Enlightenment – A Love Supreme @ James Lavelle’s Meltdown

Enlightenment – A Re-envisioning of John Coltrane’s Love Supreme  touched down on the Southbank on the final day of James Lavelle’s Meltdown. It was a glorious mid-summer’s day, there was rave kicking off on the river bank terrace and Enlightenment had  sold out two successive houses – matinee and evening – in the QEH. At the end of a long day we received two standing ovations and to quote pianist Nikki Yeoh, “Smashed it…. end of… “.

Musical Director - Orphy Robinson

Musical Director – Orphy Robinson Pic – Carl Hyde

We first performed ‘Enlightenment’, on the eve of the summer solstice 2012 in the Chapel in Kings College under the name Sacred Music Sacred Spaces and despite various attempts to generate interest among the various curators on the jazz scene it all fell on deaf ears.  So, I have to thank have to the my long time friend James Lavelle and the Southbank’s Jane Beece for having the vision and confidence to include our homage to John Coltrane’s iconic recording in Meltdown. It allowed this deep and spiritually challenging suite of music, based on a recording made 50 years ago this coming December, to share a unique cultural space with a host of unique contemporary artists from Goldie to Josh Homme.

The opening sets of each performance commenced with Byron Wallen invoking the spirit of Buddhism and the Himalayas on his Tibetan horn. A Gnawa inspired duet between the trumpet playing Wallen and bassist Neil Charles  followed and it united two compositions, ‘Spirit Of Bilal’ and ‘Battle’.  Next up was a fabulous extended interpretation of Joe Henderson’s ‘Earth’ featuring  Tori Handsley on harp,  Rowland Sutherland on classical flutes and Emi Watanabe on Japanese flutes. A bumping homage to Sun Ra closed the opening set, included a dangerous vibes solo from Orphy Robinson, and paved the way for the main piece.

John Coltrane’s ‘A Love Supreme  was conceived as a suite in 4 parts and devotional a statement to God and ‘Enlightenment’ was re-envisioned by innovative master flautist Rowland Sutherland to incorporate and embrace instrumentation associated with various global religious and spiritual traditions and practices that reside in our own inner cities.

The Arranger - Rowland Sutherland

The Arranger – Rowland Sutherland

The 15 strong ensemble have only ever performed ‘Enlightenment’ all the way through four times. It is a work in progress, nothing is fixed in stone, and hearing both sets  in the QEH was massively different from hearing it in the Chapel in Kings. While the ensemble parts are gracious and ethereal other parts are fierce. Personally, I was in complete daze after the first set. Steve Williamson’s tenor solos were mind blowing. One doesn’t experience that degree of intensity very often. Nikki Yeoh’s forays on the piano effortlessly drew a wave of applause from the audience. Shabaka was fresh from playing with the Sun Ra Arkestra and was on fire. Mark Mondesir revived the spirit of Elvin Jones. Orphy Robinson delivered on marimba while his Black Top co-p constantly delivered a swathe of surprises from that deceptive little keyboard of his.

The evening set was different again from the matinee. The audience was different. It was more intense and the set that followed was much leaner than its predecessor. Steve  Willamson was excellent but due to horn trouble a little more tentative but Shabaka made up for that. ‘Enlightenment takes the listener on journey that at times is very physical.  However, the inclusion of poem written by John Coltrane in the final section of Enlightenment seems to have sparked off a bit a of a debate.

Steve & Shabaka

Steve & Shabaka Pic: Carl Hyde

Nikki Yeoh

Nikki Yeoh

The poem was originally printed on the inside of the gatefold sleeve of the initial US release and played phonetically by Coltrane on his tenor during Resolution on the ‘A Love Supreme’ album.  At Meltdown it was recited by Cleveland Watkiss in English and sung wonderfully in Yoruba by Juwon Ogungbe and while Juwon’s contribution drew no comment the English reading of it did.

In fact, when I met one of my closest friends after the first performance she berated me about the poem. It was all too much for her… too much God God God. Her views were then mirrored in John Fordham’s Guardian review which maintained that while A Love Supreme Re-envisioned unleashed some of the year’s most searingly exciting live jazz, the “lengthily zealous finale almost capsized the event”.

