Splinter Jazz @ The Bridge – 5th October 2014 – “Blue Eyed Hawk”

Doors 7:30pm : £6 entry : Music starts 8.15pm : There is no wheelchair access to this venue.

The Bridge Hotel

Castle Square

T: 0191 232 6400

guitar, effects


Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Blue-Eyed Hawk An amazing 4.5 out of 5!

Under The Moon

Literate, intelligent music that embraces many influences but coheres to create a brilliantly realised whole.

Blue-Eyed Hawk

“Under The Moon”

(Edition Records EDN 1054)

Edition Records, founded by musician Dave Stapleton and photographer Tim Dickeson has established an enviable reputation as one of the UK’s leading jazz labels, its catalogue including landmark releases by Phronesis and Marius Neset. Such has been the success of Edition that a classical strand has been added in the manner of ECM’s “New Series”.

Another development has been the move towards more song based releases, notably by Stapleton’s own band Slowly Rolling Camera who successfully blend jazz, soul and electronica in a manner that sometimes recalls the music of Portishead and Massive Attack.

Now comes this extraordinary début album from the London based ensemble Blue Eyed Hawk, a prodigiously talented young quartet featuring vocalist Lauren Kinsella, trumpeter Laura Jurd, guitarist Alex Roth and drummer Corrie Dick. They take both their band name and album title from a poem by W.B. Yeats and poetry and literature form a significant component in their remarkable music making. However forget any preconceptions you may have about jazz and poetry collaborations, this album is strikingly different.

Jurd is perhaps the best known member of the core quartet. Her own 2012 album “Landing Ground” was a stunningly mature solo début that fused jazz with elements of contemporary classical music, including some of the best writing for strings that I’ve ever heard on a jazz recording. Meanwhile Irish born vocalist Kinsella fronts her own band Thought-Fox and is a vocal experimenter in the spirit of Julie Tippetts and Maggie Nichols. Guitarist Roth works with vocalist/violinist/songwriter Alice Zawadzki.  Dick is a key member of Jurd’s quartet and appears on the exceptional “Landing Ground”. All four form part of the increasingly influential Chaos Collective of young musicians.

Besides their jazz, classical and literary leanings these four young musicians are also influenced by folk music and by contemporary rock and pop and in Blue-Eyed Hawk they achieve a successful synthesis of all these inspirations while creating something of their own that sounds gloriously original. They are helped in their quest by the slightly older figures of Tom Herbert and Leafcutter John, both members of Polar Bear, who make substantial contributions to the finished product. Herbert provides additional bass and keyboards and is credited with co-producing the album with the band. Electronics are an essential part of the group sound and the work of an engineering team that includes Alex Killpatrick, Hugh Sheehan, Andrew Lawson and Peter Beckmann also deserves mention.

From the outset it’s clear that Blue Eyed-Hawk is a tightly knit ensemble with all four members involved in the writing process. Jurd, Roth and Dick all double on various keyboard instruments and add vocal support to lead singer Kinsella.

The album opens with Kinsella’s “Oyster Trails”, a song with evocative lyrical imagery and a strong environmental message that features the assured singing of its composer and the electronic embellishments of Leafcutter John. Jurd takes a brief solo mid tune but Blue-Eyed Hawk’s music is less concerned with instrumental virtuosity than it is with creating an atmosphere – the skills of the musicians can be taken as a given. Here Leafcutter’s work is given a context by the subtle guitar shadings of Roth and the solid but imaginative drumming of Dick, a young master of contemporary grooves.

“Somewhere” is Kinsella’s astonishing adaptation of the classic “Over The Rainbow”, the song delivered as you’ve never heard it before – even John Martyn didn’t go this far out. Kinsella turns the tune into a high powered thrash, her rendition of E.Y. Harburg’s lyrics combining the freedom and flexibility of the best jazz singing with the menace of punk. Driven by hight octane guitars and powerful drumming and with Jurd’s amplified trumpet squalls squiggling in and out it’s a remarkable transformation and a possible left field hit. The emergence of Harold Arlen’s original melody toward the end leads to a quieter coda that sounds almost ironic.
The sound of sampled (blue)birdsong segues into Roth’s beautiful “Aurora 5AM”, a wonderfully evocative and atmospheric contemporary ballad that brings a fresh sweetness to Kinsella’s voice and a warmth to Jurd’s all acoustic trumpeting. It’s lovely and charming and represents a delightful dynamic contrast to “Somewhere” while acting as a reminder as to just how versatile this group is.

Kinsella’s “Spiderton”combines pop sensibility and jazz harmonies to deliver an engagingly eccentric arachnid related lyric that again stems from its composer’s love of nature. Musically the piece is enlivened by Tom Herbert’s propulsive electric bass groove and Jurd’s double tracked (I think) trumpet.

