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COFID- 19

In the current climate we are doing our best to keep everyone up to date. All gigs, as we all know, are off.

However, good old YouTube has plenty to offer both old and new to help us survive whilst housebound. Plus now is a good time to stock up on your CDs.

Also, keep an eye out for live streaming sessions.

Alternatively, you could do as they do in Italy and sing from your balcony.

Today

As we all know there are no live gigs taking place in the immediate future. However, any links to jazz streaming that are deemed suitable - i.e. with a professional approach - will be considered for posting.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Music Students’ Final Year Recitals @ The Jazz Café. May 12

(Dissertation by Russell).
This year’s Newcastle University Music Students’ Final Recitals made for something of an historic departure. Several of the jazz students went off-campus, choosing to perform at a regular jazz venue. The Jazz Café on Pink Lane welcomed finalists, their families, a small army of student friends, supporters and, of course, the examiners!
The upstairs room accommodated a capacity audience to make for a great atmosphere as the six o’clock start approached. Ella El-Salahi (voice) looked great, perhaps just a little nervous (who wouldn't be?), as she took to the stage with her band. In common with her fellow student performers El-Salahi made available a printed progamme. My programme is an eclectic mix of some of my favourite pieces to sing, she wrote. No better way, Ella! Jazz, gospel, ballad, neo-soul and big band fusion, that was El-Salahi’s promise, and that is what we got.
Six pieces (one of them a fusion of seemingly two disparate tunes) heard El-Salahi (with her hand-picked band of first-rate student musicians) perform brilliantly. The singer had the support of her tutor Ruth Lambert (sitting discreetly at the back of the room) and the audience roared its approval at the end of the first piece (Caravan). Modest Mussorgsky and Gordon Goodwin collided in an El-Salahi arrangement of Tuileries and the Big Phat Band’s Hunting Wabbits 2. Demonstrating her command of extended vocal techniques, Ms El-Salahi fed off the overwhelming support in a crowded room. Solo (comp. Prince and David Henry Hwang) was, in fact, a piece for duo with bassist Tim Farrow. Superb. At its conclusion, our star vocalist looked round to Farrow. The bassist’s nod and smile of reassurance brought a tear to the eye.
Rachelle Ferrell’s bright tempo take on What is This Thing Called Love? held an appeal for El-Salahi, as did the gospel number His Eye is on the Sparrow. The vocalist’s version had been simply arranged for piano accompaniment, leaving the voice exposed. Pianist Jamie Lawson (himself a final year music student) did a great job, El-Salahi magnificent. The recital concluded with Omar’s The Man. El-Salahi gloried in the neo-soul sound and took the opportunity to improvise, soaring above her killer band. Applause deafening (all of her musicians applauded the recitalist to the echo), Ms El-Salahi is a star.
El-Salahi’s band: Jennifer Amey (piano), Jamie Lawson (piano), Faye MacCalman (tenor saxophone), Emily King (alto saxophone), Joshua Lane (trumpet), Anne-Marie Rosa (flute), Tim Farrow (double bass & electric bass) & Lewis West (drums)
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A short interval (glasses recharged) and Jennifer Amey (voice) took to the stage. A love of jazz and storytelling informed Ms Amey’s performance. Dolly Parton’s Jolene, then a personal take on House of the Rising Sun illustrating the breadth of the vocalist’s interests in the song form. Seated at the piano for the first couple of tunes, Amey engaged with the audience (everyone was onside!) with an easy charm. Jazz and folk have been part of her studies over four years, musical theatre too. Civil rights issues have been of interest and Kurt Weill’s Pirate Jenny indicated a keen awareness of socio-political matters. Morris Bailey Jr’s Go To Hell closed Amey’s recital. Acerbic, delivered with a winning smile.
Jennifer Amey’s band: The Jets: Faye MacCalman (tenor saxophone), Emily King (alto saxophone), William Cainen (trumpet), Anne-Marie Rosa (flute), Luke Gaul (guitar), Tim Farrow (double bass & electric bass) & Lewis West (drums) & The Apocalipstix: Ella El-Salahi (vocals), Annabel Warnock (vocals) & Laura Machin (vocals)
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The third of four finalists Faye MacCalman (tenor saxophone) chose to perform with her regular (non-student) working band. Gigging around town (Jazz Café included), Ms MacCalman’s studies have focused upon the conflicting/complementary aspects of free improvisation and formal, organised sound. In her informative programme notes the tenor saxophonist referred to a trip to New Orleans (and Congo Square in particular) having an impact on her ongoing practice, seeking to incorporate rhythmic elements into her sound. Eight compositions formed the basis of MacCalman’s recital. The first, an original piece – Five Zilla – described by MacCalman as more or less variations of the Bb blues scale with elements of fairly chaotic free improvisation fully integrated all four musicians on the stand. Pete Currie (piano), John Pope (double bass) and Christian Alderson (percussion) were given free reign by MacCalman, making for a genuine group dynamic. Monk’s Bye-Ya, Wayne Shorter’s Juju, then a solo performance of Alice Coltrane’s Turiya and Ramakrishna. The latter number proved to be a tour de force. Huge applause, shy smile. A MacCalman composition – Seven Craters – began as an exploration of improvising in seven in the Lydian mode of E then into an open improvisation. The fact that this and other numbers succeeded was, in no small part, due to the contributions of the three ‘supporting’ musicians. MacCalman intends to stay around after graduating. A good idea would be to check her out at a gig.
Faye MacCalman’s band: Pete Currie (piano), John Pope (double bass), Christian Alderson (percussion)
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Trumpeter Joshua Lane, the last of the evening’s four recitalists, cited Kenny Wheeler as having the biggest influence on my playing and the student’s flugelhorn work bore traces of the late brass master’s readily identifiable sound. Lane remarked: it feels fitting to pay tribute to such an incredible player. He chose to open his programme with a composition by Wheeler – For Jan. Lane, a gentle, shy looking young man, didn’t waste a note. Horn players, perhaps more than other instrumentalists, can be exposed as frontline players. On this fraught occasion (with examiners listening intently) Lane performed with distinction.
Tunes by Tomasz Stanko and Wayne Shorter featured and his band of choice (fellow students) did him proud. One of the many highlights of the evening was Lane’s flugel and vocal interpretation of Skylark. Exposed isn't the word! So good was he that your reviewer sought out Josh Lane to shake his hand. The set ended riotously with Snarky Puppy’s fun, funk-fuelled version of Justin Stanton’s Outlier. Audience and band feted Lane. Fantastic is the word. Lane thanked his tutors Nathan Bray, Adrian France and Graham Hardy for their excellent guidance and constant support. A great set – Skylark and all. 
Josh Lane’s band: Ela El-Salahi (voice), Jamie Lawson (Piano), Emily King (alto saxophone), Luke Gaul (guitar), Tim Farow( double bass & electric bass) & Joe Cromey-Hawke (drums)
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The Final Year stars’ celebrations were sure to be memorable. On the evening there was one other performer – Stage 2 Performance candidate Graeme Pyper (tenor saxophone).                                     
Four tunes – So What, My Funny Valentine, All the Things You Are and Hiram Bullock’s Gotta Get Your Jollys did more than enough to suggest Graeme Pyper is one to follow.
Graeme Pyper’s band: Grace Alexander (piano), Luke Gaul (guitar), Murray Wankling (bass) & William Earl (drums).
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Newcastle University’s decision to stage some of this year’s student recitals at the Jazz Café paid off handsomely. A full house, a remarkable atmosphere, superb performances, let’s do it again next year!
Russell.

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