Cleveland + Juwon

Cleveland + Juwon Pi: Carl Hyde

This reaction to the poem and it’s reading reminded of a discussion I’d had in the early Seventies with several luminaries of the improvised music scene … Tony Oxley, Paul Rutherford and Barry Guy. I’d suggested that you couldn’t appreciate Coltrane’s music without acceptance of it’s spiritual nature, that his music was part of a spiritual continuum in the freedom struggle of African American… and as a good communist (which I also was/am) Paul Rutherford replied, something like,  “God… yeah, that was Coltrane’s problem.”

Mark, Tunde, Oli, Spry, Dave, Ansuman

Mark, Tunde, Oli, Spry, Dave, Ansuman

The concept of  “a love supreme” that emanates from God is alive throughout the whole suite. The trio of bata drums in the ensemble are not simply percussion. They were not brought in to simply create extra colour and rhythmic textures. They reflect Coltrane’s final recording where he collaborated with Nigerian master drummer Olatunji and the invocations – chants – included in the piece were made to specific orishas (Shango /Yemaya  /Obatala) in the Ifa religion. They connect Coltrane to his west African roots while Ansuman Biswas ‘ contribution and Juwon Ogungbe’s spoken invocation in the opening part are based on Alice Coltrane’s devotion to both her husband and the teachings of Hindu Swami Sachidananda. Personally, I love the opening which unites the santoor with the kora . It’s meditative, moving and it sets the vibe for the whole performance.

As I said earlier ‘Enlightenment’  was first performed in the Chapel in Kings College in 2102 physically placed the music in a place of reflection and worship and, on reflection, taking the piece into the secular space of makes me wish I’d gone with a careful selection of projected images behind the ensemble to illuminate and contextualise the vision.

Alice & John Coltrane

Alice & John Coltrane

Any project that takes on something already familiar and much loved is prone to criticism but the Enlightment Ensemble is made up of great musicians who are constantly scrutinising what they are about to play… I know that ’cause I was in all the rehearsals. Nothing is fixed in stone… for example Cleveland alternated the gender of God in the 2nd performance because he thought, after a conversation between sets, that it was alienating for women in the audience to be presented with God as a man.

As the project curator, all I know is that the Enlightment Ensemble received – with no prompting – a standing ovation from both audiences and that most people I spoke to, found the music intense, challenging and thrilling. And on that note I suggest we all tune in when they broadcast it on Jazz on 3 and listen again in cold light of day. The producer, who was in the truck said it sounded, “Amazing!”

The Enlightenment Ensemble

The Enlightenment Ensemble

We hope to perform the piece again in London on the 50th Anniversary of its recording.. 9th December… so, come a listen for yourself. I’m out of here. Peace.

PS .. . if your interested in an extended performance of the Sun Ra tunes performed in the opening set check us in the Chapel at the House Of St Barnabas on Monday 7th July.

Photography: Roger Thomas & Carl Hyde

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Detroit’s Theo Parrish – Footwork & Live Euro Tour

Detroit DJ/producer Theo Parrish – Footwork & Live Euro Tour in July!

Sound Signature's Theo Parrish

Sound Signature’s Theo Parrish

Just sat in on a lovely and deep interview in the Brownwood basement between Gilles Peterson and Detroit innovator Theo Parrish.

The organic-sounding but machine-based dance music of Theo Parrish incorporates live instruments, human voices and looped recordings and we can now give thanks he’s about to play a live set with a full band for the first time since his Rotating Assembly fleetingly hit the road a decade ago.

The band – featuring Theo on beats and keys, supa-don soul ‘n’ funk singer songwriter Amp Fiddler on keys, Akwasi Mensah on bass), Duminie DePorres on electric guitar and Myele Manzanza on drums plus a female vocalist! – will be revisiting both old and new Sound Signature classics. He’s also got two wikkid footwork steppers with him to elevate the art of dance. Going to be smoking! Got to be there!

For info on the tour: http://www.residentadvisor.net/dj/theoparrish/dates

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WOW! Nelson George meets D’Angelo



?uest pops up talk about the first time the and D'Angelo met!

?uest pops up to talk about the first time he & D’Angelo met!

