Monday, 11 November 2019

Onyx Collective ‎– Lower East Suite (Part Three) (2018)

Genre: Jazz
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Big Dada

01.   Onyx Court
02.   Don't Get Caught Under The Manhattan Bridge
03.   Battle Of The Bowery
04.   There Goes The Neighbourhood
05.   2 AM At Veselka
06.   Delancey Dilemma
07.   Rumble In Chatham Square
08.   Eviction Notice
09.   Magic Gallery
10.   FDR Drive

Boris Vian once said, “Sans le jazz, la vie serait une erreuronce”. 
Loosely translated this means: Without jazz life would be a mistake. The same could be said for New York’s Onyx Collective in 2018. The group’s ability to incorporate jazz, rock, punk with avant-garde sensibilities means their music can fit perfectly in the Tate’s Turbine Hall as well as at a gritty house in Brookyln, making them one of the most important bands on the planet at the moment. 
As their name implies Onyx Collective, are more than a number of regular players, having collaborated with Nick Hakim, Princess Nokia, Julian Soto, Dev Hynes, Wiki and have, in one guise of another, appeared on David Byrne’s new album and in Ibeyi’s live band. At times they feel like the Wu-Tang Clan of jazz, with a roster of core, and fringe members who could appear on any track at any given time.

Onyx Collective’s RZA is saxophonist Isiah Barr. On Lower East Suite Part Three, he is joined by Austin Williamson on drums, Walter Stinson on upright bass, Spencer Murphy on electric bass, and Roy Nathanson as guest sax on four tracks. There is another, mostly invisible, member of the group, one who holds them together, who inspires and challenges them, and that is New York City itself. 
'New York's role in Onyx Collective is everything,' Barr recently said. 'The names of people, the places, the street corners here are so legendary and historically prominent - it leaves a roadmap that we can walk through and a story for us to follow.' On Lower East Suite Part Three, like their previous releases, the city is at the heart of the music. Gritty sax explode like car horns during rush hour, drum patterns replicate the East River surging along, and bass lines mimic the never-ending procession of people populating its street. 
Before recording began Onyx Collective were priced out their HQ and moved to a practice space at the Magic Gallery. This effected the new music being written, as concepts like eviction and gentrification show themselves in the songs titles. ‘Don’t Get Caught Under the Manhattan Bridge’, ‘Battle of the Bowery’, ‘There Goes the Neighbourhood’, ‘Rumble in Chatham Square’ and ‘Eviction Notice’ tells us all we need to know. NYC is in flux, and this is fuelling Onyx Collective’s fire and giving them some extra bite to their music. 
Opening track ‘Onyx Court’ conjures up images of waiting for an audience with Haile Selassie, or Isaac Hayes in ‘Escape from New York’. Gongs tremble, horns vibrate as the emperor walks to his throne and you are ushered in for an audience. 
‘Battle of the Bowery’ gives of a feeling of being unsteady and slightly light headed. As the music swirls around you there is an off-kilter bounce to it. This is when Lower East Suite Part Three really starts to come into its own, and Onyx Collective give a hint of what they’re capable of. Stinson’s bass is the grounding force here. Williamson’s drums and Barr’s sax play off each other to create eddies and maelstroms that create a feeling of movement, and flux, that feels like a short bout of vertigo, or when you get in from a night out and realise you’ve drunk too much. Everything is slowly spinning round you, it’s not unpleasant, but you can see the room slightly turn. ‘Magic Gallery’, an ode to their new home, is the most romantic song on the album. 
You can feel the excitement and passion for their new practice space, but the regret and longing for having left their pervious home. 
