Guide to the Week of Music: Jonny Mansfield on his Kenny Wheeler jazz prize win, new sounds and visuals

Welcome to the Guide to the Week of Music, a round-up of music news, media and releases from the wide musical world. This week, we catch up with vibraphonist and composer Jonny Mansfield, who participated in the second of our Jazz Directors series residencies and has just been awarded the Kenny Wheeler Jazz prize. We also have a round-up of some fine Friday listening, including new sounds from EABS, Tony Momrelle and others.

Jonny Mansfield on the Kenny Wheeler jazz prize and his Chris Potter collaboration

When Chris Potter was announced as leader of the second Jazz Directors series residency in late 2016, it was clear that a versatile percussionist would be needed to tackle his expansive Underground Orchestra material. Step forward Jonny Mansfield: an accomplished vibraphonist and bandleader based at London’s Royal Academy of Music. With technique beyond his years, he was equal to the challenge. As part of an outstanding ensemble, under the effortless leadership of an experienced composer and saxophonist, the Yorkshireman shone brightly.

Now, 14 months on from the residency and accompanying tour, Mansfield has graduated from the academy as this year’s recipient of the coveted Kenny Wheeler jazz prize. Edition records founder Dave Stapleton and saxophonist Evan Parker were members of the judging panel—both artists that Mansfield, by his own admission, looks up to—and their decision enables he and his ensemble Elftet to release their debut record with Edition, during the next 12 months.

Speaking to us earlier this week, Mansfield divulged some details about the forthcoming Elftet album, while reflecting upon his residency experience.

We recorded the album at Real World Studios in Wiltshire with Jim Hart producing and Alex Bonney engineering and mixing,’ he explains. ‘There are also guest appearances from Chris Potter, Kit Downes and Gareth Lockrane.’

Referring to the 2016 residency, Mansfield stated, ‘Working with Chris was mind blowing, not only playing alongside him and being exposed to his radioactive sound but also rehearsing and socialising with him.’ He described the experience as ‘one of the most fulfilling musical projects I’ve taken part in,’ emphasising the unity of the ensemble, musically and socially. ‘We’ve all kept in touch and look out for when someone is playing near each other. I’m really fortunate to play regularly with Will Barry and Will Harris from the residency.’

Jonny also drew attention to some of the unique aspects of the residency, suggesting how they have impacted upon his playing. ‘It’s a very rare opportunity to have three days to rehearse and develop a collective sound. Following on from the rehearsals, the four concerts that we played with Chris were an incredible learning experience for me. Every night was very different and was incredible to accompany someone who was really improvising each night.’

The experience was a catalyst in enabling Potter to feature on Mansfield’s forthcoming Elftet record and he is pleased to have kept in touch with Potter following the project. ‘In addition to Elftet, I co-run a vibes trio with bass player Will Sach and drummer Boz Martin-Jones,’ Mansfield explains. ‘We’re currently planning a tour for next April. Also Jam Experiment, a five piece collective featuring Rory and Dom Ingham, Joe Lee and Toby Comeau. We’ve just got back Prague and Budapest and are looking forward to playing in Rome and Krakow in the next month.’

Upon awarding him the 2018 Kenny Wheeler jazz prize, judge Dave Stapleton said: ‘Jonny Mansfield is a musician of real depth and maturity, both as an instrumentalist and composer. Jonny also has the ability to recognise the wider challenges facing him and approach them with drive and determination to pursue a career in this music.’

Elftet embark on a UK tour this September and you can check out their music and tour dates on Jonny’s site.

New sounds

Polish fusion ensemble EABS published a fantastic live version of Krzysztof Komeda’s Kraksa, this week. It is the first track from their new live LP, recorded at the Jazz Club in Hipnoza and featuring material from their studio album Reflections (Letters to Krzysztof Komeda). The ten minute epic begins with a funky piano motif and devastating horn riff, before plummeting into a spacious, contemplative mid section and re-emerging with cool, mellotron-like chords and a revised horn riff. The track highlights the scratching capabilities of Spisek Jednego and gear nerds can check out every piece of gear the band used in the production credits.

RnB vocalist and producer Jazz Purple dropped his new single High this week, lifted from the project he premieres live at Band on the Wall tonight. Elsewhere, Long Island’s Mr Twin Sister released a stunning new tune entitled Jaipur, a 140BPM, pensive and string-laden number, featuring beautiful vocal stacks and a hypnotic synth rhythm.

Soul vocalist Tony Momrelle returned with a new single this week too. This Isn’t Love is released on the Reel People Music label and described as, ‘a watershed moment in Tony’s long career; a turning point musically and thematically that sets the stage for what promises to be a stunning sophomore album.’

Finally, Kaidi Tatham’s new LP drops on First Word records today, featuring a beautiful track with Children of Zeus and sprightly Afro-jazz-funk cut featuring Dego, among its thirteen tracks. Tatham played most of the instrumentation on the record, which hops effortlessly between genres, interludes giving it a smooth flow and dynamic structure.

New visuals

Guitarist Cory Wong returned with Jax, an ultra-funky track accompanied by a suitably quirky D.I.Y. video, this week. The simple studio footage shows the rhythm section locked into the groove and as ever, Wong is having the time of his life playing the funkiest of loose-wristed strumming patterns. Someone get that man an ice pack!

Chilean psych duo The Holydrug Couple released a fantastic visual for I’ll Only Say This recently. Ives Sepúlveda Minho and Manuel Parra are the minds behind the video collage, which features plenty of old records, photographs and astrological diagrams. Fans of early Floyd, late Beatles, Mini Mansions and Tame Impala will no doubt dig the cosmic balladry and can pick up the Hyper Super Mega LP upon release in September.

Finally, the video for Max Richter’s On The Nature Of Daylight is a gripping watch, setting Richter’s moving 2004 composition to a tale of present-day isolation. Featuring and co-produced by Elisabeth Moss, it is described as ‘Stunning in its simplicity’ by Classic FM and Moss said in a statement, ‘the opportunity to act to one of his most prolific pieces was such an incredible honor.’