Join Andrew Gray for his second offering of jazz and soul, with a few wild cards thrown in to broaden our minds. But guess what? There’s not a Miles Davis tune in sight! Andrew has been in the Vibe background for many years, assisting with his knowledge and varied record collection. He is currently exploring the West Bank celebrating his birthday, checking out Banksy street art and quite likely talking music to anyone and everyone. If there’s a market selling music, Andrew will find it!
Legendary Istanbul band, BaBa ZuLa has been producing its own brand of folk, psychedelia and dub (and belly dancing!) for over twenty years. Its sound comes from traditional Turkish instruments augmented by electronic instruments and effects and is primarily led by Osman Murat Ertel’s electric saz. “Derin Derin” has a more direct approach than previous releases, harder but also more electronic.
“Haller Yollar” begins with unaccompanied, clean saz, after a while a wah effect is slowly introduced as a hint of things to come. Clicking spoons and prosaic vocals soon join in. As the song progresses electronic sounds and effects increasingly distort and reshape the tune. An eye-opening and exciting introduction to the set. The jangling of bells bring in the brief, instrumental and dubby “Şahin Iksiri”, a simple melody line with swooping theremin and synth percussion. The harder-edged “Kızıl Gözlüm” follows, distorted saz kicks it off followed by bludgeon cymbal attack and forms into a deranged electronic fuzzed out boogie. “Rüzgarın Akışı”, The Flow Of The Wind, is less structured. A percussive, saz jam interspersed with bursts of ululation.
Next, the high point of this record, “Salıncaksın” (“U Are The Swing”) – the pace is slower, more reflective. Echoed fuzzed saz and voice introduce the motif, the slow build gives the track an epic feel despite being only just over four minutes long. It’s just so beautiful. “Kervan Yolda”’s grinding insistent repetitive rhythm with spoken word vocals is propelled by the stop-start chugging percussion. The heavily percussive collage of “Port Pass” follows, its soaring fuzzy sounds and vocals laden with generous delay effects. The electronic rhythm pounds over simple repetitive lines and the voice is reminiscent, to me at least, of Mark E Smith! The peaceful “Kosmogoni” is slow build electronica, its simple saz lines over the smooth wash of synthesiser and light percussive sounds. The introduction to “Kurt Kapma” is a menacing ambience of screams and howls and electronic effects abruptly hitting a fierce rhythm, a coming together of space rock, the bleak electronica of Suicide and a movie chase sequence. “Transendance” closes the set. The first half of the track leans on the good side of the ambience stuff that incorporated elements of so-called “world” and dub in the 1990s. But, suddenly the beat kicks in and bursts into fast direct galloping rhythmic repetition which just as suddenly falls away the meditative quiet of heavy delay affected saz.
While this release is clearly a fusion of different styles it feels completely natural and organic. Baba ZuLa have reined in their previous sporadic reggae experiments and the emphasis is on their psychedelic rock pedigree. The tracks are shorter too and the album clocks in at only just over 33 minutes long. The production is sharp with electronic instruments and effects pushed to the fore. In the present political climate, this is an amazing and inspirational example of grace under pressure. A success; a truly great album.
Baba Zula ‘XX’ 2CD/2LP (Glitterbeat) 3/5
New York based saxophonist /composer Arun Luthra is one of a small group of American jazz musicians of Indian heritage who have continued to explore the possibilities of fusing the modern post-bop sound with elements of Indian classical music. Konnakol is the art of performing percussion syllables vocally in South Indian Carnatic music. The voice serves a similar purpose to that of a percussion instrument and each syllable signifies what stroke or combination of strokes the percussionist must use. For this live recording saxophonist and Konnakol performer Luthra teams up with pianist James Francies, bassist Thomson Kneeland, drummer Jordan Perrison and special guest, percussionist Anantapadmanabhan. And it is indeed the percussionist, playing the mridangam, along with Luthra’s Indian percussive vocalising, that gives this album its unique flavour.
