In the lead up to the 2016 edition of the TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival, Coastal Jazz asked various members of the jazz "family" to share their thoughts about artists who will perform at the festival. Today, Artistic Director Ken Pickering reflects on the depth and diversity of the fifth edition of the Made in the UK collaboration.
We’re thrilled to bring on the 5th edition of Made in the UK – without question our deepest most diverse effort yet - if anything it really feels like we’re bringing it harder than ever before! From the peerless free improvisations of legendary saxophonist Evan Parker to the brilliant vocal interpretations and compositions of Irish songstress Christine Tobin, this year’s Made in the UK covers a wide swath of musical territory.
Innovative saxophonist Evan Parker is quite possibly the most frequently recorded musician on today’s improvised music scene. His discography (Emanem, psi, ECM, Clean Feed, FMP and dozens more labels) is deep and can be traced back to the late 60’s and those first recordings with John Steven’s Spontaneous Music Ensemble. I’ve been a fan since I first heard 1970’s Topography of the Lungs and have collected much of his fascinating documented history – from solo saxophone (Monoceros) to early collaborations with the Derek Bailey, to long standing ensembles such as the Schlippenbach Trio, Parker – Guy – Lytton and the EP Electro-Acoustic Ensemble naming some of the more prominent projects. I’ve been fortunate to share a lot of history with Mr. Parker. Over the years I’ve had many opportunities to hear him perform in Vancouver and around the world. The first time was 1972 in Berlin and most recently last month in Bremen at the wonderful Sendesaal. Still at the top of his game, he surprised by including some Eric Dolphy material that I’d never him reference before. His Vancouver shows will include collaborations with old and new friends and he’s also the keynote speaker at the Colloquium (at Robson Square) on June 26th.
Alexander Hawkins first came onto my radar through the Convergence Quartet with Taylor Ho Bynum, Dominic Lash and Harris Eisenstadt. I made my acquaintance with Alex (through the introduction of Harris) on a very special night in January 2013 in London that included dinner and vinyl shopping (with Jan Ole Otnaes former director of the Molde Festival). In fact it was the final evening of Evan Parker’s “Might I Suggest” festival at the Vortex featuring the ICP Orchestra with collaborators and the final ICP performances with Misha Mengelberg. The Vortex was packed out with a who’s who of musicians and fans on a most memorable night capped with cake and bubbles for all. Back to Alex – we brought him to the festival for the first time in 2014 for an excellent collaboration with Harris and Francois Houle. He was back last year with the Louis Moholo Quartet and this year he brings his fabulous trio with Neil Charles and Harris Eisenstadt. This young man is not only a major talent but also a very articulate fan and student of the music. His interviews on BBC with musicians such as Roscoe Mitchell are illuminating. Don’t miss the trio’s afternoon workshop talk at Tom Lee in advance of the Ironworks evening show.
June 28 at Tom Lee Music Hall – workshop 1pm (free)
If one is surveying vocal artistry on the 21st century UK scene, two of the more unique talents to be found are undoubtedly Gwyneth Herbert and Christine Tobin. I thought I hadn’t any super cool personal yarns to spin however I did have a chance to chat extensively with Gwyneth at Jazz Ahead over a wee dram (or two) at the Scotland booth at happy hour – to find out she’ll be on a honeymoon tour this summer with her pianist and partner Ned Cartwright! Over a half dozen albums Gwyneth has developed from jazz and swing into a artful composer of her own original compositions that are unlike anything else in jazz – with a music theatre sensibility and proficiency on instruments ranging from the ukulele to the kazoo Gwyneth Herbert is one of a kind and counts Jamie Cullum as one of her legion of fans.
Listen to Gwyneth’s version of a classic Neil Young song:
Christine Tobin on the other hand is best known as a sublime interpreter of words and song from WB Yeats to Leonard Cohen. Hailing from Dublin she’s been an integral part of the UK’s jazz and improv scenes since the 80’s. I count myself as a serious fan and in fact we’ve been talking together about a Vancouver festival play for at least three years. Her sublime album of Yeats poems of 2012 Sailing to Byzantium is one of my favourites and continues to be in rotation on my home hifi!
Matthew Halsall represents the burgeoning Manchester scene through his involvement with the important imprint Gondwana Records. If you saw the new wave piano trio GoGo Penguin last year, this was the label that gave them international lift off. The label has also released Halsall’s Gondwana Orchestra discography and that of his like-minded mates in Mammal Hands.
Mammal Hands is a trio – Nick Smart piano, Jesse Barrett drums and Jordan Smart sax - drawing on a diverse set of influences from Pharoah Sanders to Steve Reich via Bonobo and North Indian and African music.
Trumpeter Halsall is one of the leaders of the younger UK jazz set. His modal spiritual jazz synthesis of Alice Coltrane (Journey into Satchidananda) and the nu-jazz of the Cinematic Orchestra (with Cinematic drummer Luke Flowers) sounds fresh, attracting legions of younger listeners not steeped in any jazz tradition. This is a good thing. Gilles Peterson to Mr. Scruff have given Matthew Halsall props for his genre bending work in creating new sounds (with harp!) blended with late 50’s Miles and finding a new younger “hip” audience for jazz.
July 3rd – Mammal Hands and Matthew Halsall’s Gondwana Orchestra play back to back at the Roundhouse,
starting at 3:15pm and ending at 6pm
Much gratitude to John Ellson and John Nugent for their assistance and support in bringing “Made in the UK” to Vancouver.