Jeff Williams to release ‘Lifelike’ ft Gonçalo Marquez, John O’Gallagher, Josh Arcoleo and Kit Downes 20th April 2018


Dividing his time between Brooklyn and London, veteran drummer Jeff Williams is in the midst of an exceptional run on the Whirlwind Recordings label. Outlier, in 2016, showcased his working UK quintet in a set hailed by All About Jazz for its “imaginative compositions and excellent musicianship.” Lifelike, the follow-up, finds Williams and the group live on the bandstand, with a tweak in personnel and an expansion to sextet with the addition of guest trumpeter Gonçalo Marquez. Also entering the picture is alto saxophonist John O’Gallagher, a fiery presence on Williams’ first two Whirlwind releases (Another Time and The Listener). Tenor saxophonist Josh Arcoleo, pianist Kit Downes and bassist Sam Lasserson remain on board from Outlier, playing with characteristic beauty and grit.

Williams has documented his compositional voice on recordings going back to the late ’80s. His pedigree as a sought-after sideman and collaborator stretches back farther, from his membership in Lookout Farm with Dave Liebman and Richie Beirach to his vital work with Stan Getz, Lee Konitz, Ted Curson, Cecil McBee, Jerry Bergonzi, Joe Lovano and a host of others. Leading this new lineup, Williams builds on this extensive and invaluable history, pushing his art ever forward. “Lifelike is another way of saying ‘live,’” he muses about the album title. “The word is usually ascribed to inanimate objects and I always found it humorous. Basically, I felt that this recording has ‘life’ in it, the kind of life embodied in a live performance.”

Although Phil Robson, the brilliant guitarist on Outlier, recently moved to New York, O’Gallagher’s transition from Brooklyn to Birmingham, England came just in time. The change keeps the music fresh and unexpected. “John and I go back more than 20 years,” Williams says. “He’s been the constant in my band and it’s hard to imagine him not a part of it. He has his own musical vocabulary and conception, and fortunately he’s pursuing his doctorate from Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, where I also teach, so he’s available to me again as a key ingredient.”

Together, O’Gallagher and Arcoleo bring Williams’ music into tight focus while fostering a loose and supple interplay. Marquez joins on ‘Under the Radar’, ‘Dream Visitor’ and his own original ‘Canção do Amolador’, thickening the texture and harmony. “I was fortunate to meet Josh when he signed up for lessons with me at the Royal Academy of Music,” Williams recalls. “He studied with Pee Wee Ellis growing up, even toured with him while still a teenager. Gonçalo is a more recent discovery: I met him when bassist Demian Cabaud invited me to play some dates in Portugal last year. We played Gonçalo’s ‘Canção do Amolador’ and I was captivated. There’s a special hookup between trumpet and drums unlike any other. But it has to be just right, and it is with him.”

Downes is a formidable soloist throughout, but the color and dynamic sensitivity of his comping proves just as extraordinary. “Kit is an exceptional musician with incredible ears,” Williams says. “He’s able to anticipate and enhance everything the band members play. And Sam, one of London’s most in-demand bassists, has logged numerous musical miles with me over the last decade or so. With him I’m able to play exactly as I feel.”

Williams, for his part, is a tremendous presence on the kit, tailoring the dynamics of the pieces, swinging hard and responsively, harnessing the energy and uncompromising musical intelligence of his colleagues. Lifelike may capture just one night (June 13, 2017) in one club, but it’s a vibrant summation of the band’s achievement across many live performances in support of Outlier.

“My own compositions come from different periods,” Williams says. “‘Borderline’ and ‘Lament’ are from the ’90s, others quite recent. All are conceived at the piano: sometimes I just write down the notes as they present themselves, or sometimes I’ll play one for an extended period while learning to improvise on the form and tweaking the harmony, as was the case with ‘The Interloper.’ I’m looking for balance between songs with structure and open forms so that the players have freedom to express their own conception.”

A number of the tunes Williams recorded on earlier releases; Lifelike offers an intimate view of their evolution during many nights on the bandstand. ‘Borderline’ and ‘Lament’ from The Listener, and ‘Under the Radar and ‘Double Life’ from Another Time, were all previously heard in a chordless quartet context, with O’Gallagher and trumpeter Duane Eubanks. The contrast here after the addition of Downes’ piano and Arcoleo’s tenor is striking. (‘Under the Radar’ is a six-bar blues, Williams observes). Of ‘The Interloper’ and ‘Borderline’, Williams says: “These have in common a Monkian sensibility, though it wasn’t intentional. In both cases the melody dictated the form, making the structures unusual and challenging to maintain for soloing.”

