Accomplished reed man Kelvin Christiane has played with everyone from Don Weller to Bernard ‘Pretty’ Purdie. Lately he has been helping keep jazz alive in south-west London, notably with his regular gigs at the Twickenham Jazz Club and the Home Guard Club in East Sheen, as well as releasing a steady stream of CDs. The latest of these is The Arrival which features Kelvin on baritone sax — in tribute to Gerry Mulligan — as well as flutes, with a nod to Roland Kirk, skilfully supported by Nigel Price on guitar, Larry Bartley on double bass and Noel Joyce on percussion and drums, with Ross Stanley on piano on one track and David McLeod substituting for Larry Bartley on bass on that same track — Alone Together. Review by Andrew Cartmel London Jazz News
London Jazz News CD Review Kelvin Christiane and Friends - The Arrival Accomplished reed man Kelvin Christiane has played with everyone from Don Weller to Bernard ‘Pretty’ Purdie. Lately he has been helping keep jazz alive in south-west London, notably with his regular gigs at the Twickenham Jazz Club and the Home Guard Club in East Sheen, as well as releasing a steady stream of CDs. The latest of these is The Arrival which features Kelvin on baritone sax — in tribute to Gerry Mulligan — as well as flutes, with a nod to Roland Kirk, skilfully supported by Nigel Price on guitar, Larry Bartley on double bass and Noel Joyce on percussion and drums, with Ross Stanley on piano on one track and David McLeod substituting for Larry Bartley on bass on that same track — Alone Together. The Arrival is high calibre jazz. The CD is immaculately recorded, with great presence, and offers the listener an immediately engaging listening experience. The opening cut Joy Spring is insouciant, incisive and instantly lovely. Kelvin Christiane’s sweet, short boppish phrases on the baritone are intertwined with Nigel Price’s bright, agile guitar, underpinned with the buttery lushness of Larry Bartley’s bass. Kelvin sits out as Price solos with bittersweet precision, conjuring a whole big band’s worth of sound from his guitar. Then Price and Bartley swap roles, with the guitar providing rhythmic support and silvery frills while the bass solos, chunky, capacious and resonant. Finally Kelvin sweeps back in and his beacon-bright sax carries us out. On the title track, The Arrival, an original composition by the leader, Kelvin Christiane supplements his baritone sax with the flute, and a very notable flute it is, too — breathy and hypnotic. Multi tracked, with interjections from the baritone, it provides a mesmeric hall-of-mirrors intro before giving way to a relaxed single flute as the tune evolves into a bossa nova delight complete with intoxicating, ticking percussion from Noel Joyce, almost subliminal bass and adroitly minimal guitar. Nigel Price’s guitar then fleshes out into a soulful, beautifully rounded solo. The flute is the perfect vehicle for this piece. Accompanied by the restless rustling and strumming of the bass it conjures up lush forests and Brazilian beaches. The musicians have all caught the bossa mood beautifully, with Price conjuring memories of Luis Bonfá. You can see why they named the album after this piece. It’s a hard act to follow. But Alone Together manages to do so. It is taken at a sweeping, swinging pace, Kelvin Christiane’s flute effortlessly keeping up and shifting gears with the changing time of the tune. Ross Stanley’s piano flows and cascades into a nicely judged solo, his lightning playing managing to pack extra notes and figures into and around the racing tune without ever sounding rushed. Noel Joyce’s abundant and pungent drumming provides an instructive contrast with the delicate discretion of his percussion on the title track. Alone Together concludes with a gorgeously piercing flute trill, recorded with the subtle ghost of an echo. As well as expertly playing bass on this track, David McLeod is also the recording engineer for these sessions and he is to be congratulated for the exquisite job he’s done. Lover Man sees Kelvin back on baritone— lush, velvety and resonant as he lays out the melody of this great standard. It is as wistful and lushly melancholy an interpretation as anyone could ever ask, with the baritone sax chiding, exhorting and declaiming as Kelvin Christiane conjures a boozy, bluesy late night mood before Nigel Price’s elaborate, vibrating spider web of guitar weaves an alluring pattern. The impressive neo-bossa of the title track showed a love and appreciation of Antonio Carlos Jobim’s music, so it’s no surprise to find two Jobim tunes included here, Once I Loved and Favela. They are amongst the highlights of the set, with some particularly fine use of percussive shakers by Noel Joyce. But then almost every track here is a highlight. This is a combo