Thursday 21 July 2022, 8pm
The first issue of The Wire was published in summer 1982. To mark its 40th anniversary, throughout July the magazine is hosting a series of live events in London, Bristol, Brighton, Manchester, Glasgow, Chicago, and online.
For this Cafe Oto residency, The Wire’s publisher/director Tony Herrington has assembled a programme based on the editorial philosophy that was encapsulated in the strapline on the cover of that first issue: Jazz, Improvised Music, And….
The final night of the residency features Black Top, the improvising vehicle formed by two of the UK’s most advanced practitioners of creative music aka jazz: Orphy Robinson and Pat Thomas. By way of some sweet serendipity, Black Top is marking its 10th anniversary this year, and for this double birthday celebration, it will perform in three incarnations:
Black Top with Strings featuring:
Mandhira De Saram, violin
Angharad Davies, violin
Hannah Marshall, cello
Neil Charles, double bass
Black Top with Horns featuring:
Rachel Musson, tenor saxophone
Xhosa Cole, tenor saxophone
Black Top with Voices featuring:
Elaine Mitchener, voice
Cleveland Watkiss, voice
“For this concert we are looking to create a continuous sonic experience via three major soundworlds,” explains Pat Thomas. “Over the last decade we have been fortunate enough to play with some of the greatest practitioners in free improvisation and jazz. For this concert we are honoured to be playing with great ensemble players. All are great soloists in their own right, but are also great as a unit. We feel they will help us expand our sonic universe. As Sun Ra would say: destination unknown!”
The Wire’s Cafe Oto residency is part of a series of events programmed by the magazine to mark its 40th anniversary at venues in London, Bristol, Brighton, Manchester, Glasgow, Chicago, and online. Artists appearing at the events include People Like Us, Helena Celle, No Home, Hannah Catherine Jones, Venus Ex Machina, Teresa Winter, UnicaZürn, :zoviet*france:, FM Einheit, Blectum From Blechdom, Apartment House, Black Top, Sarah Angliss, Kemper Norton, Hamid Drake, Ikue Mori, Aaron Dilloway, plus screenings of Neptune Frost by Saul Williams & Anisia Uzeyman, films on Éliane Radigue and William Burroughs, and concerts exploring the legacies of The Scratch Orchestra, AMM and Spontaneous Music Ensemble. Tickets for all events are going on sale in May. To get updates on all The Wire’s 40th anniversary events, including ticketing information and programme announcements, follow The Wire on Twitter and Instagram: @thewiremagazine; Facebook; and sign up to its Weekly newsletter at thewire.co.uk/newsletters.
Orphy Robinson is one of the major figures of the jazz scene - he has released records on Blue Note and played with Don Cherry, David Murray, Henry Threadgill, Courtney Pine, Jazz Warriors and Andy Shepherd.
He has composed for Film and TV- including “In answer to your question” for the Balanescu String Quartet and “ 42 Shades of Black” for Phoenix Dance Theatre,which was performed at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta.
Currently leads the groups CODEFIVE- NUBIAN VIBES - he also plays in the groups BRUISE and CLEAR FRAME
"As the saxophonist and composer Wayne Shorter once famously remarked in a 1992 interview with Mel Martin, “The word ‘jazz’ means to me no category”. You would similarly search in vain for a pigeon hole in which to place Black Top #5. An evening of surpassing invention and ambition, there might be a more creative, more engaging and more inspiring gig at this year’s London Jazz Festival. But I somehow doubt it." - The Arts Desk
Pat Thomas studied classical piano from aged 8 and started playing Jazz from the age of 16. He has since gone on to develop an utterly unique style - embracing improvisation, jazz and new music. He has played with Derek Bailey in Company Week (1990/91) and in the trio AND (with Noble) – with Tony Oxley’s Quartet and Celebration Orchestra and in Duo with Lol Coxhill.