The standout tracks are ‘2AM at Veselka’ and ‘Rumble in Chatham Square’. ‘2AM’ is the most straight forward song on the album, but don’t be deceived, through classic jazz sounds, and vibes, there is plenty going on. Each member is given a chance to showcase their virtuosity at their applied disciplines. It also gives a period of reflection, to take in what you’ve just heard, and get ready for the next barrage. ‘Rumble’ opens with a jaunty sax riff and ad-hock drum fills, while the bass manages to hold everything together. Its wired and frayed in places, but this is when it’s at its most exciting and breath-taking. Much like a real-life rumble, the sax and drums are taking shots at each other, while the bass tries to keep them apart, and play mediator. 
On Lower East Suite Part Three, Onyx Collective have delivered an album that builds on the sound, and reputation, of their previous releases but pushes that sound further. Gone are the vocal samples, and field sounds, but in its place is a calculated and frenetic energy that seeps from ‘Lower East Suite Part Three’, showcasing each member’s classical training, but also their disdain for it. They have thrown off the shackles of conventional composition and, instead, opted for something that suits their collectives loves. Lower East Suite Part Three is an important album, not just in Onyx Collective’s career, but in music in general. It shows that jazz isn’t confined to the past, or dusty records, and is loud, vibrant, angry at society and has something to say. It shows that Onyx Collective can rub shoulders with any band and give as good as they get. It also shows that Onyx Collective can write music flawless music, as well as just jam the bangers out, and have fun doing it. 
Nick Roseblade / Drown In Sound
An expandable quartet composed entirely of native New Yorkers is rare, but does that affect their musical product? Does residence matter in today’s tiny connected world? Taking a break from backing such pop near-celebrities as Princess Nokia, Blood Orange, and Wiki, Onyx Collective answer these questions in the positive by creating a mad NYC night out with John Lurie, Charles Mingus, and a straitlaced Albert Ayler as your guides, tongues firmly in cheeks. 
There’s no denying Messrs. Isaiah Barr (alto and tenor saxophone), Austin Williamson (drums), Walter Stinson (upright bass), and Spencer Murphy (electric bass) have absorbed the grittiness of New York’s Lower East Side circa 1992. Many of their often brief, through-composed tunes whirl around like street food vendors and congueros vying for space in Tompkins Square Park. The fidelity is lo, the energy East Village carefree. 
Enter from the top or the bottom; it’s all gurgling dissonance and lopsided rhythms, a late-night confection of warbling tones, dive-bar atmospheres, and the convoluted essence of some Manhattan past where rents were low and groceries affordable. 
Oddly, the group waits until the album’s final song, “FDR Drive,” to reveal its menacingly trippy trademark swing beat, and it’s a delight, like Jackie McLean playing Tilt-a-Whirl with Charlie Haden and Ed Blackwell. Saxophonist Roy Nathanson guests on four tracks, but such nearly danceable ditties as “2AM at Veselka” and the equally compact “Delancey Dilemma” are all Onyx Collective’s deranged show, as humorous as they are catchy. 
Ken Micallef / Jazz Times

Yussef Kamaal ‎– Black Focus (2016)

Style: Contemporary Jazz, Soul-Jazz, Broken Beat, Deep House
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Brownswood Recordings

01.   Black Focus
02.   Strings Of Light
03.   Remembrance
04.   Yo Chavez
05.   Ayla
06.   O.G.
07.   Lowrider
08.   Mansur's Message
09.   Wingtai Drums
10.   Joint

Drums, Percussion – Yussef Dayes
Electric Bass – Kareem Dayes, Tom Driessler
Electric Guitar – Mansur Brown
Synth, Electric Piano – Henry Wu
Tenor Saxophone – Shabaka Hutchings
Trumpet – Yelfris Valdés
Vocals – Gordon Wedderburn
Written-By, Performer, Producer – Henry Wu, Yussef Dayes
Engineer, Producer – Eric Lau, Malcom Catto, Richard Samuels

