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Friday 3 September 2010

Soft Machine Legacy £15

John Etheridge Guitars Theo Travis Saxes, flute, electronics
Roy Babbington Bass John Marshall Drums

John Etheridge

John Etheridge

Our autumn kicks off with a remarkable quartet, including three musicians who individually represent the cream of modern jazz from the last thirty years, while also performing in arguably the premier British jazz-rock band.

John Marshall was also in another contender, Nucleus, and went on to work internationally with many other remarkable bands with Gil Evans, Eberhard Weber, John Surman and others.

Roy was rooted in the pre-prog Canterbury scene by the age of 21, in the band Delivery with Lol Coxhill and Pip Pyle, going on to play with Keith Tippett and Mike Gibbs, before also joining the orbit of Nucleus. Roy later cemented a huge reputation in jazz over several years, gigging with Mose Allison, Stan Tracey and the BBC Big Band.

John and Roy's time in Soft Machine covers the significant, fertile period from the album Fourth through to the Bundles and Softs recordings, the latter being the entry point for John Etheridge, another extraordinary musician. His early playing ranged from teenage jams with Eric Clapton to offshoots of Curved Air (Wolf) and Deep Purple (Warhorse); following his years in the later Soft Machine line-ups, he has established bands with fellow guitarist John Williams, Nigel Kennedy, Danny Thompson, Biréli Lagrène, Andy Summers and, perhaps most notably, Stéphane Grappelli. Alongside this already unmatchable variety, he's also established the Zappa tribute group Zappatistas.

The first version of tonight's band featured the much-missed band original Elton Dean; in his place we have Theo, already a highly accomplished bandleader and composer before he became a fixture in several prog bands. Theo has performed with Gong, Richard & David Sinclair (of Caravan and Hatfield and the North), Robert Fripp and David Sylvian; he appears on over 90 albums to date, including Marshall Travis Wood with John Marshall and Meditations with Uri Geller.

Atop these impeccable prog credentials is the fact that Theo has collaborated with Jonathan Coe, who wrote the lyrics to two songs on Theo's album Earth to Ether, to be sung by Richard Sinclair. Jonathan has credited Theo's recording Slow Life as inspiration for The Rain Before It Falls, to be heard later this month interpreted by Alex Maguire, keyboard maestro in the reformed Hatfield and The North!

Having disseminated enough prog-jazz rockery for an A Level, we should look forward to the gig itself, which could feature Hugh Hopper and Mike Ratledge pieces as well as new material from the band; they are planning new live and studio albums, with a current CD, Steam being produced by prog legend Jon 'Colosseum' Hiseman.

For more information see: www.johnetheridge.com, www.theotravis.com,
and Roy Babbington and John Marshall's pages on Wikipedia.

Friday 10 September 2010

Kit Downes Trio £12/£10

Kit Downes Piano Calum Gourlay Bass James Maddren Drums

Kit Downes Trio

Kit Downes Trio

Kit Downes and his equally talented bandmates are currently conjuring some of the most gorgeous sounds to emanate from this not underused combination of instruments – a fact recognised by the Mercury Music Prize organisers; the Trio's CD Golden is one of the most worthy of the Mercury's jazz candidates to have a chance of beating the odds this year.

Kit will probably be too busy to worry too much, having already acquired several jazz-related gongs. As an original member of award-winners Empirical, he toured North America; he is now in Clark Tracey's newest Sextet, and has performed widely with Dennis Rollins, Gilad Atzmon, Fraud, Matthew Herbert and Acoustic Ladyland. He's due back here soon in the Neon Quartet, another starry line-up.

Calum is another name to watch, having worked with Tommy Smith, Martin Speake and Tom Cawley; coming originally from Scotland, he played with the Colin Steele Quintet and the Scottish NJO. He's led several of his own groups already, including a quintet featuring Gareth Lockrane and tonight's drummer.

James is well-known for sparkling appearances with Marc Copeland, Stan Sulzmann and with Gwilym Simcock's trio; he's on Claire Martin's recent CD A Modern Art, alongside Gareth Williams, Laurence Cottle and Nigel Hitchcock.

The Trio has already existed for a relatively mature five years, and has developed a style that shows influences from Bartok to Keith Jarrett. They're playing a short tour around the UK and Ireland with odd gigs on the Continent; there is exclusive video of the band available on the Guardian website, as part of the Mercury prize coverage.

For more information see www.kitdownes.com and Kit's MySpace page.

