JULIAN JOSEPH, SNAPE MALTINGS, SEPTEMBER 2020: 'Joseph has often spoken of how much his mother’s rock-like stability and emotional nourishment — not to mention her sense of discipline — meant to him as a boy, when he was first getting into jazz. Here he played five movements from a suite he dedicated to her. The tone started huge and just got huger, the music flowing like a river ready to burst its banks. When Joseph gave vent to a right-hand riff it wasn’t some wiry little motif, of the kind some pianists would offer. It was a huge flourish that cascaded exuberantly up to the top of the keyboard, sometimes pausing en route to whirl on the spot like a Catherine wheel. Meanwhile the left hand seemed to stride across the keyboard in seven-league boots, every harmony liberally sauced with tangy ninths and elevenths. Pretty soon one felt drunk on it all.
Often in the onrush one detected an interesting flavour of different musical traditions; here a touch of gospel, there a whiff of something Brazilian. The finest pieces were the ones where some light and shade entered in, such as Rise up Gentle. Best of all was the mysteriously entitled HTB, one of several numbers in a syncopated waltz tempo. The high treble melody pushed anxiously against the underlying harmony, while the harmony moved into strange regions before circling homewards via a route that always felt surprising, no matter how often it came round.' Ivan Hewett, Daily Telegraph, 21 September 2020.
JULIAN JOSEPH TRIO & FRIENDS, KINGS PLACE, LONDON, FEBRUARY 2015: 'The London pianist Julian Joseph’s music unfolds as a dramatic narrative with each twist and subplot marked by a stab, riff or unexpected change of key. The foundations are solid: clear melodies and strong harmonic structures. When the regular trio is performing, bassist Mark Hodgson plays the holding role with an earthy resonance, and the music is brought vividly to life by the intimate 30-year musical relationship that Joseph has with drummer Mark Mondesir. Fiery, nuanced and rich in detail, this is one of the great partnerships in UK jazz, and at this gig each guest spot was underpinned by a swaggering confidence.' Mike Hobart, Financial Times, 9 February 2015 (4 stars).
"WINDOWS INTO TRISTAN AND ISOLDE", LINBURY STUDIO, ROYAL OPERA HOUSE, SEPTEMBER 2013: 'Pianist Julian Joseph’s score is totally new and its premiere, starring the soulful voices of Carleen Anderson, Christine Tobin, Cleveland Watkiss and South African newcomer Ken Papenfus, was impressive. This is Joseph’s third jazz opera, coming after Bridgetower, the true story of an enslaved courtier in England, and Shadowball, about segregation in American baseball, and it’s by far the best. Arranged for his trio, reeds, trumpet and trombone, the tempos were mostly leisurely, and each aria — "I Was Dreaming", "Do You Believe in Love", "I Come from Everywhere and Nowhere" — had a rich melody line which hugged Phillips’s complex lyrics like a limpet. Anderson’s pure soprano blended beautifully with Tobin’s contralto, and when Watkiss and Papenfus added their Stevie Wonderful tones to the mixture the finale was magical.' Jack Massarik, Evening Standard, 23 September 2013 (4 stars).
'The jazz pianist's take on Wagner's psychodrama may be a work in progress – but it's a fascinating one. The music premiered tonight was of a very high quality. Joseph started the evening with a short improvisation based on the infamous "Tristan chord", and some of his arias use Wagnerian harmonies – those twisting, convoluted chord sequences that remain agonisingly unresolved. There are some fine performances from his sextet, particularly saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings and trumpeter Russell Bennett; while vocalists Cleveland Watkiss (as Vasile) and Christine Tobin (as Iuliana and Brigid) are tremendous. And an unexpected find is Ken Papenfus from the underachieving Northern Irish rock band Relish, whose Sting-like tenor howl is a perfect fit for Tristan.' John Fordham, The Guardian, 23 September 2013.
'I don't think I will hear anything more emotionally affecting this year than Carleen Anderson singing "The Night He Died" from Julian Joseph's new work in progress Windows on Tristan. Just stunning. The ending of that section, with fabulous written parts for Russell Bennett on trumpet weaving counter-melodies and Shabaka Hutchings on deep-toned bass clarinet was - to my ears - the strongest moment of an interesting and varied evening of music being tried out for the first time.' Sebastian Scotney, LondonJazz, 23 September 2013.
