21 May 2022Singer Ola Onabule celebrates soulful big band encounter
British-Nigerian singer and songwriter Ola Onabule has released a new album, Soul Encounter, following his recent collaboration with German radio orchestra, the SWR Big Band.
Featuring new arrangements of nine songs drawn from across Onabule’s extensive career, the album follows the singer’s acclaimed 2019 concept album, Point Less and was recorded in the Grammy-nominated SWR Big Band’s home in Stuttgart.
The featured track, Soul Town originally appeared on Onabule’s 2004 album, In Emergency, Brake Silence and has since become a modern soul classic. It came to major prominence in 2015 when Disco Soul Gold re-released a remix and it went on to occupy the Number One position on charts including the UK Soul Chart, Amazon and Sweet Rhythm.
Soul Encounter follows a sustained period of working with big bands across the world for Onabule and includes the recent single Every Prey and dynamic new versions of Onabule favourites Swinging Wide and Be A Man, from his Seven Shades Darker album.
Ola Onabule (publicity photo)
20 May 2022Newly discovered Ella Fitzgerald recording set for June release
A previously unreleased recording of a live concert featuring the late, great jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald is due on June 24th.
Recorded at the Hollywood Bowl in August 1958, just a few months after the singer recorded Ella Fitzgerald Sings The Irving Berlin Songbook, the recording features fifteen songs from that now-classic album with accompaniment from a full orchestra. The music was conducted and arranged by Paul Weston, who also arranged and conducted the studio sessions.
The recording, of a concert that marked the only time that Ella Fitzgerald performed these iconic arrangements live with a full orchestra, was recently discovered in Verve Records founder, record producer and jazz impresario Norman Granz’s private collection.
Grammy Award-winning producer and musician Gregg Field, who played drums with Fitzgerald in her later years, mixed the live tracks from the original ¼" tapes. The album comes with liner notes about the concert and Ella Fitzgerald's Songbook series by author and music critic, Will Friedwald.
Ella at the Hollywood Bowl is available to pre-order here
10 May 2022Bass legend Buster Williams among musicians set for Glasgow Jazzfest
Double bass legend Buster Williams, UK-based Latin Jazz outfit Trypl, trumpeter Ryan Quigley’s big band, pianists Brian Kellock and Fergus McCreadie and saxophonists Matt Carmichael, Paul Towndrow, Brian Molley, Rachel Duns and Binker Golding are among the attractions announced for Glasgow Jazz Festival, which runs from Thursday 16th to Sunday 19th June.
Williams, who was a fixture in Herbie Hancock’s Mwandishi group of the early 1970s and whose credits include work with Mary Lou Williams, Sarah Vaughan, Nancy Wilson, Miles Davis and Sphere, brings his quartet which features former Return to Forever drummer Lenny White to St Luke’s on Sunday 19th June.
The festival’s opening night programme includes two generations of Scottish jazz pianists, Brian Kellock and Fergus McCreadie playing solo sets in a double bill at the City Halls Recital Room. Also appearing in a line-up that’s spread across the city are singers Anita Wardell, Georgia Cecile and Marianne McGregor
24 April 2022Famously productive jazz summer course comes to Strathallan in July
The Richard Michael Jazz Summer Course is due to take place at Strathallan School in Perthshire from 3rd to 8th July.
Led by Michael, who has been the inspirational director of Fife Youth Jazz Orchestra for almost fifty years, the course has encouraged dozens of musicians to further their interest and careers in jazz.
The multi-award-winning young pianist Fergus McCreadie, whose latest album, Forest Floor, topped the official UK Jazz & Blues chart and has earned numerous five-star reviews, credits the course in general and Richard Michael in particular with sparking and fostering his interest in jazz. Musicians at all levels and of all ages are encouraged to participate.
More information is available from the course website here or by calling 07719 985700.
20 April 2022SNJO releases acclaimed Where Rivers Meet set on CD
The Scottish National Jazz Orchestra has released the CD of its acclaimed concert series, Where Rivers Meet in an extensively revised form on Spartacus Records.
Originally available as a download only in October 2021, the music celebrates four of the pioneering saxophonists from the vibrant period during the 1960s, when the then “new jazz” reflected turbulent times in America through a blues-driven, gospel-fired, free-spirited approach.