"Sartorially shabby as Thomas may be, and on first impression even rather stolid, he has a somewhat imperious charisma that’s immediately amplified when he starts to play. Unlike other pianists whose virtuosity seems to be racing ahead of their thought processes Thomas always seems supremely in command of his gift, and his playing, no matter how free and ready to tangle with abstraction, always carries a charge of authoritative exactitude." - The Jazzmann
Mandhira is a versatile violinist performing as a soloist, chamber musician and orchestral violinist in the UK and abroad. She is a founding member and the leader of the Ligeti Quartet, a young string quartet which has established a reputation as a leading dynamic and imaginative force in contemporary and modern music. She graduated with 1st class honours from the University of Oxford achieving a high 1st in performance and winning the Worcester College Arts Prize for the highest result in an arts subject.
International solo and chamber music tours have taken her around Europe as well as the USA, India, China and her country of origin, Sri Lanka. She has performed at prestigious festivals and venues such as the Wigmore Hall, Barbican Centre, Southbank Centre and St Johns Smith Square in London and the Carnegie Hall in New York.
Her repertoire is varied consisting of standard classical works as well as free improvisation and original projects often involving collaborations with contemporary composers, sound artists and musicians from a variety of genres outside classical music. With her quartet she has worked with Wadada Leo Smith, Meilyr Jones, Shabaka Hutchings, Laura Jurd, Kerry Andrew, Sean Noonan, and, following a tour to China and Hong Kong, has collaborated with leading Hong Kong DJ Choi Sai Ho and Japanese sound artist mamoru.
Mandhira was born in London. After completing her primary education in Sri Lanka, she was awarded a music scholarship to North London Collegiate School where she completed her secondary education. She was also a Leverhulme Scholar at the Junior Royal Academy of Music where she performed both as a violinist and pianist, also taking classes in composition and conducting. Her violin teachers have included Igor Petrushevsky, Howard Davis and Levon Chilingirian.
ANGHARAD DAVIES is a Welsh violinist based in London working with free improvisation, compositions and performance. Her approach to sound involves attentive listening and exploring beyond the sonic confines of her instrument, her classical training and performance expectation. Much of her work involves collaboration. She has long-standing duos with Tisha Mukarji, Dominic Lash and Lina Lapelyte and plays with Common Objects, Cranc and Skogen. She has been involved in projects with Tarek Atui, Tony Conrad, Richard Dawson, Gwenno, Roberta Jean, Jack McNamara, Rie Nakajima, Tim Parkinson, Eliane Radigue, Georgia Ruth and J. G. Thirlwell. Most of her records are released on Another Timbre but she also has releases on Absinth Records, all that dust, Confrontrecords, Emanem, Potlatch and winds measure recordings. Her first orchestral piece was commissioned by LCMF in 2019. She is currently writing a piece for Juliet Fraser and Explore Ensemble.
Hannah Marshall is a cellist who is continuing to extract, invent, and exorcize as many sounds and emotional qualities from her instrument as she can. She has been a regular member of Alexander Hawkins’ Ensembles and has toured in Europe and South America with Luc Ex and Veryan Weston’s ensembles – SOL 6 & 12. She plays with ‘String Terrorists’ - Barrel (a trio with Violinist Alison Blunt & Violist/poet Ivor kallin). And has been invited by Fred Frith and Suichi Chino in their residencies at café Oto. She also plays with Terry Day, Tim Hodgkinson, Roger Turner, Paul May, Kay Grant, and the London Improvisers Orchestra.
Neil Charles is a bassist, electronic producer and composer. He regularly performs, records and tours with numerous jazz, classical and contemporary music bands and ensembles like alex Hawkins, mingus big band, has played with Terence Blanchard, black top and is a member of the electro-acoustic jazz trio, Zed-U.
Rachel Musson is a saxophonist, improviser and composer living in London, UK. She is involved with a variety of improvisation projects, and works regularly with Mark Sanders, Pat Thomas, Hannah Marshall, Julie Kjaer, Corey Mwamba, Olie Brice, Alex Ward, Alex Hawkins amongst others. She features on several releases, including a nonet featuring her composition 'I Went This Way' (577 Records), two with Shifa, feat. Pat Thomas and Mark Sanders, (577 Records), one with Mark Sanders and John Edwards (Two Rivers Records), trio with Liam Noble and Mark Sanders (Babel), and Corey Mwamba (Takuroku).
