New YouTube Recording from Paul Dunmall Neil Charles and Mark Sanders

Fizzle/TDE Promotions is launching a new video recording made at the excellent Sansom Studios. This one is a really creative set from a trio led by Paul Dunmall and featuring Neil Charles on double bass and Mark Sanders on drums. This will be launched on Thursday 20th May at 8pm (UK time) on https://youtu.be/2fdFuvs5QEU.

This set features Paul Dunmall at his absolute best playing tenor saxophone on the first two improvisations, alto saxophone on the next and, finally, clarinet on the last piece. But what makes this session so special is the interaction between Paul and Neil Charles on bass and Mark Sanders on the drums. Paul and Neil had not played together before, but they immediately hit it off, both musically and socially, and the result is some very fresh and totally original improvised music. Mark plays regularly with both Paul and Neil so he really cements the session. As with the first of the recorded sessions with Paul, the recording interweaves Paul talking about his career between the different pieces. We hear about his time in the USA with the band of the Divine Light Mission, and how they rehearsed with Alice Coltrane. We also hear about his time with Johnny Guitar Watson and his great respect for Watson’s blues music.

It is definitely worth catching the launch session and joining in with all the comments, but the video will stay on YouTube after the launch. Of course donations are welcome as they will enable us to do more of these sessions. We already have three sessions on the Fizzle YouTube channel, and will do adding a video with violinist Sarah Farmer and laptop sound sculptor Annie Mahtani in the near future.

You can access all past and future videos at https://linktr.ee/fizzlebrum.

Paul and Mark have just released an duo album with the title Unity on the innovative Brooklyn New York label 577 Records. On this we hear the same creativity from Paul and Mark as on the trio recording; they produce a constant flow of fresh ideas on the five tracks, and Paul is as inventive as ever. Mark complements him throughout interacting at times with gentle sounds on gongs, wooden blocks and cymbals, at others with a driving pulse on the drums. Paul plays three different saxophones revealing a bright tone on alto saxophone on Track 1 Dwelling In Unity, a majestic tone on the tenor sax on Tracks 2 and 3, There’s The Distance and The Quiet Mind, and on Tracks 4 and 5, The Vacuum and Henry Grimes the mellow sound of the more unusual C-Melody sax.

Finally, a reminder that Fizzle goes live on Sunday 23rd May at 2pm with a double bill with the Chris Sharkey/Mark Sanders Duo and the Bruce Coates Quartet. This is at the Centrala venue in Digbeth. We have limited capacity as a result of the Covid restrictions, and today there are only 15 tickets left. Book here.

Memories of Great Gigs

Lockdown has given time to think back and remember some great gigs from the past. Two were Birmingham Jazz gigs of which I was Chair from the mid 1980s up to 2012 when Mary Wakelam Sloan and I moved into Symphony Hall as Jazzlines. The other was a TDE Promotions gig run in collaboration with Fizzle at mac.

I have previously written about the double bill of 1987 of Cecil Taylor and Roger Woodward, a brilliant tour set up by the Contemporary Music Network (CMN). Roger Woodward is a contemporary classical pianist, while Cecil Taylor was one of the great innovators of so-called ‘new thing’ in jazz in the late 1950s and 1960s. My strongest memory is of how Cecil on arrival immediately requested to see and play the piano in the venue, which was the Adrian Boult Hall in the old Birmingham Conservatoire building. So I took him there and watched on my own while Cecil played the piano, an excellent Steinway, for about 45 minutes. It was my own personal recital and I loved every minute. At the end I asked Cecil what he thought of the piano; he replied that it was okay without much enthusiasm. Later I learnt that he prefers a Bosendorfer.

The concert itself was outstanding and a brilliant idea for a tour by the programmers at the CMN. Roger Woodward played the first set with pieces by Xenakis, Takemitsu and Feldman. In the second half Cecil played for about 70 mins, with a set that had a clearly defined structure within which he built a series of very inventive improvisations. At the post-concert dinner Roger told me in some detail how much he admired Cecil’s scheme for improvising, and that he had finally understood what Cecil was doing.

