Saturday 12 August 2023

Tim Armacost: The Inevitable Note

It seems that JHR are currently the sole source of Tim Armacost's new album (vinyl and download only) The Inevitable Note. We have copies of the first pressing of 250 180gm copies- a second pressing is due with a slightly different cover. It features long-time associates Jim Ridl, Kenny Davis & Rudy Royston, with Joe Locke added on vibes, and comprises one standard- Lazy Afternoon- taken at quite a lick- plus 4 Armacost originals and one by the Argentinian pianist/composer Adrian Iaies. 

Tim has been recording since 1995, leading bands including Tom Harrell, Kenny Barron & Billy Hart. He's toured the UK with the New York Standards Quartet (David Berkman on piano) and has also appeared here (a storming set at the Southport Jazz Festival) and recorded with Alex Garnett. 

Tim reckons The Inevitable Note his best yet; I've listened to a lot of his recordings since the NYSQ tour and have heard him live - including a set at Smalls with Wynton Marsalis sitting in for one number- whenever I could , and I don't disagree.

Tim Armacost, The Inevitable Note Album Cover



“Armacost entered the limelight in 1995 with his Concord Records debut, “Fire,” with pianist Kenny Barron and drummer Billy Hart, who also played on Armacost’s last two discs. Most saxophonists, following the model of John Coltrane, run up and down scales and arpeggios, carefully following the vertical patterns of a song’s harmony, the more challenging the better.

Armacost, by contrast, is more melodic, linear and unpredictable, much in the tradition of Joe Henderson and Stan Getz. With a big, soulful sound on tenor and a warm tone on soprano, the 40-year-old sax man plays gently away from the chords – what musicians call “outside” the harmony – but without ever sounding harsh or mechanical. Rhythmically, his playing is loose and fluid, as well. Mixing odd and even groupings of notes – without ever losing the feeling of swing – Armacost makes unexpected twists and turns, landing in unusual places.”

Paul De Barros
The Seattle Times


Sunday 10 October 2021

 Harmony with LEGO Bricks

If you only buy one jazz book, make it this one!

Can you imagine not only being able to carry a whole repertoire in your head, but to be able to glance at a new chord sequence, and not only remember it instantly, but be able straight away to play it in any key without consciously transposing? Even jam session terrors like Cherokee become as easy as if they only had one chord!

Do you have time to do it any other way? 

Since its  first publication more than a decade ago, Harmony with LEGO bricks has sold thousands of copies around the world and attracted a huge following.

Harmony with Lego bricks is probably the closest you could come to the indispensible teach-yourself text. It helps you to learn a large number of songs, and most important, to play them in every key. Full of good sense.

Andy Hamilton, Wire magazine 

Every musician who succeeds in memorising a large number of chord sequences surely does so in some such way as Conrad Cork  describes in this excellent and thorough book

Lionel Grigson, late professor of harmony, Guildhall School of Music

The cunning of its method, pontentiated by a combination of passion, intelligence, and experience, makes this book an ideal basic text for its subject. Set it beside George Russell's Lydian Chromatic Concept and get to work!

Evan Parker 

The book is available exclusively from Jazz House Records for £20.00 plus £6.00 UK postage. Other postage rates on request.

Conrad Cork: Harmony with LEGO bricks-  325 pages, comb bound

To order Harmony with Lego Bricks click here

A pdf version of the book is available from John Elliott:



Thursday 16 July 2020

Don Rendell Ian Carr Quintet live at the Union 1966

The Don Rendell Ian Carr Quintet Live at the Union Dec 1966

Reel Recordings CD- last copies on sale- all proceeds to Alzheimer's Research UK 

While a student at University College London in 1966, George Foster put on a number of jazz gigs and at one recorded the Rendell Carr Band.  Ian and George remained friends for life and when Ian developed Alzheimer's George had Power of Attorney.  The tape was thought lost but turned up under Ian's bed when George helped move him from his flat to a nursing home.

With help from John Cumming George organised a memorial concert and arranged with the late Mike King to release the tape on Reel Recordings. The concert and the CD raised almost £8,000 for Alzheimer's research but Queen Elizabeth Hall refused permission to sell the CD after the concert; George has the last remaining copies. 

