New Snarky Puppy album

Described as “led Zep meets P-Funk” in a recent review, here’s the flagship video release from Snarky Puppy’s new, live recorded album We like it here. An astonishing level of coherence, fantastic control of dynamics, compositional complexity and damn funkiness characterise this band’s performances, which just get better and better.
They are on tour in Europe again this year, unmissable for anyone with the slightest interest in the funkier side of the musical spectrum.

Grammy for Snarky Puppy

It’s always good to see an independent band getting some long-deserved recognition in a mainstream awards show.

Texas/New York based Snarky Puppy won a Grammy award last night in the category best R&B performance for their collaboration with Lalah Hathaway, Something, from their latest LP Family Dinner vol. 1.  It’s a phenomenal track, for Hathaway’s astounding vocals as much as Snarky Puppy’s trademark compositions which switch seamlessly across dramatically contrasting moods and tempos.

Something will probably be getting considerably more air-play in the coming months so here’s my favourite track from the same album, Gone Under featuring Shayna Steele, a revitalising blast of gospel-drenched soul jazz.

Farewell to Hall

Another remembrance post, this time for jazz guitarist Jim Hall, who died yesterday. Hall was present on an astonishing variety of great jazz albums as well as establishing a quiet but revolutionary set of recordings under his own name.  His accompaniment was always intelligent and nuanced; able to play apparently independent of pulse and harmony if necessary, and with a very modern sounding tone for a jazz guitarist, often more reminiscent of blues or folk than the usual be-bop lines.  Three contrasting tracks- the wonderful folk-jazz The train and the river, recorded with Jimmy Giuffre in 1957; then two duets, firstly the brooding and evocative Romain with pianist Bill Evans from the album Undercurrents; secondly the Sonny Rollins calypso classic St. Thomas, played  with bass player Ron Carter from a live concert recording.

Hail and Farewell

Don’t have time for more than a minimalist post at the moment, but wanted to mark the occasion…

HAIL to Ernst-Ludwig Petrowsky on his 80th birthday; doyen of the East German free jazz scene, not least because of his role in the wonderful and subversive quartets Synopsis and Zentralquartett. He was looking very frail when I saw them in the summer, but reports of a recent celebration of Frei Jazz Ost suggest that he’s still going strong.

FAREWELL to the amazing Stan Tracey, one of Britain’s finest jazz musicians of the 60s and 70s. Obituary here.

Playlist pairs- 7/4 time

A new album from Juana Molina starts off with a fine, moody, and angular composition in 7/4. Juana is an Argentine multi-instrumentalist with a long career as a musician, comedian and TV star; her latest solo album Wed 21. is a wonderfully offbeat discursion into electronic folk music.  More info from her label.

This music is quite distinctive and it’s hard to find a good matching track; so to pair it I’ve fallen back on my favourite 7/4 composition, Joe Zawinul’s 74 miles away, performed by the Cannonball Adderley sextet.



Playlist pairs- soft autumn

A new release by Polish pianist Leszek Możdżer weaves Chopin and folk themes together in beguiling ways. Here’s the brief Africa, written by bassist Lars Danielsson, a lyrical mixture of sweet and ever-so-slightly-bitter which resonates for my tastes with Peter Erskine’s mid nineties trio version of the Vince Mendoza composition Esperança, featuring John Taylor on piano and another Danielsson, Palle, on bass.

Playlist pairs- quirky indie folk playing quirky indie folk.

A beautiful, restless track from Tigran Hamasyan’s new album Shadow Theatre, featuring the amazing Areni Agbabian on (wordless) vocals. Lots of references came to mind when I heard this, from the piano playing of Bojan Z to the circular routines of Penguin Cafe Orchestra. But in the overall effect of music and video it seems to me this track shares an affinity with The Ruby Suns’ Tane Mahuta- both draw heavily on folk influences, are based on waltz time, build to emotional climaxes, and are accompanied by endearingly off-beat collage-style black and white films.

