December 31, 2016
Two albums really blew me away this year, astonishing recordings which I’ve listened to over and over again. I haven’t seen either of them on many of the top ten lists that proliferate around this time of year, so thought it worth mentioning –
Barry Guy’s “Blue Shroud” (Intakt) is an incredible and ambitious recording featuring a 14 piece band, drawing on Picasso’s Guernica, the Iraq War, the poetry of Kerry Hardie, compositions by Bach and Biber all drawn in to Guy’s own improvisational and compositional world. Definitely one of the most successful large scale compositions for improvisers I’ve heard in recent years.
A very different but also wonderful album is “Oblengths” (Leo), by Achim Kaufmann, Frank Gratkowski and Wilbert De Joode. This is the free improv recording I’ve spent the most time with this year, in my opinion the best yet by one of the most fascinating groups in improvised music today. A huge range of approaches organically making up a whole, the trio have been playing together for 14 years and have a truly special understanding.
Two other albums I’ve really enjoyed and recommend are “Dobbeltgaenger” (Cleanfeed) by the Julie Kjaer 3, and “America’s National Parks” (Cuneiform) by the great Wadada Leo Smith.
November 12, 2016
I’ve got a bunch of fun things happening at the LJF this year…
On Monday 14th I’m at I’klectic, a lovely venue in Waterloo, with Dee Byrne’s band Entropi, and also with a new project Dee and Cath Roberts have put together, a big band called the LUMEkestra
On Tuesday 15th I’m playing in a new trio with the wonderful cornet player Kirk Knuffke, who’s over from New York with Matt Wilson’s band. We’ll be playing trio with Mark Sanders, an early set at the Vortex Downstairs (the bar below the main venue), one set from 6pmish
On Thursday 17th at 2pm I’m part of a free event combining a talk by Professor Mark Smith (University of South Carolina) on Jazz and Everyday Aesthetics with a performance by the Mike Fletcher Trio (with me and Jeff Williams), taking place at the University of Westminster
And finally – an album launch! I’m about to release a duo CD called ‘Of Tides’, with the amazing pianist Achim Kaufmann. Recorded live at the Vortex in Dec 2014, it’s been a little while in the works but we’ll be launching it, back at the Vortex on Sunday 20th at 7.30pm (a double bill with the Camilla George Quartet)
October 21, 2016
I’d really pleased to announce the imminent release of a new album, duo with one of my very favourite pianists, Achim Kaufmann. it’s taken us a little while, it was recorded live at the Vortex in December 2014, and is coming out now on the Babel label. We’ll be launching it with a gig as part of the London Jazz Festival, at the Vortex on November 20th (a double bill with Camilla George) – available from me at gigs, or from the Babel website shortly…
May 14, 2016
Here’s an interview I did for Peter Bacon’s ‘Jazz Breakfast’ blog:
May 4, 2016
I’m really delighted to have the opportunity to tour with my quintet in the coming weeks, and am currently in the process of writing a new set of compositions, which we will perform on the tour and then record shortly afterwards. The tour dates are as follows:
24/05/16 – The Spotted Dog, Birmingham
25/05/26 – Dempsey’s, Cardiff
26/05/16 – Soundcellar, Poole
27/05/16 – Fusebox, Leeds
29/05/16 – Future Inns, Bristol (afternoon gig)
30/05/16 – The Wonder Inn, Manchester
31/05/16 – Jazz Café, Newcastle
01/06/16 – The Lescar, Sheffield
02/06/16 – The Vortex, London
The first music I remember discovering in a truly mind-blowing way, that didn’t primarily come from my parent’s record collection but expanded my horizons and changed my sense of the world, was the blues of Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Robert Johnson, Son House and Mississippi Fred McDowell. The next discovery to have a similar impact was the music of Ornette Coleman and Albert Ayler – a cassette with Ornette’s ‘Change of the Century’ on one side and Ayler’s ‘The Hilversum Session’ on the other, not-at-all incidentally both featuring Don Cherry. I’ve been thinking recently about these two revelations, as I’ve been writing new music for my quintet and contemplating what I really want to do as a composer.
When I first heard Ornette and Ayler, I immediately and instinctively heard them as intimately related to the blues I already loved – and less obviously heard in both things a spirit very familiar from the liturgical music I heard and sang in synagogue; emotional, mysterious music with an intense vocal quality and sense of complete commitment and abandonment, droning, melancholy yet also joyous, and a collective, communal process of generating melody and harmony. Jazz and blues are the music of a diaspora community. I am not going to explore in depth here the complex history of the origins of jazz, but I think we can all accept that it is in its origin an African-American art form, a communal expression of a people forcibly transported from their homelands into the melting pot that was the early USA. The experience of collective music making as a way of remembering the past, fostering a sense of congregation, mourning loss and celebrating joy is an experience probably common to all diaspora communities, and one which I certainly recognise in my own upbringing in a religious Jewish family.
Comparing communities and drawing parallels between their experiences is always a sensitive and complicated activity, and I’m not trying to make any grand claims here. I am also most definitely not trying to stake any kind of historical claim of Jews to Israel – much too complex a topic for this essay! – but I do feel that the Ashkenazi London community that I grew up in tail end of (another history too complicated for me to do justice to here) was a diaspora community in the sense that its rituals, memories, stories and music drew on a shared sense of coming from somewhere else. This ‘somewhere else’ was not a straightforward concept – my own Jewish family roots were Ashkenazi from Poland and Latvia, but I attended a synagogue with a large Iraqi and Indian congregation alongside the Eastern European one, and was also lucky enough to be exposed to Moroccan, Spanish/Portuguese, Hasidic and other traditions. The beautiful, yearning singing in all of these congregations harked back both to a past in Poland/Morocco/wherever, and a more Biblical-derived sense of place.