"THE BROWN BOMBER" & "SHADOWBALL DANCE SUITE", SADLER'S WELLS, JUNE 2012: 'The Brown Bomber dance suite was a superb piece of dance theatre. The dancers embodied a multitude of characters epitomising the time of the second boxing match between Schmeling and Louis. The boxers' training camps with their attendant fans and young pretenders, the managers and coaches were all brought exquisitely to life through well-developed characterisation and well-chosen dance styling. Adding another layer of vivacity to the piece were the no-expense-spared costumes; it was like watching a dance version of the Bugsy Malone film... Shadowball playfully mixed iconic baseball action: pitching, batting and sliding into jazz style dance phrases which were performed with panache to the accompanying swinging music played by the Julian Joseph Sextet.' Lewis Wheeler, Cloud Dance Festival, 24 June 2012, (4 stars).
JULIAN JOSEPH: LIVE AT THE VORTEX IN LONDON, FEBRUARY 2012:
'Julian Joseph’s first headline release in over 15 years is an intense solo piano festival performance from 2008 that resonates with jazz club intimacy – operas, gigs and broadcasts maintained an otherwise high profile. Joseph’s firm touch, self-sustaining rhythms and melodic invention barely falter, there’s a lovely ballad and Monk’s “Think of One” is appropriately percussive. Highlight is Joseph sustaining the long internal logic of “The Reverend” through climax to fade. A two-handed romp, “The Six” rounds up the nicely varied programme.' Mike Hobart, Financial Times, 28 January 2012 (4 stars).
Julian Joseph is a world-class jazz pianist with large-scale compositional skills and a passport to the contemporary-classical world. ... an arresting reminder of Joseph's powers and deep awareness of the jazz tradition.' John Fordham, The Guardian, 20 January 2012.
JULIAN JOSEPH ALL STAR BIG BAND, RONNIE SCOTT'S, 20-22 OCTOBER 2011:
'Hang the expense. Just put a truly star-studded big band together and the people will come. So spake pianist-composer Julian Joseph, and his bold strategy seems to have paid off. His superband's three dates sold out quickly and could probably have stretched to a full week, just as major players did in the old days. As he introduced them last night Julian could scarcely conceal his pride. The sax section alone resembled a magazine-cover shot taken at a post-festival party.' Jack Massarik, London Evening Standard, 21 October 2011.
'There was the sense of a special occasion at Ronnie Scott's for the first of pianist, bandleader and broadcaster Julian Joseph's three big-band shows at the club. The curious, the devoted, the press, and this gifted, popular and high-achieving pianist's own coterie were hanging off the walls. The temperature was also racked up by the sight of so many spotlit chairs on the bandstand. Big bands on the grand scale of that widescreen jazz style's golden age are a rarity these days. But Joseph recaptured the old thrill, made its sound contemporary – and brought together a genuine all-star cast.' John Fordham, The Guardian, 21 October 2011.
'The big band itself, anchored around the longstanding Julian Joseph trio featuring the composer leading from the piano with bassist Mark Hodgson and drummer Mark Mondesir playing from original material that relies on no overall sectional dominance, its distinguishing and winning attribute. The big band operates as a single entity rather than say the horns, reeds, and rhythm section competing for attention with the horns gaining the bragging rights as is so often the case. Joseph has a signature style both in terms of his composing, the nearest point of comparison perhaps is the early-1990s iteration of the McCoy Tyner Big Band, and arranging (more Oliver Nelson than Maria Schneider; less Gunther Schuller than Quincy Jones).' Stephen Graham, Jazzwise, 24 October 2011.
'This is a community and educational project more than a stand-alone musical drama, although Joseph's elegant mutations of 1930s Count Basie and Cab Calloway themes, as well as astute deployments of gospel music and blues, give the score fizz. Watkiss's sonorous tones and dynamic subtlety hit the right balance of magisterial and sympathetic, too, in his role as player/coach Satchel Paige.' John Fordham, The Guardian, July 2010.
