Jazz in Elsewhere

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JONATHAN ZWARTZ: Bass player in debut album shock . . . 20 years on

22 Mar 2010  |  3 min read  |  1

Even longtime jazz listeners would be forgiven for not recognising the name of New Zealand-born double bassist Jonathan Zwartz. He left this country for Australia in the early Eighties, studied in the US while playing alongside the likes of Rufus Reid, and returned to Sydney a couple of decades ago. He can tick off playing with Pharoah Sanders, Branford Marsalis, the Laine-Dankworth... > Read more

Jonathan Zwartz: The Sea

AL DI MEOLA INTERVIEWED (2009): Guitarist from the loud to the listener

14 Mar 2010  |  17 min read

At 55, Al Di Meola -- who still lives in New Jersey close to his musical roots -- has had a long and influential career, and was one of the great innovators on electric guitar. In the late Sixties and early Seventies he played small clubs in New York and around Boston while at Berklee, but was largely an unknown when he made his debut appearance with the jazz-fusion outfit Return To Forever... > Read more

Al Di Mela: Race With Devil on Spanish Highway

MILES DAVIS, THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY (1990): Miles runs the voodoo down

22 Feb 2010  |  7 min read  |  1

When trumpeter Miles Davis turned 60 in 1986 the New York weekly Village Voice marked the occasion with a lavish 28-page supplement of essays and critical opinion. By way of introduction the editor, Gary Giddins, wrote words which seemed admirably bare and understated: “For four decades Davis has been in the forefront of American music – as a trendsetter and as a lightning rod... > Read more


21 Feb 2010  |  2 min read

Thelonious Sphere Monk was one of the most gifted -- and eccentric -- of all jazz musicians. The memorably named pianist/composer, who died in 1982 aged 64, helped define the bebop movement and his quirky, angular compositions are among the most memorable in jazz. To drive them home he gave them titles such as Epistrophy, Humph, Crepuscle With Nellie and Well You Needn't. His... > Read more

Monk/Coltrane: Nutty (1957)

Tord Gustavsen Ensemble: Restored, Returned (ECM/Ode)

14 Feb 2010  |  <1 min read  |  1

The previous album by young ECM pianist Gustavsen at Elsewhere was his trio album Being There which was named a Best of Elsewhere 2007 album. Echoes of that group's delicate beauty and vibrant muscularity are evident in this quintet with vocalist Kristin Asbjornsen who here sings lyrics adapted from W H Auden's Another Time on four of the 11 pieces. Her slightly scuffed, blues-ballad voice... > Read more

Tord Gustavsen Ensemble: Spiral Song

PIANIST VIJAY IYER PROFILED (2009): The jazzman has a master plan

8 Feb 2010  |  3 min read

Among the many things Wynton Marsalis learned from Miles Davis was this: never undersell yourself. If you know you’re a genius just say so. If you know the past and future of jazz just tell people you do. Don’t hold back, put yourself in the lineage, come off arrogant if need be. What Wynton didn’t learn was to say “and fuck you all”. He went for the grand... > Read more

Vijay Iyer Trio: Big Brother

Ben Sidran: Dylan Different (Nardis)

30 Jan 2010  |  <1 min read

There’s no shortage of Dylan tribute albums but this is certainly different: pianist-singer Sidran takes his lowkey, jazzy speak-sing style to Dylan songs in the company of a small band and guests (among them Georgie Fame). It doesn’t always work: he strips the menace and meaning out of Everything is Broken, Highway 61 Revisited and Ballad of Thin Man, but on Rainy Day Woman... > Read more

Ben Sidran: All I Really Want To Do

Underworld Vs the Misterons: Athens (K7/Border)

25 Jan 2010  |  1 min read

This might not be what some would expect from the techno stars Underworld, but this excellent compilation serves a number of purposes outside of being fascinating in its own right. It is a collection of some of their favouite tracks from the more meditative end of the musical spectrum so has a kind of neo-ambient, avant-jazz flavour, and also allows a new audience to hear for the first time... > Read more

Mahavishnu Orchestra: You Know You Know

Kevin Field, Ron Samsom, Olivier Holland: Irony (Rattle)

25 Jan 2010  |  1 min read

There's an old joke: if you want to make a million dollars out of jazz, start with two million. Jazz is notoriously unprofitable for its performers and record companies (a decent selling jazz album in the US sells about 3000 copies, the days of 50,000 are long gone) and yet people still do it. Why? Simple, because they love this music and believe that it is an art form like no other.... > Read more

Field, Samsom, Holland: Number 2

Portico Quartet: Isla (Real World/Southbound)

24 Jan 2010  |  1 min read

This second album by the British quartet confirms why they are one of the most interesting things on the British improv/jazz scene: and not because they are fiery adrenalin-infused post-bop players. Quite the opposite in fact. This London-based outfit (who were nominated for the 2008 Mercury Prize for their debut album Knee Deep in the North Sea) bridge the worlds of mainstream post-bop,... > Read more

Portico Quartet: Dawn Patrol

Tomasz Stanko: Dark Eyes (ECM/Ode)