The album begins with Indian voice and percussion working in unison, with drums combining skillfully before “Perc-kal-ude Torna” swings into full jazz mode with the full band combining well. The tune is then largely driven by Luthra’s free-flowing bebop-esque tenor sax, with intelligent backing from piano, bass, drums and percussion. The overall sound of this recording isn’t great… perfectly acceptable but by today’s standards a little lacking, but the upside of that is that it sounds like you’re listening to a 1960’s jazz club recording, so it’s not all bad. “The Divvy-up Dance” has a wonderful feel to it, with Francies’ exploratory piano playing leading the way. Luthra switches to soprano sax with aplomb, and after a short mid-tune bridge, the mridangam and drums take centre stage for what sounds like a mini-duel. Luthra’s soaring soprano rounds this piece off nicely. The fierce energy of the music being performed is relentless, but there is room for the band to breathe on the slightly more reflective “KJP”. As with all of the compositions presented here, the music is written in a predominantly Western contemporary jazz style, with elements of classical Indian music being incorporated in certain sections of the tunes. In the main this works very well, but there are times when it doesn’t quite sound intuitively integrated, a little too preconceived perhaps. But that doesn’t take anything away from the vibe that the composer and performers successfully create. The Coltrane influence is strong on the wonderful “Soon Starts Now”, a thrilling piece of music that has just about everything going for it. Brilliant writing is matched by the performances, especially the stand-out soloing of bassist Thomson Kneeland. “Spin City” has an old-school feel to it, with the bass, drums and percussion underpinning things nicely for the sax and piano to do their thing. This tune has such a tight groove it’s impossible not to be moving your body in waves of appreciation by the end of it. The final track “Collective” is a very impressive piece that perhaps best integrates the Indian vocal and percussive elements into the jazz idiom. The band are in full flow here, with a sense of sheer pleasure emanating from the music being performed.
This is most definitely music that should be seen as well as being heard. And to that end, Arun Luthra’s Konnakol Jazz Project have four UK gigs lined up over the next few days. Well worth checking them out if you’re in the area:
Monday 19th August, 11pm at Ronnie Scott’s, 47 Frith Street, Soho, London.
Tuesday 20th August, 9pm at Kansas Smitty’s, 63-65 Broadway Market, London.
Wednesday 21st August, 9pm at Oliver’s Jazz Bar, 9 Nevada Street, Greenwich.
Friday 23rd August, 7pm at The Verdict, 159 Edward Street, Brighton.
This year heralds a landmark for ECM Records; 50 years of recorded music. Almost unprecedented in the modern era, survival alone would have been no mean feat, but to have continuously been producing pioneering music for half a century is truly remarkable. Founded in 1969 by Manfred Eicher, his vision and dedication have led the label to this incredible milestone. From very humble beginnings ECM has now become an instantly recognisable brand, with its consistent ethos, sound, and cover art, the quality of the product perfectly complements the quality of the music itself. To celebrate this anniversary, ECM have selected 50 albums to reflect upon the journey so far. This “Touchstone” series of 50 reissues, highlights a wide selection of albums made along the way, including many recordings which now count as milestones in the history of jazz and improvisation. Presented in cardboard sleeves, with the stunning sound and excellent artwork we have over the years become accustomed to, these albums are available for the same price as the previous edition.
The first group of 25 discs was released in January, with the second set of 25 released in May. As one might expect, the selected albums cover a wide range of recordings and artists, some perhaps obvious, but others less so, including some very pleasant surprises. For myself, having grown up discovering jazz through labels like ECM, the journey has been quite a personal one at times. As with many of us, listening to music is an integral part of our human DNA, and rediscovering some of the wonderful music presented with “Touchstones” brings back many memories. And then there are the new adventures to be found, unexpected little gems that spark a new fire within… there’s always a thrill to hearing fresh, creative music, and ECM continues to provide the beauty and the excitement to this day.