All proceeds from the cds will be sent by George to Alzheimer’s Research UK. You can order here; we are asking a minimum of £10 for the cd plus postage (UK £1.00) If you choose to pay more the charity will receive 100% of what you send aside from the postage charge. If you choose to pay by card or PayPal please add a little to cover their charges. 

George’s sleeve notes tell the full story: 

On 12th December 1966 1 was in my final year at University College London, studying Latin but my real interest was Jazz: I was Secretary of the Students' Union Jazz Society, which received a small subsidy from the College and put on a professional band every other Monday. Tubby Hayes, Dick Morrissey, Neil Ardley's New Jazz Orchestra, Ronnie Ross, Chris McGregor's Blue Notes had all played in the club room about 25m by 25m next to the Union Bar. The favourite band was the Don Rendell - Ian Carr Quintet, who had so impressed us with their gig at the start of the term that I was constantly being asked to bring them back. I was on friendly terms with the band and happily booked them again to play the final week before the Christmas Holiday.

The band were on exceptional form that night, even though Dave Green had to leave after a few numbers on a prior booking at Ronnie Scott's Club backing Ben Webster. The gig wasn't just a student end-of term-affair either. This room was where the New Jazz Orchestra rehearsed rent-free on Sunday afternoons in return for making the rehearsals open to a student audience. Ian was a regular NIO member, Michael & Don occasional visitors. On the tape, Don mentions Neil Ardley, Mike Gibbs "and many members of the NJO here tonight". One was Tony Reeves, the NJ0's regular bassist, standing in for Dave Green. Michael Garrick was a graduate of the College and was absolutely at home. So it was a relaxed party-like atmosphere with an audience of over 100 squeezed into the room. And I got the band's permission to tape the gig.

I simply tapped into the usual p.a. system. I cannot remember what recorder I used, but looking at web pictures I recognise a Vortexion 3 channel mixer pre-amp and must have taken a feed off that, I also recognise the Reslo ribbon mikes. We had three, one out front for the horns, one near the bass and one behind the upright piano, between the piano and a wall. I was very busy with counting the door takings and enjoying myself and, apart from turning the tape in the interval, simply left the setup alone. I remember listening to the tape with other band members at Michael's house, and we thought the music was great but the sound balance wasn't. The tape then vanished. I was caught up in final exams, trying to get a job after graduation and moving house and forgot about it for over 40 years.

In 2007 Ian Carr, who had been a good friend for over 40 years, had to move into a care home. Alzheimer's had devastated this talented, brilliant man. As I helped box up a lifetime's books and music I came across a box of tapes under his bed. Most were copies of released material, but one was labeled "Rendell-Carr Quintet12/12/66". i asked Ian if I could get it transferred to CD, and took it to my friend Tony Rees for high-resolution transfer. I was staggered to hear my own voice between numbers announcing the qiq. I must have left the tape with Ian for safekeeping in 1967 and here it was, forgotten but safe, and in remarkably good condition.

 On 12th December, they were relaxed enjoying themselves, taking risks and pushing their own and each other’s capacities hard. "Hot Rod" is available in several recorded versions, but none are like this. The band achieves an up-tempo wildness, threatening to disintegrate into chaos, pushing the music to the edge of incoherence and deftly pulling it back again. Michael's piano solo is a tour-de-force, dazzling and at the same time hilarious. The under-rated Tony Reeves was an occasional replacement for Dave Green, and fitted perfectly, but was to go down another road with John Mayall's Bluesbreakers and Jon Hiseman's Colosseum.

Great as the studio recordings are, this is the Rendell-Carr Quintet as I remember it: Trevor and Dave grinning as they pushed the music harder while always seeming to have more power in reserve; a mild-looking neatly-suited Don producing amazing walls of sound (listen to his breaks at the end  of "Carolling") Ian swaying with the music and using a plunger mute on "Trane's Mood" like Bubber Miley.,; on the same  number Michael beginning what sounds like a dainty dance and develops into a race for life.

If you never heard this band in the flesh, you are in for a treat or maybe even a shock, for this was a hot band and that Monday Night they burst into flames.

In  Memory of Ian Carr 1933 -2009

Monday 25 May 2020

John Cumming RIP

Someone wrote that: No-one ever put up a statue of a critic; the same is assuredly true of jazz promoters. But if any deserves one it is sure the gentle avuncular figure of John Cumming, who died on May 17 at the age of 71.

