Category Archives: Jazz venues

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.

http://www.londonjazznews.com/2015/12/feature-ten-things-i-learned-as-tour.html

 

Maciek Pysz Album Launch at The Forge 18 November 2015

Maciek Pysz at The Forge, 18 November 2015
Maciek Pysz at The Forge, 18 November 2015

It came to me quite suddenly – those half remembered words of John Keats “full-throated ease” and after the concert I hurried back to Ode to a Nightingale to rediscover what had prompted this image in my mind. For truly many of the sounds we heard from the guitars of Maciek Pysz last night at the launch of his second album A Journey at The Forge in Camden were full throated like a nightingale, gorgeous, rising above the other instruments effortlessly, hanging in the air, trailing off so gently and gracefully. The evening was one for the senses and for our imaginations. For Maciek’s dazzlingly memorable tunes and rhythms prompt you to see with his eyes, hear with his ears – whether it is a sophisticated Venice in Water Streets, a Paris basement jazz club or memories of his childhood.

And Keats’ warm South was there too in the shape of Italian ECM artist Daniele di Bonaventura on nostaglic bandoneon and rippling piano. The delicate abstract conversations between bandoneon and guitar in Ralph Towner’s Innocente and Pysz’s Desert highlights of the evening.  This was an evening to savour the sight as well as the sound of music-making – sometimes Daniele looked to the ceiling, gently rocking in his chair, the sound of buttons lightly touched like tiny gasps. Maciek’s guitar sits so easily in his lap, a natural extension of his arms and fingers, his fingers a blur – can he really be the only person making all those beautiful sounds? And Yuri Goloubev‘s wry lop-sided smile as he cascades up and down his strings faster and faster, Asaf Sirkis‘ closed eyes as he plays, his hands pitter-pattering on the udu. And surely this is why we come out to concerts – to see as well as hear?  Recent tragic events were not forgotten as Maciek dedicated his spirited, stylish Paris to the people of the city he loves very much.

We would have loved an encore but our time was up. We walked off into the night aware we had had a rare experience, a bit like hearing a nightingale.

Maciek Pysz’s tour continues until 28 November 2015

http://www.maciekpysz.com/

A Journey is released on Dot Time Records

Mary James 19 November 2015

Maciek Pysz Tour blog: Impressions to 13 November 2015

Maciek Pysz, St Ives 10 Nov 2015, photo by Tony Brown
Maciek Pysz, St Ives 10 Nov 2015, photo by Tony Brown

Alchemy – the process of turning base metals into gold. That’s how a tour seems to me – the base metal is the long drive to the gig, snatched meals, unloading the car (which Tardis-like has to hold far more than you can imagine), the patient carrying of stuff up or down stairs to the silent stage, the bleak empty rows of chairs, the music just notes on a page.  The alchemy is what happens when you mix supreme virtuosity, inspiration and shared experience.  And as this first full week of the tour ended with news of the tragedy in Paris, the beauty was punctured, Messenger and Facebook anxiously consulted. The gold had turned back to base metal.

But earlier there was definitely a touch of Eleanor Rigby  in Yuri Goloubev’s graceful arco opening to Peacefully Waiting.  Not for the first time was I reminded of how deep is the influence of The Beatles on all our listening.  I heard it again in the upbeat Ringo-like chug from Asaf Sirkis in Those Days when played in Cambridge. The title of the new album by Maciek Pysz is ‘A Journey’ and it seems to me that Maciek is describing interior journeys as much as literal ones in his compositions, that the musical descriptions of places like Venice in Water Streets are also descriptions of himself.

When an audience member says to me “I had not heard of Maciek before, I am so glad I came, I love this, I can’t wait to put the cd on when I get home”, when a musician in the audience involuntarily breathes “Oooo…”,  when I look round and see people smiling with happiness, then there is the alchemy. And as for me, I will try to listen with the stillness of Asaf in the next concerts.

Of course none of these wonderful evenings would happen without the toil of unpaid promoters who bear the financial risk of running an event. From the welcome on our arrival, the heartfelt introductions (“I have been really looking forward to this gig, we are so lucky to have this band with us tonight”) to the final cheery wave goodbye, they make all the difference and help turn the mundane into gold.

The Maciek Pysz ‘A Journey’ Album Release Tour continues til 28th November 2015. Album on Dot Time Records.

www.maciekpysz.com

Mary James 15 November 2015

In praise of regional jazz clubs… revisited October 2013

It is three months since I first sang the praises of regional jazz clubs and their vital place on the jazz scene as platforms for all levels of talent.  I have been thinking, and I admit, worrying, about their future.  Neil Yates announced the end of Jazz at the Cayley in Rhos on Sea in October.   Personal phone calls and texts to regulars could not save it, numbers declined and so it closed.   I have often asserted that jazz holds itself far too cheaply, that some people wince at paying £12 for a ticket yet will spend nearly that on two glasses of wine whilst there. I am coming to the conclusion that if we are going to save our small jazz clubs then we all need to band together to help each other and be more vocal about the good things we offer.

