Esmond's gig at The Wirral International Guitar Festival
ESMOND SELWYN returns to the festival following last year’s superb show, not with a band this year but as a duettist with blues-jazz singer TERRI SHALTIEL. Selwyn shares with Kotzia an exceptional technique and feeling, capable of elevating the emotional impact of the music rather than supressing it, and, once again, he demonstrates his ability to bend a well-known melody completely out of shape before bringing it back to its recognisable form. He kicks things off with standards Blue Monk and Moonlight In Vermont, the lovely, gentle swing of the latter perfectly relaxed, Selwyn inscrutable, channelling all emotion through those flying fingers into the music.
Shaltiel, having taken a seat in the audience after Selwyn has begun playing, takes to the stage quipping, “I’ll start with Just In Time, in an ironic sense,” before revealing a lovely lightness of touch in classic jazz chanteuse style.
It’s a stripped-back pairing that puts both performers firmly in the spotlight, but they appear totally relaxed and their between song dialogue is of the “what shall we play next?”, “let’s try…”, “what key’s it in?” school of stagecraft, almost as if the audience weren’t there at times, but there seems to be a quirky connection between the two. They invest Bobby Hebbs’ Sunny with a bluesy swing,Shaltiel’s voice easy on the ear, Selwyn’s restless solo flying in all directions.
Shaltiel has proved herself to be an extremely diverse talent, providing the bluesy swagger of
Vinegar Joe-era Elkie Brooks, the fragile confessional of Billie Holiday, and the sweet soul of Aretha – a dynamic foil for Selwyn’s fluid, masterful, sometimes challenging, explorations of the jazz songbook.
The audience lap it up.
Bido Lito – The Liverpool Music Magazine
Es - Kofi Wirral Review
International Guitar Festival Of Great Britain
At The Floral Pavillion - 11th November 2016
Tonight sees the return of jazz guitarist, ESMOND SELWYN, a performer of international fame (he played for Frank Sinatra at a private party at the Savoy, and he performed alongside Chick Corea, Elvin Jones and Charlie Byrd, and is a noted teacher). Following a solo performance at the Festival in 2014 tonight he plays with his quartet featuring saxophonist, Tony Kofi, a band leader and reputed
performer in his own right.
The band launch effortlessly into versions of Charlie Parker’s “Cool Blues” and Kenny Dorham’s “Blue Bossa”. Selwyn cuts a relaxed figure, glasses perched on his forehead as though browsing the Sunday papers, while his fingers do the talking. Kofi’s playing is lyrical, the melodies strong and sweet. “Nancy With The Laughing Face” (van Heusen/Silvers - yep, that’s Sgt Bilko to you and me!) sees a floating Selwyn solo underscored by guttural Hammond growls courtesy of John-Paul Gard and Kofi coaxing rich, flowing passages from his alto. It’s becoming apparent that this is a night to sit back and revel in a choice set list delivered with absolute quality.
“Bernie’s Tune” (Bernie Miller) lifts the tempo, Kofi blasting off some fancy riffs and Selwyn’s fingers a blur on the fretboard. Beneath it all, drummer Coach York anchors the rhythm with a delicate intensity before flying off into passages of polyrhythmic propulsion as he duets with Gard.
The piece ends with an Eastern flourish before Selwyn opens John Coltrane’s “Mr PC”, demonstrating his famed technical ability, wringing clean sharp notes from his customised Hagstrom.
Towards the end of the set Selwyn surveys an audience where knowledge of his pedigree might be considered a badge of honour, and then leans into the mic and says “As John Coltrane once said, if just one member of the audience is really listening, it’s like having another band member on stage. So thanks for being part of the band tonight.” That’s not just professional, that’s downright cool.
On van Heusan’s “Polkadots And Moonbeams” Selwyn is flying. On the closer “Blue Monk”, York delivers a knockout solo before being joined by Gard’s gnarly swirling Hammond. Kofi bobs and weaves like a middleweight, light on his feet, as he plays out the final hook of the melody quite delightfully. The applause is sustained.
A night when the promoters have continued to drop this kind of quality musicianship on our doorsteps.
Bido Lito – The Liverpool Music Magazine.
ESMOND SELWYN : The Way I Play-The Solo Jazz Guitar Artistry of Esmond
1. Misty 2. Blue Bossa 3. Stardust 4. Once in a While 5. Prelude To a Kiss 6. My Favourite
Things 7. Polkadots and Moonbeams 8. Serenata 9. Close Your Eyes 10. Just Friends 11.