I first came across John as the promoter of the Bracknell Jazz Festival - an annual event that I still think of as the ideal festival. (But then I never got to Appleby.) Set in the spacious grounds of South Hill Park, the main arena was a large marquee, but more intimate gigs took place in the Recital Room of the Hall. And of course there was the added attraction of Lol Coxhill as announcer, entr'acte soloist and narrator of the unforgettable Murder in the Air. There were relatively comfortable chairs in the Marquee, a good beer tent, and though the food offered was the usual festival stuff there was a large branch of Waitrose close by where you could buy salads, pies and the like. The campsite was fine, although one year we found ourselves close to John Stevens' tent and had our sleep disturbed by late night cornet playing. (He apologised to us in the morning!)
The programming was acute and adventurous; there might be a jazz rock band on the Friday night- Jan Hammer one year- but the cream of the UK and US scene were consistently featured, notably Trevor Watts' trio followed by Ornette Coleman's Prime Time one night. Trevor won on points. I first heard Sheila Jordan there but did not fully appreciate her genius- she should have been on in the Recital Room. That room did host a solo gig by Stan Tracey that was later issued on lp as 'Hello Old Adversary'- though there was nothing he could complain about - for once- in the room's piano. I hope my enduring love of the record has not been influenced by the fact that the back cover shows my balding head faintly discernible reflected in the mirror at the back of the room.

John moved on to running the Camden Jazz Week, including a gig where the Leicester (DMU) Bley Band ( a student band which featured Gavin Bryars and my friend Conrad Cork) opened for Carla's own band. She was very complimentary, and Conrad's alto was singled out for praise in Charles Fox's review.

He also worked for the short-lived and much-missed Contemporary Music Network tours which brought us Don Cherry  (with an ailing but still wonderful Ed Blackwell), the ICP (where I persuaded Misha Mengelberg and Han Bennink to sign my copy of Dolphy's Last Date) Max Roach and George Russell among others.

Then he founded Serious Productions, running the London Jazz Festival. Will it continue this year?

He was knowledgable, unfailingly polite and helpful, and his organisational ability and deep love of jazz will be sorely missed.

Tuesday 12 May 2020

Live jazz returns to New York City

For those of you not don't yet receive the weekly email from Spike Wilner- owner of Smalls and Mezzrow- here's the content of this week's newsletter. It's the best news I've heard in ages and it deserves support.

>>Dear Friends –

As we enter day 58 of quarantine it's becoming clear that some hard choices need to be made.  No need to mince words – New York City is a mess.  As I've said before, Covid is a world-wide issue but it's hit New York City particularly hard and especially its independent artists and art scene.  I've had a chance now to discuss the issue of the survival of jazz and jazz culture in New York with Wynton Marsalis.  Wynton runs the biggest not-for-profit jazz organization in the world and, needless to say, he's very concerned.  Wynton is not an alarmist but a pragmatic realist.  Speaking of clubs and venues, he told me in a recent phone conversation, "Some will not survive, others may but it depends on their flexibility and tenacity...we have to do whatever we can to survive."

I think of Smalls and Mezzrow, our tiny 70 seat jazz bunkers deep in Greenwich Village.  How can we survive?  With hostile landlords and very little government support, enormous rents and all the nightlife shut down, the subways closed early, the tourists gone.  It seems like everything is stacked against us as each month clicks by without revenue and bills mounting.  But there is this dormant jazz world laying in wait.  Musicians eager to play and a culture-starved population ready to listen and receive.  I believe it's just a matter of hanging on, hanging in there.  To survive we must be tenacious.

The SmallsLIVE Foundation is shaping up now several weeks after the launch of our site.  We are still working out the kinks but have had great receptivity.  I want to mention that if you have a login from the old site, it still works.  To become a supporting member and get access to our extensive (and incredible) archive, it's just a minimum of a $10 per year donation (all tax deductible).  We're also really excited to offer direct sponsorships to individual artist – by clicking the sponsor button on their profile page or on any event in the archive you can sponsor an individual artist directly and support the foundation mission

