Ancient & Modern

Artist: George Haslam

Date of Release: 26/07/2019

Catalogue no: SLAMCD 332

Label: SLAM

Price: £9.50

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Track Listing









Summer 2018, Steve Cohn is planning to travel from home in New Jersey to London to appear in the World Shakuhachi Festival. Through the offices of SLAM he contacts George Haslam with a view to meeting for coffee etc. ~ the plan eventually developed into a gig with bassist Steve Kershaw in the beautiful All Saints Church in rural Oxfordshire. The churchyard is the burial place of George Orwell – hence the ‘Orwell’s Blues’ reference.
The music programme attempted to trace influences from folk songs, blues and free improvisation. The trio met for the first time at the church – Steve C arrived in UK the day before; Steve K returned home from holiday also the day before and, as he had a lunchtime gig on the day of the concert, was not able to meet Steve C before it was time to take the stage. Everything that had to be said was in the music.
Steve (Cohn) took the opportunity to record the concert, hence the production of this CD.
1. Scarborough Fair 5:41 (Traditional)
2. Orwell's Blues 3:24 (Steve Cohn)
3. Walking in an English Garden 5:33 (Cohn/Kershaw)
4. Blue Monk 6:33 (Thelonious Monk)
5. Nostalgia in Times Square 7:43 (Charles Mingus)
6. Baritone Happiness 13:18 (Cohn/Haslam/Kershaw)
7. Dog Blue 2:20 (Cohn/Kershaw)
8. Tarogato Fire 12:45 (Cohn/Haslam/Kershaw)
9. Nepal meets Hum Hum Drum Drum 7:09 (Steve Cohn)




09/09/2019 George W. Harris

Haslam goes into a trio format with Steve Cohn, who plays piano, harmonica and some traditional horns as well as bassist Steve Kershaw. Cohn gets some solo space on a wonderfully patient “Orwell’s Blues” and teams up with Kershaw on a bluesy bopper of “Walking In An English Desert” while playing the traditional shakuhachi flute on a dreamy and ethereal “Dog Blue.” Haslam picks up his baritone and blows a mean bop on “Blue Monk” and swings hard during “Nostalgia In Times Square” with the team stretching out on an enjoyable “Baritone Happiness.” Flexible and fun.


30/08/2019 Bruce Lee Gallanter

STEVE COHN / GEORGE HASLAM / STEVE KERSHAW - Ancient & Modern (Slam 332; UK) Featuring Steve Cohn on piano, harmonica, shakuhachi & shofar, George Haslam on bari & alto saxes & taragato and Steve Kershaw on double bass. Although Steve Cohn has been a New York area based pianist & shakuhachi player for several decades, I’ve rarely see him playing live in NYC. He does appear on record more often, working with Fred Hopkins, Jason Hwang & Frank Lowe, amongst others. Mr. Cohn has two new discs on the UK-based Slam label, both trios with different personnel. For this disc Mr. Cohn is collaborating with Slam-label head George Haslam (sax & taragato) and double bassist Steve Kershaw. I only know of bassist Steve Kershaw from the dozen other discs he has done with George Haslam in the past. Elder British reeds master, George Haslam, can be heard on some 50+ releases, mostly on the Slam label and with musicians from the UK, Italy, South America & Greece). What’s interesting about this disc is that if features 3 standards (Monk, Mingus & Simon & Garfunkel) and four by Mr. Cohn or Cohn/Kershaw plus two trio improvs. This set was recorded live at the All Saints Church in Courtenay, England in July of 2018. The pieces range from solo piano, to three duos and 5 trios.
The disc begins with a sublime duo of taragato & acoustic bass playing “Scarborough Fair”, covered by Simon & Garfunkel in the mid sixties. Considering that this was recorded in a church, it does have a rather spiritual sound, reminding me of Coltrane doing “My Favorite Things” for an Atlantic album released in 1961. Mr. Cohn plays soulful, gospel-ish solo piano on “Orwell’s Blues”. the goes right into a piano & bass duo, called “Walking in a English Garden” and which is also bluesy with a righteous walking bass line. Another highlight is a swaggering version of “Blue Monk” for a baritone sax, piano & bass trio. Another great cover for the trio is Charles Mingus’ “Nostalgia in Times Square”, lush and laid back. On “Baritone Happiness”, Mr. Haslam takes a long, tasty, soulful bari sax solo, which tells an ongoing story as it goes. Bruce Lee Gallanter, DMG


09/08/2019 Nic Jones

Now that it’s pretty uncontentious to talk of jazz as an international language, it’s nice to consider how the music on record also now encompasses spaces ranging from the Village Vanguard and the Five Spot to All Saints Church in Sutton Courtenay, Oxfordshire, where this set was captured for posterity, and where George Orwell, a man who had prescient things to say about the present day, rests in the graveyard.
Given the venue and the setting the musicians scrupulously avoid playing anything likely to startle either the locals or the horses, although the nuanced gutbucket swagger of the lengthy Baritone Happiness is debatably an example of the Devil’s music in God’s house. All three musicians are clearly revelling in spontaneous creation anyway. Orwell’s Blues, another more obvious example of that Devil’s music, taken solo by Cohn on piano, makes the same point more emphatically.
Scarborough Fair should by no means inevitably have shades of Coltrane’s take on Greensleeves about it, although it does, and there’s creative tension in the air which makes for compelling listening, not least because, in another far from overbearing echo, George Haslam’s tárogató work has traces of Peter Brotzmann’s work on the higher reeds about it.
The brief Dog Blue finds Cohn on shakuhachi, and again ersatz exotica is dodged with ease. Indeed, despite the brevity of the track it leaves the impression of Cohn and Kershaw engaging with the venue’s wonderfully true acoustics, which remind yer actual jazz hack of the Holywell Music Room in Oxford, so the sacred / secular divide is bridged quite nicely in that regard.
On a practical note, the album consists of solos, duos and trios, and that leaves a positive impression, not least because it emphasises how all three musicians listen deeply enough to be aware not only of the efforts of their fellows, but also the space they were creating in.
Nic Jones https://jazzjournal.co.uk/2019/08/09/steve-cohn-george-haslam-steve-kershaw-ancient-modern/


