As a boy, I was told that wedding reports in our local newspaper generally concluded with the remark that the nuptial gifts were "both numerous and costly." A similarly de rigueur riff accompanies the publication of lists of awards nominations today, with "both varied and of a very high standard" the preferred epithet.
Sometimes the claim has substance, and sometimes it doesn't. It accurately describes BBC Jazz Awards 2006, a two-CD set cherrypicking the best of British jazz activity over the past twelve months or soand including a much deserved selection of guerilla music from Julia Biel, Fulborn Teversham, John Taylor, Partisans, Acoustic Ladyland, Polar Bear and Spring Heel Jack.
Disc One: Vocal is a mostly unchallenging collection of reheated-for-the-millionth-time standards and showtunes, but it's redeemed by two freshly mined, 24-carat nuggetsrising star nominee Julia Biel's gentle and exquisite "Where Is She Now?", from the album Not Alone, and Fulborn Teversham's brattish assault and battery "Beach Tune," from the group's threatened debut CD (the band is led by drummer Sebastian Rochford, who's up for the best instrumentalist award, and who is also rhythm shaman for album of the year nominees Acoustic Ladyland and Polar Bear ). Neither track has anything to do with the American Songbook, and both are wonderful.
Disc Two: Instrumental cooks from start to finish. Sure, Jools Holland And His Rhythm & Blues Orchestra ("Honeydripper"), Alan Barnes ("Finger Poppin'"), Ronnie Rae Quintet ("Rumble De Thump") and Bobby Wellins ("Fascinating Rhythm") take us down well travelled jump blues, hard bop and mainstream routes, but they do so with style and conviction. Only a churl would deny the fun.
Shocks of the new come from the sublimely lyrical John Taylor ("Up Too Late," from Angel Of The Presence), and the subversive trio of Acoustic Ladyland ("Trial And Error," from Last Chance Disco), Partisans ("Last Chance," from Max), and Polar Bear ("Beartown," from Held On The Tips Of Fingers). All four are nominated for album of the year (and by rights all four should tie for it). Electronicists Spring Heel Jack ("Lied," from John Tchicai With Strings) are nominated for the innovation in new music award, and cross-genre composer/master saxophonist Tim Garland ("Epilogue," from If The Sea Replied) is nominated for best instrumentalist. Together, the nominees spell out a great year for the Babel label and the F-IRE collectiveand for jazz itself.
How many of these radical adventurers will actually go on to win an award remains, of course, to be seen. The BBC will announce the winners on July 13.
Visit the BBC Jazz Awards on the web.
Personnel: CD1: Claire Teal; Polly Gibbons; Jim Tomlinson featuring Stacy Kent; Anita Wardell; Jacqui Dankworth; Elaine Delmar; Georgie Fame; Ray Gelato; Ian Shaw; Julia Biel; Jason Yarde; Dennis Rollins; Fulborn Treversham. CD2: Jools Holland; Alan Barnes; Ronnie Rae Quintet; John Taylor; Bobby Wellins; Andrew McCormack; Partisans; Acoustic Ladyland; Polar Bear; Spring Heel Jack; Tim Garland.