Aron and Adb al Malik

It seems everyone ends up in Paris, eventually.  Aron Ottignon was raised in Auckland, New Zealand and I knew him when he was still a prodigious jazz pianist, playing professional gigs around town at an unusually young age.

Since then Aron’s played his way through the scenes in Sydney and London, released a solo album under the name Aronas, and now he’s ended up in Paris, playing with rapper Abd Al Malik.

As well as touring with Abd al Malik, Aron has appeared with the band on French TV shows such as Le Grand Journal, and earlier this year played at the Victoires de la Musique in Lille:

Aron was sneaky enough to film this very performance from his own perspective, on his iPhone…

And, if you’re quick, you can even see his iPhone in the live footage from France 4! :

Poni Hoax

Poni Hoax are a band from Paris. They sing in English, and have been playing since 2001, but I don’t think they’ve yet quite crossed the watery divide between French indie acclaim and anglo-saxon stardom.  Navigating between the austerity of Kraftwerk and the masculine emotion of The Doors, there’s something about their electro-disco style that suits these grey times.

In addition, as befits a consciously stylish band from the city of Gainsbourg and Godard, their video clips are top notch piece of film-making. Antibodies features a naked chick and a bubble in an airport:

And The Paper Bride features a man, a swimming pool and a dance:

Behind the Lines

When one posts a Phil Collins video, one is on shaky ground. However, music from your childhood sticks in your memory like week-old pesto to a fridge wall. And this is a day to scrape off some of that green gunk.

My clueless 13 year-old self received a double album on cassette (Face Value/Hello, I Must be Going) as a birthday present, and not knowing any better, I decided I quite liked it.

I soon learned to keep such opinions to myself: and to day, this double cassette remains the only Collins in my collection. I soon found other monstrosities to obsess over (who remembers Arrested Development?).

And I still think my favourite Phil Collins song is this one: it features the horns from Earth Wind and Fire, and is really a Genesis song, so there.

Cuong Vu

Cuong Vu Trio playing “Vina’s Lullaby

Cuong Vu – trumpet
Stomu Takeishi – bass
Ted Poor – drums

Live at Berklee College of Music (date unknown)

Bannerman’s Dusty Dream Hole…

It’s exciting to hear new music from a close musical collaborator and friend – Richie Setford was the éminence grise and main creative force behind one million dollars, a band to which my life was tied for a big chunk part of the last decade.

Now Richie has released his first full album as a solo artist: The Dusty Dream Hole is released under his nom de scène Bannerman. Sonically, the departure from our one million dollars adventure couldn’t be more dramatic:

The offspring of several years gestation, The Dusty Dream Hole could be described as broadly cinematic… the album encompasses lilting ballads and sharp-edged, distorted dreamscapes that you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy: from the headlong jangle of My Quarantine to the glistening lounge-pop that adorns Caverns.

Richie’s musical interests and songwriting have always stretched a long way beyond the funk and soul of the one million dollars project. I was lucky enough to work with him in some smaller settings – both gigs and in various bedroom and lounge jam sessions – where Richie’s gift for melody and gently twisted song-stories could be taken outside what could be interpreted by an 11-piece groove band. In some important ways, The Dusty Dream Hole sounds to me like the logical outflow of those explorations.

The textures that fill Dream Hole reflect for me the years Richie has spent in the studio with various bands . Like a population of goblins poking their impudent heads out of hollow logs, the album is replete with chunky guitars, strings, folk harmonies, horns and stripped-back drums.

Most pleasingly, and perhaps for the first time, we get to hear Richie’s full range as a vocalist – his Tom Waits growl on Deep in the Forest is quite arresting.

Of course, my thoughts on Bannerman can never be objective. I know the musicians involved too well and –  to some limited extent – I heard the origins of this music as it took shape in flats in Western Springs and Kingsland in mid-noughties Auckland. I hope however that this album gets out to a wider audience – not just because I count Richie as a friend, but because his musical vision deserves to be shared.

The Dusty Dream Hole can be purchased online (digital and CD) at, and free download samples are available on bandcamp.