loving what they do, and their pleasure communicates itself loud and clear to the listener. It’s hard to imagine anyone not having their spirits lifted by the pacy precision and emotional depth of such well wrought music. KC Music KC023. CD review by Andrew Cartmel Back to top London Jazz News: January 2014 “The Kelvin Christiane Big Band is swinging hard on the first Tuesday of the month at Twickenham Jazz at The Bloomsbury, at the western end of Staines Road. The first session of 2014, at a normally bleak, time of year attendance-wise was really buzzing, with a packed crowd in what must be one of the most comfortable pub venues in London, the band also benefiting from good sound. The programme featured a fair sprinkling of Kelvin’s well thought-out originals, with Grand Design, taking Trane’s solo on the classic All Blues as a starting point, scoring best with me for its relative simplicity and melodic content. But the leader is no ego tripper and for the more informed buffs in the audience material like Benny Golson’s Whisper Not, Jerome Richardson’s Thad Jones/Mel Lewis classic Groove Merchant and the gorgeous, sumptuous sound of the saxophone section on Mingus’s Ellington’s Sound of Love were balm to the soul. Christiane, a fine contemporary sounding tenor player himself, is not afraid of the great Cannonball Adderley philosophy of ‘four for them and two for us’, and so Basie’s Kid from Red Bank really allowed the rhythm section - Jim Treweek (piano), Mike Higgins (bass), and Noel Joyce (drums) - to strut. Take The A-Train was another for older ‘fringe’listeners, while Goodman’s Let’s Dance, surely the most evocative signature tune in the history of the music, featuring the brilliant clarinet of Martin Nickless, was a masterstroke. While the essence of this band is cohesive team playing, which seemed to get more relaxed as the evening wore on, ther were strong solo contributions from trumpeter Paul Jordanous, trombonist Nick Mills and the ubiquitous tenor of Pete Hurt, a stalwart of so many band and educational parts of the London scene - an unsung hero if ever there was one. And lastly let’s hear it for’ ‘the missus’. Leslie Christiane, who welcomes every visitor with a smile is a cheery MC. Her self-deprecatory ‘that’s the end of the karaoke section’ after she had sung a couple of standards made me laugh out loud. Yes, for good music and a warm unpretentious atmosphere, Twickenham Jazz is well worth a trip.” Brian Blain ‘Londonjazznews.com’ January, 2014. Back to top “a band of astonishing virtuosity…” Humphrey Lyttleton’s ‘Best of Jazz’ Radio 2. “Longtime stalwart of the London jazz community, reedsman Kelvin Christiane, showcases nine powerful new compositions on this strong CD. Whether on tenor, soprano, alto or flute, Kelvin moves from straight ahead to radio- friendly crossover. With interactive support from in-demand pianist Ross Stanley, acoustic and electric bassist David McLeod, and drummer Noel Joyce, a dream rhythm team who combine fire and sensitivity. For Kelvin Christiane this album is another leap onwards and upwards.” Jim Mullen, September 2010 review for ‘Wigger’. Back to top The Spin Club: November 2008 Like his previous visit to The Spin, one of the joys of an evening with Kelvin Christiane is his programming, which tonight included numbers by Adderley, Cole Porter, Gillespie, Mingus, Brubeck and Ray Noble. New to The Spin was a Toots Thielemann number “Bluesette”, which was recorded in 1962 and has seen more than 100 versions recorded since. Christiane played it brilliantly on flute, with Mark Doffman, Steve Rose and Ric Bolton adding colour and texture on drums, bass and guitar. As it finished, a fellow enthusiast commented that jazz musicians only ever seem to play one flute solo, and Christiane later confirmed it is because it is more difficult to hear yourself play. A CD of flute numbers is in preparation to satisfy demand for more. Another first was “Hellzapoppin”, a new composition from Ric Bolton who has the rotund look of a potentially dissolute monk. His Burrell-like chord playing and drifts into blues and funk contributed an enjoyable contemporary piece to the evening. Christiane is a prolific composer and having made 9 CDs of his own music, is now ready to record one of standards. At some time in their career, most artistes feel a need to measure themselves against history, and one waits with interest, in much the same way as you might wait for a still life or landscape from Tracy Emin or Damien Hirst. Christiane entertained us with his ability to play two saxes simultaneously in the manner of hero Roland Kirk, who managed an unbeatable three. Clarinet was Christiane's first instrument however, and I hope the artist sketching him from the audience caught the spectacle of his features