If people still think that the capital of jazz is New York, surely they've never been to London or listened to anything that comes from the British capital these days. Just like New York, London is a melting pot. Because you can find musicians from any part of the world, the produced outcome is extremely cosmopolitan. Yet, since London never had such a rich history of jazz as New York, the music tends to carry a very different vibe while essentially being part of the same tradition. Yussef Kamaal is a perfect illustration of such phenomenon. 
The band officially consists of Yussef Dayes on drums and Kamaal Williams on keyboards. However, additional instruments (e.g. electric bass, guitar, trumpet, etc.) feature in the majority of the tracks on Black Focus. The album is rhythmically saturated: a few tracks feature additional percussion, which in combination with a standard acoustic drum kit add an exotic flavour to the entire mix. Artificial sound effects on keyboards, trumpet, and guitar applied to most of the tracks have a huge impact to the overall sound, too. Yet, since the drums and the bass are left without much additional processing, the sonic template sounds well balanced as most of the tracks have a solid acoustic base giving Black Focus a trance-like feel. 
Yussef Kamaal states that their musical inspirations derive from artists such as Robert Glasper, Kamasi Washington, Herbie Hancock, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Thelonious Monk, or Kaidi Tatham. That might be very true, but in terms of the rhythmic vocabulary, harmonic progressions, choice of instruments and their sonic textures, music on Black Focus also resembles Jamiroquai, Brand New Heavies, or Incognito—bands that were described as being part of Acid Jazz movement. While labeling the band as Acid Jazz collective would be as problematic as trying to define the term itself, it does explain why Yussef Kamaal is under the wings of Gilles Peterson and his Brownswood Recordings label. After all, it was partly because of Peterson that the term Acid Jazz emerged. 
There are two types of tracks on Black Focus—with and without melodic improvisations. Perhaps, this split is the main problem with the album. Tracks featuring solo improvisation make the music sound outdated, while tracks without melodic soloing articulate something extremely fresh and radical, jeopardizing the whole modern jazz paradigm that for so long enchained the music. If only Yussef Kamaal had more confidence to follow such a solo-less direction, the album could have benefited more in terms of its internal coherence, innovation and a healthy dose of anarchism. Nonetheless, despite the division, Black Focus is a forward-looking sonic journey that will fill one in on what's happening in London's jazz scene right now. 
Rokas Kucinskas / All About Jazz 

Saturday, 9 November 2019

Scrimshire ‎– Listeners (2019)

Style: Afrobeat, House, Nu-Disco, Downtempo, Trip Hop, Soul
Format: Vinyl
Label: Albert's Favourites

A1 Theme For Us (Feat. Joshua Idehen & Chip Wickham)
A2 The Socials (Feat. Soothsayers)
A3 Life Is Valuable (Feat. James Alexander Bright)
A4 Before
A5 After (Feat. And Is Phi)
B1 I Never (Feat. Madison McFerrin)
B2 Won’t Get Better (Feat. Emma-Jean Thackray)
B3 Don’t Stop Here (Feat. Ego Ella May)
B4 Thru You (Feat. Georgia Anne Muldrow)

Drums, Recorded By – Chris boot
Electric Piano, Piano, Synthesizer, Percussion, Drum Programming, Guitar, Bass – Adam Scrimshire