A woozy solo trumpet fanfare introduces “O Do Not Love Too Long”, the band’s setting of the lyrics of W.B. Yeats. It’s very different to Christine Tobin’s interpretations of the poet’s words on her “Sailing To Byzantium” album and features some of Blue-Eyed Hawk’s most atmospheric playing as Kinsella’s improvised vocal lines combine with the feathery whisper of Jurd’s trumpet.

“Reflections On The Spiral” continues the literary theme with Roth’s setting of the French poet Armand Silvestre. Again the piece is rich in atmospherics with Kinsella singing in French before it erupts into an overpowering second section with Jurd’s soaring trumpet buoyed by Roth’s wall to wall guitar texturing and chording and Dick’s powerful drumming.

Jurd’s “Living In The Fast Lane” is a pop/punk thrash that one reviewer, Music OMH’s Daniel Paton, has suggested sounds like something off Acoustic Ladyland’s “Skinny Grin” album. I’d go along with that, the presence of Herbert on synthesiser and in the producer’s chair adding credence to Paton’s point. It’s a bit throwaway but is great fun – but goodness knows what the audience that recently witnessed Jurd playing jazz standards with the veteran saxophonist Art Themen at Titley Jazz Festival would make of this!

Next we come to a trio of pieces written by the group’s Scottish born drummer Corrie Dick. The swirling, droning “Intro (For Fathers)” features keyboards and guitars emulating bagpipes plus Dick’s own dynamic drumming. It’s an impressive invocation of Celtic mist and grandeur and leads into the song “For Tom And Everything”, dedicated not to Mr Herbert but to Dick’s grandfather. This is a modern folk tale and a remarkably mature and moving piece of songwriting, sung by Kinsella with a profound sense of involvement.
The wistful “Try To Turn Back” evokes wide open spaces (I’m with Daniel Paton again on this one) with its reflective lyric, guitar/electronica soundwashes (Leafcutter is involved again here), melodic trumpet playing and brushed drum grooves. Again Dick brings something of a folk feel to the music, this time via the melody itself.

The album concludes with “Valediction”, Roth’s adaptation of the words of poet Seamus Heaney.
Initially Kinsella delivers the lyric accompanied only by Dick at the piano. The purity of her voice is then matched by the bell like clarity of Jurd’s trumpet. Roth’s needling guitar figure and the layering of the group’s vocals subtly shifts the music in another direction but the air of chilly, fragile beauty remains throughout on this affecting depiction of lost love, loneliness and isolation.

“Under The Moon” is an exceptional début album that has the potential to appeal to a wider audience than the usual jazz demographic. This is literate, intelligent music that embraces many influences but coheres to create a brilliantly realised whole.

Ironically it sometimes reminds me of the music of the trio Eyes Of A Blue Dog -Elisabeth Nygard (vocals), Rory Simmons (trumpet, guitar, electronics) and Terje Evensen (drums, electronics)- whose 2012 album “Rise” (Babel Records) embraced a similar blend of jazz, avant pop and electronica. I hope people don’t get the two bands mixed up!

Blue-Eyed Hawk are currently on tour. Remaining dates as follows;

17 Sep The Lescar SHEFFIELD
5 Oct Splinter @ The Bridge NEWCASTLE
28 Oct The Spotted Dog BIRMINGHAM
31 Oct Fusebox @ The Fox and Newt LEEDS
23 Nov Clore Ballroom (London Jazz Festival) LONDON
4 Dec The Yardbird BIRMINGHAM

Sunday 28th September 2014 – “The Sid Scott Orchestra”

This Sunday is brand new trio “The Sid Scott Orchestra” with:

Ray Truscott, electric synth 6 string bass.
Paul Gowland, tenor, alto, and synth keyboard
Paul White, drums and voice.
All original music.
Doors 7:30pm : £6 entry : Music starts 8.15pm : There is no wheelchair access to this venue.

The Bridge Hotel

Castle Square

T: 0191 232 6400

bridge hotel

SHIVER – Video -“New Fashion”

Here is another video from Shiver @ The Central Bar in Gateshead 23rd October 2013.


For best sound and vision, change settings via the cog shaped gizmo under the video to 1080 HD, watch full screen (and wear headphones).


Chris Sharkey – Guitar
Andy Champion – Bass
Joost Hendricks – Drums

Appearing On Sunday 21st September 2014 – “The Dors” at Splinter Jazz @ The Bridge

The Dors

The Dors are a new UK-France collaboration uniting four musicians at the forefront of contemporary improvisation, composition and performance: de Bezenac and Sharkey are best known as two thirds of the critically-acclaimed, cutting edge trioVD, the band who took “a sledgehammer to preconceived limitations of jazz”; Eve and Yuko are Donkey Monkey, a duo which “draws an ink moustache on the face of international creative music” – Yuko, from the vibrant Japanese rock scene, and Eve, with her virtuosic command of the piano and deep insight into C20th repertoire. Powerful sound collisions and moments of spine-tingling stillness combine with influences from gamelan music, musique concrète, experimental rock and electronica.

