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More Jazz by Iain Ballamy's Anorak

Iain Ballamy's Anorak
MORE JAZZ
Iain Ballamy (tenor saxophone and compositions), Gareth Williams (piano),
Orlando le Fleming (double bass), Martin France (drums)

MORE REVIEWS

ALBUM AVAILABLE NOW AT JAZZCDS

4 stars****

THE TIMES****

THE GUARDIAN****

JAZZWISE****

Label: Basho Records
Release Date: 2nd July 2007
Title: More Jazz
Artist: Iain Ballamy’s Anorak
Cat. Number: SRCD 22-2
Barcode: 832929002229


TRACKS:
1. My Way 5.51
2. Of all the things 6.07
3. Tribute to Alan Skidmore’s tribute to John Coltrane 8.41
4. Convolution (for Dudley Moore) 7.28
5. Recedar 4.30
6. I got rid of them 6.58
7. St. Ella 1.50
8. The Worm 4.15
9. St. Ella (Reprise) 8.19

Total length 55 minutes

Iain Ballamy rediscovers his jazz roots in an album that came out of a commission for the Cheltenham Jazz Festival with support from the Jerwood Foundation. In the sleeve notes to the album he writes:

“Over the past 20 years my music has been described variously as ‘eclectic, contemporary and English’– certainly not as ‘retro, straight-ahead or in the American style’. So what marks this return to the ‘classic’ jazz format with ‘More Jazz’?

Although my true ‘jazz roots’ have never been too deeply concealed, some aficionados might argue that much of my past output is not strictly ‘jazz’. Who decides the criteria, I wonder, by which jazz can be deemed authentic? Regardless of the argument or the answer, it felt like the right time to look both backwards and forwards at the same time and to create ‘a modern jazz record with traditional sensibilities. By re-working classics such as ‘All The Things You Are’, ‘I Got Rhythm’ and ‘Stella By Starlight‘, I’m striving to create a bridge between jazz past and present. I can empathize with a well seasoned jazz listener who might feel that in much contemporary jazz, discernable points of reference are rather thin on the ground or even absent altogether. Equally, forward thinkers could argue that the current re-kindling of ‘the tradition’ often lacks freshness, risk or originality - as if the music is simply stewing in the rich juices of its own history and crying out for re-invention. Re-invention is in the true tradition of jazz – the forward momentum that has always kept the music evolving and sounding ‘of its own time’.”

Iain Ballamy
Renowned in Europe as the "Fantastic Englishman", Ballamy established himself playing alongside notables including Hermeto Pascoal, the late Gil Evans, George Coleman, Dewey Redman, Mike Gibbs and the New York Composers Orchestra. Touring extensively worldwide he has appeared at most international festivals and venues. Ballamy can be heard on over 40 CDs. A long time collaborator with Django Bates, since the days of Loose Tubes and Bill Bruford's Earthworks he is currently a member of Django's 'Human Chain' and 'Delightful Precipice'.

Parallel to his international jazz career, Ballamy has pursued his interest in world music, playing concerts in India and Europe with the Karnataka College of Percussion. He has performed and forged strong working relationships with renowned musicians from Hungary, Norway, Spain, Sudan, Brazil and beyond.

Combined arts projects include tours with Sankalpam the contemporary Indian Dance group and Ballamy's acclaimed role as 'Steve the prat' in Simon Black's stage play 'Out There' which toured Britain in 1995 and '96.
His distinctive saxophone voice can be heard in his improvisations for the BBC Radio 4 play 'Signal to Noise' by Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean, the movie 'Legend' and a documentary 'Joseph Losey - the Man with Four Names'.

Ballamy recently scored the award winning film Mirrormask directed by Dave McKean for the Jim Henson Company.

Ballamy's wide-ranging musical interests add depth and creativity to his music, which can be clearly heard on Veggie and Last Supper release by Rune Gramafon (featuring Norwegians Arve Henriksen, Mats Eilertsen and Thomas Stronen).

Ballamy is an agony uncle for jazz UK magazine with his column ‘In the saxophonists chair’. In 2001 he was awarded the BBC Radio 3 special award for innovation at the British Jazz awards. He is also a specialist tutor at the Royal Academy and Trinity College of music in London.

www.ballamy.com

Gareth Williams
An intensely dynamic player he has been receiving increasing critical acclaim since becoming a professional musician in the early 90s.