Scrimshire has become one of the more influential voices of the London scene for quite a while now. Knowing him primarily from his label Wah Wah 45s, as well as his fantastic DJing, this new album is actually my first proper introduction to the talented musical polymath. His new album Listeners is a sublime project, combining his influences of jazz, soul and electronic music in a cohesive, intricately composed and beautifully textured album. 
9 tracks in length, the project features an array of producers that bring their own personalities to the table. “Theme For Us” features instrumentalist Chip Wickham and poet Joshua Idehen, who both provide such stellar moments through incredible flute compositions and a spoken word piece that just works brilliantly together. Soothsayers feature on the upbeat “The Socials,” as they bring their wild afro beat and dub sounds to an eclectic and beautiful piece. Scrimshire’s synth leads and electronic compositions throughout are brilliant. The track “Before,” for instance has this profoundly moving piano piece that bridges two incredibly soulful tracks together. We’ve already spoken about “Life Is Valuable” with James Alexander Bright, a beautifully soulful track, while “After” is an angelic, spiritual track featuring And Is Phi, who provides mesmeric vocals to this rhythmic masterpiece.The soul of “I Never” with Madison McFerrin is gorgeous, as the percussion, keys and synths add a soft, soulful touch to this track. “Won’t Get Better” featuring Emma-Jean Thackray is one of my favourite tracks of the year, as I’ve played it countlessly on radio and with my headphones in, walking around South London. The rhythms and pulsating energy of this track is incredible, as Emma-Jean really excels vocally throughout. “Don’t Stop Here” features another incredible vocalist, Ego Ella May, who’s soothing voice is perfect for the subdued, beautiful composition. The legend Georgia Anne Muldrow features on “Thru You,” as she provides powerful vocals over heavy percussion and drums that bring infectious energy. A perfect way to close this album. 
As I mentioned before, this is a sublime, exciting body of work and Scrimshire has exceeded all expectations for me. Listen to his brand new album Listeners below via Bandcamp and don’t forget to support! Released via Albert’s Favourites. 
Martin Boev / In Search of Media

Africa Express ‎– EGOLI (2019)

Style: African, Electro
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Africa Express

01.   Welcome
02.   City In Lights
03.   The River
04.   Bittersweet Escape
05.   Johannesburg
06.   Become The Tiger
07.   Africa To The World
08.   Absolutely Everything Is Pointing Towards The Light
09.   Mama
10.   Where Will This Lead Us To?
11.   Morals
12.   Taranau
13.   No Games
14.   The Return Of Bacardi
15.   Sizi Freaks
16.   I Can't Move
17.   See The World

Mastered By – Frank Merritt
Mixed By – Blue May, Scott Knapper
Recorded By – Africa Express, Steve Sedgewick

Five albums in, and Africa Express – Damon Albarn’s cross-cultural collaboration engine – has pitched up in Johannesburg, known as Egoli in Xhosa. It could be the best iteration yet of this speed-dating pop writer’s camp, in which a handful of UK and US artists (Nick Zinner, a returnee, plus Super Furry Gruff Rhys and grime MC Ghetts, to name three) and a 20-stong cast of local producers, musicians, singers and groove-bringers pull an album together in a week. 
Thanks to South Africa’s vast natural resources of dance music, both traditional and bleeding-edge, Egoli is a party album almost end to end, an update on Buraka Som Sistema’s Angolan-Portuguese rave dynamics and more like a Gorillaz record than anything you might normally file under “world music”. The frisky, blue-wigged Moonchild Sanelly locks horns with Infamous Boiz, innovators in South Africa’s gqom genre. Together they lead the charge for body-moving pop. 
Of the few lower-key tracks, the incessantly lovely Absolutely Everything Is Pointing Towards the Light is sung alternately in Welsh and Xhosa by Rhys and Zolani Mahola. 
Kitty Empire / The Guardian

Thursday, 7 November 2019

Uschi Classen ‎– Soul Magic (2002)

Style: Broken Beat, Future Jazz
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Earth Project

01.   Soul Magic
02.   Dizzy Heights
03.   Now Illuminate
04.   Wise Words
05.   Fire
06.   She
07.   The Path
08.   Meditative Flow
09.  Home
10.   Only In Your Eyes

Arranged By, Producer, Keyboards, Programmed By – Uschi Classen
Mixed By – Marc Woolford, Uschi Classen
Scratches (Cuts & Scratches) – Da Boodley

Friday, 1 November 2019

EABS ‎– Slavic Spirits (2019)

Genre: Jazz
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Astigmatic Records

1.   Ciemność = The Darkness
2.   Leszy = Woodland Spirits
3.   Południca = The Noon Witch
4.   Ślęża (Mgła) = Ślęża (The Fog)
5.   Ślęża = Ślęża
6.   Przywitanie Słońca (Rytuał) = Sun Worship (The Rite)
7.   Przywitanie Słońca = Sun Worship