Friday 17 September 2010

Tony Kofi Trio £12/£10

Tony Kofi Alto sax Dave Chamberlain Bass Rod Youngs Drums

Tony Kofi

Tony Kofi by Helena Dornellas

The impressive rise of this master saxophonist and flautist looks likely to continue for some considerable time. Tony has proved to be an extraordinary presence in many projects, all of them evidence of a massively committed musician. These include his quartet with Jonathan Gee exploring the entirety of Thelonious Monk's compositions, with Byron Wallen's Indigo, the Eric Dolphy tribute with Chris Biscoe and the tours with visionary composers Andrew Hill, Abdullah Ibrahim, Sam Rivers and David Murray. The latter led to a further milestone, when Murray invited Tony to join the ranks of the legendary World Saxophone Quartet, with suitably worldwide tours following.

Another invitation came from Ornette Coleman's 'Prime Time' bassist Jamaaladeen Tacuma, whose quartet Tony joined for gigs and a live recording; now Tacuma has masterminded a new project featuring Coleman, an album entitled For The Love Of Ornette. To be invited to join this endeavour alongside stars from the US, Europe and Japan would be impressive enough; Tacuma's proposal to this renowned alto, baritone and soprano saxophonist was that he perform on tenor for the first time. Tony responded, and the recording sessions in New York are concluded, with a release expected soon.

This new trio explores jazz standards, and features on bass a highly experienced musician; Dave's regular bands include the accomplished quintet led by Osian Roberts and Steve Fishwick with whom he's recorded two CDs; he also gigs with Frank Griffith, the Dave Newton Trio and the Garrick Group, featuring father and son team Michael and Gabriel.

Rod is a percussionist of impressive range across many forms of music; originally from Washington, DC, he works with Denys Baptiste and Abram Wilson in acclaimed bands. He's also gigged with Ernest Ranglin, Ronnie Laws, Don Braden and Courtney Pine; he must be one of very few musicians to have recorded extensively with Gil Scott Heron, as well as gigging in a trio with cool jazz veterans Lee Konitz and Peter Ind.

For more information see www.tonykofimusic.com.

Friday 24 September 2010

Alex Maguire featuring Lynette Densham £12/£10

Alex Maguire Piano Lynette Densham Actress

Alex Maguire

Alex Maguire

Alex Maguire is a musician and composer who defies pigeonholing, and confirms this with his appearance here.

Since his earliest work with Steve Noble, he has brought a unique sensibility to his music, being influenced by theatre and dance as much as standard jazz, free improvisation and South African township.

The latter two were certainly evident with his ebullient nine-piece group Cat O' Nine Tales; since that time he has performed in Tony Oxley's Celebration Orchestra and with Louis Moholo, Derek Bailey, Paul Dunmall and Tristan Honsinger, and around Europe as MD for theatre and dance companies. Many collaborations with the late Elton Dean include Dean's Newsense, and the quartet Psychic Warrior, also featuring Liam Genockey and Fred 'Thelonious' Baker; he also formed memorable duos with the saxophonists Michael Moore and Sean Bergin, and leads a fusion sextet based in Belgium.

His commanding technique on the piano has recently become extended to Hammond organ, Korg synth and Fender Rhodes; he's now using these to great effect as keyboardist for reformed Canterbury band Hatfield and the North, which has been touring as far as Japan. He also took part earlier his year in a special project, premiered in Modena; Comicoperando draws together these elements in a tribute to the music of Robert Wyatt, including Henry Cow vocalist Dagmar Krause, Caravan/Hatfield's Richard Sinclair, Annie Whitehead, Gilad Atzmon and John Edwards.

Jonathan Coe is of course enthused both as writer and keen musician by the music of the Canterbury scene, particularly the Hatfield's-inspired The Rotters' Club. Coe is renowned for his ability produce authentic, convincing voices for the varied characters in his novels, from the teenagers of The Rotters' Club to the melancholic heart of The Rain Before It Falls.

In a departure from the satirical edge of What A Carve Up! and others, the piece which inspired this evening features a female narrator in a moving reminiscence covering four generations, and weaving in the formats of photography and audiotape. The writing of the book was inspired by Theo Travis's multi-tracked flute CD Slow Life; the title comes from a piece by Mike Gibbs, from his orchestral CD By The Way and the Gary Burton ECM album Seven Songs for Quartet and Orchestra.

Tonight's performance of The Rain Before It Falls will form the second set, and features text especially arranged by Jonathan, with music he and Alex chose for the occasion; the collaboration was premiered at last year's Cheltenham Literary Festival to great acclaim. The clever structure of the book introduces several women over half a century, and tonight Lynette Densham will bring these characters to life. Alex's first set will showcase his breadth of talent, in music by Herbie Nichols, Ellington, Hugh Hopper and the Hatfields' stable, plus Maguire originals.

For more information see Alex's MySpace page, Jonathan Coe's Wikipedia page, and Patrick Ness's Guardian book review.