Described as “a jewel of a player…spinning out luminous introductions and codas” by Jazziz Magazine (USA), he has dazzled audiences not only by his virtuosic approach to the piano, but also by his talents on guitar and as a singer.

He describes his musical references as Bill Evans, Welsh Tenor David Lloyd, Big Bill Broonzy, Mahler, Coltrane and Thin Lizzy.

An electrifying performer, he has been described as “…a fantastic improviser” by John Fordham in the Guardian and “If you’ve seen Williams perform, you’ll know that he’s the embodiment of creative energy, a physical player who gets wrapped up in his work, with a keyboard command that’s both impressive and well directed” by Peter Vacher in Jazzwise.

Playing credits include Us3, Claire Martin for whom he acted as MD and performances worldwide with Jim Mullen, Bud Shank, James Moody, George Coleman, Tommy Smith and Tim Garland.
He also composes and leads his own trio with Laurence Cottle and Ian Thomas.
Described as “a jewel of a player... spinning out luminous introductions and codas” album early in 2004.

Orlando Le Fleming
Orlando Le Fleming was born in Birmingham, England on July 7, 1976. Both of his parents are professional musicians; his mother a cellist and his father a composer.

His first ambition was to become a professional cricketer, an aim that was realized when he played for five years in the minor counties.

After receiving a place at London's Royal Academy of Music, Orlando decided to give up cricket and pursue his love of music. While based in London, he quickly established himself as one of the UK's most prominent bass players touring and recording with Jason Rebello, Julian Joseph, Desree, Tommy Smith, Mica Paris, Jean Toussaint and Guy Barker. With the advantage of being based in Europe, Orlando was also in demand to perform and tour with visiting U.S. musicians such as Bill Charlap, Don Braden, Dave Liebman, Jeff Watts, Joey Calderazzo and most notably, Branford Marsalis.

Since moving to New York in January 2003, Orlando has toured with Billy Cobham's new group "The Art of Five", and most recently he has become a permanent member of Jane Monheit's band.

Martin France
Martin France has played with many of the world's finest musicians. He has performed in all five continents including concerts and tours in over forty countries worldwide.

He began performing at the age of twelve backing singers in Working Men's clubs with Organ trios in and around Manchester, and in 1983 he began his recording career performing on several records for ECM.

A turning point in his early career was his role within the Eighties big band LOOSE TUBES where he began long standing partnerships with many of its members. His association with Django Bates has led to many diverse projects away from the "Jazz" environment they normally occupy with HUMAN CHAIN and DELIGHTFUL PRECIPICE. These include film soundtracks, Jazz theatre, cross cultural collaborations and recording projects involving orchestras such as The London Sinfonietta, BBC Welsh Symphony Orchestra and ASKO Ensemble in Amsterdam.

He is also active as a studio musician working on TV and Film soundtracks and is involved in programming and composing for many projects and artists, including his own band, SPIN MARVEL. Along the way Martin has performed and recorded with some of the world's best musicians including David Gilmour, John Taylor, Kenny Wheeler, Ralph Towner, Lee Konitz, Dave Holland, Arild Anderson, Mark Johnson, Steve Swallow, Chris Laurence, Gwilym Simcock, Bob Mintzer and The Yellowjackets, Nils-Petter Molvaer, Bugge Wesseltoft, Mike Gibbs, Maria Schneider, Sidsel Endresen and Maria Joao.

