ASC CD169 The Family Tree (£10)
Gavin Barras - Double Bass / Acoustic Guitar
| Jeff Guntren - Tenor Saxophone
Jim Faulkner - Guitar | Dave Walsh - Drums
'The Family Tree' is the new album from UK double bassist / composer Gavin Barras. The inspiration for the album has come from the concept of family, both literal and also ‘musical’ family, such as band members, contemporaries and musical heroes. The record features ten new compositions, all written since Gavin became a father for the first time in June 2016.
On the album Gavin plays a double bass built by his own father, Steve Barras, a keen amateur stringed instrument maker. Steve spent 15 years building the bass and many of the tunes on the album were composed on this instrument. The bass sets up a lot of the compositions either by playing an ostinato, such as in 'Swingin’ Charlie', or a short solo as at the beginning of the Caribbean-tinged 'Steve’s Song'. The music ranges in style from a lilting waltz ('Waltz for my Wife') to a full rock/drum and bass vibe ('CBGB’s').
Individual members of the band have played together before but never in the same group. Collective improvisation is a hallmark of many of the tunes, not least in the title track 'The Family Tree', where guitarist Jim Faulkner and saxophonist Jeff Guntren bounce off each other, intertwining musical phrases, until the climax of the tune. Drummer Dave Walsh offers inventive, solid support throughout the album and is featured in a number of solo sections, notably at the end of the ballad 'Mossy Lea' - an ode to the area of the Peak District where Gavin lives. Two of the compositions feature Gavin on an acoustic guitar, again built by his father but this time back in 1967. These tunes contrast with the rest of the album as here Gavin plays in a trio with viola player Rhiannon James and cellist Margit van der Zwan.
Mike Westbrook solo piano
"You will need to look far indeed to find a more lovely jazz record this year." Duncan Heining, all about jazz
"...an hour of solo piano that is fresh, rich and improvised...the songs seem to segue seamlessly into each other, in a glorious free associative swirl." Andy Robson, Jazzwise.
"...a revalation...I imagine the audience spellbound." Patrick Hadfield, LONDONJAZZNEWS
"A Potent Album Dedicated To Life, Love And Friendship...serene, powerful and tender, echoing a full and committed life of tunes, friends, love, visions, memories and moments...a rare and cherished album." Chris Searle, Morning Star
Mike's first solo piano album in almost 40 years was recorded live by Jon Hiseman in July 2016 at Hélène Aziza’s Paris art gallery and music venue, 19 rue Paul Fort in the 14th arrondissement of the city.
In his 80th year, in an hour-long set, Mike Westbrook improvises themes from his own musical history, from his 1970s composition 'Citadel/Room 315' through to 'A Bigger Show' and his recent 'Paintbox Jane'. There are references to his Ellington tribute Duke's Birthday, to 'London Bridge is Broken Down', to his music theatre piece 'The Ass', and to his Beatles project 'Off Abbey Road'. The sequence contains songs written in collaboration with his wife, the artist, vocalist and librettist Kate Westbrook, along with popular songs, jazz classics and blues.
See Mike perform his own composition D.T.T.M. here:
Tina May vocals | Steve Plews piano | Gavin Barras double bass | Johnny Hunter drums
plus Steve Waterman (trumpet), Alan Barnes (reeds) and The New World Ensemble (strings)
"...fabulous self-penned songs, some finely reworked standards...an album of multifarious charms" Peter Quinn, Jazzwise.
"...intelligent, musically rich and wholly satisfying...very warmly recommended." Bruce Crowther, Jazz Journal.
"Tina May has the perfect jazz voice: expressive, rich yet agile... The combination of May and Plews is a potent one." Colin Clarke, Fanfare.
This album sees Tina May ("That great rarity, a singer who enhances a song" The Observer) perform the songs and arrangements of pianist and composer Steve Plews. 'Telling Jokes' is a musical story of a doomed love affair illustrated by the seasons. Here original songs are punctuated by standards to paint a musical portrait of a year in the life of a sweet and sour relationship. "Spring is Here", "Summertime" and "Autumn Leaves" each depict the various seasons and a Steve Plews original, "Like the melting Snow", concludes this romantic odyssey. Tina displays her versatility and sensitivity to melody and harmony, with a performance of great depth. The music could be described as "genreless" jazz, as a "theme - instrumental solo - theme" approach is rarely employed. Instead the focus is on Tina's voice as an instrument, her navigation of some new approaches to well-established standards and her interpretations of Steve Plews' songs. The trio is completed by Gavin Barrass on double bass and Johnny Hunter on drums. There are guest appearances from Steve Waterman (trumpet), Alan Barnes (reeds) and The New World Ensemble (strings).