Bass Guitar – Paweł Stachowiak
Drums – Marcin Rak
Electric Guitar – Vojto Monteur
Executive-Producer – Sebastian Jóźwiak
Flute, Soprano Saxophone – Tenderloniousr
Percussion, Effects – Spisek Jednego
Piano, Electric Piano, Synthesizer, Harmonium, Effects – Marek Pędziwiatr
Tenor Saxophone – Olaf Węgier
Trumpet – Jakub Kurek
Mastered By – Marcin Cichy
Mixed By – EABS, Maciej Jakimiuk, Vojto Monteu
Performer – Jakub Kurek, Marcin Rak, Marek Pędziwiatr, Olaf Węgier, Paweł Stachowiak, Spisek Jednego, Tenderlonious, Vojto Monteur

The name of the label here makes it clear enough that this music places itself in the searching, modally sprung musical and spiritual tradition associated with the great Polish pianist and composer Krzysztof Komeda, whose 1965 recording Astigmatic with, a.o., Tomasz Stanko (t) and Zbigniew Namyslowski (s) is generally regarded as one of the best ever Polish recordings. 
The Wroclaw-based and curiously titled EABS ensemble paid explicit homage to Komeda on their well-received 2017 debut release Repetitions (Letters To Krzysztof Komeda), which focused on some of the composer’s lesser known works. Here, the brooding opening that is The Darkness was apparently born out of a collective improvisation on a Komeda-inspired medley. It sets an appropriate, challenging yet compelling note for a release which charts a freshly voiced albeit structurally familiar passage between matters consonant and dissonant. 
Overall, this charged session would seem to allude to tough times in Polish history, even as its long-form modal moods can modulate from a characteristic Polish melancholy to a Coltrane-like affirmative ethos fired by ancient animistic or pantheistic tropes.

Hip-hop inflections and plenty of diversely swirling electro-textures elicit strong playing all round, with Wegier and the London-based 22a entrepreneur Tenderlonious contributing some invigorating saxophone: sample Woodland Spirit (which features some of the most swinging rhythm here) and Sun Worship. 
If, like me, you wish to find out more about EABS, there are some good clips on YouTube. This distinctly atmospheric release is available in digital/CD/LP formats, with the CD and LP issues also available in a luxury limited edition which comes with a book. 
Michael Tucker / Jazz Journal

Wednesday, 30 October 2019

Theon Cross ‎– Fyah (2019)

Style: Contemporary Jazz
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Gearbox Records

1.   Activate
2.   The Offerings
3.   Radiation
4.   Letting Go
5.   Candace of Meroe
6.   Panda Village
7.   CIYA
8.   LDN’s Burning

