Sunday 18th May 2014 – ACV

Bridge Hotel, Castle Garth, Newcastle upon Tyne, Tyne and Wear NE1 1RQ 0191 232 6400
Doors 7.30pm : Performance 8pm’ish : Entry £6 : No wheelchair access to this venue

Champion’s compositions combine zigzagging riffs, odd meters and rock-fuelled gymnastics with lighter grooves and some heartilty lyrical themes…the band is fired-up and going places.”
- Jazzwise



Bassist Andy Champion launched his quintet ACV in 2009, to play compositions reflecting his wide musical interests, drawing on influences as diverse as prog rock and free improvisation, but with jazz always at the heart. The result is a distinctive band sound and identity, where tight arrangements are peppered with insistent, rhythmic unison passages and ferocity, but also with more introspective moments, always melodic and direct.

To realize his expansive musical vision it was essential that Andy recruit players with the willingness to explore new directions, and with the skills to navigate the twists and turns of his compositions. Having worked with each of his hand picked collaborators in other contexts, he recognized that each of them could bring different interests to the mix, with ACV as the melting pot in which these could be forged into something new and distinctive.


ACV - Andy Champion - bass Double-bassist Andy Champion is a key figure in the North East’s jazz and improvised music scene. He has recorded and performed with major figures including Tim Garland, Jason Yarde, Andy Sheppard, Marc Ducret, Marilyn Crispell, Matt Maneri and Eugene Chadbourne and is a member of the Anglo-French improvising quartet Sonsale. In addition to touring extensively with ACV, he also performs with jazz vocalist Zoë Gilby, the trio Shiver with Chris Sharkey and Joost Hendrickx and has become a respected name on the UK scene, awarded a place on the 2013 ‘Take Five’ development scheme for outstanding young musicians.

Graeme Wilson - saxesSaxophonist Graeme Wilson, based in Tyneside since moving from his native Scotland in 2005, shares Andy’s enthusiasm for the whole spectrum of jazz from the straightahead to the freely improvised, appearing on the one hand with John Warren’s Splinter Group, vocalist Ruth Lambert, and the Paul Edis Sextet, and on the other with the Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra, of which he is a founder member, and with whom he has recorded and collaborated with Fred Frith, Evan Parker, Barry Guy and George Lewis amongst others. He is also an enthusiast for the saxophone quartet, performing regularly with Tyneside group Saxophonics, releasing two albums with the international improvising quartet Rich In Knuckles, and composing extensively for the format (including the suite Harbour Associations commissioned by An Tobar Arts Centre on the Isle of Mull

ACV - Mark Williams - guitarGuitarist Mark Williams also shares enthusiasms with Andy, but in his case it’s a continuing love of the Metal bands with whom they both grew up, Andy in Gateshead and Mark in Belfast. Mark moved to North East England in 2000 to study at Newcastle College, and has remained on Tyneside ever since, becoming one of the most in demand guitarists on the regional jazz scene. While he has proved to be a restrained and extremely sympathetic accompanist for vocalists such as Zoë Gilby and Ruth Lambert, he needs little encouragement to launch into more frenetic flights with ACV and with his own trio.

ACV - Paul Edis - keyboards and pianoKeyboards player Paul Edis, a familiar figure on the North East Jazz scene, is perhaps the most ‘straightahead’ member of Andy’s quintet, with a comprehensive knowledge and love of the jazz piano tradition much in evidence in his own sextet. But his willingness to build imaginatively on those foundations has made him an ideal partner for top players like Tim Garland, Julian Siegel and Tony Kofi, and it’s this quality of rooted adventurousness that makes him a key member of ACV, keeping the jazz flag flying through all the music’s multi-directional excursions.

Adrian Tilbrook - drumsFinally drummer Adrian Tilbrook is the man who underpins the music’s drive and fractured swing. Adrian’s career goes back to the 1970s, when he toured Europe with blues giant Alexis Korner and replaced Tony Hicks in the seminal jazz-rock trio Back Door. In 1984 he formed Full Circle with trombonist Rick Taylor, but two years later he was appointed as jazz development officer for the North East, under the banner of JazzAction. This severely curtailed his leadership and touring activities, although he remained drummer of choice for a host of visiting musicians including such iconic figures as Eddie Lockjaw Davis, Al Grey, Jimmy Witherspoon and Art Farmer. But his JazzAction work has involved his mentoring a succession of regional jazz players, including Andy Champion, with whom he forged such a close musical rapport that he was the automatic choice for the drum chair when Andy was putting together his dream team for ACV.

Sunday 11th May 2014 – From Chicago USA – The Greg Spero Quartet

Bridge Hotel, Castle Garth, Newcastle upon Tyne, Tyne and Wear NE1 1RQ 0191 232 6400
Doors 7.30pm : Performance 8pm’ish : Entry £6 : No wheelchair access to this venue

Greg Spero with Makaya McCraven (drums), Junius Paul (bass)and De’Sean Jones (sax)

speroGreg Spero, pianist / composer and at 29 years of age, has established himself as one of the most revered and in demand musicians in the jazz, jazz fusion, instrumental hip-hop and electronic music.spero-2

Winner of the 2013 Chicago Music Award for Best Jazz Entertainer, Spero has performed with acclaimed musicians such as Arturo Sandoval, Corey Wilkes, and Robert Irving III, co-produced tracks with Ski Beatz (of Jay Z) and Shock G (Digital Underground founder) for hip-hop artists such as Murs and Mos Def as well as written music scores for movie and theater productions. The young musician’s complex and developed discography is more reminiscent of that of a performer twice his age, which has earned Spero recognition as one of, if not, the premiere up-and-coming pianist from Chicago today.