I am starting our "get the cats working again" fund, which will pay for one band per night to play at the club live.  The club will not be open to the public (and we can't be open until the city gives us the guidance as to how), but the band will be paid to play, the show will be live streamed, the show will go in the archive and (besides a packed house and hectic bar) it will be as before.  My goal is to get bands working again for pay and to get the Smalls schedule off the ground.  We're going to begin looking for sponsors who may want to cover several days or even a month.  If interested, please contact us at

I hope that everyone is keeping a positive mind-set.  This has been a long haul and a difficult one for everyone.  Remember that Jazz is a life giver and a reason for getting out of bed.  My best wishes to all.<<

The original is here

Thursday 26 March 2020

Covid-19 and live jazz

I've been involved with selling jazz music on lp and cd for more than 25 years, first in a shop and now by mail order. Like all jazz lovers I cherish many recordings which have touched my heart, engaged my brain and opened my ears to the rich variety of this important music and especially to magical performances I will always cherish.

But I've been listening to live jazz for more than twice as long and my memories of (I'm sorry if this sounds pretentious) epiphanic moments will never leave me.

A few examples:

  • The Bell Inn on Oxford Road in Reading marveling to the thrilling sound of Ken Colyer in the last number of the evening, waving his derby mute.
  • The magisterial sound of Coleman Hawkins leading a great band- Sweets Edison, Sir Charles Thompson, Jimmy Woode and Jo Jones at Wembley Town Hall for a Jazz 625 recording.
  • Another Jazz 625 recording with Wes Montgomery - he had to play 3 intros to his ballad feature because of technical problems- and played 3 completely different one
  • Roland Kirk at Scott's sitting at the piano, propping up his manzello and playing a blues with a drone. Then handing out whistles so we could join in on Here comes the whistle man. 
  • Sheila Jordan at our little club in Leicester in a duo with Harvie S. The p a broke down so she told Harvie to turn off his bass amp and sang for us without any.
  • Evan Parker playing a soprano solo in Bread & Roses cafe under our bookshop Blackthorn Books so mesmerising  I had to remind myself to breathe.
  • Evan again in a duo with Dave Holland at the Vortex with Dave's lyricism leading the music in expected directions.
  • Howard Riley playing a superb solo gig at our club in Leicester
  • Alex Hawkins and Louis Moholo-Moholo- first in Leicester then in Derby, where Alex started playing Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika and Louis- without missing a beat- took off his cap
  • Tony Levin's 70th birthday concert- with Aki Takase and Mujician- then playing blistering bebop with Peter King a week later.
All of this acts as preamble to the sorry state in which we currently find ourselves- jazz clubs closed, concerts cancelled. What's to be done to avoid withdrawal symptoms?

Some musicians and clubs are staging virtual gigs: there some details here: the downside being that they are live streams; they are not archived in any way. They confirm the famous Eric Dolphy remark. Later: Cafe Oto now has an archive, including a beautiful Alex Hawkins solo set- here
And I must mention drummer Spike Wells' website which contains many private recordings not available elsewhere, some sensitive writing on jazz...and sermons!

However there is an archive; I've mentioned it before but this is an apposite moment to remind you. 
Smalls Jazz Club in Greenwich Village makes audio and video records of all their gigs (and there are often three gigs a night.) I believe they plan to add recordings of their sister club Mezzrow also.
The video is basic, alternating between 3 fixed cameras, and the audio is variable but always acceptable.  

The club features a very wide range of artists- some famous (in jazz terms at least): Kirk Lightsey, Tim Armacost, Chris Cheek, Joel Frahm, JD Allen, ....others you've probably not heard of: Stacy Dillard, Jon Elbaz, Matt Brewer, Mike Karn.... If you're more of a mainstream persuasion there are gigs by Scott Hamilton, Warren Vache, Rossano Sportiallo, Ken Peplowski, Harry Allen.

Smalls has an after hours set where some renowned musicians come to sit in and relax; the late Roy Hargrove was a regular, and I once caught Wynton Marsalis sitting in with Tim Armacost.

You can have access to the complete archive for $10 a month and the income from the archive is split between the club and the musicians.  

To get to Smalls click here.


Monday 4 February 2019

Cornelia Street

Cornelia Street runs from Bleecker Street to W 4th (close to the junction with 6th Ave) in New York's Greenwich Village. It may be the street where Bob Dylan posed with Suze Rotolo for the cover photo of 'The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan' though some claim it was nearby Jones Street.