Sunshine Daydream

I’ve been intending to post something about the GD May ’77 box set that arrived three months ago. It contains some great music (particularly on the more delicate songs) but this week’s arrival has rather put it (almost literally) in the shade.

The official release of the 1972 Springfield Creamery Benefit concert and the film made of it, Sunshine Daydream, is a marvellous thing. A long-available soundboard recording and bootleg copy of the film on YT have hinted as much but the properly-mixed 16-track sound and a beautifully-restored set of visuals confirm it in spades.

Jerry Garcia couldn’t understand why anyone would want to film the band on stage (“We just stand there. We don’t do anything.”) but, with the addition of Prankster animations and copious shots of roasting hippies, the film is a fantastic document of a communal celebration of life through music. For example:

(Warning: contains naked human wobbly bits)

The film shows the final Dark Star/El Paso/Sing Me Back Home sequence, in which a star dies, two cowboys are killed and a prisoner walks to his execution. Whereas much of the show is suitably sunny and joyful, this is not: it is difficult, harsh and desperately sad. Yet also wonderfully cathartic.

This is the end of Dark Star. It is some of the most involving and intricate acid jazz* collective improvisation you’ll ever hear. To watch it being constructed from thin air is a jaw-dropping delight.

*Acid jazz = jazz improvised whilst under the influence of LSD.

What I Did On My Holidays Part III

pritzker pavilion, chicago

Well, the ‘Spill appears to hate me at the moment, as it refuses to let me post any comments (unless it’s just protecting me from the consequences of getting pointlessly worked up about stuff that doesn’t actually matter – you all know the genius of xkcd, right?) – so let’s see if it will allow me to create a post. This is just a brief report from my latest set of travels, which this week have brought me to Chicago; I’ve had to spend a lot of my time in conference sessions, but my dedication to academic debate has been sorely tested by the fact that this weekend is the Chicago Jazz Festival – completely free, decent beer from Goose Island, all in the lovely setting of Millennium Park. Two big tents, and the amazing Gehry building that is the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, seen above, for the main acts. This evening I caught a fabulous set from the Robert Glasper Experiment, whose records I must seek out asap: avant-garde jazz meets electronica and hip-hop with added vocoder, and a hilarious cover of Get Lucky – cheered along by a capacity crowd of ten thousand or more. No, I must have been imagining that; everyone knows that jazz was ruined and lost all hope of popularity when it started getting all avant-garde…

Nile Rodgers & Jean Pierre Muller: An Indigo Night in F

Edinburgh has played host to many artistic collaborations over the years, with none more intriguing than the 7×7 project between artist Jean Pierre Muller and seven musicians: Nile Rodgers, Robert Wyatt, Mulatu Astatke, Archie Shepp, Sean O’Hagan, Kassin and Terry Riley. The project commenced last year at the Summerhall venue with the creation by Jean Pierre of a street of individual houses to explore with the soundscape provided by his seven collaborators.

Last weekend saw a further development with Muller and Rodgers presenting their Indigo night in F – a broadening of the artwork, live performance and some engaging storytelling, drawing on Rodgers’ life story and career which had been joyously detailed in his recent autobiography.

The two tiered stage is bare and the soundtrack is 30’s jazz, a nod to their Harlem Nights sub-theme. Gradually the stage is filled with a series of pop-art style cut-outs and then Muller arrives at the easel to paint an introduction in art and words using a stencil to link the various ‘F’s: freedom, family, fate, frustration and so on. Nile Rodgers then appears between the cut-outs to introduce the first of the pre-recorded movements – a very contemporary sound with the sort of insistent groove and vocoder work one could readily associate with his most recent collaborators.