In the music I’ve been composing for this tour I’ve been experimenting with drawing on the Jewish music of my childhood as an equivalent source to the way I hear the blues, gospel and African elements in so much of my favourite Jazz. I am not writing music that draws much on Klezmer (much as I love Naftule Brandwein) or that uses Jewish music as a style or genre – I won’t be approaching Tzaddik with the new album! Rather I want to draw on Jewish liturgical music as melodic material, and as emotional material. I have used snippets of remembered melodies as starting points to compose from, and tried to find ways to draw on the emotional experience of a congregation singing these tunes that is applicable to five improvising musicians.
The emotional content of music is of course much harder to define than the melodic content. I feel that the synagogue experiences of my childhood directly inform my conviction that improvised music should be a transcendental experience. I have often been reminded at gigs of the impact of being involved in a roomful of people experiencing abandonment to some kind of higher truth or spiritual experience through singing together. Although I am not religious as an adult, this experience feels directly related to the impact of concerts I’ve heard from the likes of Evan Parker, Paul Dunmall, Wadada Leo Smith, Lol Coxhill, Tony Malaby and countless others. One night in particular has always stuck in my mind, hearing a specific gig in February 2009 when Evan Parker, Paul Dunmall, Paul Rogers and Tony Levin levitated the Vortex… that intensity, commitment, engagement feels to me like one of the most wonderful things about this music, and something I always aspire to in my own work.
These are only some of the things I’ve been thinking about. Other recent influences have included becoming quite obsessed with the novels, poetry and criticism of the astonishing writer Nathaniel Mackey. I’ve also been investigating and falling in love with the incredible work of trumpeter/composer Wadada Leo Smith, as well as poring over the Billie Holiday complete Columbia recordings, The New York Art Quartet album ‘Mowhawk’ and the recently released Sonny Rollins Village Gate 1962 boxset… These and countless other things all feed into the complex mix that is influence at any given time, but this essay is already by far the longest thing I’ve ever written about my music, so I might leave it at that for now!
March 28, 2016
Very excited about this! And very grateful for the generous support of the Arts Council… more information to follow soon…
September 15, 2015
I’m really delighted to have a little run of gigs in October with one of my very favourite projects, a trio with the incredible Toby Delius and Mark Sanders. We released our debut album ‘Somersaults’ back in March 2015 – here’s some footage from the session:
We’ll be touring England from the 4th – 7th October, these are the full details:
04/10/15 – The Bridge Hotel, Newcastle. 8pm, £8 (£6 concessions). Jazz North East (http://jazznortheast.com/event_detail.php?event_id=226)
05/10/15 – Spa Inn Function Room, Derby. 6pm, £onebankofenglandnote. 2ndline (http://2ndline.coreymwamba.co.uk/deliusbricesanders)
06/10/15 – Fizzle, Lamp Tavern, Birmingham. With very special guest Paul Dunmall! Two of the greatest tenor players in the world in one room!!! 7.30pm, £5 (http://improvisationuk.wix.com/fizzlebirmingham)
07/10/15 – Vortex, London. 8pm, £10 (http://www.vortexjazz.co.uk/event/deliusbricesanders/)
July 18, 2015
I’m really pleased to announce a new release – an album of duo improvisations with the wonderful tenor saxophonist Tom Challenger. Tom and I recorded last autumn, in a very quick and enjoyable recording session in Alex Bonney’s living room (Alex recorded, mixed and mastered the album). I’m really pleased with this recording, Tom is incredible and the duo felt very natural from the moment we started playing.
The album is download only, there aren’t any physical copies. You can stream and/or buy the album here:
We’ll be playing a duo set on the 30th of August as part of a 3 day improv festival at 100 years Gallery in Hoxton, London – more details to follow…
April 28, 2015
Thought I’d share a couple of things here from projects I’ve been involved in recently.
The Mike Fletcher Trio, with Jeff Williams on drums, has been the band I’ve been most active in in 2015. We’ve done a fair bit of touring, mainly thanks to Mike being selected as one of the European Concert Hall Organisation’s Rising Stars. It’s a band I love playing in, with two of my favourite musicians and some great tunes. Our debut album ‘vuelta’ came out in January, details here.
Here’s a video of the trio playing at the CBSO Centre in Birmingham:
Another project I’ve been particularly pleased to be part of is Alex Ward’s Quintet / Sextet. His Quintet piece ‘Glass Shelves and Floors’ features Rachel Musson, Hannah Marshall, Tom Jackson, me and of course Alex, and has just been released on Copepod Records. It’s a pretty incredible piece of work in my opinion, combining densely composed sections, free improvisation, conducted improvising, pitch sets and all sorts of other good stuff… Alex has simultaneously released a live and studio version as a double album – you can both hear and buy them here:
We’ve also recorded some further pieces of Alex’s as a sextet (with Steve Noble added on drums) – details to follow…
March 24, 2015
I’m very pleased to announce the release of a new album, Somersaults, on Two Rivers Records. The album is a freely improvised trio recording, featuring two of my very favourite musicians, Tobias Delius (tenor, clarinet) and Mark Sanders (drums).
Thanks to Alya at Two River Records for the incredible support and getting it out so quickly!
We’re selling copies at gigs, or I can post to anywhere in the UK if you click here:
It will also shortly be available (digital download and CD) from the Two Rivers bandcamp page, where you will be able to listen to a track