from 1989-2007”, “Hospitals I have visited 1968-2007”, and the Orkney Wireless Museum. (AJ Dehany)

Quentin Collins Electric Quartet at Ninety One Brick Lane. I spent a wonderful evening listening to the fabulous Quentin Collins Electric Quartet. Including an A-list lineup, with Andrew McCormack on keys, Laurence Cottle on bass and Jamie Murray on drums to play a heady mix of new groove based-jazz. Electrifying! A great new music venue in the heart of trendy Brick Lane, showcasing a stellar programme which has so far also included the likes Mark Kavuma & Camilla George followed by DJs. Saturday evenings recommended! (Gaia Saccomanno)

Ry Cooder at Cadogan Hall. Heading – ticket-less – to Cadogan Hall on 18 October… joining the hopeful queue for any returned tickets to see Ry Cooder’s sold-out show… I managed to secure one, and was rewarded with one of the best concerts I have ever seen… one of my live memories of this or any other year. (Graham Roberts)

Crosscurrents Trio at the Manchester Jazz Festival. The billing was extraordinary, the expectation high… and, my goodness, a summer’s evening spent with the masters – double bassist David Holland, percussionist Zakir Hussain and saxophonist Chris Potter – delivered the most iridescent, vibrant and aromatic acoustic jazz/world music I can remember. For over 100 minutes, Manchester Jazz Festival’s RNCM audience was spellbound by this magical collaboration – precise, solid musicality peppered with animated conversations and palpable admiration for each others’ art. (Adrian Pallant)

Liran Donin’s 1000 Boats album launch for 8 Songs at the Vortex. A heartfelt and honest accounting of a rare Donin-led ensemble. It was heavy and exhilarating, and an emotional tour-de-force from the bassist and composer. (Dan Bergsagel)

Bill Frisell and Thomas Morgan at Cheltenham Jazz Festival, who without fuss unfolded intensely melodic joint improvisation for an hour and a quarter, and kept us all quietly spellbound. (Jon Turney)

Get the Blessing in Manchester. Sometimes a memory is more than just the music. In October I was stuck in Manchester overnight so without any great expectation I looked for a gig – and ended up in the Soup Kitchen – a brilliantly dingy basement club watching Get the Blessing in storming form. (Peter Slavid)

Alexander Hawkins at Cafe Oto. In his three-day residency at Cafe Oto in London in April, Alexander Hawkins showed the spectrum of his pianistic skills and live-wire improvising: in duo with Evan Parker, in quartet with Elaine Mitchener, in free combinations. Open and highly stimulating concerts. (Patrik Landolt, Intakt Records)

Vijay Iyer Sextet. I have seen this a couple of times now and it gets better. I suppose it is what one might call cerebral but simultaneously robust and physical, and a truly memorable live show. (Ciro Romano)

Daniel Karlsson Trio at Spice of Life. A long-standing musical itch, finally scratched; after enjoying their first five albums, it was such an unalloyed pleasure to see them live in London, finally (Rob Mallows)

Martin Kershaw, Graeme Stephen and Corrie Dick at the Lagavulin Islay Jazz Festival. In an art gallery on the edge of Britain, Martin Kershaw (saxes), Graeme Stephen (guitar and effects) and Corrie Dick (assorted percussion) weaved magic for 50 minutes of spontaneous improvised music. Highly accessible and by turns emotional, humorous, soft and loud, it was highly engaging. Three cheers to the Lagavulin Islay Jazz Festival for daring to put together three musicians in a unique combination just because they could. (Patrick Hadfield)

Kongo Dia Ntotila brought their “Congolese music with a jazz sensibility” to Brixton’s Hootananny to celebrate their new album. There was dancing to powerful traditional beats, and grooving to the delicate guitar and vocal/horn harmonies. The band called it “Afro joy” and hundreds of people agreed. (Alison Bentley)

Christian McBride Big Band at Cheltenham Jazz Festival. a breath-taking performance from the master of the double bass. Nothing else I saw could touch this. (Nick Davies)