01/08/2019 Ken Cheetham

There is here a musical interface between the generally unassuming sounds of the Shakuhachi and the more challenging, complex sounds of the interrogations between the alto and baritone saxes. The sound representations encourage ones thinking that here we have a concept of sound as something that is trustworthy, unimpaired and vibrant. There is potential too for recognising this old, meditation instrument of ancient Japan, a five-hole flute seen as one of the hardest traditional flutes to master, as a newcomer to the modern-day scene, as it moves distinctively the air around us, even emulating the human voice.

French composer Hector Berlioz (1803-1869) wrote of the saxophone (invented early 1840s and patented 1846): "Its principal merit in my view is the varied beauty of its accent, sometimes serious, sometimes calm, sometimes impassioned, dreamy or melancholic, or vague, like the weakened echo of an echo, like the indistinct plaintive moans of the breeze in the woods and even better, like the mysterious vibrations of a bell, long after it has been struck; there does not exist another musical instrument that I know of that possesses this strange resonance, which is situated at the edge of silence."

The music of course is a bouillabaisse of ideas and styles, garnered from an extensive and multifarious array of origins, from jazz classics and be-bop, to the abstract of free improv. So, the trio explores those frontiers, the old and the new, custom being tempered by ideas as yet untested and untried, truly experimental - - - and yet, the whole album is truly lyrical.

Though I place a lot of emphasis on both woodwind artists as the principal contributors to the experimentation herein, I do not mean to exclude bassist Steve Kershaw, whose influence is different. He has a long standing, empathetic relationship with Haslam and it’s a compelling partnership, as he is able to bring musicians and styles of musical expression together and knit them together as one. That’s a remarkable achievement, worthy of our recognition.

Fantastic album. Don’t miss it.

Reviewed by Ken Cheetham https://www.jazzviews.net/george-haslam--steve-cohn--steve-kershaw---ancient--modern.html


01/07/2019 Vittorio Lo Conte

Quello in questione è un disco un pò speciale registrato live alla All Saints Church in Inghilterra (Oxfordshire) da parte di un trio che non aveva mai suonato insieme ritrovatosi sul palco per la prima volta, appena di ritorno da altri concerti. Gl inglesi George Haslam al sax baritono e contralto ed al tarogato e Steve Kershaw al contrabbasso hanno incontrato l’americano Steve Cohn che qui suona il pianoforte e degli strumenti esotici: shakuhachi, hichiriki e shofar. È un concerto fra influenze folk, blues, libera improvvisazione e pure standard del jazz, vengono infatti eseguiti Blue Monk di Thelonious Monk e Nostalgia In Times Square di Charles Mingus in trio con Haslam al sax baritono e Cohn al pianoforte. Altrove si usano altri strumenti, il disco parte con un duo del tarogato e del contrabbasso su una melodia popolare inglese, con Nepal Meets Hum Hum Drum Drum che chiude il disco si può ascoltare Cohn che suona il piano e shofar e shakuhachi insieme al sax baritono ed al contrabbasso, una musica improvvisata che si ricorda di lontane melodie orientali. È una proposta insolita, che non si pone steccati di sorta, che travalica i generi e si concentra esclusivamente sulla comunicazione estemporanea sul palco davanti agli ascoltatori. Un concerto riuscito, registrato da Cohn che poi ha deciso di pubblicarlo.
Vittorio Lo Conte, http://www.musiczoom.it/?p=30808#.XURVeh1Ki1t

The one in question is a somewhat special record recorded live at the All Saints Church in England (Oxfordshire) by a trio who had never played together before he found himself on stage for the first time, just back from other concerts. With the English George Haslam on the baritone and alto sax and the tarogato and Steve Kershaw on the double bass, they met the American Steve Cohn who plays the piano and exotic instruments here: shakuhachi, hichiriki and shofar. It is a concert between folk influences, blues, free improvisation and pure jazz standards, in fact Blue Monk by Thelonious Monk and Nostalgia In Times Square by Charles Mingus are performed in trio with Haslam on baritone saxophone and Cohn on piano. Elsewhere other instruments are used, the disc starts with a duo of the tarogato and the double bass on a popular English melody, with Nepal Meets Hum Hum Drum Drum that closes the disc you can hear Cohn playing the piano and shofar and shakuhachi together with the baritone sax and on double bass, an improvised music that is reminiscent of distant oriental melodies. It is an unusual proposal, which does not set fences of sorts, which goes beyond the genres and focuses exclusively on the impromptu communication on the stage in front of the listeners. A successful concert, recorded by Cohn who then decided to publish it.


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