Rodgers’ storytelling is vivid and what a tale he has to tell, having been raised by hippy heroin addicts, he joined the Black Panthers and played in the house band at Harlem’s Apollo Theatre. A life-size cut-out of the late Bernard Edwards is placed beside him as he introduces us to the collaborator with whom he became musically inseparable. What Rodgers brought to the table with melodies was matched by Edwards’ gift for arrangement, and we get a fantastic insight into their talent for creating music that appears on the surface to be simple and sing along, but is awash with innovation, jazz chords and a love of chromatics.

A series of terrific stories about Grace Jones, Club 54 and Diana Ross is interspersed with solo runs through Good Times/Rappers Delight, Upside Down and the fabulous Thinking About You and some entertaining banter with Muller, still at the easel on the upper tier. Towards the end of the performance Rodgers (thankfully) narrowly avoids decapitation as a mobile of Cab Calloway’s head – which was suspended from the ceiling – slips its mooring and crashes down onto the microphone.

The two artists are presenting this project as a work in progress, and have been in negotiations about taking the project further. The mix of pop-art, hit music and the pair’s engaging personalities are certainly a winning combination and it is a measure of the man that Rodgers has made the time to see this project through at a time when his currency is so high. Mamma Mia is certainly ain’t and, whatever happens, if you get the opportunity to see it just go!

Underground Jazz

bunker ulmenwallPart of the idea of spending a couple of months in Germany this year – besides improving my German, and doing some work, obviously – was the hope of being able to catch some of my favourite German artists who haven’t shown any signs as yet of making it over to the UK, and generally soaking up a bit of the music scene. Delighted to find that my beloved Zentralquartett are celebrating their 40th anniversary when I’m in Berlin in July with a cabaret extravaganza – radical poetry as well as anarchistic free jazz – and I grabbed a couple of tickets the moment this month’s pay went into my account. Last night, however, it was the turn of the Julia Huelsmann Quartet, a new partnership of the brilliant piano trio (there’s at least one person on this blog who shares my opinion on that, I know) with the British ex-pat trumpeter Tom Arthurs, playing in Bunker Ulmenwall in Bielefeld. I’m not sure I know of a finer jazz club, and certainly not one with this sort of history… Continue reading

‘Spill Game Week 13: And Then There Were None…

Mmm. Nice.

While I get on with deciding which of this week’s noms offer a sufficiently scientific and/or philosophical take on the subject of large-scale atmospheric circulation, here is a taste of the sort of things you should have been suggesting over on RR to have any chance of getting on the final list… Sorry, I have no idea why this didn’t appear at 9 o’clock this morning as it was supposed to.

Okay, I’m a realist. I’m well aware that the problem this week is likely to be finding any song that you can bear to keep, rather than, as with other people’s contributions to this series, trying to decide which of eleven equally marvellous tracks you could bear to lose. Thing is, if I put together a playlist covering the whole range of my musical interests, from Wagner to the new Susanna Hoffs album, the contemporary jazz tracks would get the boot without a moment’s thought, whereas if I put together a playlist that is nothing but contemporary jazz, you’re going to have to listen to some of it, however briefly…

Continue reading

Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea – All New Podcast !

Yes, that’s right ‘Spillers, an all-new PODCAST! Long overdue, I know….but, better late than never, right? Well, don’t agree until you’ve listened to it !

It’s a very random and eclectic mix based on whatever was in my box of records at the time….and there were so many I didn’t get to that I wanted to include. They’ll have to wait until next time, I suppose.

Listen until the end for some exciting news ! Well, exciting for me, not perhaps for anyone else !

Enjoy !

Bojan Z has a new album out…

…and I’m still trying to make up my mind about it – is it great, or merely very good? I’m getting used with this artist to reserving judgement for quite some time, following my encounter with his Tetraband (drums, electric bass, trombone and way too much electric keyboard from the man himself) a couple of years ago, where I positively hated the live performance and then was completely captivated by the album. But this is his first solo album since 2000’s Solobsession, which is still one of my top Desert Island Discs; when the man can supply the bass, the rhythm and a couple of lead lines with just his own two hands, who needs a band, and how can this new album, Soul Shelter, be anything but wonderful?

