Tag Archives: Tardo Hammer

Jazz on Film: No One But Me

One of the highlights of the jazz calendar in Scotland this year (if you limited it to Glasgow, it would probably be my only personal highlight) was the pair of concerts given by the great Annie Ross at Glasgow’s Oran Mor back in February.

Ross was in town to attend the premiere of No One But Me, a Scottish-made documentary about her, at the Glasgow Film Festival. The screening was sold-out and it was a delight to watch the film in the company of its subject and so many of her friends and family – though the Q&A session afterwards was not what it would have been had the presenter known anything about jazz.

Very evocative, entertaining and insightful, with some great music and clips (not least some rarely seen footage of Ross as a child star) and featuring some very frank interviews with Ross herself, as well as with pals and colleagues, No One But Me is  must-see.

It does, however, have the air of an “authorised biography” about it, as it very much reflects Ross’s point of view and the way she wants her life and life choices to be seen. In fact, there’s probably another, unofficial, biographical documentary to be made – featuring the part(s) of her life that she didn’t want to relive, and the people who weren’t interviewed.

Anyway, if you live in Scotland you can make up your own mind as the film is screening at the Glasgow Film Theatre on Tuesday 16 and Wednesday 17; at Eden Court Cinema, Inverness on October 28 and at MacRobert Cinema, Stirling on October 31 – all as part of the Luminate Festival.

Here’s a reminder of how the grande dame of the jazz scene sounded on those two magical evenings in Glasgow, in the company of Tardo Hammer (piano) and Andy Cleyndert (bass).

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Annie Ross, in action (Part 2)!

Here’s another video I filmed of Annie Ross in Glasgow last month. Forgive the  wobbly camera work .. I had to move to a better position, closer to the stage, for this one as I knew it would be a treat.. 

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Annie Ross, in action!

I don’t want to rub it in (but I will if you want me to!) but here’s a wee taste of how Annie Ross sounded in Glasgow a fortnight ago .. More will follow – temperamental camera allowing..

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Review: Annie Ross

Annie Ross, Oran Mor, Glasgow, Tuesday February 21st *****

Missing a flight due to an expired passport, getting it renewed on a public holiday, flying from New York, giving interviews, attending a film premiere … any octogenarian who had had the kind of week that Annie Ross had already had by Tuesday night might feel a bit tired. But then Annie Ross is not just any octogenarian.

Clearly energised by the terrific reception she’d just had at the film festival, the jazz star took to the stage at Oran Mor and did not leave it for 90 minutes. She didn’t even take a break to let her top-drawer duo – pianist Tardo Hammer and bass player Andy Cleyndert – carry the load for a while. And what’s more, her deep, rich voice sounded stronger and more commanding than I’d heard it before.

She held the audience spellbound with her vivid and utterly compelling renditions of a series of ballads. She may not be able to sustain notes – and filling in the gaps with colour and wit is a task stylishly pulled off by Hammer – but she paints a beautiful picture and tells a gripping story. A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square and One Meatball, a Depression-era number, were mini-dramas and the audience hung on every word she sang.

Indeed, it’s her commitment to the lyrics which shines through; they’re invested with emotion and intelligence – and there are few singers who care as much about the meaning of what they’re singing. Among many highlights Lush Life was a particular stand-out – not only because to hear Ross perform it is like being given a masterclass in life lessons, but also because she learned it direct from its writer, Billy Strayhorn…

ANNIE ROSS with Tardo Hammer (piano) and Andy Cleyndert (bass), Tuesday February 21st

Nobody Else But Me

The Very Thought of You

Speak Low

Trav’lin’ Light

C’mon Home

In the Gentle Rain -Here’s That Rainy Day-Guess I’ll Hang My Tears Out to Dry-If You Could See Me Now

Four

Remind Me

Twisted

A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square

Watch What Happens

Lush Life

Bye Bye Blackbird

One Meatball

I Thought About You (scroll down for Thursday night’s programme)

Annie Ross with Tardo Hammer (piano) and Andy Cleyndert (bass), Oran Mor, Glasgow, Thursday, February 23rd

Nobody Else But Me

The Very Thought of You

Fun to Be Fooled

My Old Flame

Sing Baby Sing

I Wonder What Became of Me

Do Nothin’ Till You Hear From Me

A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square

But Not For Me

Sure Thing

Poor You

Day In, Day Out

Nobody’s Heart-By Myself

Music Is Forever

Lush Life

One Meatball

encore:  I Got Rhythm

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CD Recommendations: November 2011

Houston Person: Moment to Moment (HighNote) 

As anyone who’s heard the seventysomething American saxophonist Houston Person perform knows, he plays with an authority, a bluesiness and a robustness which mark him out as belonging to the Gene Ammons/Illinois Jacquet school of tenor sax. Those qualities, plus his lyricism and graceful handling of ballads, shine through on this CD which teams him with boppish trumpeter Terell Stafford plus quartet. Highlights include Billy Joel’s Just the Way You Are, Johnny Green’s I Cover the Waterfront, plus the bossa E Nada Mais.