'It says something about London’s artistic confidence that the first jazz opera about US baseball and its long years of racial segregation should have been conceived not in New York or Los Angeles but here in London. Even more remarkably, its world premiere was carried off brilliantly last night with 120 Hackney schoolchildren shouldering the bulk of the load... Hackney 12-year-olds rarely get a good press, either, so let it be recorded here that these all-singing, all-strutting, all-acting boys and girls were the stars of the show.' Jack Massarik, Evening Standard, July 2010.
Julian Joseph & The Sixteen: 'It was only when the jazz players felt able to ignore their “charts” and rely on gut instinct that things caught fire. Joseph’s harmonic side-shifts and cadences took on his usual energising swing, but also a Monteverdian “sigh” that seemed completely natural. The choir, too, loosened up; in one number there was a flamenco-ish tang at the end of a phrase, which Joseph was able to seize and run with. The final Salve Regina worked best, especially at its final flourish, where Joseph and Hodgson spun a superb riff over the concluding cadence. For a work in progress, this was impressive. Let’s hope it’s only the beginning.' Ivan Hewitt, The Telegraph, July 2010.
Dance of the Three Legged Elephants: 'This set of originals, improvisations, and takes on pieces by everyone from Jobim to Ravel are informed, inventive and defy all expectations... outstanding.' Roger Thomas, BBC Music Magazine, January 2010.
The British Piano @ the Vortex Jazz Club, London, 24-25 September 2008: 'at the end of the second evening, came Julian Joseph, a pianist who really does know how to shape a musical idea and make it more and more intense until you're practically jumping out of your seat with excitement. It had been a fascinating two days of music-making, but this was in a different class.' Ivan Hewett, The Telegraph, 26 September 2008.
'A compelling night's drama.' 'The Times, July 2007.
'Seamless, inspiring bridges between jazz and classical, black and white. Every phase oozes instinctive musicianship.' The Stage, July 2007.
'Joseph's excellent score, touched by both blues and gospel, kept the action moving briskly... astute scoring brought bold harmonic shading... Cleveland Watkiss was simply made for the lead... However the real star of the show was Joseph. He has shown that his talent as a composer is more than up to his ambition as a conceptualist. Combining jazz and opera to tell a story of tremendous socio-political significance is by no means a simple task and Joseph has pulled it off with panache.' Kevin Le Gendre, Jazzwise, August 2007.
'Julian Joseph - opera star? Certainly. Britain's most storming jazz pianist is also a skilled composer and orchestrator, and his artful score for the story of George Bridgetower, a black violin prodigy feted by 18th-century high society, deserved its standing ovation last night. A detailed jazz opera of many rhythmic variations and mood swings, it was also richly melodic and as comfortable for classically trained singers to perform as any such work since Porgy and Bess.' Jack Massarik, London Evening Standard, October 2007.
'Joseph has done far more than write a jazzy opera. The score lets the nine-piece band breathe while tapping into orchestral colours, and seamlessly blends composition and improvisation. Joseph accurately references the compositional techniques of the period, merging the disciplines of classical opera and jazz. Supporting operatic vocals with walking bass worked a treat.' Mike Hobart, Financial Times, October 2007.
'Julian is arguably the finest pianist of his generation - a brilliant, dynamic presence'. Time Out, April 2007.
Julian Joseph Big Band, London Jazz Festival, November 2002: 'Julian Joseph demonstrated once again his sophisticated and broad view of large-scale, orthodox-tonality jazz. Later in the evening he showed a contemporary sensibility influenced by both classical music and soul in his big-canvas premiere, The Great Sage.' John Fordham, The Guardian, 18 November, 2002.
Al-Bustan Festival, March 2002: 'Julian Joseph captivated the highly attentive audience, in total symbiosis with his profound command of the piano, a very individual classical and modern repertoire, unquestionable "soul" and a contagious love for the music - the kind that speaks for itself and carries you away heart and soul". G.E. La Revue du Liban, 9-16 March 2002.
Recital with Carmen Lundy, Wigmore Hall, May 2000: 'Whooping and whistling in the Wigmore Hall? Not quite the audience behaviour they have come to expect in this temple of the arts… Joseph's meeting with American vocalist Carmen Lundy produced some exceptionally suave dialogues. All credit to the pianist for giving a platform to a mature singer who seems to have been overlooked.' Clive Davis, The Times, 12 May 2000.
