Thursday, 8 June 2017

Somewhat in the way that the early part of the year passed me by, so May has done the same! I'm looking forward to going to the Love Supreme Festival at the end of this month and I caught part of the Lyme Regis Festival a couple of weeks ago. So what has prevented me from keeping this blog up to date?
  Mainly it's because it's time for Phonic FM to re-apply for its licence which we have to do every five years. It ought to be a straightforward process, but because so many Community Radio Stations have been facing difficulties with funding the requirements to prove financial stability are becoming more stringent. This hasn't been helped by the fact that our financial year ends in October and the only figures we were able to produce based on our last set of accounts were deemed to have too large a gap in being able to prove that we're stable and solvent. This being the case we've had to ask our new accountant to provide meaningful figures so that we can bridge the gap. A second impediment has been that the regulator requires us to estimate how much volunteer time we use, and to cost those figures against a formula that they have laid out. I ought to add that as Director I'm deemed to be a more valuable asset than anyone else who works just as hard! So jazz, for the time being has had to take a secondary role to ensure that the station stays on air after February 2018. Incidentally, assuming we get a re-award of the licence it'll start on the tenth anniversary of it coming on air. We aim to celebrate somehow!
  I ought also to mention the pleasure I get from having listeners who get in touch and ask "Have you heard so and so, it's great?" It enables me to find out about artists and music that has either slipped past me or has such a small circulation that you have to hunt past outlets like Amazon to find a distributor. It's often only available on the artists website or from them at gigs.. However, even more frustrating is when you are recommended something that you can't find by an artist that has a quite high profile. A recent example of this is "Stretch Music" by Christian Scott whom I saw at Love Supreme a couple of years ago. He's a great trumpet player, but this album doesn't appear to have had a release as a CD or on download in Britain. I've been offered a vinyl copy (extortionate!) or a Japanese import CD (completely ridiculous), but no CD version. I live in hope that my friend Ian will be able to get a CD when he comes back from the States at the end of the month.
 Finally, there's a ridiculous amount of good new material being released so you can expect a resume of a new Ahmad Jamal album soon, as well as news of what's happening in the world of Zara McFarlane, who at the time of writing has a new single out on Brownswood, which seems to precede a potential album release later in the year. I'm also trying to fix up an overdue interview with Emily Saunders who had a knee operation on the day she was due to appear as a guest - get well soon.

Sunday, 30 April 2017

So far this year has been a blur. Not because of any of the usual stimulants but because time is rushing past and there are so many things to do and write about.
  2017 has already been a pretty eventful year in jazz. Quite often there's a short period in the late winter/early spring where recorded jazz goes through a dormant spell....but not this year! It's also been pretty eventful as far as gigs are concerned. I'm not even going to try and cover in any great depth the plethora of music that I've been playing and listening to, but instead mention some of those that have particularly appealed. Thereafter, as I seem to mention most years, I'll try keep up with events of a more regular basis. I'd also offer holidays as a reason for tardiness, but that's another set of  events altogether!
 Difficult to slim down the number of CD's to talk about, but I'll start with "Isang" by The Camilla George Quartet. Not only does her pedigree from involvement in Jazz Jamaica show through, but she also writes some mean tunes. I'd also especially mention the piano playing of Sarah Tandy. "The behemoth" by Phronesis has also been an unexpected pleasure. It features Bib Band arrangements from assorted material from their first six(?) albums, but beautifully arranged for the Frankfurt Radio Big Band by Julian Arguilles. Enjoyed it a lot. Also played a lot of tracks from "ABUC" by Roberto Fonseca whose previous albums only gave a hint of the full on nature of the Caribbean  music that is unleashed here. Be interesting to see what comes next.
  One of the great joys of compiling Tuesday's show on a Sunday night is the opportunity to play some laid back stuff late at night. Quite whether it translates into music for Tuesday afternoons is sometime debatable, but one of the great releases in this category is "Up and Coming" by John Abercrombie Quartet. Languid sometimes barely describes it, but I love his playing and the band are luminary in their own right. Mellow mood music an great jazz. Certainly NOT falling into any such category is "Cubafonia" by Dayme Arocenaan out and out energy surge from an artist much championed by Gilles Peterson. It's a joyous album with a whole range of Afro Caribbean styles that is thoroughly recommended. I've also enjoyed t " Landed in Brooklyn" by Julian and Roman Wasserfuhr. One of the other features of this year is the amount of good European Jazz that is being produced, and this (together with my next selection) exemplifies what's happening in Germany. Some great compositions and as well as the main artists on trumpet and piano respectively a welcome input from Donny McCaslin, who played sax on the last David Bowie album. Which leads on to "Sooner and Later" by Julia Hulsmann Trio. I think she's used the same trio on all her ECM recordings and the ease of playing and the quality of the compositions is an absolute delight. I'm hoping to see them play live this summer. Final European choice is "The Roc" by Daniel Herskedal. As I've written elsewhere, the Tuba may sound like an instrument with a limiting range, but Herskedal has made sure that the instrument, together with his bass trumpet forms the basis of some wonderfully composed and performed music.

  Finally Pete Canter came onto the show to talk about and play tracks from his album "Strange Bird" played by Pete Canter's Sky Ensemble. Pete has been experimenting with all sorts of instruments and this album is the fruits of his attempt to fuse elements of folk music with jazz. The recorded version has quintet playing, but recently he's expanded the group to a sextet, and seems destined to add further instruments to further enhance the high quality of what is on offer. It's an exceptional piece of work from a hard working local musician (who incidentally runs the Bridge Jazz Club on the first Wednesday of every month at the Phoenix in Exeter)

I'll have to leave  this blog at just the recordings, but next up will be some live gigs and some updates about the radio station itself.