I am calling it a Festival of the Guitar: It was a masterly stroke of scheduling – Stratford Jazz features some of the most exciting guitarists on the UK scene in the next few months so here’s my preview of six gigs worth turning out for. What’s thrilling for me is that we get to hear very different styles of music, guitars, guitar playing and influences.
First up we host John Law’s Boink! on 12 March. The guitarist in question is Rob Palmer who I last saw at Sherborne Jazz with Jon Lloyd and John Law. Boink! is the latest project from John Law which takes him away from acoustic pianos and into the world of electronica and interactive visuals. Intrigued? In a recent interview in Jazz UK (issue 115) Rob said that the electronic backing tracks are composed leaving the musicians free to improvise 90% of the time. It will be a combination of total freedom and totally composed music, he says.
No sign of electronics with our next guitarist, the acoustic and classical guitarist Maciek Pysz who makes his debut appearance at Stratford Jazz with his stellar trio of Yuri Goloubev on double bass and Asaf Sirkis on percussion on 26 March. Maciek is on an extensive UK tour promoting his album Insight which received rave reviews across the globe last year. He appears at Stratford the day after an important gig at Pizza Express Jazz Club, Dean Street, London with a guest appearance by Tim Garland who recently signed to Edition Records. Insight was my album of 2013 so I can’t really add more other than to say that the last time I saw this trio they blew the roof off Kings Place, gathering a larger crowd in the foyer than in some of the concert halls. They filled the huge space, just as they filled the windy park at Ealing Jazz Festival last year. We can expect a more intimate, conversational evening of Maciek’s beautiful lyrical compositions, exquisite arco bowing from Yuri and sensitive percussion from Asaf. As Maciek said in an interview in 2011, ‘I do not want to be perceived only as a jazz guitarist, I’m an acoustic guitarist who mixes genres’ and therein lies his attraction. His influences are John McLaughlin, Ralph Towner and Al Di Meola yet he sounds like none of these, he has his own voice.
On 9 April we host Phil Robson with his new organ trio featuring Gene Calderazzo on drums and Ross Stanley on Hammond organ. Phil Robson’s discography contains a jazz who’s who of musicians from both sides of the Atlantic – Mark Turner, Michael Janisch, Christine Tobin (the celebrated Sailing to Byzantium), John Taylor, Liam Noble – and he brings a breath of New York to Stratford with his drummer, whose drumming John Fordham described as scalding! Listening to their demo clip on Soundcloud I was minded of Steely Dan – that was just the organ I imagine, but we can expect what Roy Stevens is already predicting will be the gig of the year at Stratford!
On 14 May we are joined by a newly formed band called The Orient Quartet. This features Dan Messore on guitar. Dan’s own quartet called Indigo Kid features none other than Iain Ballamy. Kevin le Gendre said of Dan ‘It’s fair to quote names like Pat Metheny and Frissell as references but the seam of jazz Messore is mining goes back further to such as Charlie Byrd and Jim Hall’. Combine this with Steve Waterman‘s trumpet (as heard on Carla Bley’s albums on ECM) and you can see we have a very heavyweight new band.
On 11 June we feature Nic Meier who brings his glissentar with its eleven fretless strings which provides more than a touch of the orient to the sound, a heady mix of Turkey, central Europe, Iberia and the Americas. His quartet features the artists who appear on his recent album Kismet. Look out for his flamenco treatment of Coltrane’s Giant Steps!
Our final guitarist is Jon Dalton on 25 June. Jon has been playing guitar since he was seven and cites Wes Montgomery as an influence. He brings a trio with a Hammond organ virtuoso so we can expect a vibrant set. If you like Gibson guitars then come along!
So join us for these wonderful gigs, and keep jazz alive outside London.
All gigs start at 8pm and tickets on the door are £10/£12 for Phil Robson, half price for students. We look forward to welcoming you to our jazz club and our Festival of the Guitar.