Not only does “Touchstones” feature some iconic albums, with legendary artists such as Chick Corea, Keith Jarrett, Pat Metheny, Jan Garbarek, Paul Motian and Jack DeJohnette, et al, but equal prominence is given to some of the lesser immediately recognisable artists, including Mick Goodrick, Leo Smith, Steve Tibbetts, John Abercrombie and Enrico Rava, to name but a few. There are some classic albums featured; including Keith Jarrett’s “Standards Vol. 1”, Pat Metheny’s “80/81”, Kenny Wheeler’s “Double Double You”, Jan Garbarek/Bobo Stenson’s “Witchi Tai To” and Jack DeJohnette’s “New Directions”. Some of my all-time favourite albums are also featured, the likes of Terje Rypdal’s “Blue”, Bobo Stenson’s “War Orphans”, Peter Erskine’s “Juni”, Gary Burton/Chick Corea’s “Crystal Silence” and Steve Kahn’s “Trance”. And I’ve also discovered some new gems; Bill Connors’ “Of Mist and Melting”, Steve Swallow’s “Home”, Miroslav Vitous’ “Journey’s End”, Arild Andersen’s “The Triangle” and Steve Tibbetts’ “Northern Song”. There’s something for everyone, as the saying goes. And long may the ECM journey continue.
In keeping with the spirit of the “Touchstones” releases, it has been a pleasure to put together an ECM playlist, featuring some of my own personal favourites from the last 50 years. Some, but not all of the tunes I’ve chosen, are featured on the “Touchstones” reissues. I hope they bring back fond memories or ignite a new flame or two for you, just as they have done, and continue to do so for me.
Stephen Micus – The Western Gate (from ‘White Night’ 2019)
Arild Andersen – A Song I Used To Play (from ‘If you Look Far Enough’ 1992)
Jack DeJohnette / Ravi Coltrane / Matt Garrison – Alabama (from ‘In Movement’ 2016)
Charles Lloyd – The Blessing (from ‘The Call’ 1993)
Keith Jarrett – Dedicated To You (from Standards in Norway 1989)
Tomasz Stańko – Morning Heavy Song (from ‘Bosonossa And Other Ballads’ 1993)
Pat Metheny – Unquity Road (from ‘Bright Size Life’ 1976)
Anouar Brahem / Dave Holland / Jack DeJohnette / Django Bates – La Nuit (from ‘Blue Maqams’ 2017)
Paul Motian - Cathedral Song (from ‘Lost In A Dream’ 2010)
Charlie Haden / Jan Garbarek / Egberto Gismonti – Folk Songs (from ‘Folk Songs’ 1981)
Kenny Wheeler – Foxy Trot (from ‘Double, Double You’ 1983)
Jan Garbarek Quartet – Beast of Kommodo (from ‘Africa Pepperbird’ 1970)
Terje Rypdal – Transition (from ‘Chaser’ 1985)
Bobo Stenson – Send In The Clowns (from ‘Goodbye’ 2005)
Espin Eriksen Trio with Andy Sheppard – 1974 (from ‘Perfectly Unhappy’ 2018)
Steve Kuhn Trio with Joe Lovano – Song of Praise (from ‘Mostly Coltrane’ 2009)
Jan Garbarek / Keith Jarrett / Palle Danielsson / Jon Christensen – ‘Long As You Know You’re Living Yours (from ‘Belonging’ 1974)
Jan Garbarek-Bobo Stenson Quartet – Witchi Tai To (from ‘Witchi-Tai-To’ 1973)
Zakir Hussain – Sabah (from ‘Making Music’ 1987)
Pat Metheny – Every Day (I Thank You) (from ‘80/81’ 1980)
For the first time since its initial release on the Baobab label in 1980, Lloyd McNeill’s rare private press album ‘Elegia’ (aka Elegia: for Elizabeth), sees a welcome return courtesy of the Soul Jazz/Sounds Of The Universe record label, who continue to explore the inspiring works of this great multidisciplinary artist. Between 1971-76 McNeill made frequent visits to Brazil studying music and culture for academic and personal interest. Following on from his 1978 album ‘Tori’, ‘Elegia’ incorporates the Brazilian sensibilities with Lloyd McNeill’s deep spiritual overtones, mixing jazz with African and Brazilian rhythms.