Coleman Hawkins: Today and Now/Desafinado (Impulse)

To mark the 50th anniversary of Impulse! Records, a new series of two-album CDs is being launched. This double bill of 1963 LPs by the saxophone giant Coleman Hawkins is superb. Playing as beautifully as ever in the last decade of his life (and accompanied on both albums by a rhythm section led by pianist Tommy Flanagan), the Hawk is in raunchy form on the uptempo numbers on the first album, notably the sensational opener Go L’il Liza, and manages to make the bossa nova his own on a string of tracks associated with Stan Getz. The absolute stand-out, however, is the sublime Love Song (AKA My Love and I) from the movie Apache.

Warren Vache: Ballads and Other Cautionary Tales (Arbors Records) Few artists are brave enough to make an album entirely composed of ballads, but with American cornettist Warren Vache – one of the greats at wearing his heart on his musical sleeve – it’s a long overdue and natural decision. The 12 tracks featured here show that ballads come in many forms – sexy, bluesy and playful among them. Vache is at the top of his game these days, and is surrounded here by the best, including pianists Tardo Hammer and Richard Wyands, and special guests John Allred (trombone) and Houston Person (tenor sax).

Johnny Hodges: Second Set – Three Classic Albums Plus (Avid Jazz) Attention Johnny “Rabbit” Hodges fans! Devotees of the slinkiest, sexiest alto saxophonist of them all should note that this double CD includes a Rabbit rarity: his 1958 strings album, Johnny Hodges Plays the Prettiest Gershwin, hitherto very difficult to come by. You may already have the other three albums (from the early 1950s) but the strings is a must; Hodges’s exquisite, swoonsome sax beautifully complemented by the Stuttgart Light Orchestra playing Russ Garcia’s elegant arrangements.

Scott Hamilton Scandinavian Five: Live at Nefertiti (Stunt Records)

Tenor sax king Scott Hamilton shows that he reigns supreme on this Swedish-made album (and DVD), recorded in a Gothenburg jazz club with a band comprising members from Sweden and Denmark. Devotees of Hamilton’s rich, full-bodied sax sound and swinging style may not find it as essential a buy as his recent duo CD with Rossano Sportiello but it’s a great find all the same, with Hamilton demonstrating how thrilling a live player he is, and that, when it comes to ballads, few can touch him.

Ornette Coleman: Something Else!!!! (OJC Remasters) The pioneering alto saxophonist’s first recording session (from 1958) is, perhaps surprisingly for someone whose name connotes far-out, avant-garde jazz, extremely accessible – and very much in the bop idiom. Accompanied by a quartet featuring Don Cherry on trumpet and the hard-swinging Walter Norris on piano, Coleman powers his way through nine of his own compositions, showcasing his squawky yet appealing sound and conversational style in the process. Highlights include the immensely catchy The Blessing, Sphinx and the opening track, Invisible, which launched Coleman on unsuspecting listeners for the first time.

The Rossano Sportiello Trio: Lucky to Be Me (Arbors Records) 

The wonderful Italian-born, New York-based pianist Rossano Sportiello is the darling of the mainstream jazz scene these days – and this trio album shows why. He has a similar lightness and delicacy of touch as the late John Bunch, as well as a comparable combination of lyricism, swing and whimsical humour. This CD, on which he’s accompanied by Frank Tate (bass) and Dennis Mackrel (drums), is a hugely enjoyable, classy affair.


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Norwich Jazz Party 2011: Monday afternoon

The last day of the Norwich Jazz Party got off to a rousing start. If ever there was a set guaranteed to wake you up it was the one which launched the sensational new CD by Alan Barnes and Warren Vache – The London Session (Woodville Records). I have to confess to feeling a sort of  motherly pride as they began playing the music which was already very familiar to me as I wrote the liner notes for the record, and had interviewed them extensively in the process.

So, hearing the very distinctive and stylish arrangements of such numbers as My Funny Valentine and, especially, a hangover-blasting Molasses played live was a particular treat. And, since not all of the Woodville All-Stars, with whom Barnes and Vache recorded the CD, were at the party, they were replaced by the likes of trombonist John Allred, and multi-instrumentalist Scott Robinson, adding a different flavour to the tunes.

Barnes himself farmed out his baritone sax duties to Karen Sharp (who turned in a gorgeous extended solo on Sophisticated Lady), and was able to devote himself to some ace alto solo work instead, notably on an uptempo Love For Sale – a number which also had him playing bass clarinet.

For Sharp, The London Session er, session was an excellent warm-up for her own set of Gerry Mulligan-associated music later in the afternoon. It was interesting to note how many of the musicians made a point of listening to her set – the same thing happened with pianist Rossano Sportiello’s solo session later that night. And no wonder: both are lovely, lyrical players who grabbed the audience’s attention and kept them spellbound.

In fact, having your attention grabbed and then being bound to your seat are the risks you run if you attend a jazz party like this. The fear of missing what might turn out to be THE set of the weekend leads to marathon bouts of sitting still (some of the audience members looked as if they should be checked over for DVT), and, frankly, after a while the music just starts to wash over you. (I was completely jazz-lagged by Sunday afternoon.)