The Magic Lantern playing in the 40 seater basement venue The Bicycle Shop in Norwich. Singer/composer Jamie Doe’s trio with double bass player Will Harris and guitarist Harry Christelis were on their tour of tiny intimate venues to launch the new genre-busting album To The Islands. They were spellbinding. Such a beautiful voice, such sympathetic playing, and what poignant songs. The whole audience were rapt. (Jane Mann)

Pete Long – London premiere of Jazz Planets. Pete Long’s masterly re-working of Gustav Holst’s Planets Suite performed by his Echoes of Ellington Orchestra at Cadogan Hall, London, on 8 September 2018. Pete Long applied Duke Ellington’s methodology to Holst’s Planets and assigned his soloists to each of the individual Planet recreations with exemplary results. (Peter Vacher)

Louis Moholo Quartet at Cafe Oto in October. Incredibly joyous, deeply swinging, beautifully moving gig from one of the best live bands in the world. (Olie Brice)

Ben Monder, Tony Malaby, Nasheet Waits at Cornelia Street Cafe in NYC. This was such a physical listening experience, an impressive wall of sound! (Anja Illmaier, Intakt Records)

Rachel Musson’s I Went This Way, premiered at the Surge in Spring Festival in Birmingham in April; a wonderful new work for a nonet with spoken word, strings, woodwind, flute, double bass and drums. (Tony Dudley-Evans)

The New York All Stars in Soho
Photo from Ubuntu Music

The New York All-Stars at Pizza Express. (Eric Alexander, Seamus Blake, Mike LeDonne). New York tenor sax man, Eric Alexander, has long been a favourite of mine. In organising their 2018 UK tour, a series of unforeseen circumstances led to altering the line-up and ending up with an absolute dream team: the first ever pairing of Alexander with Seamus Blake, underpinned by Mike LeDonne on piano/organ…with Ian Shaw guesting on vocals. The FT’s Mike Hobart wrote, “…an improvised line-up played a varied and gripping set like old acquaintances”. (Martin Hummel)

Orchestre National de Jazz de Montreal at Théâtre Rouge, Montreal. Playing my Ice Age Paradise repertoire adapted for big band and Christine Jensen’s Opus-winning suite Under the Influence with Jim Doxas, Fraser Hollins and Francois Bourassa in the r.s + L’Orchestre national de jazz de Montreal au Théâtre Rouge (Conservatoire de Musique) in Montreal. The combination of a strong, unique and fresh rhythm section, great sound on stage, a supportive audience and the fact that our chops were finally very well-wrapped around that repertoire made for a really enjoyable and successful final concert in Montreal. (Sienna Dahlen)

Leo Richardson Quartet at Spice of Life, November 2018. I arrived halfway through the gig, to find a rapturous spellbound audience lapping up Richardson’s stellar straight-ahead originals and left speechless after a torrent of incredible solos from the band. (Sarah Chaplin)

Scottish National Jazz Orchestra featuring Laura Jurd: Sweet Sister Suite/Mary Lou Williams, Queen’s Hall Edinburgh. The SNJO continues to show its mettle as one of Europe’s finest large groups, and this programme with Kenny Wheeler’s suite commissioned by the SNJO some two decades back sat in flowing contrast to the collection of Mary Lou Williams scores from the ’30s to the ’70s lovingly collected by SNJO leader Tommy Smith.  Unforgettable. (Mark McKergow)

Tom Smith’s Queertet at Omnibus Theatre. This gig, the band’s debut, for #festival96 celebrated Pride in Clapham and all things wonderful in the LGBTQ+ community. The music was fabulous, of course, and guest star Ian Shaw was surrounded by Tom’s energised quintet including the super sultry tones of Matthew Herd. (Sue Dorey, Omnibus Theatre)

Kacper Smoliński playing harmonica in the tiny basement venue Piec Art Acoustic Jazz Club in Kraków on 2 December, as part of the band Weezdob Collective, a prize-winning band from Poland. The physical and emotional power expended in his solo was heart-stopping. When sax and harmonica played together the sound was like geese in flight, calling to each other over synchronised wing beats, it was magical. (Mary James)