Cry Me a River 12. Ain’t Misbehavin’ 13. Body and Soul 14. I Only Have Eyes For You 15.
What’s New 16. In a Sentimental Mood.
Esmond Selwyn (solo guitar) Mixed and mastered by Alan Broadbent.
Recorded 2012 Weymouth, UK Time 56 mins.
This new CD from our UK member Esmond Selwyn will please any lover of solo jazz guitar. He has assembled 16 very well known standards and presented them in a way that would challenge the world’s best players to better. His reharmonization of these
standards, with bass lines and fills puts him in a world class league for solo jazz guitar playing.
One of the longer tracks “Once in a While” gives him a chance to really stretch out, giving us chorus after chorus on brilliant ideas.
There are so many great tracks on this album, I would be hard pressed to pick out some favourites, although I thought “Ain’t Misbehavin’, “Once in a While” and “What’s New” deserve a special mention.
Esmond’s playing is exceptional and he has put together a program of some great standards and stamped his own individuality on each
track. This is the best solo album I have heard since the recent Andy Brown solo CD “Soloist”.
For more info contact Esmond on http://www.esmondselwyn.com or by email email@example.com
Reviewed by Ian MacGregor
Just Jazz Guitar
The Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings – 9th Edition
*** Follow That Slam CD 240 Esmond Selwyn g; Paul Sawtell (ky)
Bill Coleman (b); Robin Jones (d) 11/99
*** The Axe Slam CD 265 Esmond Selwyn (g solo) 11/04 & 3/05
Selwyn has a lovely touch and his ballad playing on ‘Prelude To A Kiss’ is to die for. He’s also assembled a very capable and responsive band. Perhaps the music needs a touch more dynamic variation, but no complaints. The debut is easily matched by the second solo disc, which has a richness of harmonic detail that is rare in unaccompanied playing and seldom reached even by the acknowledged masters of jazz guitar. The technique is immaculate with self-accompanied lines of such sophistication it often appears a second guitar is playing rhythm or that Selwyn is overdubbed. It may be that he hasn’t achieved wider recognition simply because he has preferred not to. If so, it makes his achievement all the more extraordinary. If not, time we wakened up to his genius.
Johnny Guitar Carson – nephew of Wes Montgomery
What I have heard on your album so far sounds fresh and I am eager to study it. I have treated your films as "Etudes" and have downloaded them. They are a an indigenous part of with my "workout routine" and an edification, as I have said before.
So thank you. I also love your substitutions in "Misty".
I find a wealth of perspective in your approach to this progression in defining the style of Esmond Selwyn in my own mind.
A real contribution to the "Jazz World" say the least.
I am proud to be associated with you
"I've heard your solo album "The Axe" and I find it edifying." From Johnny "Guitar" Carson.
If you listened to this blind, you might think Pablo had uncovered yet another unreleased Joe Pass session, but no, this is by Welsh guitarist Esmond Selwyn. Selwyn’s playing has superficial resemblances to Pass in the thoughtful single note picking and the rippling flourishes at the ends of lines but the liner notes of this CD instead cite Tal Farlow and George Van Eps as his main influences, and you can hear that. On tracks like “Lover Man” and “Easy Living” he does full-blown, splashy rhapsodizing like Farlow but on others, like “Cheek To Cheek” and “The Song Is Ended,” he plays with the compressed rhythmic chug of a ‘20s player like Eps, a style that bears a vague resemblance to the spiky brutalities of Derek Bailey though the end sound bears no resemblance. Selwyn’s treatment of “All The Things You Are” may be his most striking work here, playing wistfully through the verse then going into a relaxed treatment of the chorus with arpeggios and muscle-flexing side comments and also throwing in an impressive double-time passage. Selwyn shows on this CD that he is a real master of Jazz guitar.