In early 2012, Spero was asked to join the Buddy Rich Big Band which has afforded him the opportunity to tour with the band, most recently to London and New York where the band headlined for the “Buddy Rich 25th Memorial Concert.” Spero followed this with a European tour featuring his original music performed in a trio setting at venues in England, Paris, and Germany. In 2013, he performed at the Tel Aviv Jazz Festival, and is currently working on his new album at Grammy-winning Hinge Studios. Spero brought 2013 to a close as one of the candidates on the Grammy Awards ballot for Best New Artist.

Firebird Quartet – 4th May – Review by “Bebop Spoken Here”

Ian Chalk (trumpet); Martin Longhawn (piano); John Marley (bass); Tim Carter (drums).
(Review by Lance/Photos courtesy of Ken Drew). Original review and “Bebop Spoken Here” blog can be found here

This was a stormer! Four York based musicians at the top of their game (and who’s to say they won’t get even better still – Longhawn and Carter are still just in their mid-twenties) delighted Sunday’s Splinter audience with a program of originals and standards performed with much originality. Nature Boy done over a Cuban rhythm, Sonny Rollins’ Blue Seven given an easy relaxed swing feel. Chalk has that beautiful fat sound personified by such as Fats Navarro, Clifford Brown and Freddy Hubbard. Tone wasn’t sacrificed for technique nor vice versa – the perfect balance. On the Rollins piece the trumpet player used Chris Culver’s pint glass for a growl chorus. Chris, who was sitting at the front table nearest the stage beamed with delight. The glass, I hasten to add, was empty!

John Marley has made many trips to Tyneside and most of us are familiar with his, backbone of the band, bass playing. Longhawn too is not unknown in these parts and his solos and support were superb.

However, drummer Carter was the surprise package. I think most present were unfamiliar with the name – they aren’t now!
Straight down the middle swing, complex Latin rhythms, contemporary jazz/rock feel he does ‘em all. Is he from York down the A19 or the newer version across the pond? He may well be one day.
Yes this was a good session…

Zoe Gilby Interviews Ian Chalk of “Firebird Quartet”

Firebird Quartet are appearing at Splinter @ The Bridge THIS SUNDAY 4th May at 8pm – more details to follow

Zoe Gilby Interviews Ian Chalk

Tell us a bit about your band. How it formed? band line up and their influences?

The band in its current form was created about 4 months ago.  Previously I had a quartet for 4 years (Ian Chalk Quartet) which, although fun to play in and they guys were great, wasn’t really going in the direction I wanted to go.  So the decision was made to create a quartet to perform contemporary jazz with best the musicians I could find to force me to up my game and they’ve certainly done that! The name of the band was changed to reflect the new start ….’Firebird Quartet’ (and to remind people of our Sunday night residency at The Phoenix in York).

The line up is Bass – John Marley, Drums – Tim Carter, Piano – Martin Longhawn and myself on trumpet. Musically, I suspect we’re influenced by everything we’ve ever heard as jazz musicians tend to soak up whatever music is around them but currently we’re listening to (and performing the music of) people like Terence Blanchard, Kendrick Scott, Christian Scott, Roy Hargrove, Dean Taba and Wynton Marsalis. In addition, we perform a number of original compositions.  We play music in a range of styles from driving swing to grooves with a hint of hip hop.

Fundamentally, we believe that our music should be enjoyable to listen to.  I know that sounds like it should be an obvious thing to say but it isn’t necessarily a view shared by the whole jazz community where, sometimes, the ‘art’ of the music can leave some of the audience behind.  We’re firm believers in creating music with sufficient complexity to appeal to a contemporary jazz audience but will also make you want to tap your foot!

Best gig you’ve seen?

This is an easy question to answer although not a ‘jazz’ performance as such (although we could have a long conversation about what ‘jazz’ really is!)…. Stevie Wonder at the Manchester Arena a few years back.  We had really good seats near the front and you could almost feel the amazing energy of the man.  I’m not a religious man (far from it!) but that is the nearest I’ve come to a spiritual experience. The start of the gig was Stevie being led onto the stage by his daughter while he played Miles’s ‘All Blues’ on harmonica… more than a little thrilling! In our house, my kids have been taught that whenever Stevie’s name is mentioned they must place a finger on their forehead and say the word ‘genius’!

Favourite album?

Hmmm…tricky one as it tends to change on a daily basis.  Thinking on a ‘Desert Island Discs’ basis where I only have one album to choose then I think it would have to be ‘Hot House Flowers’ by Wynton Marsalis.  This was one of the first jazz albums I ever bought (possibly the very first) and I was seduced by the very cool album sleeve of Wynton stood in the middle distance, cool suit, lit in a spotlight, trumpet in hand.  The album is quite melancholic with sweeping orchestral arrangements but with joyous versions of ‘When You Wish Upon A Star’ and ‘I’m Confessin’. It also includes a stunningly gorgeous version of ‘Stardust’ which is the music I want playing at my funeral (just so you know!).
What has been the highlight of your bands musical career so far?

The highlight is less to do with any one moment on any one gig than with how the quartet has gelled into such a fluid and coherent unit which has already far exceeded my expectations.  This has been helped by our regular Sunday night residency at The Phoenix in York (8pm till 10:30, free entry!) which has allowed us to develop our group sound as well as our material so that we can be relaxed in our work and can focus on the creative side of jazz.

If you could meet, talk with and jam with any musician (alive or deceased) who would it be?

Wow! Where do you start with this one? Duke Ellington? Dizzy? Miles? Stravinsky? Mozart?Bach?? I think the answer would probably be Miles.  I suspect he wouldn’t necessarily welcome jamming with me as he could be something of a ‘prickly character’ but I would learn so much from him, not just about trumpet playing but about how to approach playing music.  Famously, he said “Do note fear wrong notes, there are none” and I’d love to have the same free approach.

Thank you Ian.