So I was heartened to read about the recent creation of the Jazz Promoters Network (in the UK). I will join and will state on our application that we can offer the network decades of experience (between us anyway), boundless enthusiasm, genuine love for the music and its musicians, and the desire to learn – learn how to grow our audiences, learn how to offer opportunities for new work to be commissioned, learn how to support other jazz clubs and not compete with them, find sources of funding.

And then I look at our schedule at Stratford Jazz for early 2014:

  • Alan Barnes on 8 January to blow away the cobwebs;
  • TG Collective on 22 January, guitar-led ensemble;
  • Bryan Corbett Quartet on 12 February, a local trumpeter with a haunting sound;
  • Duncan Eagles/Mark Perry Quintet on 26 February, exciting young saxophonist and trumpeter, making waves in London;
  • John Law’s BOINK!  on 12 March. This is John’s move in electronica, subtle and clever as ever; and
  • Maciek Pysz Trio on 26 March, my favourite guitarist with his life-enhancing, stunningly good trio of Asaf Sirkis and Yuri Goloubev, playing compositions from his very well -received album Insight.

I would travel, and have travelled, to London to see these bands and here they are, gracing our small jazz club! Our evenings have two sets – great value for the audience and an opportunity for bands to experiment with new material, safe in the knowledge they have two hours of performance time.  We have an attractive venue with a bar, nice subtle lighting, decent sound, a big screen on which artists can project their own films or images, so adding another visual stimulus.  Sadly we have no piano. But we are a place where you can hear exciting new work in a very intimate environment.  We listen, we are appreciative.

Take the example below by John Law – his Boink!  project  – we are so lucky to be able to present John Law’s latest project next year. This is a sound that will project as well in our small room as in a larger venue and I for one am already wishing the time away til his gig.

If you have listened to the clip and enjoyed it as much as I do, then maybe you will see regional jazz clubs in a new light – as places where you can see boundaries pushed, which don’t just rely on a diet of standards. We are as hungry for new music as fans in cities. Where world class artists seek us out. Time to stop bemoaning our lot and time to shout very loudly ‘We are a great night out, come and join us, hear fabulous music close up, pay a little bit more  – because we are worth it!’.  Do you agree?

http://stratfordjazz.org.uk/

https://www.facebook.com/stratfordjazz.org.uk

https://twitter.com/StratfordJazz

http://www.shakespearestreet.co.uk/

Mary James

CD review and album launch: Ife Tolentino: Você Passou Aqui, 2 Aug 2013

Ife-Voce-Passou-Aqui

Brazilian guitarist and singer Ife Tolentino waited eight months to launch his album Você Passou Aqui (You Were Here) in the UK because he wanted to launch it at The Vortex, and The Vortex is always busy so he had to wait. Such loving attention to detail distinguishes this album of standards and compositions from more familiar Brazilian music. You think you know what Bossa Nova sounds like, but this album has something else. It has a fragility which hints at its inspiration – Iceland, land of ice and fire, but also of tiny alpine flowers, midnight sun, silent landscapes, which contrasts so powerfully with the fecundity of the Brazilian landscape of lush forest, beaches and exotic blooms and flamboyant carnivals.

The album was recorded in Iceland with the Icelandic musicians listed below. It consists of standards like S’wonderful (which sounds as if it had been written by Jobim, not Gershwin), compositions by Jobim himself and own compositions. Especially beautiful is Me Chama (Call me) which has a haunting refrain which prompts me to reflect on the fragility of life in Iceland, where short days, tiny population and possible volcanic extinction make for a very thoughtful approach to life where you savour life’s beauties, especially if they are fleeting. The lyrics are poetic, sparce and beautiful. All the musicians are caught in the spell, tiny cameos such as the sax on Como num Conto, sparkle like stars.

At The Vortex, Ife was joined by Liam Noble on piano and Julian Siegel on saxophone. Ife’s vocals are unhurried, intimate like conversation, he makes it sound very easy and natural. The languor was reflected in Liam Noble’s sparce piano accompaniment, his fingers barely spanning a few keys yet sometimes delicately skittering or bubbling like lava. In Teco Teco Julian Siegel had no difficulty shadowing Ife’s tongue-twisting lyrics and speed, like dancing on coals. I do not speak Portuguese so to me most of the compositions sounded sunny but reading the sleeve notes I see this is misplaced. Many are sad, lonely and wistful. But George Harrison’s Here Comes the Sun reminded us that album launches are joyful times. It was a special evening and it’s a lovely, gentle, thoughtful album by a very accomplished singer guitarist.