‘Dream Visitor’, with its tension-filled repeating bass motif, cleverly shifts key centers throughout to “allow each soloist to have a different tonality to explore,” Williams explains. “The final section features a different, more funk-like bass line. In this version, a group blowing section culminates in the spontaneous horn figure you hear just before the conclusion. The overall trajectory is mapped out, but that horn figure just happened.”

The rubato section of ‘Lament’, Williams notes, “is almost like a fugue. It was written after a good friend passed away in a tragic accident. He was from New Orleans and the beginning is like the funeral service, while the swing section is like the second line that celebrates the deceased.” And ‘Double Life’, with its shifts from bright waltz to midtempo and double-time 4/4, “refers to my trans-Atlantic existence, as well as the second life that I gave the tune by reworking it.” In these and the other pieces, there’s technical brilliance but also a deeper emotional frame of reference, giving Lifelike a most complex and magnetic appeal.

Read a review of Jeff Williams Group at The Hive, Shrewsbury (13th Jan 2018) Jazz: here



3 April – Vortex, London, UK
6 April – The Verdict, Brighton, UK
12 April – East Side Jazz Club, Birmingham, UK
26 April – Old Town Hall Cellar, Hemel Hempstead, UK
14 June – Cambridge Jazz, UK
15 June – Harrow Arts Centre, UK


★★★★ from All About Jazz for Jure Pukl & Matija Dedić’s Hybrid + latest reviews from UK, Germany, France & Norway

Hybrid  an energized and impassioned studio session from New York-based Slovenian saxophonist Jure Pukl, Croatian pianist Matija Dedić, bassist Matt Brewer and drummer Johnathan Blake with guest Melissa Aldana.

Here is a selection of the latest glowing reviews in for Hybrid. Click the links for full reviews or to learn more about the publications:

“​This excellent album clearly demonstrates that he​ [Pukl]​ has arrived at peak maturity. Additionally, the recording clearly benefits from Matija Dedić’s input and the respective contributions of this team of highly talented musicians.​”
★★★★​ All About Jazz (full review)​

“A studio session full of passion and energy.”
Rheinmain magazine (website)

“The musicianship is of the highest order and the compositions both creative and listenable.”
Jazz Journal (website)

“A fast swinging excursion through harmonically adventurous territory.”
Jazz Views (full review)


“An exciting project… Eclectic yet cohesive.”
Culture Jazz (FR) (full review)

“Impressive post modern tones.”
Jazz Weekly (full review)

“Energy, boundless improvisation, even urgent… An excellent calling card for aspiring musicians.”
Musik Reviews (DE)  (website)

“Modern, acoustic jazz with nice sequences.”
Salt Peanuts (full review)

“Pukl switches back and forth between tenor and soprano, but no matter what he’s playing, he’s got a thoughtful and introspective approach to the horn that’s complemented by the pianist and the rhythm section.”
Stereogum (full review)

“Fiery improvisations and a respect for tradition combine in this spontaneous, contemporary work.”
CD Aktuell (website)

“Full of verve and vitality.”
Jazz Zeitung (website)

“Fresh, searching and incorporating influences from various genres… all performed with sophistication and passion.”
Musik an Sich (website)

“Compact, energetic, modern jazz with sweeping, sometimes stormy solos.”
Sound & Image (website)

“Fast paced, pioneering and testimony to how ambitious, young musicians can modernize this genre.”
Musik Reviews (DE) (website)


“Bain is always a vital driver behind the kit, ever engaged and urging his fellow players on.​.. and as a composer brings a strong melodic sense to his tunes.​” London Jazz on Andrew Bain’s ‘Embodied Hope’ in latest review round up.

New routes in musical exploration are at the heart of drummer Andrew Bain’s episodic suite, Embodied Hope – a project with pianist George Colligan, saxophonist Jon Irabagon and bassist Michael Janisch. An influential percussionist and educator based in Birmingham, England (and a first-call sideman both in the UK and the States), Bain’s own research has led him to study a concept which seeks to link improvisation with the increasingly topical issues of human rights, community and social transformation. Taking jazz as a metaphor for positive change in the world, and based on seven aspects – listening, surprise, accompaniment, practice, responsibility, trust and, ultimately, hope – this work is defined both by its distinct flexibility of expression and the quartet’s ongoing appraisal of what it progressively achieves.