Jerome Wilson - Cadence - January 2008
ESMOND SELWYN - The Axe: Solo Jazz Guitar (Slam 265; UK) Inspired by legendary jazz guitars like Joe Pass, Tal Farlow and George Van Eps, Esmond Selwyn is one of the best jazz guitarists to emerge from England. A favored collaborator of Don Rendell in the 80's, Esmond has also worked with George Haslam more recently. For this extraordinary tour-de-force, Mr. Selwyn performs 22 standards on solo hollow-body electric guitar recorded in the studio in 2005 and live at the Wirral Guitar Festival in 2004. Esmond does a wonderful job performing chestnuts like "Lover Man," "Tenderly," " 'Round Midnight," and "All the Things You Are." Selwyn does a beautiful job of embracing the lyrical melodies of each of these tunes and embellishing them with astonishing flourishes of exquisite taste and an elegant touch. From the sublime to the astonishing, he quite literally does it all. –
BLG - Downtown Music Gallery
He may not loom large on American shores, but British jazz guitarist Esmond Selwyn is highly-regarded in his native land. On this solo outing, he performs twenty-two standards. Memories of late guitar great Joe Pass’ Virtuoso (Pablo, 1974) are stirred. Lyrically gifted and technically formidable, Selwyn deconstructs the familiar material with delicacy and flair. He has a real talent for personalising popular standards while simultaneously treating their composers' structures with respect, and his complex phrasings add to the interest. Selwyn might prove to be one of the global jazz community’s best kept secrets.
British guitarist Esmond Selwyn has such astounding tecnique that you wonder why he's not better know Stateside. The Axe is somewhat frustrating: the one-take-only vibe of the album generates palpable excitement, demonstrating that Selwyn's jazz spirit is alive and well, but the guitarist's prediliction for mid-range chord voicings comes out a bit muddy in the final mix. In spite of this minor flaw, the playing is outstanding and inspired, bringing life to a who's who of standard chestnuts: "Stella by Starlight" is boppy and full of brio, rippling with muscular, daredevil lines. "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square" is contemplative, laced with spicy chromatics and spacey meanderings; and "All the Things You Are" is a tour de forcefulness, a fast and furious two-way conversation of juxtaposed registers.
Jazz in New York
"An underrated Welsh-based guitarist and ex Don Rendell sideman, on a supple, gutsy-textured unaccompanied standards album masterfully avoiding the kind of wine bar schmaltz sometimes associated with the format".
Harris, Jazzwise, September 2007
It strikes me, this collection provides a highly informed reflection of Selwyn the musician and the man - jazz virtuoso, intellectual, scholar and joker. It's all here, from the studied treatment of Easy Living (almost suggestive of J.S. Bach) to the jokey quality of Dancing on the Ceiling and back again to the (for me) truly bleak austerity of 'Round Midnight - not the sultry, sexy midnight of the Miles version but a midnight filled with weltschmerz and intro-spection, which I suspect may well be closer to the original Monk conception. This is late night music (yet another reflection of the man, here it's of Esmond the night-bird); music for sharing with an old friend, an old chair and an even older Scotch. Chill and enjoy.
Bernard Mendoza - Contributing Editor and Critic
"The Axe" a wonderful new solo album from Esmond Selwyn with playing as dazzling as ever."
Chrissie Murray, formerly contributor to Jazzwise and the Ronnie Scott's House Magazine.
SHaK [ESMOND SELWYN/GEORGE HASLAM/STEVE KERSHAW] - SHaK (Slam 321; UK) Featuring Esmond Selwyn on guitar, George Haslam on baritone sax and Steve Kershaw on acoustic bass. Esmond Selwyn is considered to be one of the greatest jazz guitarists to come from the UK. To be honest, I hadn't heard of him before hearing his two new discs on George Haslam's Slam label, one solo and one trio. For this, the trio offering, ShaK play mostly well-worn standards like "Over the Rainbow," "Stella by Starlight," "Polka Dots and Moonbeams," as well as Bird's "Yardbird Suite" and "Blue Monk." This is a fine trio that use their instrumentation, hollow-body electric guitar, bari sax and acoustic bass, just right. Mr. Selwyn has a warm, round tone similar to the tone of Pat Martino. Bassist Steve Kershaw does a great job of slapping that bass to provide the rhythm section role. I dig the way he strums his bass rhythmically on "El Manicero", creating an exotic, hypnotic groove and then adding a lush bowed bass line below. "Yardbird Suite" is taken at a brisk pace and both Esmond and George take great solos. Mr. Selwyn occasionally reminds me of Joe Pass with the way he embellishes these standards with elegance and consistently creative but restrained sparks. This disc might be a bit too straight ahead for some of the DMG listeners who like things further out, but the playing is superb and tasty throughout. – BLG - Downtown Music Gallery
Jazz Review September 2007
Usually SLAM and label-owner Haslam are associated with broadly left-field projects, like CD 322 September Spring. SHaK, however, presents modern-mainstream interpretations of standards and jazz classics, with an original thrown in. The trio romps its way through a programme drawn from three sessions over a 13-month period: with this music the real-time order is less important and tracks from each date are interleaved.