Ants in their pants

In a previous life I lived for a few years in England. During that period I participated in the extraordinary project that called The Original Rabbit Foot Spasm Band. Some might consider this an obscure claim to fame: however it has been scientifically proven that on days when US Air Force cargo jets are not taking off from RAF Brize Norton, the ORFSB is in fact the loudest human-produced noise in Oxfordshire.

Of course, it took my departure from the UK for the guys to really find success, and these days they play regularly outside their native county, including London’s 100 Club, the Glastonbury Festival, and pubs in the less smelly parts of Berkshire. Earlier in the year they even managed to find enough money for fuel to drive down the A40 to Cheltenham for the annual Jazz Festival:

Their first album, Gin and Sympathy, is a good introduction to the band’s music, and certainly offers 350% more fun for five quid than you can get on Park End Street on a Friday night.

Stylistically, the Rabbits plant one foot firmly in the traditions of pre-war jazz. (The other foot is firmly pushing through the crowd at the bar to order another pint). Semi-autobiographical originals (Booze Cruise and Nappy Head Rag) sit alongside classics like The Saints and I Don’t Want to Set the World on Fire, as well as a Sheik of Araby who seems singularly proud of his lack of underwear.

And yet there is a serious project behind the band’s exuberant, devil-may-care stage persona. This band shows that jazz played in the old style can be not only be fun, but actually attract young audience in venues normally reserved for rock acts. I am reliably informed that at their gig at The Cellar in Oxford on Friday night, the queue to get in stretched well out the door.

The band’s singer and pianist, Stuart MacBeth is involved in an advisory capacity at the British National Jazz Archive, and it is his deep knowledge and enthusiasm for the music and its history that offers authenticity to what might otherwise be perceived as a novelty act.

Despite the reverence for tradition, the Original Foot Spasm Band are a thoroughly modern, networked outfit. You can pick up a digital copy of Gin and Sympathy on Bandcamp (for just 5 pounds), and follow the band on Twitter and Facebook.

Someday We’ll All Be Free

This week’s musical interlude is courtesy of the Miguel Atwood Ferguson Ensemble, performing Donny Hathaway‘s Someday We’ll All Be Free. This video was shot live a few weeks ago at California Plaza in Los Angeles.

Bilal Oliver does a fine job shadowing the original vocal style of Mr Hathaway on this song. He will have his own album Air Tight’s Revenge out in September… could be worth checking out.

What’s even better is that the mp3 of this performance is available as a free download!

Eddie Palmieri live in Paris

It is a rare and exciting day when you hear a musician of the calibre of Eddie Palmieri in concert. One of the founding fathers of New York salsa and a great innovator in the Latin jazz of the 1970s, Palmieri brought his Afro-Carribean All-Stars to New Morning in Paris last Friday, and they blew the roof off.

Eddie Palmieri, Concert Pique-Nique, Reims France, 17.07.2010. Image: Eulsteph

Two hours of music stretched out over a pair of sets, suffused with humour and generosity. It was hard to suppress a giggle when Palmieri threw a quote from Salt Peanuts into one of his famously overblown solo passages. The grinning complicity between Palmieri and his bass player, Luques “Salsa” Curtis was evident throughout the gig.

Brian Lynch, Concert Pique-Nique, Reims France, 17.07.2010. Image: Eulsteph

The presence of trumpeter Brian Lynch in the touring band was a particular pleasure – an incredibly technically accomplished player, Lynch has been a regular collaborator with Palmieri since 1987, and directed the Grammy-winning album Simpàtico in 2006.

The music traversed Palmieri’s jazz catalogue (including tunes from Simpàtico and 1990’s Palmas) and included a steaming Latin version of Monk’s In Walked Bud, a nod to one of Palmieri’s own stylistic influences on the piano.

Palmieri apologised that the band wouldn’t be playing his salsa hits (Vamonos pa l’Monte, Cuidate Compay…), because of a lack of vocalists in the group. But with the energy on show last Friday, nobody went home disappointed. This is a gig I’ll remember for a long time.