WOW! Nelson George meets D’Angelo via the Red Bull Academy… this is a must view… a conversation that’s a joy to listen to. And it leaves you hungry for a whole bunch of new D’Angelo stuff live and on record.

It seems crazy that 14 years have passed since ‘Voodoo’. It seems ironic, that the most recent D’Angelo record to get a big-up in Billboard is the live set from his 1995 gig at the Jazz Cafe in Camden Town. It was classic session and it’s cool that the album is now available worldwide and not just in Japan but there’s been a lot of water under the bridge since then and the seemingly troubled period post Voodoo wasn’t touched on by Nelson in the interview. That said, I’m sat here listening to D’Angelo live in Stockholm, which was released in 2012, and it feels good. It’s tight, funky….Pino Palladino on the bass… and the horns are just plain HORNY! Mo’ D’Angelo please!

Check the transcript here. http://www.npr.org/blogs/MicrophoneCheck/2014/05/23/314883957/dangelo-im-trying-to-go-deep

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VIV ALBERTINE ON TOUR: Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys

VIV ALBERTINE ON TOUR – The legendary Slit’s guitarist takes to the road.

While exploring the world of film, influential guitarist and songwriter, Viv Albertine, quietly pursued her solo music career. She released a four-song debut EP titled ‘Flesh on Thurston Moore’s Ecstatic Peace. A solo album, ‘The Vermilion Border’, dropped in 2012 and she’s currently poised to hit the road to promote her new book.  Join the Faber Social crew at The Lexington in Pentonville Road for the launch of  Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys. Word has also reached of a Viv Albertine radio show on BBC Radio 6 Music.


Tickets / Ticket + Book Bundle* available to buy here:


*Please note – books to be collected on the night.

Check the tour dates below.

May 22 – Dublin Writer’s Festival / May 31 – Hay Festival / June 3 – Lexington Launch /
June 11 – Waterstones, Liverpool / June 17 – Ropetackle, Shoreham / June 20 – 22 – Dinefwr Festival / July 26 – Port Eliot / August 16 – Green Man / September 7 – Festival No.6

INFO: http://fabersocial.co.uk/2014/04/viv-albertine-on-tour/#sthash.DoJTf3l3.dpuf

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JOURNEY TO THE ONE @ The House Of St Barnabas

JOURNEY TO THE ONE @ The House Of St Barnabas is a summer series of “jazz” sessions curated by myself, in the spirit of Straight No Chaser, that aims to musically span the spiritual, the cosmic and the global.

Matt halsall

Matt halsall

First up… Matthew Halsall’s Gondwana Orchestra will conjure up a selection of deep and fresh compositions from his brand new long-playing offering ‘When The World Was One’ – which drops via his Gondwana imprint on the same day as the concert – Monday June 16th. There’s been a fascinating degree of synchronicity involved in this session finally arriving in the Chapel at The House Of St Barnabas and those who know me know that I can’t resist a bit of synchronicity. There’s are gentle modal, spiritual, mystical, Eastern influences at work in Matthew’s music and it will be given added life in the tranquil, meditative ambience of the Chapel.

I saw Matt at the Dingwalls session last Sunday and he was quietly buzzing at the prospect of their evening in the Chapel, as are we all at the prospect of a line-up that features Matthew Halsall on trumpet, Keiko Kitamura on Koto, Rachael Gladwin on Harp, Taz Modi on Piano, Gavin Barras on double bass and Teymour Housego on bansuri flute.  It’s an intimate session and tickets are limited to 70! So, check the website today to join us on the journey.

That’s June and in July, following on from our performances of ‘Enlightenment- A Love Supreme’ in the QEH on the final day of James Lavelle’s Meltdown, we present Sun Ra 100 with the London Art Collective  in the House Of St Barnabas. Now, there may be a few old folks out there who may recall an amazing, one-off gig dedicated to the mighty Sun Ra that took place, some years ago, at the Scala in Kings X and featured the very deep, Francisco Mora of Carl Craig’s Inner Zone Orchestra on drums and projections by the Light Surgeons. Brings back memories? Yes? No? Well, that legendary session was organised by one Lyn Champion. It featured flautist Rowland Sutherland, who had painstakingly written the charts for the evening, alongside piano/keys don Pat Thomas, vibes/marimaba player Orphy Robinson, bassist John Edwards and an excellent saxophonist who I’ve never seen since.