In the mid-1960s Lloyd McNeill took up a residency in Paris at The National School Of Fine Arts studying lithography and whilst there he became close friends with Pablo Picasso and his second wife Jacqueline Roque. He also studied music composition privately with the composer Hale Smith, music theory and flute technique with the jazz musician Eric Dolphy, and classical flute technique and repertoire with the late Harold Jones, who was president of the New York Flute Club from 1976-1979 and who formed the Antara Ensemble to bring classical music to the Harlem community in the early 1990s.
The album features a stellar line up of Brazilian pianist Dom Salvador, bassist Cecil McBee, percussionists Naná Vasconcelos and Portinho, guitarist Claudio Celso, vocalist Susan Osborn and Lloyd McNeill playing both flute and alto flute. Many of the musicians have been classically trained and it’s that classical approach which adds a welcome new dimension to the mix. The album pays tribute to the African-American cultures in the diaspora; their roots, culture and history.
‘Samba For The Animals’ starts off with the subdued piano flute combination and faint percussion before breaking into a samba which brings the tempo up before a slight pause allows Cecil McBee’s reflective solo to break the rhythm before the floating flute weaves across the buoyant samba rhythm with guest percussionist Portinho and Naná Vasconcelos adding exuberant textures with voice and percussion. The interchanges between Lloyd McNeill and Dom Salvador add warmth and a memorable sound reminiscent in places of the soulful side of Dom Um Romão’s music.
On ‘Behind The Wind’ and part of ‘Striped Pants’ Lloyd McNeill plays solo flute with the former short piece opening up like an enchanted story portraying life in its simplicity.
The contemplative ‘Asha part 2’ highlights the jazz side of pianist Dom Salvador. His subtle harmonies complement Lloyd McNeill’s reflective exchanges with Cecil McBee’s deep bass tones. The composition is over 11 minutes with some excellent playing by the three main contributors and the background percussion which adds another welcome dimension without overpowering the harmony.
The adventurous ‘Elegia Suite For Elizabeth’ is the album’s centrepiece, which is split into three parts: ‘Time’, The Mighty River’ and ‘The Word’, overseen by conductor Andrew White and featuring the powerful expressive voice of Susan Osborn. Her unique style shouldn’t really nestle in between the rest of the music on the album, but somehow it fits perfectly, adding an extra dimension that takes off towards the realms of non-jazz but the counterbalance of Naná Vasconcelos and company adding a colourful tapestry of background sounds, envelops her unique expressionism. Reminiscent of Norma Winstone ‘Edge Of Time’ with a slight Steve Reich feel. It’s a momentous work which is emotive and confident with a boldness which states its place.
Voted percussionist of the year in Downbeat jazz from 1964-1990, The mastery of Naná Vasconcelos can be heard on countless jazz and Brazilian albums with groups including Codona alongside Don Cherry and Collin Walcott and his collaborations with pianist-composer Egberto Gismonti. On this album he brings his vast array of Brazillian instruments, creating a rich palette of percussion and sound effects from his unique folk style which stems from Recife in Brazil.
Brazilian percussionist, Portinho, has worked with many esteemed artists including Airto Moreira, Gato Barbieri and Tania Maria. He has featured on many jazz albums including Michel Legrand’s ‘Southern Routes’ on tracks including ‘La Pasionaria’, sampled by U.F.O for ‘Loud Minority’ and Tania Maria’s classic album ‘Come With Me’. On this album, he guests on ‘Samba For The Animals’ adding lively energy which is fitting for the composition.