Arranged By – Wayne Francis (Ahnansé)
Drums – Moses Boyd
Electric Guitar – Artie Zaitz
Percussion – Tim Doyle
Tenor Saxophone – Nubya Garcia, Wayne Frances (Ahnansé)
Trombone, Arranged By – Nathaniel Cross
Tuba, Composed By, Arranged By, Producer – Theon Cross
Co-producer – Moses Boyd
Mixed By – David Wehinm
Tuba player Theon Cross is probably best known to British jazz audiences as a member of Sons Of Kemet, the Mercury nominated quartet led by multi-reed player and composer Shabaka Hutchings. He’s also been part of Brass Mask, the New Orleans inspired ensemble led by saxophonist and composer Tom Challenger and of Seed Ensemble, the ten piece band led by alto saxophonist and composer Cassie Kinoshi. 
Cross also leads his own bands and is one of a larger group of London based jazz musicians who have been creating waves on the UK music scene through their participation on the much feted “We Out Here” compilation, released by DJ/producer Gilles Peterson on his Brownswood Recordings label. 
Featuring tracks by Cross (“Brockley”) and Hutchings “We Out Here” also includes pieces by drummer Moses Boyd, saxophonist Nubya Garcia, keyboard player Joe Armon Jones and the groups Maisha, Ezra Collective, Triforce and Kokoroko. There has been a real buzz about the musicians in this circle with many individuals and bands enjoying healthy record sales, high profile gigs and mainstream media interest in a manner rarely seen since the ‘jazz boom’ of the late 1980s (Loose Tubes, Jazz Warriors etc.). Indeed there’s a certain continuity here with many of this current crop of exciting new musicians having come through the Tomorrow’s Warriors programme spearheaded by bassist and educator Gary Crosby. 
The success of the “We Out Here” project has led to the musicians in its orbit collaborating with their counterparts from Chicago, notably drummer and composer Makaya McCraven, on the ChicagoXLondon Mixtape album “Where We Come From” released on the Chicago based International Anthem label. Cross, Garcia and Armon Jones all feature prominently amongst other musicians from both sides of the Atlantic. 
Others with whom Cross has worked include multi-reed player Courtney Pine, American soul artist Jon Batiste and the rappers Kano and Pharoahe Monch. He is also a member of South London’s increasingly influential Steam Down musicians collective, based at the Albany Theatre in Deptford. 
Cross released his first recording as a leader in 2015. “Aspirations” was a five track EP featuring the trio of Cross on tuba, Garcia on tenor sax and bass clarinet and Boyd at the drums. The EP was well received and earned Cross nominations for Best Instrumentalist in the Jazz FM Awards of 2016 and 2018 and Best Newcomer in the 2016 Parliamentary Jazz Awards. 
For “Fyah” Cross retains the same nucleus with Boyd at the drum kit throughout and with Garcia specialising on tenor sax on six of the album’s eight tracks. For his first full length album Cross also enlists the services of a number of like minded guests with Steam Down founder Wayne Francis (aka Ahnanse) taking over on tenor for a couple of tracks with Artie Zaitz adding electric guitar. Tim Doyle, from the band Maisha, provides percussion on one piece while Theon’s brother, Nathaniel Cross, adds trombone to another. 
Perhaps unsurprisingly the music on “Fyah” is highly rhythmic, similar in spirit to that of Sons of Kemet as it mixes elements of jazz, hip hop, grime and electronica with other aspects of African and Caribbean music from Afrobeat to reggae. 