Sun Ra

Sun Ra

On May 22nd 2014, the angelic supernatural force that was Sun Ra would have been 100, and in homage to his legacy we have unearthed Rowland’s charts and will perform them once more, on Monday July 7th, in the spiritual confines of the Chapel. Rowland, Pat and Orphy will be joined this time by Maurizio Ravalico on congas and percussion, bassist Neil Charles and saxophonist Rachel Musson. Expect to travel the spaceways and journey down those strange celestial roads.

Nina Miranda + Instrumentos  Pic: Chris Franck

Nina Miranda + Instrumentos Pic: Chris Franck

The final session of the series reflects the global cultural impact of Brasil and will feature Anglo Brasilian singer/songwriter Nina Miranda who is fresh from adding her vocals to Gilles Peterson’s ‘Sonzeira: Brazil Bam Bam Bam’ album and is busy working on her solo debut. Nina has worked with Da Lata, Smoke City, Zeep and an array of global musicians and she’ll be appearing in Chapel with percussionist Anslemo Netto and legendary Osibisa gutarist Alfred ‘Kari’ Bannerman, both of Ibibio Sound Machine.

Adriano Adewale

Adriano Adewale

Our other guests for the night are the Adriano Adewale Group – a mesmerising Afro-diasporic quartet that features Senegalese kora player Kadialy Kouyate, bassist nathan Rikki Thomson, flautist Marcelo Andrade and Adriano on an array of percussion. Their most recent recording ‘Raizes’, released earlier this year on the Cabloco label, was described as “superb” in the Guardian while Jazzwise’s Kevin Legendre described the band as having “feminine grace combined with muscular brawn” and compared Adriano’s skills with legendary percussionists like Brasilian Nana Vasoncelos and the inimitable Trilok Gurtu.

Check the House of St Barnabas website to secure tickets. http://www.wegottickets.com/event/274099


The House Of St Barnabas is a charity which promotes the belief that  “working together we can break the cycle of homelessness” and these concerts are intended to maintain and raise the profile of the charity and their work.

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Does Tai Chi have any real martial art value?

Does Tai Chi have any real martial art value? I came across this excellent and informative article by Violet Li while researching push hands techniques at which I am currently woefully inept, judging by the bruises on my arms and a sore rib. Having already come across the Chinese Central TV Station (CCTV) Wushu Tournaments on You Tube I have to say I was seriously impressed with the badass takedowns and chin na techniques of one competition champion Wang Zhanjun, a practitioner of Chen family taijiquan, and Violet Li’s article, reprinted below,  provides an interesting and informative overview of a potentially confusing competition where one has to guess the rules in play and that has a clap happy teenage audience. Read on.

                                   ABOVE: Wang Zhanjun in action.

“Most people who never practice Tai Chi consider it too slow and only for seniors. So when they put 14 young fearless martial champions together, who do you think would win an all-out Lei Tai fighting tournament?

Chinese Central TV Station (CCTV) in China has been hosting annual Wushu Tournaments in recent years. One of the most exciting annual tournaments is that they include martial artists with diverse backgrounds to fight on the same Lei Tai. This year, CCTV joined venture with the beautiful tropical City of Sanya, Hainan Island and hosted a series of matches in January and aired them on TV from June 19 to July 31. Only recently the videos of the shows were posted online. All 14 contestants were national champions representing Shaolin, Ba Ji, Hong Quan (or Red Boxing), Tong Bei, Xin Yi and Tai Chi.

Aside from bare-hand fighting, contestants fought with a “weapon” that is a long staff with protected foams on both ends and wore helmets. But in the bare-hand fighting, there was almost no limits what you could do to an opponent; grappling, neck attacks, double arm grabs, sudden arm bars, grabbing around the waist, tripping, throwing, sweeping, disengagement, sudden strikes, full take-down, punching to the chest or kicking to face were all allowed. There were seven male and one female judge. There were two referees and one was a woman. The tournament format was rather nostalgic. The original one-on-one fights generated two defending champions. The later match winner got to choose which defending champion to challenge.