"A free-improviser sensitive to melody-like narrative and dramatic pacing" – John Fordham, The Guardian
Winner of the 2018 BBC Young Jazz Musician of the year, Xhosa Cole is an embodiment of the success of numerous community arts programmes in Birmingham. Having grown up in Handsworth and first played the Tenor at Andy Hamilton's Ladywood Community Music School, he's now among a long legacy of Birmingham Saxophonists.
Xhosa's earliest memories of the arts are with ACE Youth Dance group. However, since playing in Holyhead School's Jazz band with Ray Prince and Sid Peacock he decided to pursue music and joined the Jazzlines Ensemble, Birmingham Schools Symphony Orchestra, Midland youth Jazz Orchestra among others. While studying at Bishop Vesey's Sixth Form Xhosa attended courses with the National Youth Jazz Collective and National Youth Wind Orchestra.
Xhosa continually pushes his playing while studying with teachers and mentors including Mike Williams, Jim Bashford and Percy Pursglove; Performing regularly around Birmingham; Writing for commissions by the Ideas of Noise Festival and Bobbie-Jane Gardener's 'For-Wards' and teaching Birmingham's next generation of talent alongside his former teacher Toni Grehann.
Elaine Mitchener is a contemporary vocalist, movement artist and composer working between the worlds of contemporary new music, experimental jazz / free improvisation and visual arts. She is founder of collective electroacoustic trio The Rolling Calf (with Jason Yarde and Neil Charles) and her sound works are held in a curated collection by George E Lewis at Darmstadt Festival. Recent recordings includes Some Good News – a live album with Hamid Drake, William Parker, Orphy Robinson and Pat Thomas (OTOROKU label) – and a special radio commission for Sons d’Hiver (Paris), and she is one of 50 selected exhibiting artists featured in the British Art Show 9 touring exhibition 21/22 and is a Wigmore Hall Associate Artist.
"Any attempts at categorisation are doomed to fail" – The Wire
"Mitchener is a genre crossing virtuoso" – Financial Times
Jazz Vocalist of the Year & Mobo Nominated: Cleveland Watkiss 2017
Internationally renowned vocalist won the London Jazz Award for Best Vocalist in 2010, and was voted Wire/Guardian Jazz Awards best vocalist for three consecutive years.
Watkiss was born in Hackney, East London, to Jamaican parents. Watkiss was one of the co-founders of the vastly influential Jazz Warriors big band. His vocals can be heard on their debut album, Out of Many People.
Watkiss has performed with a diverse range of artists from around the world, including: The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Carlinos Brown, Wynton Marsalis, Bob Dylan, Thurston Moore, Art Blakey, Abdullah Ibrahim, Stevie Wonder, Keith Richards, Bheki Mseleku, Fabio & Grooverider, William Parker, the James Taylor Quartet, Sly & Robbie, Nigel Kennedy, Robbie Williams, Joe Cocker, The Who, George Martin, Julian Joseph, Black Top, the London Chamber Orchestra, the BBC Orchestra, Cassandra Wilson, Louis Moholo, and the London Community Gospel Choir, Hamid Drake, & Project 23, Goldie. More recently, demonstrating great versatility, Cleveland was cast as the starring role in Julian Joseph’s, two groundbreaking jazz operas, Bridgetower and Shadowball, to considerable acclaim.
In June last year he performed with vibraphonist Orphy Robinson at Freedom: The Art of Improvisation Festival at The Vortex, performing their project Duke Joint. Also with a project London-Chicago Vibration in Nov’ at the London Jazz Festival, a 50th anniversary tribute to the Chicago-based Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) led by multi-percussionist Orphy Robinson and an all-star band of UK-based improvisers including legendary drummer Louis Moholo vibist Corey Mwamba and saxophonist Jason Yarde.