Gig Review:
Jazza Festival of Music London 2010
at Scala, 275 Pentonville Road, London N1 9NL,
Tuesday 12th and Wednesday 13th October, 2010

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Jazza Music Festival London 2010

presented by Jazza Productions in association with
the Free Palestine Movement

275 Pentonville Road
King's Cross
London N1 9NL

Tuesday, 12th October, 2010 at 7pm, and
Wednesday, 13th October, 2010, 7pm

Date of Review: 2010/10/15

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Photo of Cleveland Watkiss
The extraordinary, irrepressible Cleveland Watkiss
(performing with the Jazza All-Stars)
All photos this page by Tali Atzmon and Copyright © Tali Atzmon 2010. All rights reserved. Any reproduction, copying, or storage by any means whatsoever including but not limited to electronic/digital means without written prior permission prohibited. Linking to individual photographs on this page prohibited.

Jazza Festival of Music London 2010
at Scala, 275 Pentonville Road, London N1 9NL, Tuesday 12th and Wednesday 13th October, 2010

Jazza Day 2 - Rap of Pain and Just Anger

One could not help feeling almost as exhausted as Rory McCloud must have done by the end of his - well, it was more than a mere performance really, more of a journey on which one travelled with him. Wit, humour and poignancy abounded in his songs and in the journey upon which he took the audience with him. An altogether fun and enjoyable experience.

Another Haunting

McCloud was followed by a reprise of the first day of the Jazza Festival's performance of the Wyatt/Atzmon/Stephen album, For The Ghosts Within. This time, the personnel of Gilad Atzmon & The Orient House Ensemble, Ros Stephen with the Sigamos String Quartet, Cleveland Watkiss and Tali Atzmon was augmented by Stormtrap on Where Are They Now? in place of Shadia Mansour.

This second night's performance had all the energy, spontaneity, vivacity and feeling of the first and again simply took one's breath away. A bonus of these performances (and the set with Sarah Gillespie) was that one heard much more of the incomparable Gilad Atzmon's gorgeous clarinet (on the album he can also be heard on bass clarinet) than during normal gigs with the OHE. Atzmon is not only the greatest saxophonist of his generation and of modern times, but also the finest clarinettist, with an identically beautiful voice on both. (Indeed, some people have opined that sometimes they find it difficult to distinguish whether Atzmon is playing sax or clarinet, and on occasion even some reviewers have been misled. Given the fundamental differences of the instruments, this may seem rather odd.)

The equally amazing Cleveland Watkiss again stood out and again showed why he his the finest male jazz singer today.

The song cycle that constitutes For The Ghosts Within has an overall haunting quality, both in the music and in the sentiment, the spirit of it. But most haunting of all has to be the title track, The Ghosts Within, that universal anthem for oppressed peoples anywhere and at any time, penned by Gilad Atzmon and Robert Wyatt's long-time partner, Alfreda Benge. Again, Tali Atzmon's sensuous yet assertive rendition of this was not only flawless but utterly hypnotic and haunting.

The combination of Gilad Atzmon's often soaring, always lyrical, ever inventive reeds, Ros Stephen's subtle string arrangements and her Sigamos String Quartet's superlative performance, the fabulous vocals (and whistling) of Cleveland Watkiss and Tali Atzmon, the excellent rap of Stormtrap, and the always perfect and sensitive support of the Orient House Ensemble in the shape of that finest of pianists, Frank Harrison, and finest of bassists, Yaron Stavi, and outstanding young drummer Eddie Hick, was simply devastating and exquisite.

Photo of Stormtrap and Gilad Atzmon
Palestinian rapper extraordinaire Stormtrap and Gilad Atzmon

The second day of the Jazza Festival at London's Scala opened with Palestinian rapper/hip hop artist Stormtrap (Abboud Hashem), formerly of Ramallah Underground, a young man with a cause and with a message.