Here are the latest press highlights for Embodied Hope (click the links for full reviews):

“Ingenious writing devices that bely Bain’s modest claim that he’s a writer of music for improvisors rather than a composer… An uplifting listen.”
Jazz Views (full review)

“His own [Bain’s] playing is a revelation as he combines power with detail and precision in a bright, busy, colourful and imaginative display behind the kit.”
★★★★ The Jazz Mann​ (full review)

“Bain is always a vital driver behind the kit, ever engaged and urging his fellow players on.​.. and as a composer brings a strong melodic sense to his tunes.​”
London Jazz​ (full review)

“Uplifting solos and mature musical dialogue from these top notch, virtuoso musicians.”
Jazzma (HU) (full review)

“Funky piano, paint-stripping tenor from Irabagon, sound bass (as ever) from Janisch and amazing drumming from Andrew Bain”
Bebop Spoken Here (full review)

Zhenya Strigalev to release fourth Whirlwind album ‘Blues For Maggie’ ft Federico Dannemann, Linley Marthe and Eric Harland March 9th 2018


Pre-Order Blues For Maggie: HERE


Alto saxophonist and composer Zhenya Strigalev’s fourth album for Whirlwind Recordings – Blues for Maggie – brings together in-demand drummer Eric Harland (Dave Holland, Charles Lloyd, Joshua Redman), Mauritian bass virtuoso Linley Marthe (Joe Zawinul, Mino Cinelu, Richard Galliano) and award-winning Argentinian guitarist Federico Dannemann (Mark Elf, Peter Erskine, Valery Polomarev, Chico Cesar, Shakira).

A departure from Strigalev’s previous albums – recorded live, as well as featuring a guitarist in the line-up – it documents the saxophonist’s recent touring band which included Marthe and Harland, both of whom he introduced to each other and are now the rhythm section of choice for a number of artists including Chris Potter. Zhenya met South American guitarist Federico Dannemann over 14 years ago, during his time at the Royal Academy of Music in London, and they hit it off straight away, both musically and as friends. But after finishing the course, Federico returned to his home of Santiago, Chile. However, he remained the saxophonist’s favorite guitarist, possessing a rich and diverse musical knowledge combined with fluent technique and rhythm – exactly what Zhenya’s music is all about.

Blues for Maggie was recorded at two well-respected European venues – during the band’s concert at Porgy and Bess in Vienna, Austria and after their gig at Paradox in Tilburg, Netherlands – and consists of seven original compositions. Its title references dedicatee Maggie Black, a well-known figure in London due to her love of jazz music and undying support for its musicians. Maggie and Zhenya met at the jam at the famous Ronnie Scott’s, back in 2011, after she was blown away by his version of ‘Body and Soul’. Since then, they have become close friends and she has become Zhenya’s ‘Pannonica’ for her support, inspiration and patronage of his musical activities, including tours and albums (without which they wouldn’t have been possible). Black is a true adventurer and shines with a love of life – an inspirational example of how to be mentally strong, generous, how to stay authentic regardless of the situation, how to trust people whilst at the same time being honest. She likes to stay at shows until 3.00am and often goes to concerts and festivals in different countries, even in other continents.

The recording’s ebullient mood is heralded by sprightly reggae tune ‘Not Upset’, Strigalev on soprano also introducing his new creation, the ‘alto box’ (be ready for unorthodox sounds); and ‘Coda’ bookends the album with a different take on this. Soft, melodic yet cheeky ‘Wondering About Swing’ can, says the saxophonist, “be used at a retro dance party for cool daddies and grannies who never get old”, with further dance to warm the soul in quirkily electronic Latin-American groover ‘Happy Professors’. The story goes that Zhenya started playing this at a late set performance at Ronnie’s, and as Monty Alexander was on his way out, he stopped in his tracks to listen. “He liked it… hopefully you will, too”.

Strigalev and Dannemann shine in bubbling, funky ‘Little Struggle’, with the advice, “There is no struggle! Just enjoy the groove”; and following a brief collaboration with Indian tabla player, Pinky, in a trio with his Academy friend and bassist Pete Cochrane, Strigalev included ‘Pinky’ (composed by Cochrane) in his tours, garnering a great response. At the centrepiece of the album, and fabulously immersive across 20 minutes, is frisky ‘Take Off Socks’ featuring the snappy, trademark Marthe/Harland duo, with Eric soloing over Linley’s synchronized keyboard-and-bass accompaniment to create a whole new tune within Zhenya’s original.

Describing his ambition for this new release, Strigalev explains: “The goal was to capture our ‘breath’, along with our mistakes (you won’t notice them, I bet), our friendship and joy, our spontaneous musical decisions and interactional mastery, as well as a serious approach to music. All ways we like to express ourselves – responsible, fun… and with a happy ending!”


