Album review: Anders Ammitzbøll – Hymns for Hearts (2015)

AndersAmmitzbollWhat is the Aarhus sound and why do I love it? The Royal Academy of Music in Aarhus, Denmark has turned out some very good musicians such as Alex Jønsson Christensen (The Lost Moose), Jens Mikkel (Lift Me Up So I Can Reach) and Jakob Sørensen (Bagland). All of these musicians have produced works of outstanding musicianship, atmospheric and recognisably Nordic.  Hmm… there seems to be a pattern here… and here’s another one – double bass player Anders Ammitzbøll with his debut album (financed by Kickstarter) Hymns For Hearts, as exuberant and fresh an album as those which went before from fellow alumni.

The combination of two guitars makes for a bubbly texture, the two instruments weaving in and out of each other. There is an African highlife lilt to the sound of the two guitars which is very attractive. Anders told me he chose two guitars in order that one could create soundscapes while the other plays a more “traditional” role and it certainly works in this live recording.

The album could be considered as a symphonic shimmering whole, the lovely tunes gently unfold until the uneasy, freer Paranoia. There is the some delicate songlike solo work – sometimes just guitar, sometimes double bass – and plenty of space for the drums. The sound is beautiful, made for vinyl.

This is an impressive, accomplished and confident debut album and we can expect to hear more from this bassist and I hope from this band.

Anders Ammitzbøll  Hymns for Heart

  • Anders Ammitzbøll, double bass
  • Stian Swensson, guitar
  • Viktor Sandström, guitar
  • Rasmus Iversen, drums
Mary James, 12 April 2016

JazzFM Awards 2016 – interesting category – Digital Initiative of the Year

home-voteThe nominations for the 2016 Jazz FM Awards have been announced. The most prestigious ceremony in the jazz, soul and blues calendar is this year taking place on Tuesday 26th April at London’s Bloomsbury Ballroom and will feature a performance by Gregory Porter, who will also receive the Jazz Impact Award.

Once again the public will be able to vote for the winner of three categories Album of the Year, UK Jazz Act of the Year and Live Experience of the Year. Voting will be open from 24th February to the 31st March via the Awards website. This year also sees the addition of a new award, the Digital Initiative Award, that has been created to recognise a musician who has harnessed the power of technology to engage with audiences.

You can read the full list of nominees  here but my interest is in the new award Digital Initiative of the Year (Sponsored by 7digital)  with nominees:

  • Chassol
  • Jacob Collier
  • Tin Men and the Telephone

Jacob Collier is recognized as one of the world’s most distinctive, inventive and prodigious young musicians. Based in London, Jacob has been inspired by many sounds – his music combines elements of Jazz, A cappella, Groove, Folk, Trip-hop, Classical music, Brazilian music, Gospel, Soul and Improvisation (to name a few), which culminate to create the world of “Jacob Collier.” Jacob grew up in a family of musicians, and has honed his musical ideas from a very young age.

He has embraced the world of the internet to share his uniquely creative talent, becoming best known for creating his trademark multi-faceted YouTube videos from his music room at home, wherein he sings all the parts, plays all the instruments, and visualises every component with a mosaic of screens. Since his first YouTube upload in December 2011, Jacob’s online social channels have gathered over 70K international subscribers and more than 4.7 million views. With viral hits such as his rendition of the Stevie Wonder classic, “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout A Thing,” Collier has garnered a global following, and some of his greatest fans among the elite Jazz community include Quincy Jones, Herbie Hancock, Pat Metheny, Chick Corea, Steve Vai and Take 6, to name a few (and me!).

He has collaborated with many different musicians, including being featured on Snarky Puppy’s Family Dinner Vol. 2 and collaborating with Take 6. Jacob was also most recently involved in Beats by Dre’s Ruby World Cup “The Game Starts Here” television and online campaign, where Jacob arranged and recorded “Jerusalem” as the soundtrack for their spot. The video on YouTube has garnered over 7.5 million views. 

I can’t wait to see him live at Cheltenham Jazz Festival on Friday 29 April, I’ve been admiring his trajectory for a few years now and I wish him good luck in the awards!

Mary James, 1 March 2016

Win two tickets to see Christian McBride at Komedia, Brighton 23 March

Christian-Edgar-Duo (1) 2 (1)Would you like to see the great bassists Christian McBride and Edgar Meyer  in Brighton on 23 March 2016? Just put the correct answer in the form below and your name will be entered in a draw to win two free tickets to the concert at Komedia, Brighton on 23 March 2016.

How many Grammys has Christian McBride been awarded?

  1. One?
  2. Two?
  3. Four?

Good luck!

The competition has now closed and the lucky winners have been notified. Thanks for your interest.


Album of 2015: Maciek Pysz – A Journey

Maciek Pysz - A Journey
Maciek Pysz – A Journey
This album is pure, clean, austere. Not austere in the sense of frugal or bleak – no, not at all. Austere in the sense of simplicity, modesty and honesty, the powerful starkness you experience in the unadorned interior of an abbey such as Pontigny.  I have lived with and loved this album for twelve months, from the very first listening.  A Journey by Maciek Pysz is my album of 2015 because of its beauty, its emotional depth and variety, and the dazzling compositional and performance talents of Maciek Pysz on guitar.

A Journey is guitarist and composer Maciek Pysz’s second album, recorded and engineered once more by Stefano Amerio at Artesuono Studio with the same musicians as his first album Insight – Yuri Goloubev on bass and Asaf Sirkis on drums – but with the inspired choice of Daniele di Bonaventura on piano and bandoneon. The mutual inspiration between Pysz and Bonaventura on bandoneon is nowhere clearer than on the haunting Innocente by Ralph Towner with its delicate impressionist water colour introduction. This has a touch of genius about it, inspired by the moment.

You can appreciate this album for the beauty of the sound: clear, pristine and sparkling yet warm – everything you would want to hear in an acoustic guitar if you can’t actually be in the room with it  – this album is made for vinyl. But you soon forget the technicalities as you are swept away in the emotions of each composition. Take Water Streets inspired by a trip to Venice, the gentle rocking of a gondola, the ripple of sunlight on ancient facades, masks and carnival – you experience all of these things unforgettably in just a few bars.  The clarity is not just clarity of sound, but clarity and honesty of emotion, and that is why I love this album so much.  There is no escaping the wistfulness of  Until Next Time, the opening bandoneon so full of longing, the warmth and peace of Coming Home, the affection in Paris, the joyous momentum of Always On The Move.  

Insight was my album of 2013, reviewed here.  There is no denying the technical, stylistic and emotional growth in this second album, the easy flow of melody disguising music that is challenging to perform. It is unnecessary to list influences since Maciek has his own sound and colour pallet, as subtle, gorgeous and extensive as any painter’s, every note delivered with passion and breathtaking skill.  It was quite evidently a magical few days in the studio with inspiration from all involved. And the order of tracks is very satisfying, from opening  Fresh Look to closing Coming Home.  A perfectly executed work of art in every sense.  And what next?  Well, I for one can’t wait for the next stage in this particular journey….but in the meantime, I will always enjoy A Journey.

Mary James works with Maciek Pysz as his manager


‘A Journey ‘ is released on Dot Time Records


Article: 10 things I learned as a tour manager

© 2015  Robbie Elford. All Rights Reserved.
© 2015 Robbie Elford. All Rights Reserved.

Recently, guitarist and composer Maciek Pysz completed an 18-date tour of England and Wales. I arranged most of this tour and helped out with PR and tour management. Here are 10 things I learned, they were published in London Jazz News on 7 December 2015.


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