I said "romps", but sometimes "smooches" or "ambles insouciantly" is more accurate. To pick out a few plums: "Winetka" and "El Manicero", aka "The Peanut Vendor", are great fun, it’s interesting to hear Charlie Parker’s "Yardbird Suite" on the big sax. Haslam’s hop-skip-and-stagger tune, "Morning After", is a nice piece of neo-bop, and "Blue Monk" prompts a succulent sax solo. You’ll be glad to know that "Alfie" is not the well-worn Bacharach song tacked on over the closing credits of the celebrated Britflick, but the suitably swaggering "Alfie’s Theme" from Sonny Rollins’s excellent score, sounding as good on baritone as it did from the composer’s rich tenor. On the tracks from January 2006 it sounds as if Selwyn was late and was made to sit out in the corridor, but it doesn’t prevent you enjoying the elegance of his playing.
Few records that come my way are likely to appeal to all our readers but I doubt you’d find anything to complain about on SHaK
"Beautiful harmonization and performance. Each unaccompanied solo gave me the impression of orchestrations reduced to guitar solos"
Ron Moore, leading guitarist and composer, whose works have been recorded by his virtuoso student and protégé, classical guitar master, David Russell
Esmond Selwyn is something of a phenomenon - not just for his prodigious technique but also for his ability to create a fully contemporary guitar sound without showing the obvious rock influences present in the work of current stylistic leaders such as John Scofield and Pat Metheny. His finesse on ballads such as 'Polka Dots and Moonbeams' was no less striking than his powerful single-string and chordal playing on faster items such as 'Night in Tunisia'
A brilliant young jazz guitarist - one of the most original and creative in the world. He is a driving player who can play delicately at one point and then sound like a whole orchestra at the next. Esmond has featured with his own trio, with :The Jazz Turbo" and, as tonight, with Don's Quartet. Like Don, he is a revered and accomplished teacher of the guitar. He writes the guitar in CRESCENDO magazine.
From Berkhamsted Jazz Society
Esmond Selwyn's music is gorgeous - make no mistake about it! When we first heard his demo tape a year or so ago we asked ourselves why on earth this dispenser of guitar mastery was not more famous. Well, the reason is simply his continuous success as a studio and session musician.
What more can I say? His work is both lyrical and exciting; dexterity and improvising skills quite wonderful. To complete the trio: PETER MORGAN, the renowned bassist, and swinging ROBIN JONES at the drums
Tunbridge Wells Jazz Club
ESMOND SELWYN “JAZZ GUITAR ACE!” REVIEWS
Esmond Selwyn is a guitarist with mind-boggling technique, who has played all over the world. If you know anyone who thinks they can play guitar, you should definitely get them to come to this gig. Don’t miss the chance to catch this internationally acclaimed player. Clive Morton will be on bass, with Simon Gore on drums.
Absolutely phenomenal guitarist, possessed of a blistering technique, his most recent album was the aptly titled “Follow That” which also features Robin “King Salsa” Jones on drums. Joined tonight by Clive Morton – bass & Andy Hague – drums. A must for guitarists, and pretty essential for everyone else.
FROM “The Bebop Club”, Bristol
The diversity of the Wirral International Guitar Festival was seen in its full glory with a virtuoso performance by jazz guitarist Esmond Selwyn. On a dark, chilly Monday evening in the small, but comfortable venue of The Worsley Arms, Esmond’s two set solo performance charmed the audience. His dexterity on the guitar – a blonde Gibson ES175 – was highlighted as he ran through a number of known jazz standards and his adaptations on lesser known songs – all well received. These included Fats Waller’s classic Honeysuckle Rose, Dancin’ Cheek to Cheek and an unusual but original working of The Beatles ballad, Michelle. For the past 17 years Esmond has lived in North West England after moving from London, and during a quick conversation with the maestro, it came to light that he actually bought his Gibson from Andy Summers of Police fame and fortune – rest assured Andy, it’s in good hands.
By Graham Wardrall, from the Wirral Guitar Festival, November 2002
QUOTE “Really relaxed, nice playing, Esmond is obviously a great jazz guitarist, perhaps next year we’ll see him on a bigger stage in which more perople will be able to enjoy his sublime technique.”
Mary Patterson, Bromborough.