Upcoming Live Dates

(More Details)

10 March – Never Group, Sochi, Russia

16 March – Never Group, Bergen Jazz Forum, Norway

28 March – Vortex Jazz Club (Official UK Album launch celebration)

Cloudmakers Five begin ‘Traveling Pulse’ Euro Tour next week. Album available for Pre-Order now


Debut release from Cloudmakers FiveTraveling Pulse available for Pre-Order: here


Vibraphonist, drummer and composer Jim Hart’s ascension, especially over the past decade, has been nothing short of remarkable. Much sought-after across Europe, he has worked alongside an illustrious roster of musicians including Stan Sulzmann, Sir John Dankworth and Dame Cleo Laine, John Taylor and Kenny Wheeler. Yet as bandleader, his own Cloudmakers Trio – with double bassist Michael Janisch and drummer Dave Smith – introduced a distinctly energized take on the traditional vibraphone ensemble.

Taking the vision a significant step further, Traveling Pulse is the first release from an augmented Cloudmakers Five project introducing saxophonist/clarinettist Antonin-Tri Hoang and electric guitarist Hannes Riepler – a superbly-produced live recording garnered from two resounding nights at London’s Vortex Jazz Club which concluded their January–March 2017 tour.

Explaining the impetus for the progression, not least influenced by playing in larger line-ups with Marius Neset and Ivo Neame, Hart says: “The Cloudmakers Trio was partly an idea of setting myself a challenge, to match the fullness and texture of a piano trio; a kind of response to that with a vibraphone trio, writing with the same density – which I felt we really did achieve. Michael, Dave and I had gigged a lot,  with the end of our 2015 North American tour feeling like a big punctuation mark. But we were still enjoying some great trio gigs. So, sensing it had much more of a future, I decided to expand the concept. Antonin had worked with Cloudmakers before, as a guest on a ‘Jazz on 3’ radio broadcast, offering fantastic improv through so many extended techniques; and I play with Hannes in Julian Lourau’s Electric Biddle, enjoying what he creates through pedals and loops.”

Significantly, Jim Hart chose to write away from instruments or electronic software, inspired instead by the environments around him as he traveled, and resulting in what he believes to be his most mature and honest work to date. “Once I knew who I was writing for, the music came very quickly, and it was so freeing to have all these ‘colors’ available. I found I could now share the responsibility of covering the harmonic and melodic elements, while affording each player room to express themselves.”

It was the immediacy of The Cloudmakers Trio’s vibrant first release (Live at the Pizza Express – Whirlwind, 2012) which presented him with the clear intention of recording another live album, Hart recalling: “The idea just jumped off the page at me as a great thing to do”. The breadth of sound is striking, with Hoang’s alto sax or clarinet on top, threading his distinctive reedy tones through, while Riepler offers an impressive range of guitar textures and electronic effects. That coalescence alone offers a very different dynamic to the more usual inclusion of piano, often conjuring a bewildering sonic mesh; but when merged with the synergetic drive of Hart, Janisch and Smith… that’s where the alchemistic reactions are sparked.

Animated conversations between Hoang’s alto and Riepler’s solo lines are prominent in ‘The Past is Another Country’, as are the mellifluous clarinet-and-guitar juxtapositions of lullaby ‘Golden’. Increasingly chattering ‘The Exchange’ reveals “an illusive resolution – a melody trying to get somewhere, but never quite does”, while percussively turbulent ‘The Road’ (a journey to Hart’s native Cornwall) excitingly showcases the new-found intensity of the five. Zawinul/Shorter-hued escalations characterise brightly chiming ‘Cycle Song’; and a complex “8 over 9 over 12” Ghanaian polyrhythm (which the vibraphonist mastered four years ago and can now summon instantly) infuses ‘Traveling Pulse’ with bewitching, mesmeric vigor.

Revelling in this new direction, Hart affirms: “I’m happy to have written some more expansive music, with all the richness that offers. It’s all typically propulsive, yet also abstract, picking you up on a conveyor belt of rhythm and taking you off on an Escher-like journey somewhere”.


‘Traveling Pulse’ Euro Tour


11. Birmingham Conservatoire – day – Birmingham, England

11. East Side Jazz Club – night- Birmigham, England

12. Verdict Jazz Club – Brighton, England

16. Lille Ole Bull, Bergen Live, Bergen, Norway

17. Jazz Bar, Edinburgh, Scotland

18. Blue Lamp, Aberdeen, Scotland

19. Aberdeen University, Aberdeen, Scotland

​20. Vortex Jazz Club, London OFFICIAL ALBUM RELEASE PARTY

21. Groove Tots & Sam’s Kitchen, Frome, England

22. Wells Cathedral School, Wells, England

23. Crane Lane Theatre, Cork, Ireland

25. Bonnington Theatre, Nottingham, England


16. Les Dominicains, Alsace, France