“The download of Where Rivers Meet gave a true reflection of the music as it was performed live and showcased the essential spontaneity of a jazz orchestra in performance,” says SNJO founder-director, saxophonist Tommy Smith. “However, listening to the recordings from a distance, it was possible to detect imperfections that would have been caught in a studio recording. So the new version has the spirit of the original but with tweaks that straighten out these imperfections. It’s the same music but quite a different listening experience.”
Where Rivers Meet itself is a product of Covid times. A four-concert series, it was staged in the 12th century St Giles’ Cathedral in Edinburgh in May 2021 during the SNJO’s silver jubilee year and streamed to audiences watching remotely due to restrictions in attendance at live performances.
“The setting of St Giles was really inspiring,” says Smith. “. Everyone in the orchestra really put their hearts and souls into the music. It’s just unfortunate that we couldn’t have an audience with us to share the event in situ.”
Where Rivers Meet comprises four suites dedicated to saxophonists Albert Ayler, Anthony Braxton, Ornette Coleman and Dewey Redman. The music was arranged by Paul Harrison, Paul Towndrow, Tommy Smith and Geoffrey Keezer and saxophonists Martin Kershaw, Konrad Wiszniewski, Paul Towndrow and Tommy Smith are the featured soloists.
The project enjoyed critical acclaim at the time of the streamed performances. London Jazz News described Wiszniewski’s contribution as “beguiling” and remarked on the arrangement of Dewey’s Tune from the Redman suite as providing “a prime example of big band bounce.” And leading jazz blog Bebop Spoken Here found Towndrow's interpretation and execution of Coleman's compositions “triumphant.”
13 April 2022Guitarist Nigel Price outlines the parlous state of the UK's live jazz scene
Award-winning guitarist Nigel Price has called on Nadine Dorries to give support to the UK’s jazz live scene as it faces a parlous financial situation following the Covid pandemic.
In a letter to the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, endorsed by Dame Cleo Laine and a large group of prominent musicians, educators, promoters and media representatives, Price has drawn attention to a serious lack of funding of the UK’s grassroots jazz infrastructure.
“I have appealed to Ms Dorries to ensure that financial support for this vital part of the UK’s jazz heritage is not overlooked in the Government’s well-documented push to kick start the Arts following the pandemic,” says Price. "We have already lost a number of promoters and venues who have succumbed to the dire financial straits faced by the jazz scene."
The letter addresses five key points:
Lack of accessibility to funding to those without dedicated premises and/or company status.
Disparity in funding between large and small venues.
The fiercely competitive nature of the Arts Council of England’s bidding process leading to a higher
Incidence of failure amongst grassroots promoters.
The urgent need for a simpler process to get help to these smaller venues.
A reply from DCMS has left Price and the 68 signatories to his letter, all of whom are winners of the Parliamentary Jazz Awards (the UK’s most prestigious annual jazz prizes) feeling that their claims have been dismissed.
“It’s clear that if we want a live artform that creates work for hundreds of musicians and means so much to so many people across the country to have any kind of future on these islands, then we are going to have to be prepared to fight for it,” says Price.
Price hopes that his initial exchange with the DCMS will be the beginning rather than the end of the discussion and will prompt wider action to support the people who keep the jazz scene alive, many of whom are volunteers who give up a great deal of their spare time to run weekly gigs through a love of the music.
16 March 2022Singer-songwriter Lizabett Russo releases new album
Romania-born, Edinburgh-based singer-songwriter Lizabett Russo releases a new album, While I Sit and Watch This Tree Volume 2 in November.
Featuring six original songs, the traditional Scottish ballad House Carpenter and a Romanian poem, Hora Unirii, the album merges Russo’s native Romanian traditions with elements of avant-garde folk and world music.
Russo plays classical guitar and charango, and is accompanied by Scottish guitarist Graeme Stephen (electric guitar, loops/effects, piano) and the Dutch duo of Oene van Geel (viola, percussion, zundert glass) and Udo Dermadt (adufe, udu and various percussion).
The album is released on the Last Night from Glasgow label and reflects Russo’s journey from an eighteen-year-old introverted student living away from home for the first time through finding her voice initially in open mic sessions and blossoming into an internationally regarded artist with a style that is all her own.