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that acted as a prelude to the five Saturday-night bands. All the bands over the three days were selected by a 60-strong jury of Belgians. The first two Saturday night bands were piano trios – the Pascal Mohy Trio followed by De Beren Gieren. Mohy was described as raffiné (“refined”) in the introduction and played a basic if highly educated warm up set, with a version of Coltrane’s ‘Crescent’ a highlight, leaving Fulco Ottervanger of De Beren Gieren to show a bit more attitude with some flashy high dive tinkling and avant licks. Reeds player Joachim Badenhorst was next and gave impressive technical circular breathing solo displays on the clarinet, tenor saxophone and bass clarinet which had its moments, but at times just seemed like practice routines. The evening came to a conclusion with two bands that had more to say. The first of these was Collapse, a quartet that used the template of Atlantic period Ornette Coleman to impressive effect. Cédric Favresse’s wagging and wailing saxophone style was sufficiently different from the model of Ornette to carve a little bit of new ground for the group and trumpeter Jean-Paul Estiévenart showed lots of promise loading up his lines channelled through Don Cherry as if interpreted by Tomasz Stanko on a day off. Collapse, like so many young bands across Europe, are taking to Ornette’s music like never before, but perhaps their approach is a little too easy to read. Hamster Axis Of The One-Click Panther were a different kettle of fish entirely. Dominated by the bar room swagger of Frederik Meulyzer who knew how to wig out and brutalise his drums, “the beasties” as the MC memorably described them released Small Zoo earlier this year on the De Werf in-house label and they know what they’re doing but need hard gigging to get the rough edges roughened up. Sunday’s two bands were radically different which just goes to show what a spread of styles was on offer. Rêve d’Eléphant Orchestra were deeply impressive in a thoroughly arranged way harnessing the moods of Debussy, the raucousness of Ellington’s jungle period, and the surreal wit of the nation. It has a great rhythm section of two drummers and a percussionist plus bass guitar, with, alongside the presence of trumpet, superb instrumental prowess on tuba and trombone from Michel Massot. Tuur Florizoone and Mixtuur were the final band to perform, characterised by the earthy woodiness of Aly Keita’s balafon, African singing and Florizoone’s infectious accordion playing which received some of the best audience reaction of the Saturday and Sunday shows. Stephen Graham

Reggie Washington Trio Charlie Wright’s, London The presence of several of his noted local counterparts – Robin Mullarkey, Nick Cohen and Oroh Angiama are all floating between the bar, restaurant and the small stage – serves notice that the visiting American is the bassman’s bassman. Indeed, many would have probably noted his substantial contribution to the music of Steve Coleman back in the mid1980s and concluded that here was a highly gifted accompanist capable of bolting down the intricate metric flutter in the saxophonist’s music all the while injecting the funkiness of the slap vocabulary without recourse to cliché. Backed by another Coleman alumnus, drummer Gene Lake, and guitarist Jef Lee Johnson, session royalty in soul and jazz for the past 20 years, Washington has plumped for the pared down, harmonically supple setting that others might baulk at, and from the leisurely but muscular opener, he makes it clear that stretching songs by way of trickster changes and expansive solos is the order of the day. The highlight comes early in the first set: a seamless segue of Beethoven’s ‘Für Elise’ and Ellington’s ‘The Mooche.’ The tempo of the former is upped and the downbeat pumped to turn its main theme into an almost James Brown style assault, while the latter is dragged into low slung, hypno dub terrain to emphasise its essentially eerie undertow. Thereafter the leader impresses with the finesse of his touch. Favouring a “mere” four-string axe unlike the all too common five- or six-string chainsaws, Washington has a lithe, beautifully purring tone when he frets while his muted riffs serve both the reggae and swing implications of the easier tempos. Having said that, when he, Lake and Johnson, who builds solos with a fascinating blend of deeply bluesy splinters and circuitously long lines, lock into a backbeat and rough it up with much tonal distortion, the spirit of Hendrix circa Band Of Gypsys is palpable. Alternatively, it is Elmore James way out to lunch. Kevin Le Gendre