The aptly titled “Activate” gets the album off to an exciting and energetic start as Cross’  rumbling tuba bass lines lock in with Boyd’s crisp drum grooves as Garcia’s tenor dances lithely around them, agile, but full blooded and incisive. Cross is scarcely any less nimble on the mighty tuba as he duets with Boyd’s vibrant and highly contemporary rhythms on this Carnival inspired opener. 
“Offerings” opens with the sampled sounds of party chatter which forms the backdrop to the deep, loping grooves created by Cross and Boyd as Garcia weaves sinuous sax melodies around them. There’s a Kemet like atmosphere of Afro-Futurism about the music with Cross skilfully manipulating his sound via the subtle use of electronics. 
“Radiation” boasts a beguiling stop-start groove underpinned by the leader’s virtuoso tuba bass lines. If Cross was a footballer he’d attract the plaudit “wonderful skills for a big man”, for such is the inventiveness and agility with which he plays the so-called “lugubrious” or “cumbersome” tuba. Boyd deliberately keeps things simple here, all the better for Cross to demonstrate his abilities as he combines with Garcia’s melodic sax motifs. This core trio of Cross, Boyd and Moses is a highly effective unit capable of building a juggernaut like momentum capable of taking jazz back to the dance floor. 
“Letting Go” features more tuba pyrotechnics from Cross, but often it’s his work in a rhythmic context that impresses as much as his playing as a soloist. Again his low register rumble combines well with Garcia’s wispy tenor sax melodies and Boyd’s implacable grooves as the piece gradually gathers momentum, before fading once more to close with the sound of Garcia’s unaccompanied sax. 
The group is expanded to a quintet for “Candace Of Meroe” with Francis, Zaitz and Doyle added to the line up as Garcia sits out. Boyd’s drums and Doyle’s percussion unite to create a percolating groove enhanced by Zaitz’s chicken scratch guitar and Cross’ extraordinary vocalised tuba lines, sounding almost like an electric bass. There’s a more overtly African influence about this joyously celebratory piece. Francis adds a powerful and incisive tenor solo, followed by Cross on the tuba. 
The core trio bring an edgy, restless energy to the grime inspired “Panda City” with its rumbling tuba, taut drumming and earthy tenor augmented by synthesised sounds and beats. 
“CIYA” sees the group expanded again with Cross and Boyd joined by Francis, Zaitz and Nathaniel Cross on a Theon composition arranged by Ahnanse and Nathaniel. This slinkily seductive piece has more of a conventional soul jazz feel about it with Francis adopting a softer sound on tenor and combining effectively with Nathaniel’s trombone. Solos come from Francis on tenor, Nathaniel on rounded, warm sounding trombone, Zaitz on subtly distorted guitar and Theon on tuba. 
The album concludes with the suitably incendiary “LDN’s Burning” with the core trio in rumbustious form. Cross’ rollicking tuba lines combine with Boyd’s boisterous drum grooves as Garcia delivers captivating sax melody lines that again draw on Kemet style Afro-Futurism. The closing section features an extraordinary dialogue between the leader’s tuba and Boyd’s drums. 
“Fyah” is a consistently exciting, and undeniably impressive album, that combines an edgy, urban, contemporary urgency with supreme musicality. The interplay between the core trio of Cross, Boyd and Garcia is exceptional throughout with all of the guest performers also making telling contributions. It’s easy to see why there has been such a buzz about this circle of London raised musicians and anybody who has enjoyed Cross’s contribution to the music of Sons of Kemet will find much to satisfy them here. One suspects that the trio of Cross, Boyd and Garcia also represent a hugely exciting live act. Catch them if you can. 
Ian Mann / The Jazz Man