Dom Salvador featured on three Dom Um Romão albums and he brings that same soulful sound to this latest project by McNeill. He worked with Lloyd on two other albums, ‘Treasures’ and ‘Tori’ and seems like the perfect pianist to articulate the feeling and approach for this album.
Cecil McBee is a bassist who has graced many great jazz albums and his own albums as a leader are important albums that include contributions for labels including Enja, India Navigation and Strata East. He received a Grammy for the excellent 1987 recorded ‘Blues for Coltrane: A Tribute to John Coltrane’ album featuring Pharoah Sanders, David Murray, McCoy Tyner, Cecil McBee and Roy Haynes.
Claudio Celso is a classically trained guitarist who was listed in the world’s top 100 guitarists by Guitar Player magazine. His collaborations include Eumir Deodato, Zimba Trio and many jazz artists including collaborations with Creed Taylor.
Ron Di Scenza is a figurative impressionist painter who resided in New York City during the 1970s. His brilliant interpretation of the film ‘The Tree Of The Wooden Clogs’ became a wildly popular poster shown all over NYC, seen by everyone. His front cover painting of McNeill and the scene around him perfectly captures the essence of the music conveyed within ‘Elegia’.
An exceptional mix of Brazilian, African with Jazz sounds, woven into a story from a classical perspective which perfectly evokes the intended picture of a time in history. It’s a great reissue from the Soul Jazz label and one that documents the journey of this multifaceted artist and teacher.
Jazzmeia Horn follows up her Grammy-nominated debut album with her new release ‘Love and Liberation’ through Concord Jazz.
With her debut, ‘A Social Call’, only having been released in 2017, and much of the time since having been filled with an intensive touring schedule, it’s remarkable this album sees the light of day so soon. But perhaps not remarkable at all for the native of Dallas, Texas, who was the recipient of both the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Vocal Competition as well as the Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition; a fervent writer with a distinct and singular approach to her music, ‘Love and Liberation’ sees Horn taking more a hold of the reigns this time around having penned eight of the album’s tracks in and around her time on tour.
‘Free Your Mind’ acts as the perfect album opener as it’s a song that presents everything great about Horn in one offering – her vocals don’t just effortlessly soar exposing how incredibly powerful her vocal actually is, but from her interaction with the band, her joy for her craft and her performance is genuinely infectious making this a strong stand-out. Along with the four covers on this album – including tracks originally performed by Rachelle Ferrell, Jon Hendrick, Jimmy Van Heusen & Johnny Mercer – what seems to have generated the most interest is the bold interpretation of Erykah Badu’s ‘Green Eyes’ from ‘Mama’s Gun’ (2000) which transforms the ten minute masterpiece into one just over five minutes, again, with Horn performing such vocal marvels particularly near the latter portion of the song, you just wish you could be in the room when Badu actually hears this.
Many of the band members from ‘A Social Call’ return including pianist Victor Gould (Etienne Charles, David Gilmore), saxophonist Stacy Dillard (Brandee Younger, Theo Croker), trumpeter Josh Evans (Christian McBride, Louis Hayes), bassist and Concord recording artist Ben Williams (Pat Metheny, Andy Allo), and then there’s the introduction of Snarky Puppy drummer and another fellow Concord Jazz recording artist Jamison Ross into the fold on drums and featured guest vocals on the track ‘Only You’.
As if this surge of talent comprising one album wasn’t enough – there’s the Concord mastermind himself, Chris Dunn, returning on production who, along with having served as producer for ‘A Social Call’, can also boast having produced albums by a veritable who’s who of contemporary US jazz including Christian Scott, Gerald Clayton, Harvey Mason and Kris Bowers.
Fans of ‘A Social Call’ will be thrilled with the creative growth demonstrated throughout ‘Love and Liberation’ and we’ll watch with great interest where album #3 will take Jazzmeia Horn which we may find out in another two years’ time?