This JazzShuttle project has been made possible with support from Sacem, AFIJMA, British Council, mjf and Jazz North in association with RNCM.

Eve Risser and Yuko Oshima on a rehearsal break in Leeds

After a busy four days of composition and rehearsal to get ready for MJF, JN joined Chris, Christophe, Eve and Yuko in their rehearsal studio in Headingley to talk about their experiences of this project, their backgrounds, approaches to composition and more.

Chris Sharkey: This is something we’ve wanted to do for a really long time. Christophe, Eve and Yuko were at college together.


Eve Risser: We met in Strasbourg ten years ago, where we were all studying except Sharkey, and then much later we got to play at the same festival in Norway. Not in the same group, but in the same week and we missed each other! But then we got to play again in a selection [of groups] from the festival and we went on tour with another person, who was performing solo voice. So we were touring Europe with her solo, our duo and their [Chris and Christophe’s] trio.

Christophe De Bezenac: We were talking about doing something together at this time, but this was two years ago. So we’ve been talking about it ever since and then this Jazz Shuttle programme came up and it seemed like the right opportunity. They contacted Eve.

ER: Yes, and they said ‘So do you have a project?’ and I said ‘Yes, I have this idea that we can collaborate with these English guys as we already have something we want to do.’ And of course they said ‘Yes!’

Yuko Oshima

Jazz North: So the plans for this project had come well in advance, but how about the music? Did any of you write the music in advance, or was it all composed in this room?

Yuko Oshima: Both, we did both.

CDB: We all brought small ideas that weren’t completely developed and that we could continue to develop here, together. It’s just been a few days, but it’s gone very well and we quite quickly put a programme together.

ER: I like that it has been very much a group thing and that we have not written down any of the music. That is how they [Chris and Christophe] work, but it is not how we normally work. It means we rely on each other, because if I forget something they have to remind me!

The Dors take time out from their rehearsal's in Leeds.

CDB: That’s something that’s great about any form of collaboration. It’s the fact that you bring methods. It’s not just music, you also bring ways of working and you feed off each other. With Trio VD it was purely aural, and we thought we would see what happened when we all worked in that way.

ER: I can definitely say that in France this music is always more written out. When we were on tour with Trio VD I couldn’t understand how they could write their music, but now I know that it is very aural. I like the French way too, but this was some fresh air. Because we don’t use a metronome or paper it means the music is closer to us as people. When we play, we play with our failures.

The Dors - 16CDB: But there are things you can get from using written material as a starting point that you would never be able to get any other way

YO: Yes, it has to be a choice.

JN: So did you deliberately try to make this project sound different to Trio VD or Donkey Monkey? Did you make an effort to make them separate?

ER: No, we just played! We didn’t think about doing it or not doing it.

CS: I don’t think it was deliberate, it will naturally be different. We haven’t put those kinds of constraints on anything. There might be some similar ideas, but there’s also something new happening. I’m doing things I wouldn’t think of doing in Trio VD.

CDB: Instrumentation makes it quite different, but even just the ideas are very different.

ER: With Donkey Monkey we were just two [people] for years, so now to have four is like having an orchestra!

Yuko Oshima

CDB: VD was a trio of one-man-bands, but with this group we can relax, breathe and listen to what’s going on.

CS: We had an idea right at the start, of using clichés but being really sincere about them. It’s about taking something you’ve heard a million times and that always gets the piss taken out of it, but then doing something really heart-felt with it. I think that’s quite a nice thing to do.

CDB: We’re going to start the set with a typical 6/8 ballad with a really traditional chord progression, the most obvious 60s pop thing, and then we’re playing a really unexpected melody over the top. We’re putting these things is opposition. There’s this bizarreness and mundaneness together.

ER: A link between our two bands is that we play music that is cerebral music and music for the body. We shouldn’t lose one or the other.

The Dors in the studio with Neil Innes

JN: Is there anything else you would like to add?

CS: Just that it’s been really good fun! You never know what it’s going to be like working with new people and it’s been brilliant. We’ve been laughing all week and coming up with loads of great ideas. This is just the start of something that is going to be really great.

Sunday 7th September 2014 – Noel Dennis Quintet Play The Music Of Tom Harrell


Splinterjazz @ The Bridge resumes this Sunday, the 6th September, and what a fantastic opener for the autumn season!

The Noel Dennis Quintet, with Noel’s tribute to probably the world’s finest living jazz composer/trumpeter, Tom Harrell.

Noel Dennis – Trumpet/Flugelhorn
Paul Edis – Piano
Mark Williams – Guitar
Andy Champion – Bass
Adrian Tilbrook – Drums
Bridge Hotel, Castle Garth, Newcastle upon Tyne, Tyne and Wear NE1 1RQ 0191 232 6400

Doors 7.30pm : Performance 8pm’ish : Entry £6
There is no wheelchair access to this venue