www.martinfrance.com

Reviews


01/10/2007 JENNIFER LAURIE Jazz Review

Son of an accomplished jazz pianist and, himself, a stalwart of the 1980s British jazz revolution, Iain Ballamy proclaims his return to his jazz roots with a distinguished group of ‘still young’ musicians in Anorak. Perhaps the reason those of us who witnessed it now doubt whether the 1980’s ‘revolution’ ever took place is because, with few exceptions, it venerated and built on past achievements at the expense of significant new departures in jazz. Like several big names of the 1980s, Iain Ballamy drifted out of jazz to other contemporary styles. Rhythm and grace seemed scarce by the time jazz reached UK shores, having exhausted supplies around the perimeter of
the southern Atlantic. So, if the 1980’s saw merely a resuscitation, can we rely on the likes of Ballamy to take UK jazz somewhere new? Apart from the opening track,“My Way” (which I found a touch too deliberately cavalier) all new pieces and tributes are Ballamy originals which exceeded my expectations. St Ella is by turns graceful and exciting and his trio provides an excellent foil for Ballamy’s stylish accomplished playing – he even tames Gareth Williams’ piano here to appreciate the virtues of ‘team-playing’(if you’ll excuse the pun). I really started appreciating this album on reaching “Tribute To Alan Skidmore’s Tribute To John Coltrane”. This, and to a lesser degree, “The Worm”, are lyrical and graceful and seem to be bringing something home. “Convolution” (for Dudley Moore) is quirky, scintillating and graceful, and is one of my favourites. Skittish, and quite exciting are Ballamy originals, “Recedar” and “I Got Rid of Them”. It may set out to respect convention, but UK jazz seems to be safe in the hands of Iain Ballamy.

04/08/2007 John Bungey. The Times 4 stars ****

He was a star of the laddish big band Loose Tubes, he went Nordic with the avant-garde Food and he plays a mean Teddy Bears Picnic.

But what nobody associates the saxophonist with is traditional US jazz. Here, though, he slyly updates the tunes that he heard at his piano-playing father’s knee. The quartet’s playing is top-notch – listen to Ballamy and Gareth Williams on piano scorch through the bluesy bebop of The Worm. There will be nonanoraks who mistake the saxophonist on Tribute to Alan Skidmore’s Tribute to John Coltrane for the great dead legend himself. This is a record that carries off the neat trick of having one foot planted firmly in the past and another in the present.

13/07/2007 John Fordham, Guardian 4 stars ****

Maybe the saxophonist Iain Ballamy doesn't go out of his way to flatter his quartet by calling it Anorak - the idea seems to be that it nods to the jazz tradition more explicitly than some of his more eclectic world-music ventures do. But there's nothing nerdily inhibited or derivative about the music here, a mix of mazy postbop jazz lines with postponed resolutions and circus-music bounce.
Ballamy joins long-lined cool school melodic thinking to soulful smoky-tenor sounds; Of All the Things confirms how subtle a romantic balladeer he remains. His fellow Anorak-wearers (pianist Gareth Williams, bassist Orlando le Fleming and drummer Martin France) give him world-class support. The McCoy Tyner-influenced Williams may never have played more urgently on record, and a stunning France constantly disrupts Ballamy's long, murmuring lines with a barrage of contrary patterns. My Way is played as a preoccupied muse over a Latin pulse that turns into fast swing; a slow Coltrane tribute is beautifully paced and atmospheric; I Got Rid of Them is like a more convoluted Stan Tracey tune; The Worm suggests a Michael Brecker theme with more bars in it.

06/07/2007 Fiona Shepherd, The Scotsman ****
IF YOU had saxophonist Iain Ballamy pegged as purely a non-mainstream player, then it's time to think again. Ballamy cut his teeth on classic jazz long before Loose Tubes, and his subsequent experimentalism has always been tinged with a deep awareness of those roots. He turns here to a consciously mainstream style, albeit on his own compositions. The result is a fresh-sounding set of imaginative straight-ahead jazz with a contemporary twist, played by a quartet as good as any on the UK jazz scene. Ballamy's tenor saxophone inventions are complemented by Gareth Williams's hugely resourceful piano playing, with Orlando Le Fleming on bass and Martin France on drums. Among the disc's many highlights are a fine but un-slavish evocation of Coltrane on Tribute to Alan Skidmore's Tribute to John Coltrane (both title and idea are characteristic Ballamy), the sinuous Convolution (for Dudley Moore), and a complex altered blues, The Worm.


02/07/2007 Kathryn Shackleton, BBC Website

In a break from gadding across continents playing free jazz and world music, sax-player Iain Ballamy’s put on his anorak for a trip back to his roots.

On More Jazz, Ballamy’s working with a UK rhythm section and (almost) playing straight-ahead jazz. Never conventional, instead of improvising on well-known tunes, he’s written his own: each one built around the kernel of a standard. “Tribute to Alan Skidmore’s Tribute to John Coltrane” starts meditative and airy, and suddenly the apparition of Coltrane’s “Resolution” looms up, hefty chords grounding you for a moment in 1964. “The Worm” is frenetic and edgy, while “St. Ella (Reprise)” whispers through the tenor’s upper register, hinting darkly at the melody of (you guessed it) “Stella By Starlight”.