My leg is still bruised from the kicking I gave myself for missing most of the Basie set led by Rossano Sportiello on Sunday at lunchtime – the self-abuse began almost as soon as Scott Hamilton wrapped his horn around a sumptuous Blue and Sentimental… At least I got to hear him and Sportiello again – this time in a duo, playing some glorious music from their recent CD – on Monday afternoon. Among the many highlights was a high speed This Can’t Be Love – featuring a rollicking solo from Sportiello and Hamilton working up a head of steam on tenor – and the poignant ballad A Garden in the Rain which highlighted the tenderness and gentleness of Sportiello’s piano playing in particular.

Of course, there’s just no way I would ever risk missing the Ken ‘n’ Marty show – sadly only 20 minutes long this year but one for the history books as it featured this longstanding double act’s first onstage kiss, midway through Ken Peplowski’s sung serenade to Marty Grosz (pictured above) of When Did You Leave Heaven? Amidst the hilarity there was some lovely music – for the serenade they were joined by John Pearce (piano),  Alec Dankworth (bass) and John Allred whose mellow obbligato work behind Peplowski’s vocals was a delight. Peplowski himself was on great form, notably on a speed limit-breaking version of Walter Donaldson’s You, an old favourite of this duo. And Grosz, who has enjoyed better health this year than before last year’s Norwich expedition, was in similarly fine fettle, and evidently relishing the musical and comedy antics.

Other stand-out moments of the afternoon? Pianist Tardo Hammer’s elegant and funky set which revealed the great rapport he’s established with British drum whiz Steve Brown, Dan Block’s set of colourful and complex, John Kirby-style arrangements of Fats Waller songs, and Jim Galloway’s serene tribute to Pee Wee Russell – I’d Climb the Highest Mountain. When the young Galloway complimented Russell on his handling of the tune, he was told that he liked to play it “because it was a favourite of Bix’s”.

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Norwich Jazz Party 2011: Sunday

The timetable may be gruelling – and the pressure may have been on, what with the volume of often tricky arrangements to be rehearsed -but what shone through from Sunday’s sessions at the jazz party was how much the musicians who come to Norwich relish the chance to play together in imaginative programmes with all sorts of different line-ups.

On Sunday, a set of Cannonball Adderley-associated music acted as a sort of touch paper for some particularly fiery, feisty playing by cornettist Warren Vache who recently told me how much he enjoys playing bop – and how seldom he gets to do it. Vache seemed to explode into life on this set, notably on a storming version of the enormously catchy Work Song, and he was aided and abetted by five fellow enthusiasts including Tardo Hammer, whose kittenish way with the keys offset the three-horn front line beautifully; Karen Sharp, whose dynamic baritone playing was a joy, and set-leader Alan Barnes in similarly energetic form. But it was Vache’s forceful, take-no-prisoners playing that stole the show.

If the Cannonball set brought out the tough – yet always lyrical – side of Vache, then his after-dinner set with guitarist Dave Cliff and bassist Dave Green inevitably showcased his sweet side. You only had to see this line-up listed in the programme to know that you were in for a treat. Vache’s taste is flawless – both in terms of the tunes he chooses, and the way in which he delivers them.

Really, the whole thing was a knockout, but it was a particular delight to hear him tease out extra magic from the sublime Richard Rodgers ballad My Romance which he played quietly, tenderly and with what seemed an air of exquisite resignation. You Don’t Know What Love Is and Triste were others which sounded as if they had been written specially for him, banishing as they did every other version from the memory. You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To was vintage Vache: swaying gently from side to side, the cornettist played with his trademark playful and seductive swagger, softly and persuasively at the start; bluesy and more assertively by the end.

Another musician who was on top form throughout the jazz party was guitarist Marty Grosz who may now be 81 but is clearly rejuvenated by performing. Sunday afternoon proved to be the perfect slot for a delightfully good-natured set  on which he was joined by Nick Dawson (piano), Jim Galloway (soprano sax) and Duke Heitger (trumpet); the latter two emerging as something of a noteworthy duo over the weekend.

The mood was established straight-away with an uplifting take on You Are My Lucky Star (probably the first time I’ve ever heard this at a jazz concert), but it was a gorgeous, laid-back take on Love Is Just Around the Corner which lingered in the mind long after the music had ended. It was the perfect example of musical camaraderie.

The same could be said of singer-pianist Daryl Sherman’s late-night set which featured the second You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To of the evening for the versatile Dave Cliff.  Mind you, second time around it was quite a different affair; one which played on the coquettish quality of Sherman’s voice.

The cosy piano-bass-guitar line-up swelled to a quartet with the co-opting of tenor man Houston Person (whose sumptuous Fools Rush In a couple of hours earlier had been inspired by his not-so secret love of Doris Day!)  into the proceedings for a couple of terrific Rodgers and Hart numbers: a lovely Little Girl Blue (also a Doris song), on which Sherman’s suitably wistful, girlish vocals were complemented by Person’s masculine, bluesy sound, and a hard-swinging This Can’t Be Love; a perfect partner to his frisky Isn’t It Romantic of the afternoon…

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