I also remember a concert in 2003 at the CBSO Centre with a group led by another great American improvising pianist, Andrew Hill. This was another outstanding CMN tour with a large ensemble of both both American and British players. The band had played several gigs before the Birmingham, but somehow that night at the CBSO Centre, the band really took off. I remember a long duet between the two saxophonists Greg Tardy and Denys Baptiste in which the excitement levels built up to a peak with each of the two saxophonists striving to match the other’s playing. Trumpeter Byron Wallen also played some great solos, and whenever I meet we talk about that night.

I retain a strong memory of a night with Pharoah Sanders and his American quartet. The group played a large concert hall in Liverpool the night before the Birmingham, and arrived on the train at New Street. The band was clearly very hungry, and insisted on being taken for lunch straightaway. This was 3pm on a Friday afternoon, and to find an open restaurant in Birmingham was not an easy task. Fortunately San Carlo up near the Cathedral is open all afternoon, and the band were very happy to have a large Italian meal before going back to their hotel to rest before the gig. The gig itself was a strange one with Pharoah limiting his solos and relying heavily on the supporting group to develop the pieces played. Pharoah paced himself, but on two or three numbers he really extended himself, and we heard that famous sound of his. There was a full house for the gig – much appreciated by the band who were happy to be playing in an intimate venue rather than a large concert hall – and I think the audience went away happy that they had been in the presence of one of the greats of American jazz.

A recent memory is of a gig with the classical Riot Ensemble which had commissioned Alex Hawkins and Kit Downes to write pieces for the Ensemble. Alex had written a piece for Evan Parker on soprano saxophone and himself on piano plus ensemble, while Kit had written new pieces and re-arranged others for his ENEMY trio (Petter Eldh and James Maddren) plus the ensemble. All this took place in the Hexagon Theatre at mac which has a very small stage. Somehow we had to fit eight musicians of then Riot Ensemble plus the conductor plus the jazz soloists onto the stage. I remember Evan who knows the space arriving full of doubt about whether it would work. But somehow given great goodwill and patience on the part of the performers everybody fitted on the stage, and we had a great gig.

The commission for Alex Hawkins featuring Evan Parker has now been recorded as Togetherness Music, and is available on the Swiss Intakt label. Alex has developed and expanded the music in a number of ways since that gig in Birmingham, and for the recording formed an ensemble with a mix of improvising musicans and the classical players of The Riot Ensemble. It’s a great album.

Three Excellent Videos: More To Come!

I was impressed by the latest Fizzle/TDE Promotions video featuring Phonome led by alto-saxophonist Lee Griffiths with Charlotte Keeffe, trumpet, James Owston, double bass and Mark Sanders, drums. Particularly impressive was the camera work from Ben Samson and his team; Lee was keen to create more of a film that dealt with aspects of running the event rather than a straightforward creation of a gig in the studio. So integrated with the music we saw the musicians arriving, setting up and moving round the studio. Equally impressive was the approach to combining spoken word and improvisation; Lee has created rapid fire texts and arranged Samuel Beckett’s Not I and woven these into the improvised set. Finally there was some great playing from all members of the quartet.

The video is well worth watching; it remains on the Fizzle YouTube channel at https://youtu.be/T6X6hvEUrfM.

Fizzle/TDE Promotions has now produced three videos, the first with a trio led by Paul Dunmall with James Owston on the bass and Tymek Jozwiak on drums, the second with Mark Sanders’ CollapseUncollapse with Chris Mapp and Andy Woodhead.

All three videos can now be accessed in one place: https://linktr.ee/fizzlebrum. There is some great stuff there!

And there is more to come. Another great trio recording with Paul Dunmall on tenor and alto saxophones, and also clarinet, Neil Charles on double bass and Mark Sanders on drums will be out on Thursday 13th May. And today we are recording a duo with Sarah Farmer, violin and Annie Mahtani electronics. They played a great duo during the Tritych event in Stirchley last year, and I’m looking forward to this one. It should be out at the end of May.