Kate Westbrook & Martine Waltier voices | Billy Bottle voice & bass guitar | Sarah Dean alto saxophone and clarinet, Roz Harding alto saxophone | Alan Wakeman tenor & soprano saxophones, Gary Bayley tenor saxophone | Ian Wellens baritone saxophone | Mike Brewer & Sam Massey trumpets & flugelhorns, Dave Holdsworth sousaphone & pocket trumpet | Stewart Stunell, Andy Dore & Joe Carnell trombones | Ken Cassidy bass trombone | Jesse Molins & Matthew North guitars | Marcus Vergette bass | Coach York & Theo Goss drums | Mike Westbrook keyboard | Tim Goodwin dramaturge
Double CD recorded in concert at The Barnfield Theatre, Exeter on Thursday 30th July 2015.
A Bigger Show has been described as a Jazz/Rock Oratorio. Kate Westbrook’s scenario uses the image of the fairground to examine, with irony, humour and high drama, the lot of Humankind in the age of the World-Wide-Web. Mike Westbrook’s score for 21-piece ensemble involves 3 vocalists/actors, acoustic brass and saxophones, electronics and a double rhythm section. Kate Westbrook and fellow vocalists Martine Waltier and Billy Bottle are joined by established Jazz musicians together with lesser known artists, Pop and Rock musicians, Classical players and talented youngsters in a new kind of big band – the Uncommon Orchestra. Featured soloists include saxophonists Roz Harding and Alan Wakeman, Dave Holdsworth on sousaphone and pocket trumpet, guitarists Jesse Molins and Matthew North, Marcus Vergette on bass, and Coach York on drums.
Recording engineered by Jon Hiseman and Miles Ashton
Concert sound by Josh Stone
Mixed by Jon Hiseman at Temple Music Studios, Sutton
Executive Producer Steve Plews
"What a splendid rumpus...Shows don’t come much bigger." The Scotsman
"...music that is by turns exciting, thoughtful and thought-provoking. Let's hope it really is “the show that never ends”!" Patrick Hadfield LondonJazzNews
"Possibly only Mike Westbrook could have created the epic circus-cum-fairground phantasmagoria of A Bigger Show..." Rob Adams Herald Scotland
"...the playing throughout is first-rate...great music, great entertainment and great fun." Duncan Heining AllAboutJazz
ASC CD161 Positive Changes (£10)
Dan Whieldon Trio
Dan Whieldon piano | Philippe Aerts acoustic bass | Hans van Oosterhout drums
with Jean-Paul Estiévenart trumpet
"Whieldon displays a confident and strongly melodic writing style" all about jazz review
Pianist Dan Whieldon is based near Manchester, UK, and has been active on the (English) North West Jazz scene for the last 10 years. He was the winner of the Nottingham National Solo Jazz piano competition in 2008 and since then has been playing in various ensembles on the UK scene, including his duo with singer Alice Zawadzki. From the moment pianist Dan Whieldon studied Jazz in Brussels, he started to get a taste for the 'European' Jazz sound, and met many musicians while he was there, which shaped the writing and playing on this CD. Whilst rich in harmony, and inspired by the Bill Evans school, many of the compositions are short forms and have a 'song feel' about them, such as Whieldon's 'Waltz for Ronnie' and 'Para Ti'. Dan chose the musicians carefully here, with two heavyweights from the European scene: Belgian bassist Philippe Aerts and Dutch drummer Hans van Oosterhout on drums. The album, recorded in Genk, Belgium, is largely made up of Whieldon's accessible originals, but also features his arranging skills, with versions of standards 'Speak Low' and 'Nardis' as well as his take on Parry's 'Repton' (better known as the Hymn 'Dear Lord and Father of Mankind'). It also features as a guest the young Belgian trumpeter Jean-Paul Estiévenart.
Steve Plews piano
Gavin Barras double bass
Johnny Hunter drums
The CD is a tribute to Steve's relative Euphemia Allen, the composer of 'Chopsticks', possibly the most famous piece of music for the piano (and most annoying!) ever written. Euphemia wrote Chopsticks at the age of 16 under the pseudonym 'Arthur de Lulli' and was the sister of Steve's Great Uncle, Mozart Allen, the Scottish music publisher. The CD contains two versions of Chopsticks; one arranged more in the style of Don Pullen or McCoy Tyner than the normal simplistic tune and the second a heartfelt tribute to Steve's great uncle, with a hint of Ravel and harmonic influences of one of Steve’s heroes, the late, great Paul Bley.