Hammered instruments appear like across most musical cultures and have always struck me as being buried deep within the musical archaeology of the world. Having said this, the limit of my archaeological knowledge comes from Tony Robinson and his team of soil-based time bandits. There is an ethereal yet base quality to them, from the cimbalom to the Appalachian dulcimer, with doubled strings creating that chorus-y, rattle-y, staccato-y pulse. Having little knowledge of Korean folk instruments, it was fascinating to hear the yanggeum played by Park Jiha on her latest album Philos. This is alongside, primarily, two other instruments; the piri, a sort of oboe-esque instrument, and saenghwang, a free-reed mouth organ. All three are wound around each other in droning, sliding and fizzing interlacing on this record that feels courtly, sci-fi, pastoral and urban all at once.
It feels easy to say that this is a relaxing, ambient collection of tunes purely because of the tonal qualities of the instrumentation. To me, there is more at play. For example, the fourth track entitled “Pause” could suggest at first a moment of reflection, but it sits uneasily like a pause after a trauma or a pause in reeling from news that hasn’t sunk in. Sure, it’s demure, but there is an intriguing restlessness in the itching, impatient drive of the strings.
Philos feels over very quickly. It doesn’t let you get too comfortable. Most progressions drip down a cascade of minors, where the hypnotic quality of the repeating lines is only occasionally interrupted rhythmically. The intensity never becomes unrestrained or chaotic but feels like it is bubbling up to something more violent. This measured sensibility is the larger victory of the album, in its instrumental terms.
The glue of this record, for myself, is the (what I assume are) field recordings on each track. I believe that there is an intention for Park Jiha to root the melodies within a context, but it never takes over or intrudes. I liken the experience to listening to quiet music on headphones while walking, with parts of the world being aurally smudged and blurred. This gives the listener a feeling of the interior world as very separate and very personal. The poem on track three, written and read by a Lebanese artist called Dima El Sayed is the only track that breaks this mood. While the poem, and performance of it, are fantastic (reminding me of the brilliant Laurie Anderson), I feel this could have sat better as an introduction or an ending. In fact, the stand out track for me is the finale of “On Water”. At once it reminds me of the more plaintive, less showy moaning of Miles Davis, the delicate parts of Vangelis’ Blade Runner soundtrack and the darker parts of Cinematic Orchestra’s mixed musical satchel.
Philos is sparse, contemplative, urgent, sad and restrained, and within its own terms is incredibly beautiful. On top of the poem being, in my opinion, poorly placed, the album’s small weakness is that it leaves you far too quickly and without making the huge impact that I felt was coming. Nevertheless, what you get leaves you wanting more from Park Jiha and I was eager to investigate her back catalogue and see how she performs this amazing, disruptive folk music.
Park Jiha live in London as part of K-Music
Thursday, 17 October 2019, 8pm
at Rich Mix, 35-47 Bethnal Green Road, London E1 6LA
Would you believe me if I said the album of Summer 2019 was full of music made in the 70s? Just one listen to Analog Africa’s latest compilation, Jambú e os Míticos Sons da Amazônia, and I promise you’ll be convinced. The album, compiled by Samy Ben Redjeb and Carlos Xavier, is full of 19 gems of Amazonian dance music from the northern Brazilian state of Pará.
Redjeb and Xavier were obviously inspired by the robust history of the region, evidenced not only by the music they included but also by the name they chose for the album. The Jambú plant is widely used in Paraense cuisine and medicine for its analgesic and hunger-stimulating properties, a clue of what’s in store once you press play.
Jambú e os Míticos is brimming with the sounds of siriá, carimbó, and bambiá, musical traditions that draw attention to the relationship between escaped slaves and indigenous populations. This mixing of traditions lead to the creation of some pretty incredible sounds that remained mostly isolated to Northern Brazil, that is until they experienced a resurgence in the 60s and 70s with Brazil’s sound –system culture. And here they are, unearthed again and offered to us by Analog Africa.