Fizzle: Live Gigs Return: Live Streams Continue

Great news! The live programme returns, details below. But before that Fizzle/TDE Promotions present the latest in its series of excellent recorded sessions on its YouTube channel. This video will be launched on Thursday 29th April at 8pm and can be accessed at https://youtu.be/T6X6hvEUrfM.

This recording is part of the series recorded at Sansom Studios, and has the excellent sound and visuals that we expect from recordings there, but in other respects it differs somewhat from the other videos Fizzle/TDE Promotions have made. It features Phonome, a quartet led by alto saxophonist Lee Griffiths with Charlotte Keeffe on trumpet, James Owston on double bass and Mark Sanders on drums, and the emphasis is on making a short film which includes shots of the musicians setting up, moving round the studio rather than just creating a gig in the studio. There are also some great close up shots of the musicians as they play. But this does not take away from the music, which in itself is splendidly innovative. Lee Griffiths is interested in the relationship between spoken word and improvised music, and the set features a number of rapid fire spoken word passages with an influence from the plays of Samuel Beckett as well as some excellent improvisation from the members of the quartet.

The video will remain on YouTube after Thursday, but do join us for the launch and share your reactions on the Comments page. It’s a great set. We will also be broadcasting on Thursday 13th May a storming set with Paul Dunmall, Neil Charles and Mark Sanders, details to come.

The live programme will restart on the afternoon of Sunday 23rd May at 2pm at Centrala with a double bill with the Chris Sharkey Mark Sanders duo ( guitar/electronics and drums) and an excellent quartet led by saxophonist Bruce Coates with Sarah Farmer on violin, Trevor Lines on double bass and Lee Allatson on drums.

The Sharkey Sanders duo is extremely powerful, and is a great way to restart the Fizzle programme; you can check out their music here. It should work really well in the Centrala venue in Digbeth, address Minerva Works, 158 Fazeley Street, Digbeth, Bham B5 5RT. Capacity has to be limited and we are expecting tickets to fly out, so we advise you to book early. You can do so here.

May 23rd is part of three dates at Centrala in the summer, for which we also advise early booking:

Sunday 20th June, 2pm Double bill with Charlotte Keeffe Quartet and Shirley Smart/James Arben Duo. Tickets available here.

Sunday 18th July, 2pm Bobhowler (Alicia Gardener-Trejo, Andy Woodhead and Tom Mills) + Mick Beck/Seth Bennett/Paul Hession. Tickets available here.

Fizzle’s promoting partner TDE Promotions will begin again in the lovely Hexagon Theatre at mac in the autumn. Details will follow.

The Pharoah Sanders Floating Points Collaboration: Is It Any Good?

Whenever I have listened to the extremely minimalist music of composers such as Nils Frahm, Max Richter, or Olafur Arnalds I have often longed for a saxophone to come in to solo in a kind of call and response to the writing. In many ways, the collaboration between the DJ and sound sculptor Floating Points and saxophonist Pharoah Sanders realises that wish of mine. The piece titled Promises features Sanders playing over an electronic score by Floating Points (Sam Shepherd) and a contribution by the London Symphony Orchestra on two tracks. Overall there are nine movements with music running through without a break for 47 minutes.

The piece begins with a short motif which is repeated throughout the piece, either in its original form or modified in subtle ways by the electronics of Floating Point. Then Sanders enters on the tenor saxophone interacting with the ambient sounds in a gentle and contemplative style. This is the spiritual side of Sanders’ playing rather than the style based on extended techniques we hear in his recordings with John Coltrane. Sanders’ playing is beautiful throughout , but I feel that it could have communicated more strongly had Sanders been interacting with a rhythm section or just a drummer. He does interact with the electronics and in Movement 7 he builds up to a climax with something like the Pharoah Sanders cry that has always been a feature of his playing. He also goes into a gentle wordless vocal in Movement 4 which also fits well with the overall atmosphere of the piece. But overall I wanted more from him.

I agree with Richard Williams who in his review of the album, which you can read here, suggests that it is an album for Sunday morning listening. It is a pleasant listen that requires less concentration than the more ‘maximalist’ music that I prefer to listen to.