inflating like a puffer fish into a globe as he reached for the notes he wanted. I would have enjoyed more clarinet and flute. The newly-married Christiane is a happy bunny these days, and has a studio at the bottom of his garden. It would be an unusual challenge for a musician to struggle against happiness and comfort to retain his edge and creativity, when history suggests the best work comes from the opposite. J.J. Marshall, November 2008. Back to top “Christiane is an excellent tenor saxophonist, with a warm broad tone and clean singing high notes which are highly emotive, and with sometimes a Trane cry in his sound…” Ian Carr from the liner notes for ‘Red Dawn’ “Inventive and committed. Kelvin is clearly one to look out for and hear whenever the opportunity arises.” Bruce Crowther, Jazz Journal International. Back to top “A Jazzman palpably straining at the leash- one to watch.” John Fordham, The Guardian. Back to top “Christiane is a player to follow.” Barry McRae, Jazz Journal International. Back to top “virtuoso… rampaging tenor saxophonist that explodes the myth of British understatement…” Humphrey Lyttleton, ‘Best of Jazz’ October 2005. Back to top Reviews for “Red Dawn” by the Kelvin Christiane Quartet This is refreshing group of vituosi whose memory of bebop and hardbop is leavened by the spirits of both Coltrane, and more particularly, Roland Kirk. Christiane is an excellent tenor saxophonist, with a warm broad tone and clean, singing high notes which are highly emotive and with sometimes a Trane cry in his sound. He’s also a fine flautist. Perrin’s accompaniments are wonderfully varied and his piano solos never fail to sparkle. The rhythm section is also superlative with bassist Howles and Clifford – one of the master drummers. The repertoire is nicely eclectic - the title track is a powerfully swinging blues with an attractive and unusual theme composed by Christiane, and Tadd Dameron’s “Our Delight” gets a dynamic bebop airing. Carl Fischer’s lovely ballad “We’ll be together again” is given a tender and beatific performance with an outstanding tenor solo and a fine bass solo with very imaginative piano accompaniment. Christiane plays flute on Jobim’s “Corcovado” and solos with great panache. Two other blues with Roland Kirk connections are also given an airing. “Two for the Festival” has Christiane playing tenor and alto simultaneously for the theme. Then changing to flute for his solo which includes dramatic stop choruses in which he creates the hoarse flute tone that characterised Kirk’s untamed playing of the instrument. However, the most interesting and contemporary sounding piece is Christiane’s “Thunder Beings” which has a unique structure with changing tempos, angular phrases, big punctuations, strong solos and quiet elegiac passages. The album concludes with Kirk’s “Blues for A & T” which has urgent tenor and piano solos and terminates with a mighty drum solo and a wild ending. This album runs the gamut of the emotions. Ian Carr, 18th May 2002. Back to top A most enjoyable, straight ahead, hardbop session recorded live at London's 606 Club this year. Kelvin Christiane is an excellent tenor saxophonist, with a round warm tone, which sometimes harks back to an earlier period in jazz. He is also a fine flautist. Roland Perrin's piano playing shines throught. his solos are full of inventive twists and turns. Dominic Howles contributes some thoughtful bass and the drumming Winston Clifford is as masterful as ever. The title track and opener starts with a slow section bursting into an energetic swinging blues. Claire Fisher's ballad “We'll be together again” gets a warm rendition with fine solos and Tad Dameron's “Our Delight” is delightful. Christiane pays homage to Roland Kirk (an obvious influence) on two tracks stating the themes on alto and tenor saxes simultaneously. Harrison Smith, Musician magazine, September 2002. Back to top Review for “Awakening” New to me, this is an excellent band of young British hard boppers who play with flair and enthusiasm. The leader's playing (he is heard mostly on tenor) is inventive and committed. As he is also composer and arranger of all titles this is clearly a young man to look out for and hear whenever the opportunity arises. There is also a great deal of drive and swing from the rhythm section. I particularly liked the opening track, “Sam's Boogie”, the hint of menace in the introduction to “Joy Of The Spheres”, and the elegantly introspective “Faith”. I would like to be able to tell you something about these musicians but the sleeve note simply lists titles, personnel and a handful of credits and acknowledgements. As the album is self-produced they seem to have missed a good opportunity for some valuable publicity. Anyway, it's the music that counts and, here, it