18 Jan 2010  |  <1 min read

Polish trumpeter Stanko has been introduced previously at Elsewhere on the ocassion of his excellent Lontano album. Here with yet another line-up he essays some slightly sombre territory (The Dark Eyes of Martha Hirsch, Krzysztof Komeda's Dirge For Europe) with a kind of European stateliness which isn't quite as emotionally gripping as some of his previous work. That said, these pieces also... > Read more

Tomasz Stanko Quintet: May Sun


24 Dec 2009  |  3 min read  |  1

In August 2009, to belatedly commemorate the 40th anniversary of the release of The Beatles double album (aka The White Album of ‘68), some Australian singers (including Tim Rogers of You Am I and Josh Pyke) got together with an orchestra to play the whole thing live. Well, not quite the whole thing of course. It would be a brave or foolish soul who undertook the sound collage of... > Read more

Neil Cowley Trio: Dinosaur Die

TOMASZ STANKO INTERVIEWED (2009): A blow for freedom

19 Dec 2009  |  4 min read

To hear trumpeter Tomasz StaƄko tell it, life in Poland in the 1960s might not have been quite as grim and mono-chromatic as we believe. -Certainly there was the irony of playing free jazz in the politically repressive atmosphere, and he laughs knowingly when offered a quote by composer-pianist Thelonious Monk: “Jazz and freedom go hand in hand.” “But you see in... > Read more

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2009 Jon Hassell: Last Night the Moon Came (ECM/Ode)

17 Dec 2009  |  1 min read

By sheer coincidence, this new album by ambient trumpeter Jon Hassell (full title "Last night the moon came dropping its clothes in the street" from a poem by Rumi) arrived just as I was posting his 1981 release Dream Theory in Malaya as an Essential Elsewhere album. And it is pleasing to report that when it comes to his seductive, unusual, world music-influenced sound that very... > Read more

Jon Hassell: Time and Place

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2009 Mulatu Astatke and the Heliocentrics: Inspiration Information (Strut/Border)

17 Dec 2009  |  1 min read

A couple of years ago a very generous Elsewhere subscriber sent me some albums in the Ethiopiques series, music of all persuasions from Ethiopia (mostly club singers and jazz on the ones I received) which were as unexpected as they were enjoyable. I'm told that vibes/keyboard player Mulatu Astatke got a whole disc to himself because he was one of the great pioneers and internationalists in... > Read more

Mulatu Astatke and the Heliocentrics: Masenqo

Manfred Schoof Quintet: Resonance (ECM)

7 Dec 2009  |  1 min read

Here is further proof that the past is a different country: this double disc pulls together tracks from Schoof albums of the mid to late Seventies when the contract of jazz was very different. These days -- with only a few rare exceptions -- jazz has retreated from the barricades and most of it is conservative, backward looking or so grounded in its own sense of self-worth that it is hardly... > Read more

Manfred Schoof Quintet: Flowers All Over

JAN GARBAREK, ECM SAXOPHONIST (2009): The times they have a-changed

30 Nov 2009  |  3 min read

When my dad was boy he used to make his own crystal sets, small radio receivers so finely tuned if you breathed hard they’d go off the exotic overseas broadcast you were picking up. Within his lifetime he lived from crystal sets into the CD age. I thought of this when Jan Garbarek’s new album Dresden arrived in late 2009. I remembered I first came on this austere... > Read more

Jan Garbarek Group: Grooving Out! (from Dresden, 2009)

John Abercrombie Quartet: Wait Till You See Her (ECM/Ode)

23 Nov 2009  |  <1 min read

For the first two-thirds of this album featuring guitarist Abercrombie, violinist Mark Feldman, bassist Thomas Morgan and drummer Joey Baron, the more vigorous emotions are kept in check: the tunes breeze by on Abercrombie's fluid and smooth, warm tone, Feldman offers the barests of suggestions of gypsy violin (and its attendant humours) -- and then on Out of Towner the finger-snap grooves come... > Read more

John Abercrombie Quartet: Line Up

BRANFORD MARSALIS INTERVIEWED (2009): Putting the past to bed

23 Nov 2009  |  8 min read  |  1

Branford Marsalis, who played in bands with Sting and helmed his own Buckshot LeFonque -- which had a stab at the hip-hop-to-bebop territory -- is these days dismissive of his brief skirmishes with popular music. He’s back playing jazz and much prefers it. The audiences may be smaller but he gets to play exactly what he wants, can look himself in the mirror and the feedback is better.... > Read more

Branford Marsalis: Roused About

TERJE RYPDAL, ECM GUITARIST (2009): The career, and careering across the disc

2 Nov 2009  |  3 min read  |  1

Like many artists on the ECM label, the Norwegian guitarist Terje Rypdal is largely faceless: you could have listened to his albums for decades as I have done and still pass him in the supermarket and not recognise him. By my count he’s done about 20 albums under his own name on ECM, and appeared on almost as many others as one of those sidemen-among-equals on projects ECM... > Read more

Rypdal and Bjornstad: The Pleasure is Mine, I'm Sure (from Life in Leipzig, 2009)