Steve is eternally grateful for the musical and moral support of Gavin Barras on double bass and Johnny Hunter on drums.
ASC CD157 From Out of My Music Box (£10)
Neil Todd Ensemble
Charlie Hearnshaw alto and tenor sax, clarinet
Chris Lee piano
Neil Todd acoustic bass
Tony Plato drums
Andrew Vaccari trumpet | Andy Dore trombone | Neil Maya tenor sax
ASC CD156 Black Ship Bright Sea (£10)
John Bailey Quintet
The John Bailey Quintet features John Bailey (nylon string guitars), Richard Iles (flugelhorn), Tim France (sax), Gavin Barras (double bass) and Steve Hanley (drums). The quintet is based in the Northwest of England. The new album features entirely original material written by John. The music on 'Black Ship Bright Sea' draws on influences from 20th Century Classical music and from European Jazz. The compositional devices rely on crossing of melodies between instruments and simultaneous melodies instead of simple harmonised ones. Harmonically the movement of chords is not based particularly on a usual system seen in jazz composition; the techniques are more in line with those of Arvo Part, each note having absolute importance and all tones present for a reason.
"... an album of both intellect and mischief." Jazz Goes To Leeds review
"... quietly seductive set" Clive Cooper, Jazz Journal 03/15
Dave Newton piano | Clark Tracey drums | Alan Barnes reeds | Guy Barker trumpet | Don Weller tenor sax Iain Dixon tenor sax | Mark Nightingale trombone| Andy Cleyndert double bass
When Wakefield Jazz celebrated its 10th Anniversary in 1997 this band was specially commissioned to write a suite, perform it and record a CD. Recorded live at Wakefield Jazz Club, April 1998.
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Alan Barnes reeds | Don Weller tenor sax | Steve Fishwick | trumpet | John Donaldson piano |
Steve Brown drums | Alec Dankworth double bass
A tribute to Cannonball Adderley. Recorded live at Wakefield Jazz Club, May 2000.
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Steve Plews piano | Mike Walker guitar | Jeff Clyne double bass | Trevor Tomkins drums
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Kate Westbrook voice | Mike Westbrook piano | Chris Biscoe saxophones, alto clarinet |
Pete Whyman saxophones, clarinet, bass clarinet | Steve Berry double bass |
Jon Hiseman drums
Dedicated to the memory of Margery and John Styles
“Mike Westbrook is opening new vistas in his writing”
Franpi Barriaux, Citizen Jazz
“Chris Biscoe is marvellous on saxophone. Mike’s sparse piano playing, Ellingtonian and Monkish at the same time, is a beautiful mount for Kate’s dark voice, which is as extraordinary as ever. An amazing piece of work.” Pierre-Henri Ardonceau, Jazz Magazine
“Kate Westrook’s lyrics have been enriching partner Mike’s music since the 1970s, most recently with the Art Wolf project, but here I think she has surpassed herself. This is the Westbrook’s best release in a while – and that says a lot” Duncan Heining, Jazzwise
Manchester based quartet Mercury re-issue their 2013 debut album Mercury [LP] with ASC Records. The musical world Mercury inhabits lies in the murky edges between Genres. Always attempting to find new interpretations of the Jazz Quartet Format, Mercury makes Improvised Jazz Music go reaching into the worlds of Grunge, Dub-Step, Folk and Minimalism.
'Mercury always engage. Energetic grooves mixed with warmth and lyricism - a perfect combination.' Gwilym Simcock
Tom Thorp saxophones | Dan Brew guitar | Gavin Barras bass | Jim Molyneux drums
Check-out videos from Mercury's 2013 Album Tour.
After three tortuous years avoiding conventional harmonics, rhythm and structures, Two Sequences and a Dream emerges with carefully textured pieces which reward repeated listening. Here are electronica, motifs and improvisation, mixed with driving, fractious beats, and a tonal palette comprised of manipulated instrumental and found sounds, treated and assembled.
Two Sequences and a Dream is the sixth album by Sheffield duo “E,F”, their fifth to be released by ASC Records.
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Steve Plews electric violin, drums, prepared piano | Ed Jones tenor and soprano saxes, percussion
"...explores darkly urban, alienating soundscapes, rebalanced by regular moments of quiet tenderness...a frank, heartfelt offering...conveying between the rugged lines a warm humanity" Lara Bellini review
"...the effect is intoxicating. Each track is a short glimpse that leaves you both satisfied and desperate to hear just a little more." lmjazz
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Ed Jones tenor sax | Steve Plews piano/electric piano | Gavin Barras double bass | Dave Walsh drums
"..talented group from the UK scene....some refreshingly sharp shifts in gears on tracks like the moody drift of Hobart 1909 and Things I Have Not Seen. An album that reveals its nature gradually." Emusic summer jazz picks 2012.