counts for rather a lot. I look forward to more where this came from. Very good sound. Bruce Crowther, Jazz Journal International, October 1992. Back to top Review for “Live at the 6” Reviewing some early Blakey Messengers CD's recently it was re-inforced in my mind how much better those early bands sounded when recorded in clubs under favourable conditions. The same may well be true for Kelvin Christiane for although I haven't heard any studio sets by him, this live performance at the 606 in West London sparkles with good, modern jazz energy and commitment to the cause. The opening “Violet Rain” is a hard, swinging workout for just about everybody and they all acquit themselves well. The leader has a very distinctive sound on tenor sax with a tone compounded of several parts Coltrane, a few Roland Kirk and his own penchant for dipping into the lower register effectively; a happy combination. Ohm's long solo is a gem of musical percussion, very well structured and skilfully executed. The tribute to Kirk, “Blue Road”, has Kelvin playing tenor and alto simultaneously as Roland did and then going into a personalised alto solo full of unexpected twists and turns and well structured blues licks. Then comes a dark textured tenor solo dipping frequently into those subterranean regions that normally only contra-bass players inhabit. Perrin solos brightly, his touch light and scorchingly incandescent. “Letting Go” is an atmospheric ballad touched by gloom and despondency if I read the leader's solo correctly. Even here though, there are flashes of optimism heralding fresh starts and new beginnings. Corea's “500 Miles High” features fluctuating aspects of the flute sound in a varied solo using different ways of playing the instrument. The final “In Walked Bud” is a heart-felt tribute to Thelonius Monk extracting the essence of the composer's quirky melody without slavish plagiarism. There is no fully understanding Monk but to dig him you need to love the music of the jazz world's major iconclasts and have a pervasive sence of humour. Kelvin and his sidemen appreciate him fully. Highly recommended. Derek Ansell, Jazz Journal International, June 2002. Back to top Review for “Salute the Sun” The work of Kelvin Christiane had evaded me, but on this evidence he is an impressive writer, showing a thorough and creative command of contemporary idiom. His compositions are variously reminiscent of M-Base players like Greg Osby and Gary Thomas (“Salute The Sun”), latter-day Wayne Shorter (“River”) and the straightahead post - Coltrane tradition (swing on “Journey”, Latin on “Firefly”), and he shows a virtually unfailing instance for musical development. He has assembled a very proficient crew to deliver music which often demands great precision, and he has, in Angilley, a very good soloist. The leader is a capable improviser too, perhaps at his best on “River”. As if to remind us that he is a fully rounded musical personality, he closes the set with a mildly incongruous conventional reading of “My One And Only Love”. Altogether an impressive showing for a not overexposed talent. Mark Gilbert, Jazz Journal International, September 1998. Back to top Review of “Tribute to Roland Kirk” A musical tribute to the legendary multi - instrumentalist Roland Kirk. This album is more than a mere tribute to Kirk. Christiane shows himself well able to handle Rahsaan's trademark skills. 'Two horns at once' are delivered with some panche on “Moonray” and “Rahsaan”, he has no trouble with circular breathing and his voice over flute is similarly passionate on “Cuckoo” and “My Ship” He even captures the cadence of his hero's tenor line on “Moonray”. It suggests that he is at least conversant with several important muses, although his own personality is more evidently displayed in the calm flow of his clarinet on “Serenity”. Overall the album suggests that Christiane is a player to be followed. Barry McRae, Jazz Journal International, November 2000. Back to top Review of “Great Spirit” From the moment you hear the punchy, Art Blakey-ish ensemble exclamations of the opener by this classy British band you know you're in safe hands. It's appropriate that the young saxophonist and leader Kelvin Christiane should have made the second CD of his career for Danny Thompson's much-acclaimed new Jazz Label, devoted as it is to the independent spirits of British jazz - because Christiane is certainly one of them. A saxophonist and flautist who also studied composition at Leeds College of Music - a broad education reflected in the fact that all the tracks here are his own work - Christiane is one of the most promising of the players on the British circuit who take their inspiration from bop, Latin jazz and the great African - American soloists of the Fifties and Sixties.