'We Love You Madly ~ A Celebration of Duke Ellington', 29 April-1 May 1999:
'Julian Joseph is undoubtedly one of the finest inspirational jazz pianists and composers to emerge this side of the Atlantic. Admired for his accomplishments at weaving colourful textures and harmonies in his music… amazing dexterity… rapturous applause.' Sara Taukolonga, The Voice, 10 May 1999.
'Transforming [Billy Strayhorn's Take the "A" Train] from a lightly skipping theme driven by a subtly powerful rhythm into an altogether chunkier affair, and then segueing into one of his own compositions, Washingtonians, Joseph might have been serving notice on Ellington purists that this particular solo recital was going to be strictly personal rather than stiflingly reverential. Accordingly, Joseph's following selection, I Got It Bad and That Ain't Good, was played relatively straight and tender, but with occasional flashy runs alternating with absorbing explorations of the song's chord sequence which made it as interested in examining the structure and shape of Ellington's music as in simply reproducing it… East St Louis Toodle-oo re-emerged as a melancholy, almost bluesy piece tinged with the pathos of spirituals.' Chris Parker, The Times, 3 May 1999.
'Probably the most talented and exciting jazz pianist to have emerged from the UK.' The Guardian, 29 April 1999.
'One of Ellington's natural-born heirs… Charm pure and simple, coupled with absolute assurance. At the keyboard, these qualities weave a deliciously seductive spell.' Michael Church, Sunday Express, 25 April 1999.
Julian Joseph All-Star Big Band, Royal Albert Hall, August 1995: 'A true gentleman of jazz, Julian Joseph held the Albert Hall in the palm of both hands at last Saturday's late-night Prom, hypnotising us with laid-back asides between numbers of mesmeric brilliance.' David Hughes, Mail on Sunday, 27 August 1995.
'I regard Julian Joseph as one of the finest pianists since Thelonius Monk'. David Millward, Daily Telegraph, September 2006.
With Billy Cobham's Art of Five, Dingwall's, 6 November 2003: 'Last night's fireworks between Billy Cobham and pianist Julian Joseph were spectacular... Joseph is a tiger at the keyboard... Rarely has Cobham found so many of his sharpest accents bouncing back at him with interest.' Jack Massarik, London Evening Standard, 7 November 2003.
With Don Braden, Pizza Express, February 2003: 'A scintillating partnership... Julian accompanied with a dazzling stream of countermelodic playing and harmonic challenges... Joseph's relationship with his regular drummer Mark Mondesir is so sympathetic that their performances merge into one intense and ecstatic voice.' John Fordham, Guardian Unlimited, 15 February 2003.
Julian Joseph & Mica Paris, Band on the Wall: Joseph got the party started, mustering an epic version of Chick Corea’s La Fiesta. He is a pianist capable of hinting at everything from the florid virtuosity of Oscar Peterson to the economy and angularity of Thelonious Monk... A smoky rendition of God Bless The Child hit the spot, as did I’ve Got It Bad And That Ain’t Good, with Joseph commending Paris’s version as equal to those of Ella Fitzgerald and Nat King Cole... By the time the sinuous latin groove of The Ghetto struck up, the assembled company were up on the dance floor – parquet reclaimed from a south Manchester school – and singing along.
Paul Taylor, City Life for Northern Souls, 28 September 2009.
'Julian Joseph’s 18-piece orchestra delivers big band essentials with panache and polish. There are impulsive riffs and barnstorming solos, sharp dynamics and well-placed stabs. And with flute and woodwind added to the brass, there are rich high-end textures. But the real draw is the way in which Joseph balances his big band juggernaut with the rhythmic intricacy of his working piano trio. Joseph and drummer Mark Mondesir toy with time and tug at the beat. And, kept on pulse by the firm fretwork and woody tones of Mark Hodgson’s double bass, their maelstrom of invention alternates dense intrigue with simplicity and space.' Mike Hobart, The Financial Times, 23 October 2011.
'As for Joseph himself, he’s like some mighty machine that takes a while to crank itself up to full power. Earlier in the evening he seemed to be feeling his way, but by the halfway point his angular lines and side-slipping harmonies were careering ecstatically to the far ends of the keyboard. His fellow players clearly relished them as much as we did.' Ivan Hewett, The Telegraph, 24 October 2011.