Jazzy June

Ryan’s gigs: a neglected Jamaican trumpet star, a punch collective, a rising Brummie saxophonist and tunes from a Baked Potato

Thursday, 9th June — By Rob Ryan


The SF Jazz Collective play the Barbican on June 25

“THERE’S a great trumpeter over in England: a guy who’s got soul and originality and, above all, who’s not afraid to blow with fire.” So said Miles Davis on hearing Kingston-born trumpeter Dizzy Reece (b.1931), one of several key figures of Caribbean origin who ignited the London jazz scene of the 50s and 60s.

Miles was not one for unearned praise and Reece was certainly a player who deserved to be better known – despite recording albums for Blue Note he has stayed a cult figure. Maybe two trumpeters called Dizzy was too much for the public to handle.

Pianist Trevor Watkis would like to change that and on Saturday, June 18, he is presenting a celebration of Dizzy R as part of the Coronet Theatre Jazz Festival (June 15-18) over in Notting Hill Gate.

This festival is being curated by Byron Wallen, another trumpeter who “blows with fire” (and plays on the Reece gig) and who also should be more widely known and appreciated. Not only a great technician, Wallen is an emotive and lyrical player with a wide-ranging repertoire – he has absorbed influences from across the world and is especially fascinated by the gwana traditions of Morocco. He also plays a mean conch (I’m serious – he can make those shells sing and swing).

The curator appears in many settings over the four days, including his own bands Indigo and Four Corners (both June 16).

There’s also music from fast rising stars Cameron Scott (euphonium and trombone, June 17) and Sultan Stevenson on piano (June 18) plus vocals from Cinematic Orchestra powerhouse Heidi Vogel (also June 18). With several enticing shows a night and an entry of just £15 per performance, Wallen’s collection is well worth a trip along the Central Line. Tickets: https://www.thecoronettheatre.com/whats-on/the-coronet-theatre-jazz-festival/

The nine-piece SF Jazz Collective is in town at the Barbican on June 25. Like much of Byron Wallen’s work, this is jazz with a strong political undertow. In the past the leaderless ensemble has concentrated on celebrating a single artist, but its new release Reflecting the Moment is concerned with racial injustice and the struggle for freedom across the world, hence the inclusion of pieces by Abbey Lincoln and Marvin Gaye amid a slew of originals.

The new line-up includes three fabulous performers in their own right – Chris Potter on saxes, vocalist Gretchen Parlato and drummer Kendrick Scott – joining the likes of David Sanchez on tenor and trumpeter Etienne Charles. It’ll be a powerful evening of jazz as social commentary.

It is part of the EFG London Jazz Festival Summer Season which also includes keyboard kings Herbie Hancock and Brad Mehldau and samba queen Marisa Monte. Tickets for all shows, including SF Jazz, from serious.org.uk/barbican

• We have mentioned Monday’s Jazz at the Oxford Tavern in Kentish Town before, but this is a reminder to check the website (jazzattheoxfordtavern.com) regularly because organiser Will Arnold-Forster keeps tempting top musicians to NW5.

June is no exception – I am especially looking forward to sax-man-of-the-moment Xhosa Cole, part of the wave of new talent from Birmingham and a former BBC Young Jazz Musician of the Year who appears on the 20th.

But every Monday at the Oxford has something worth a look and listen. Did I mention entry is just a tenner?

If you are a fan of the Canterbury scene and its various offshoots, might I point you to the new Cuneiform Records release, Facelift: France & Holland, which features Soft Machine in its absolute 1970 pomp, as a quintet (with sax/harmonica player Lyn Dobson in the short-lived line-up). It is a double CD with a live DVD, and the latter is worth the price alone, standing as a reminder of what a great, if unconventional, drummer Robert Wyatt was.

The current incarnation of Soft Machine, which features local guitar whiz John Etheridge, plays Ronnie Scott’s on June 20 and despite the years and the changes of name and personnel, the new boys have been known to dip deep into the back catalogue for a couple of numbers, although their own repertoire is equally compelling – see the album Live At the Baked Potato (the title refers to an LA jazz club rather than being a piece of Canterbury-style whimsy).

Tickets: ronniescotts.co.uk

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