Herts Jazz Festival Campus West, Welwyn Garden City It took drummer Clark Tracey’s initiative and energy, supported by Herts Jazz and the local authority arts team, to make this excellent new weekend festival happen. With a first-rate venue, a packed programme of concerts and workshops, great facilities, hard work and enthusiasm, and oh yes, enough punters, its success ensured that there will be a repeat next year. Good news. Opening on its first evening with Pete Long’s Echoes of Ellington big band, the festival’s Saturday roster included Jason Rebello, Martin Taylor, Alan Skidmore & Peter King, Leon Greening and Stan Tracey’s octet (Clark on drums, of course). By the time I arrived on Sunday, Steve Waterman’s septet was onstage in Campus West’s imposing Hawthorne Theatre and well into its array of Hancock, Dameron and Golson re-vamps, Tracey back at the drums, the playing surprisingly animated considering the early hour. While Waterman and Mark Nightingale stood out, it was pianist Nick Weldon who stole my attention. In the downstairs studio, Trudy Kerr delighted an enthusiastic audience, pianist Tom Cawley alert to her every vocal move, bassist Geoff Gascoyne and drummer Seb De Krom sensitive and swinging. Arnie Somogyi’s Scenes In The City band pursues the Mingus repertoire, the drive engendered by bassist Somogyi and yes, Tracey, giving the front-liners the impetus to go in any direction they wish. Trombonist Jeremy Price had the right kind of louche solemnity for ‘Goodbye Pork Pie Hat’ while Tony Kofi’s gruff baritone was perfect for ‘Boogie Stop-Shuffle’ and pianist Mark Edwards and Alan Barnes (on tenor) offered their creative savvy on everything. Best band of the day? For sure. Dave Newton’s trio was more conventional but none the worse for that while Tim Garland’s Electric Lighthouse Band excelled, with drummer Asaf Sirkis as its gleaming centre, alive to every nuance in Garland’s virtuoso tenor and soprano playing, guitarist Mike Outram a compelling second voice. So, just time to fit in Don Weller’s stirring all-star big band for the climactic concert before everyone scurried away, the view along the corridors that a repeat was vital. A wish fulfilled. Peter Vacher

Reykjavik Jazz Festival Iceland With its crystalline front edge angled provocatively towards the dark volcanic mountains across the bay, Reykjavik’s striking new concert and culture complex, Harpa, is a bold sign of the city’s investment in arts and culture following Iceland’s catastrophic banking collapse in 2008. Sequestered inside the smaller of Harpa’s concert halls on the opening night of the Reykjavik Jazz festival are four equally bold up and coming young ensembles who embrace the kind of far-reaching diversity and experimentalism typical of the new Scandinavian and Finnish jazz scenes, yet bring an upfront Icelandic individualism that looks set to fire the London Jazz Festival later this month. First up is pianist Sunna Gunnlaugs’ Trio whose cool atmospherics and meditative quality draws on Icelandic folk melodies and brooding soundscapes, yet internally has an unhurried Bill Evans-like swing and an appetite to explore the inner soul. By contrast guitarist Ómar Guðjónsson’s Quartet beef up the power trio concept with an additional drummer to create dense chordal textures and interlocking melodic cycles that reveal traces of Terje Rypdal and Wayne Krantz. From the country that brought you Sigur Rós and Björk – whose former trumpeter Einar Örn Benediktsson is now Reykjavik’s head of culture – expect the unexpected in the shape of the New Iceland Liberation Orchestra: a quirky octet led by saxophonist Hakur Grondhal who mix free jazz, New Orleans second line, urban grooves and electronic cut-ups of political polemics. The group that should attract most attention however is trombonist Samúel Jón Samúelsson’s Big Band: a colossal 16 piece juggernaut featuring members of the above groups alongside four trombones, four trumpets, five saxophones and percussion. Rooted in the superheavy 1970s funk of the JBs and Brass Construction and the militant Afrobeat of Fela Kuti, mixed with elements of Sun Ra and the Don Ellis Big Band, Samúelsson drives this mighty ensemble like a man possessed. And so he should. On gargantuan groovers such as ‘Chicken Street’ and ‘International Monetary Funk’ the massed banks of brass achieve a monumental, earth shifting sound that should ensure the Barbican Freestage is shaking for Scene Iceland on 12 November. Jon Newey

Sunna Gunnlaugs

Samúel Jón Samúelsson

Jazzwise \\ NOVEMBER11


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