Bobo Stenson Trio, Fasching, Stockholm. Bobo Stenson’s album Contra la Indecisión will surely be on a few best-of-year lists. Catching the trio on home turf, stretching out live on the album material mixed judiciously with old favourites, counts as a moment of the decade, never mind the last year. Stenson’s trio groove with a quiet, burning intensity like no other, laced through with melancholic lyricism. Live, in an intimate club, it’s a memory to treasure. (Mike Collins)

Markus Stockhausen and Florian Weber at Salzburg’s Jazz & The City. I heard so many great concerts in 2018, that it is nearly impossible to choose one. But maybe the best jazz concert this year was the duo of Markus Stockhausen and Florian Weber at Salzburg’s Jazz & The City. A kind of magic because of the incredible strength of collective inspiration. (Ralf Dombrowski)

Take 6 at Birmingham Town Hall in July. In a year of severely-curtailed jazz gig attendance, this stands out, especially when the six put their microphones down and filled the room with unadulterated voices in close harmony. (Peter Bacon)

Clark Tracey. Stan Tracey’s Dylan Thomas-inspired suites, Under Milk Wood and A Child’s Christmas in Wales. Hearing and seeing both of these works performed for the first time ever in the same concert by Bruce Boardman, Simon Allen, Andy Cleyndert, Clark Tracey and Ben Tracey, at Herts Jazz, with a sold-out but cosy 130 audience, it reminded me why we go through all the hassle to run jazz clubs! (Stephen Hyde, Herts Jazz)

Kamasi Washington and The Next Step playing in Frida Escobedo’s unique Serpentine Pavilion was a real one-off . A wonderfully intimate concert with fantastic sound, which saw the band really stretch out and let loose. Musicians who’d been playing together since schooldays (plus Washington Snr) read each other perfectly to brew up an intense cosmic jazz-funk whirlwind, rarely experienced at such close quarters. They just lit the fuse and blasted off! (Geoff Winston)

Florian Weber. Playing solo in Bad Hersfeld
Photo credit: Friedhelm Fett

Florian Weber. Our best concert in the Buchcafé, a noncommercial socio-cultural centre in Bad Hersfeld was Florian Weber on 18 May. It was the third time he played solo, and everyone was really blown away. (Constantin Sieg. Promoter/ broadcaster, Bad Hersfeld, Hessen Germany)

Philip Zoubek. Two concerts with pianist Philip Zoubek, one here in Cologne and one at the  Schaffhausen Festival in Switzerland. I very much appreciate his syle of playing free with time. (Michael Rüsenberg,

Categories: Live review

1 reply »

  1. Following on from Florian Keller's nomination of a concert at New York's Cornelia Street Cafe in the West Village comes the sad news that it will close its doors on 2 January, due to the imposition of crippling rents at the hands of a notorious landlord.

    The Cornelia Street Café, a West Village fixture since 1977, is set to close
    Adam Feldman
    Posted: Wednesday December 12 2018, 1:47pm

    The Cornelia Street Café, a hub of the bohemian arts scene in Greenwich Village, has announced that it will close forever on January 2, 2019. The bistro's trademark bright-red exterior has been part of the West Village's rainbow since 1977, and the neighborhood will be less colorful without it.
    Through the years, the Café has been a warm and inviting gathering place and incubator for songwriters, storytellers, theater-makers, musicians and visual artists. Eve Ensler's game-changing The Vagina Monologues debuted in the venue's cozy basement space in 1996. Tightrope walker Philippe Petit honed his juggling skills on a wire strung from trees. Suzanne Vega and the Roches performed there early in their careers; comedians including John Oliver, Amy Schumer and Hannibal Buress have worked out jokes there. To this day, the Café's schedule remains packed with jazz shows, as well as burlesque and storytelling nights.
    But like many of the horcrux-like spaces that preserve the Village's soul, the Cornelia Street Café appears to have fallen victim to rising costs. In an interview last year, owner Robin Hirsch—one of the Café's three original founders—noted that the space's monthly rent has risen from $450 in 1977 to $33,000 today, a trend exacerbated when the building was purchased by landlord Mark Scharfman, who has a reputation for sharkishness.
    On the bright side, we're sure this space will also be great as an ATM bank or pop-up nail salon or indefinitely empty storefront.

    Adam is the Theater and Dance Editor and critic for Time Out New York and is the president of the New York Drama Critics’ Circle.

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