One didn't have to understand Arabic to get the message, nor to realise that this was not the kind of latter-day rap whose sole purpose often seems to be the degradation and objectisation of women, but rather, solid political rap in the tradition of NWA. And even without his DJ, who had failed to appear, Stormtrap's performance was extraordinary and spellbinding.

The just anger, despair even, and pain as well as the hope for a better tomorrow, came across loud and clear in this extraordinary artist's stirring performance.

For the last part of his set, Stormtrap was joined by reed titan Gilad Atzmon on alto, lending additional emotional intensity to this fine performance.

Photo of Stormtrap aka Abboud Hashem
A stirring performance - Stormtrap in full flight

The Real Mc... McCloud

The next act is hard to pin down. Rory McCloud is perhaps best described as a contemporary singer-songwriter firmly rooted in the folk tradition, a modern day wandering troubadour of often soulful songs, a modern minstrel who delivers his songs with an often wry humour.

McCloud injected some welcome humour into the first half of the second night of the Jazza Festival. His energetic performance included the use of tap shoes and board on which he tirelessly stomped out his rhythmic accompaniment. Ever versatile, McCloud's other self-accompaniments included guitar, harmonica, and spoons.

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This superlative, deeply moving and elating performance really ought to have been recorded for release as another album (after a suitable interval). A basic recording was made to allow Robert Wyatt to hear the performance, and I feel certain that the great man must have been pleased with the result.

The crowd at the Scala certainly was more than pleased, quite overwhelmed might actually be nearer the mark.

An unforgettable set.

New Century Legend Meets Old Century Legend

If anyone thought that this kind of stellar quality jazz couldn't possibly be maintained, they were greatly mistaken.

The closing set of the Jazza Festival's second night was that of the specially formed Jazza All-Stars. Comprising of Peter King on alto, Gilad Atzmon on alto and soprano, Cleveland Watkiss, vocals, Oren Marshall ("the plumber", Atzmon joked, on account of his instrument) on his orenophone (a specially made derivative of the tuba), Alex Garnett on tenor, Seb Rochford on drums, and Frank Harrison, piano, and Yaron Stavi, bass, this line-up proved something quite out of the ordinary and perhaps the most exciting line-up of "all-stars" in a long, long time.

What they delivered was more than extraordinary and breathtaking. So much so, it could have almost come as a shock to the system! This was nothing short of sensational.

Oren Marshall started the set off with the customary "strange rumblings" from his orenophone - a noise that went right through you, that you could feel as much as hear - then settled down to some extremely fine playing.

Among the other stand-outs, some fine play-off between a jazz legend of the old century and the finest altoist that Britain had ever produced thus far, the great Peter King - still on fine form - and the first jazz legend of the new century, the unbelievable, unforgettable Gilad Atzmon was pure joy. The mutual respect, even affection, between these two giants was obvious and reflected in their stunning exchanges, each spurring the other on to some spectacular fireworks.

Alex Garnett, one of Britain's finest tenorists, also delivered some memorable soloing.

Photo of Gilad Atzmon
The one and only Gilad Atzmon, 21st century jazz legend

Another real stunner of a performance was again delivered by the unforgettable Cleveland Watkiss. Not only is his straight singing in a class of its own, but so is his scat. This latter was particularly sensational and breathtaking and revealed Watkiss as a fine improviser, especially also in his exciting pyro exchanges with Atzmon.

Photo of the Jazza All-Stars
Cleveland Watkiss with the Jazza All-Stars
L-R: Oren Marshall (left corner), Alex Garnett, Cleveland Watkiss, and Gilad Atzmon

Watkiss has been described as "the Sonny Rollins of the voice," but he proved himself so much more than that with this knife-edge performance.

Gilad Atzmon was on his usual devastating form throughout, as were Frank Harrison and Yaron Stavi with their rock-solid support.

The Jazza All-Stars really were just that, and ended the Jazza Festival on a high note and high spirits with a closing set that can only be described as fab-u-lous.


NB - A special thank you to the multi-talented Tali Atzmon for the excellent photographs that illuminate this review.

© 2010 Rainlore's World of Music/Rainlore. All rights reserved.

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