The fast pace of this album suits pianist Gareth Williams’ agile fingers, and he shapeshifts through classical, bluesy and avant garde styles against a backdrop of thickly-woven bass and drums. “I Got Rid of Them” accelerates from 0 to 200 (beats per minute) in 30 seconds, while “Convolution (for Dudley Moore)” is a seductive tango. Iain’s breathy sax duets so closely with the piano here, that the sound of Food bandmate Stian Carstensen’s accordion comes to mind.


The only piece on More Jazz that’s not written by Iain Ballamy is a hard-swinging “My Way”, with a recurring riff that passes between the instruments, and purring flurries from Iain’s tenor. A spontaneous-sounding drum solo from Martin France and an unscripted ending are hallmarks of the whole album, which feels more like a live set than a recording.

Jazz anoraks will chuckle at the veiled references to standards in the track list, but non-nerds – well, you needn’t feel left out. This is honest jazz played by some of the UK’s best.

01/07/2007 Stuart Nicholson, Jazzwise 4 stars****
I’ve not heard Anorak live, but this album makes me want to rectify this oversight right away. This robust, yet thoughtful album sees Ballamy taking on the jazz mainstream on his own terms. It is an affectionate love letter to the jazz styles of the 1950s and 1960s which drew him into jazz, but refracted and gently distorted through the prism of his wide musical experiences (which would take several pages of closely written A4 to describe). Ubiquity on the UK scene does mean we sometimes pigeonhole artists in this little box or that little box, and Ballamy systematically goes about showing how wrong this typecasting can be in general and undoing any preconceptions you may have about him (quirky humour) in particular.

Listen to his solo on the altered blues “The Worm” – has Ballamy ever played the blues on record before – I don’t think so. Yet it’s an odd sort of blues, 12 bars OK, but two lots of 12 bars using descending and ascending whole tones. Fascinating. And the way he captures the spirit of John Coltrane on ‘Tribute to Alan Skidmore’s Tribute to John Coltrane’ without becoming a clone, or his deconstruction of ‘I Got Rhythm’ that point to an enormously accomplished jazz musician.

08/06/2007 Alan Brownlee, Manchester Evening News
THE self-deprecating title captures the authentic jazz voice. As does the music, which, like the best jazz, is searching in spirit, but settles for joy rather than chaos. This being Iain Ballamy, who emerged from the Loose

Tubes circus in the Eighties, mischief always bubbles under the surface. My Way crosses the Sinatra chestnut with Coltrane's Giant Steps, and an original tune, Tribute To Alan Skidmore's Tribute To John Coltrane, manages to honour two great players at once.

Trane seems to be the presiding spirit then, but Ballamy's tone is more lyrical than remorseless, more relaxed than magisterial.

The tunes are marvellous throughout and the musicianship - with Gareth Williams on piano, Orlando Le Fleming on double bass, and Martin France on drums - is consistently high.

06/06/2007 Ian Mann, 24Dash.com
The music is totally contemporary in feel and Ballamy's personality is indelibly stamped on the project.....By any standards this is an exceptional quartet

22/05/2007 Chris Parker, Vortex Website
Issued under the 'Anorak' band name – Iain Ballamy on tenor, plus pianist Gareth Williams, bassist Orlando Le Fleming, drummer Martin France – this album owes its title to the fact that it concentrates on reworkings of standard material such as 'I Got Rhythm', 'Stella by Starlight' and 'All the Things You Are', rather than the quirkily original material that has recently absorbed Ballamy with the Anglo-Norwegian band Food, or (in the 1990s) his work with the Karnakata College of Percussion or Hermeto Pascoal et al. Intense (particularly on the aptly named 'Tribute to Alan Skidmore's Tribute to John Coltrane') yet joyous and celebratory, Ballamy's saxophone playing has seldom sounded better: his tone is winsomely light, yet capable of great strength and variation, shading into either an attractively foggy breathiness or a rapturous warble as required. His neat arrangements, too, which from time to time involve witty little passages of unison with Williams, giving a lightly tripping, almost fast-tiptoeing effect to the music, are highly effective throughout, and given the precise articulation and cascading energy of the latter, plus the faultless bass of Le Fleming and the crackling vibrancy of France, this is an irresistible album featuring a sparky but elegant band, and comes highly recommended.

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