In the 1880s Cornelia Street was an African-American enclave; James Weldon Johnson wrote in 'Black Manhattan' (1930) " Scattered through Greenwich Village and 'Little Italy' small groups of Negroes may be found who have never lived in any other part of the city. Negro New York has passed on and left them stranded and isolated. They are vestiges of a generation long gone by."

In 1946 WH Auden took US citizenship and moved into a tiny apartment at no7. Tennessee Williams described it as "fantastically sordid" and igor Stravinsky (for whom Auden was writing the libretto to 'The Rake's Progress') wrote of seeing mice snacking from dirty dishes in the sink. Around the same time the writer (and later New York Times editor) Anatole Broyard used profit from selling on the black market to buy out an Italian junk dealer and open a second-hand book shop at no20. It didn't last long and Broyard went on to write jazz reviews for Partisan Review.

By the '60s Cornelia Street was settled as a backwater of the Italian Village; Joe Cino persuaded the landlady of no31 to rent him the place (because he was Sicilian). Caffe Cino quickly became a centre of Off-Off-Broadway and gay theatre, staging up to 14 shows a week. No-one made any money and Caffe Cino closed in 1968.

Next door at no 29 "three starving artists" opened the Cornelia Street Cafe in July 1977; the ground floor restaurant with a few tables on the pavement was later enlarged by a narrow basement room; a small bar on the right at the bottom of the stairs and a tiny stage with a baby grand piano at the far end. Two rows of benches, some small round tables and a few chairs completed the furnishing. Senator Eugene McCarthy (the good Senator McCarthy) read his poems there, Suzanne Vega got her first break, the Vagina Monogues were launched.

I was first made aware of the cafe when I took a 'foody' walking tour of the Village on my first trip to New York City. It was a small detour from our progress allong Bleecker from 7th Ave - "there's John's; the best pizza in Manhattan" to Joe's on 6th Ave- "the best pizza in Manhattan." " Excuse me, didn't you just say that John's...." "John's is the best pie, Joe's is the best slice." He was right, too.

Our guide explained you could come to the cafe and find something interesting going on in the basement: poetry readings, story-telling, science talks, singer-song-writers, stand-up comedy- and lots of jazz. "It's not a jazz club but it's a great place to hear jazz."

Towards the end of 2018 Ethan Iverson's essential blog 'Do the M@th' mentioned in passing that Cornelia Street Cafe was closing on January 2; Spike Wilner's weekly newsletter from Smalls Jazz Club described the sombre mood he felt while hanging out with musicians on the last night at the cafe. The music went on to 3am.

The reason for the closure is a familiar one in NYC as elsewhere- an unaffordable rent hike. When the Cafe opened rent was $450 a month; when it closed $33,000. Their landord Mark Scharfman features on various 'Worst landlord' lists. Questioned on the telephone Scarfman first denied knowledge of the Cafe; when pressed he replied "No comment" and hung up.

I recall some memorable gigs: Bill McHenry solo, Kris Davis, Sheila Jordan with Cameron Brown, Marty Ehrlich, Barry Altschul; my biggest regret is that I never got to one of David Amram's monthly sessions, where he reminisced about Kerouac and Ginsberg, payed french horn, piano, penny whistle and sang. Amram features in the introduction to John Strausbaugh brilliant 'The Village' (from which most of the history above was taken). He quotes Bob Dylan: " You could sit on a bar stool and look out of the windows to the snowy streets and see heavy people going by, David Amram bundled up." When he heard about the cafe's closure Amram wrote to Robin Hirsch: " I will follow you and we'll do Cornelia Street in exile."

Spike Wilner wondered if the time would come when there was no jazz to be heard in the Village- there's precious little in Harlem- centre of New York jazz in the '20s- despite the great work of Craig Harris, and 52nd St is long gone. That depressing thought spurred me to take a long-overdue step; I subscribed to the Smalls Live archive. Since 2007 the club has made audio and video recordings of all their gigs, and $10 a month gets you access to them all. Do you want to hear the great Roy Hargrove at an after-hours jam?- that's what I'm listening to as I write this. Or Dave Binney, Eric Alexander, Harold Mabern, Scott Hamilton, Steve Nelson? They are all there, and next week there will be more. As long as there's jazz in the Village.