Chen Zicheng vs Chen Geng

Chen Zicheng vs Chen Geng

After 40 some exhaustive matches, four finalists emerged and they were Chen Style Tai Chi Chen Zhicheng, Shaolin monk Chen Geng, Shaolin monk Cheng Xianwen and Ba Ji Quan Dai Qianzhen. You can watch the final four games by clicking the link here http://sports.cntv.cn/20120911/106525.shtml . In the first game, red-belted Chen Zhicheng won over black-belted Dai Qianzhen with his superb skills, even though Dai is stronger and more muscular than Chen. The fight was intense and Chen’s shirt was torn. In the second game, red-belted Cheng Xianwen beat his Shaolin brother black-belted Chen Geng. In the third game, black-belted Chen Geng, who sat in the defending throne a couple times during pre-games, eventually overpowered Ba Ji red-belted Dai and won the third place in the tournament.

The 19-year old Tai Chi fighter Chen Zhicheng was 5’8” tall and weighed 159 lbs. His opponent Shaolin monk Cheng Xianwen was also 19-year-old, 5’7” and 163 lbs. Chen Zhicheng won all eight matches in pre-games while Cheng Xianwen lost once but gained the final status by total winning points. Their fighting skills were extremely comparable. After one round of weapon and two rounds of bare-hand fights, red-belted Chen Style Tai Chi Chen Zhicheng was judged as the champion for the tournament.

The gentle-looking Chen Zhicheng is a student of Master Wang Zhanjun. In the west, Wang Zhanjun may not be as well known as other 12th generation Chen Style Tai Chi inheritors. Born to Grandmaster Wang Xian, he is an undefeated heavyweight Lai Tai champion in national and international tournaments. He continued to compete even though he was the oldest one on the Lei Tai. Wang Zhanjun also trained many other Tai Chi martial artists gold medalists in Lei Tai and Push Hands tournaments.

GM Wang Xian

GM Wang Xian

People used to call Tai Chi Cotton Boxing (Mian Quan) due to its softness. Historically Grandmasters Yang Lu Chan, Chen Fake, Chen Zhaopei and a few other masters proved them wrong by winning all style Lei Tai’s. In recent decades, Tai Chi has been modified or simplified and many of its martial art applications have been removed. It is good to see that the authentic Chen Style Tai Chi still maintains this art in its entirety. In previous tournaments hosted elsewhere, Chen Style Tai Chi also knocked others out. We certainly cannot conclude that Tai Chi is the most powerful martial art simply based on these results. But we can say with confidence that Tai Chi can be an effective martial art and it processes the explosive features for both defensive and offensive purposes.” Violet Li

Back in the day! Shuaijiao masters_in Tianjin 1930

Lei Tai back in the day! Shuaijiao masters_in Tianjin 1930

Violet Li is an award winning journalist, a 12th generation Chen Style Tai Chi Inheritor, certified Taiji (Taichi) instructor, and certified Heart Zone Trainer. She has studied with many grandmasters and experts. Her passion for Tai Chi, Qigong and fitness motivates her to write. Check: http://www.examiner.com/user-violet-68. Contact Violet Lee at violet.li@tadi.com

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UK Premiere of Passinho Dance-Off at Curzon DocDays

Calling all dancers. The UK Premiere of Passinho Dance-Off is at the Curzon DocDays on 27th May. It’s an early one… 6.45pm. Book today. Big respect to Jez Smadja (Shook / Straight No Chaser) for pulling this off!


passinho 1Passinho is a street dance phenomenon thats swept across Rio de Janeiro, leaving more chaos in its wake than the International Olympic Committee. It’s made superstars of the scene’s mercurial talent, and highlighted the the creativity and passion endemic to the city’s favelas and suburbs. Directed by Emílio Domingos, Passinho Dance-Off follows the deftest performers during a city-wide battle to crown the king of passinho. But it takes an unexpected turn when one goes missing. The film was the Winner of the New Directions Award at the Festival of Rio and at the Curzon DocDays it will be followed by a Q&A with the director.

Passinho 22


A batalha do passinho 2 from Jangada Films on Vimeo.

Passinho Dance-Off (dir. Emilio Domingos, Brasil, 2012, 74 mins)

Book tickets: http://www.curzoncinemas.com/events/p05k3/curzon-docdays/

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