CD promo video:
Gavin Barras bass | Ed Jones tenor saxophone | Steve Plews piano | Corey Mwamba vibes
Dave Walsh drums
CD promo video:
George King solo piano
Steve Plews piano | Gavin Barras bass, bass guitar | Michael Gilbourne drums
"...a handsomely conceived and produced disc." Jazzwise, 08/12.
"A totally original, well paced programme and an innovative approach to jazz piano trio..." Jazz Journal, 08/12.
Julian Joseph solo piano
'Julian Joseph is a world-class jazz pianist with large-scale compositional skills and a passport to the contemporary-classical world. ... an arresting reminder of Joseph's powers and deep awareness of the jazz tradition.' John Fordham, The Guardian, 20/01/2012.
Guardian review | London Jazz review
Jonathan Gee piano | Joseph Lepore double bass | Nasheet Waits drums
Adam Fairhall piano | Paul J Rogers electronics, sound sculpture
"A haunting and intriguing set of performances." Andy Hamilton: International Piano Magazine, autumn 2011.
Kate Westbrook voice | Mike Westbrook piano
Selected songs recorded between 1991 and 2009 by Jon Hiseman at Temple Music Studios.
"As anyone who caught their superb September 2008 Vortex performance (part of the ASC piano festival) will already know, a duo gig by Mike and Kate Westbrook is a rare treat, intimate, intensely personal, and wide-ranging (taking in material from the theatre and film worlds as well as standards, original songs and settings of European poetry). Allsorts succeeds courtesy not only of Kate Westbrook's consistently intelligent approach to a lyric (adopting what amounts to a dramatic persona where appropriate, as in 'Limehouse Blues' or the grippingly acerbic 'Pirate Jenny', rendering the straight-from-the-heart sincerity of 'September Song' or 'You'd Be So NiceTo Come Home To' all the more touching), but also of Mike Westbrook's subtle, perfectly judged but robust piano playing. A fine memento not only of a great live act, but also of a wonderfully fruitful, long-lasting collaboration between two highly original artists and a sympathetic and sensitive studio." Chris Parker, VORTEX.
Howard Riley overdubbed pianos
"... a remarkable achievement." Brian Morton: Jazz Review, April/May 2008
ASC CD50 Seven Moments (£10) Ed Jones
Ed Jones - soprano/tenor saxophones | Mika Myllari - trumpet | Jonathan Gee - piano
Geoff Gascoyne - double bass | Winston Clifford - drums | Nicol Thomson - trombone
Kate Westbrook voice | Mike Westbrook piano
Love Or Infatuation / Awake in a Dream / Falling in Love Again / You've Got That Look / You Leave Me Breathless / This is The Moment / The Moon's Our Home / Love Or Infatuation / The Boys in the Backroom
A jazz cabaret based on on the Hollywood songs of Friedrich Hollaender
devised and performed by the Kate Westbrook/Mike Westbrook Duo.
First performed as part of a tribute to Hollaender's music at the Bundeskunsthalle, Bonn, 1996.
ASC CD17 out here (£10) Ed Jones
Ed Jones - tenor saxophone | Byron Wallen - trumpet | Jonathan Gee - piano | Geoff Gascoyne - double bass
Winston Clifford - drums | Max Beasley - vibraphone
"The leader’s impassioned tenor saxophone sets the tone for this impressive set by a quintet of youngish British turks. Drummer Winston Clifford,a commanding presence, drives the band forward with almost terrifying ferocity." Dave Gelly: The Observer
ASC CD16 Inner Minor (£10) Howard Riley
Howard Riley solo piano
"He's in great shape, both technically and artistically." AllMusic Review by François Couture
ASC CD3 Secret Spaces (£10) Steve Plews
Steve Plews piano | Jeff Clyne double bass | Trevor Tomkins drums
"A primary influence on Mr. Plews would seem to be the early Bill Evans trio from 1961 but he is expanding the format with his own idiosyncratic methods of writing and performing." Derek Ansell: Jazz Journal.
ASC CD2 Piper's Tales (£10) Ed Jones
Ed Jones - tenor saxophone | Jonathan Gee - piano | Wayne Batchelor - double bass
Brian Abrahams - drums