First impressions… Fewer pyrotechnics, less playing inside and outside the piano simultaneously and fewer occasions on which he’s playing two completely separate melody lines; not that there’s none of it (see the video below for some examples) but it’s a lot more subtle and less flashy. Beautifully recorded. Less explicit Balkan influence, which is a shame. More meditative, more gentle – rather more classical influence, I think, as it tends to remind me in places of Keith Jarrett’s Koeln Concert (but rather more controlled and directed). All original songs, apart from a nice Duke Ellington cover – and, more significantly, all songs that appear on this album for the first time, whereas one of the highlights for me of Solobsession was the reworking of songs he’d originally performed with a full band.

All of which is, I suppose, just to say that this isn’t Solobsession II, much as part of me might like that, and it isn’t an ‘event’ album. It’s certainly a grower – various tunes are setting up permanent residence in my brain – and it will be interesting to see how I feel about this album in, say, a year’s time; not so much when the novelty’s worn off, as when my mild disappointment at the lack of instant fireworks has faded a bit.

What I really want is for him to play a solo concert within easy reach of Bristol in the near future…

Precocious youngsters make brilliant LP non-shocker

This Canadian combo has been brought to my attention via the Gilles Peterson show as they do jazz covers of hip-hop tunes and have just released their 2nd LP which is available for free download here :

As they state on their bandcamp page :

“No one above the age of 21 was involved in the making of this album. This album was recorded in one 10 hour session. Thanks to our friends, family, loved ones and anyone who fucks with us.”

Here they are covering Tyler The Creator’s ‘Bastard’ combined with ‘Lemonade’ which I haven’t a scooby about but sounds alright to me.

Bastard _ Lemonade – BADBADNOTGOOD

Thankfully we can all sleep a lot easier knowing the future of jazz is in safe hands.

A tune to accompany the writing of Christmas cards

This is The Christmas Song as performed by Carla Bley, Steve Swallow, and the Partyka Brass Quintet. It’s been on the ‘Spill before, after I got the album, Carla’s Christmas Carols, for Christmas in 2009 and put it forward as a January Earworm. However, its rightful time of year is now, to accompany the sipping of wine and the writing of Christmas cards. This has the peaceful space of a mediaeval cathedral, the grooviness of a basement club and very satisfying, crunchy discords. It helps me set the seasonal mood; time to write those cards…


He’s Gonna Step On You Again – John Kongos
Freedom To The People – The Heptones
You Know You know – Mahavishnu Orchestra
Dig Deep In Your Soul – Bobby Boyd Congress
Feel Flows – The Beach Boys
The Lady With The Braid – Dory Previn
People Make The World Go Round – The Stylistics
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Happy Birthday DarceysDad !

This is to celebrate the birthday of a most sociable recommender. It marks DsD’s broad-minded but sometimes baffled engagement with the music known as Jazz, and the Scottish connection with St Andrew’s Day.  So, here’s the astonishing Rufus Harley, playing John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme, on the bagpipes. I hope others will join in the good wishes, and maybe even post something DsD will like.  Happy Birthday DarceysDad !

it is not as bad as you think ! ! !




Rahou – Fairuz
Song To Woody – Bob Dylan
Kadia Blues – Orchestre De La Paillote
Fever – La Lupe
Love For Sale – Barney Kessel
My Favorite Things – John Coltrane


Swing Low Sweet Cadillac – Dizzy Gillespie
Babaratiri – Beny More & Pérez Prado
Jesus Gave Me Water – Sam Cooke & The Soul Stirrers
Rocket “88” – Jackie Brenston & His Delta Cats
Quiet Village – Les Baxter



Minnie The Moocher – Cab Calloway & His Orchestra
Tiger Rag – Mills Brothers
Chances Are – Jack Teagarden & His Orchestra


Great Camp Meetin’ Day – Noble Sissle
Goodnight Angeline – Four Harmony Kings