Tuesday, 29 October 2019

Shabaka And The Ancestors ‎– Wisdom Of Elders (2106)

Style: Avant-garde Jazz
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Beat Records

1.   Mzwandile
2.   Joyous
3.   The Observer
4.   The Sea
5.   Natty
6.   Give Thanks
7.   Nguni

Alto Saxophone – Mthunzi Mvubu
Artwork – Mzwandile Buthelezi
Bass – Ariel Zamonsky
Drums – Tumi Mogorosi
Percussion – Gontse Makhene
Piano, Electric Piano [Rhodes] – Nduduzo Makhathini
Tenor Saxophone – Shabaka Hutchings
Trumpet – Mandla Mlangeni
Vocals – Siyabonga Mthembu
Mixed By – Dilip Harris

This recording is the culmination of the triangular experiences of tenor man Shabaka Hutchings and his personal destiny. Born in London, his family relocated back to their native Barbados, where Hutchings was raised in a musical environment until his teen years. Returning to London, he became a fixture on the free jazz scene, and while on holiday to South Africa, was drawn back to the primordial source of inspiration. Recorded over one day with no rehearsal, Wisdom Of Elders explores and expands upon traditional Nguni rhythms, while injecting blues, spiritual hymns, and Caribbean calypso. Accompanied by the best players from Capetown; this session transformed into a tribute to those who have played jazz in the townships, especially saxophonist Bheki Mseleku, a major influence on Hutchings, and an inspiration for this production. This is an intended throwback to the era when African jazz was played as a spiritual path to resistance and creative survival. 
The bass opens the blistering "Mzwandile," which is the tribal name bestowed on Hutchings, vocalist Siyabonga Mthembu then commences his incantations, allowing Hutchings to weave his horn into an intro for the rest of the band, accented by propelling percussion and spatial piano work from Nduduzo Mahathini. Having raised the temperature at the outset, "Joyous," has a soothing effect, featuring local legend Mandla Mlangeni on trumpet, who carries on an honored tradition of South African trumpeters. Altoist Mthunzi Myubu joins Hutchings on solos, as they rise up in one voice. 
"The Observer," is dedicated to a Barbadian calypsonian from Hutchings' youth, and is presented as a melancholy blues; vocal chanting invoking hope and redemption amidst the sadness. The township connection is evident on "The Sea," as the repetitive bass pattern and dual saxophones invoke the master Abdullah Ibrahim, and his extended forays into cerebral jazz. Strategically placed midway through the record, this is a soaring aural orison. 
There is a slight undercurrent of reggae syncopation in "Natty," as Hutchings reaches into his mixed bag of influences, yet remains anchored in the ritualistic concept initiated. The provoking drums and sax exchange in "Give Thanks," is centered around these two instruments exclusively, both taking turns on solos and maintaining the fiery tempo. They end as they commenced, with a bass intro on "Nguni," but this time the mood is tempered as the vocal chants slowly bring it up to a crescendo. This final track is in honor of the Swazi, Ndebele, Xhosa, Zulu, and Bantu people of southern Africa, whose history and lineage reach back to the dawn of time, and whose influence on jazz is monumental. 
Creating from an abiding space beyond the instruments, compositions, and arrangements, Shabaka Hutchings' African sojourn tuned him into a higher energy source, and he plays his music from that dimension. Of course, a lot of the credit goes to the accompanying musicians on this project, for they were his enthusiastic guides and accomplices on this spiritual endeavor. This is music of the utmost caliber, performed with an unrefined attitude, taking jazz back home. 
James Nadal / All About Jazz

Wednesday, 9 October 2019

The Fatima Mansions ‎– Viva Dead Ponies (1990)

Style: Indie Rock
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Radioactive, Kitchenware Records, MCA Records

01.   Angel's Delight
02.   Concrete Block
03.   Mr. Baby
04.   The Door-To-Door Inspector
05.   Start The Week
06.   You're A Rose
07.   Legoland 3
08.   Thursday
09.   Ceausescu Flashback
10.   Broken Radio No. 1
11.   Concrete Block
12.   Look What I Stole For Us, Darling
13.   Farewell Oratorio
14.   The White Knuckle Express
15.   Chemical Cosh
16.   Tima Mansio Speaks
17.   A Pack Of Lies
18.   Viva Dead Ponies
19.   More Smack, Vicar

Accordion – Kenny Davis
Bass – Hugh Bunker
Drums – Nick Allum
Guitars – Andrías Ó Grúam, Nick Allum
Keyboards – Cathal Coughlan, Nick Bunker
Vocals – Cathal Coughlan
Additional Vocals– Dame Alison Jiear
Written-By – Cathal Coughlan
Producer – Cathal Coughlan, Ralph Jezzard, Tíma Mansió

Tuesday, 1 October 2019

Moonchild – Little Ghost (2019)

Style: Contemporary R&B, Neo Soul
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: eOne, Tru Thoughts

01.   Wise Women
02.   Too Much To Ask
03.   The Other Side
04.   Sweet Love
05.   Strength
06.   Everything I Need
07.   Money
08.   Nova
09.   Get To Know It
10.   What You're Doing
11.   Come Over
12.   Onto Me
13.   Whistling
14.   Still Wonder

Cello– Danica Pinner
Violin – Eliza James, Rebecca Schlappich, Lila Crosswhite
Piano, Electric Piano, Synth, Bass , Flugelhorn, Drum Programming, Ukulele, Synthesizer – Andris Mattson
Alto Saxophone, Piano, Electric Piano, Synth, Drum Programming, Bass, Clarinet – Max Bryk
Vocals, Lyrics By, Electric Piano, Synth, Bass, Tenor Saxophone, Drum Programming, Flute – Amber Navran
Arranged By (Horn Arrangements) – Amber Navran, Andris Mattson, Max Bryk
Producer, Music By, Recorded By, Mixed By – Moonchild