Jambú e os Míticos is more than simply a presentation of good music, it is cultural preservation, it is history in action. The music traditions represent the melding of oppressed cultures and the survival instinct underpinning it all. You can hear the sounds of Africa in the call and response that echoes throughout the album; you can feel her in the drums. The Amazon comes through in the flutes and the maracas.
I recently moved and this album is adding so much joy to unpacking, painting, and hammering. Always one for a party Jambú e os Míticos’ vintage vibe is the perfect soundtrack to my housewarming. I can see it in my mind when I listen to “Pai Xango”. The track is playing while my best friends sip on icy drinks served in deep green glasses and laugh in the dying light of the day.
“Meu Barquinho” by Janjão is my favourite track on the album; full of call and response like many of the other songs, the difference here is that the respondents are women. Their sweet voices perfectly juxtapose the deep male lead voice. The percussion moves right through you and before you even know its happening, you’re bobbing your head, nodding your agreement to every beat.
And really, you’ll find yourself agreeing with every song. What I loved about this album is that it embodies what I love most about music, particularly when it’s live. That you get to watch the people you admire really enjoying themselves. Those moments are all over this album. You can hear the artists laughing, hollering and being full of joy. They may be organic but they are no accident. Jambú e os Míticos is bringing the Brazilian sound system to your backyard. Sound system culture came about in the 60s and 70s amidst a wave of similar movements across Latin America. It consisted mainly of street parties where mostly black people would come together and celebrate being alive, creating a rare occasion for people to cast off the weight off oppression and just be. In this way, Jambú lives up to its name. The album is a balm for the soul, easing our troubles and making space to find joy again.
“Social Music”, the debut release from young Italian guitarist Enrico Le Noci, is in many ways a breath of fresh air. His music leans affectionately back to the jazz traditions served up from a bygone Blue Note era, whilst incorporating a fresh contemporary European feel that embodies a youthful joy of expression. The vibe is cool, the writing is mature, and the performances on this recording are exemplary.
Featuring Gadi Lehavi on piano, Felix Rossy on trumpet, Giulio Scianatico on double bass and Andrea Niccolai on drums, this quintet are winning well deserved praise in Italy, and with this album release one would imagine their stock can only be raised to a higher level as their music reaches wider shores.
Eight tunes feature on this session, each of them embodying the core principles of what this band are all about; intelligent hooks, to-die-for riffs, and beautifully executed musicianship. There’s an equality and equanimity to the whole thing, with all five musicians shining in equal measure, not just the band-leader. And that’s one of the reasons this album works so well, with Le Noci allowing everyone to contribute and feel a part of a unified collective, which very much benefits the overall recording.
“One For Cedar” kicks off proceedings, taking me back to a 1960’s New York jazz club. There’s a clear post-bop ambience filling the room, with only the music successfully cutting through the smokey atmosphere. “Solo Ida” jumps us forward by twenty years or so, with its very subtle Brazilian vibe bringing light and sunshine to a breezy beech somewhere on a lost horizon. It shares a thing or two with a couple of Marc Johnson albums I’ve heard… music for the summer might be an apt description. The title track “Social Music” throws us back into Blue Note waters as we swim alongside Wayne Shorter, riding the crest of a musical wave with a thrilling balance of skill and creativity. And as we come down from that wave we rest a while for reflection with “Leaves Like That”, just taking in the events so far, contemplating perhaps where to go next. And with that thought the band turn a page and take us into the 21st Century with the stunning “One For Humanity”. Reminiscent of a duetting Brad Mehldau and Pat Metheny, there’s a spark of life within the music that suggests pastures new, filled with hope and joy. “Icarus Dream”, something of a slow burner of a track, takes the listener on a journey that gradually builds with meaning, until the music ignites with fierce, flaming passion. And with “Heavy Lunch” we find ourselves walking into fusion city. Not so much ‘Heavy Weather’, more like a modern take on Herbie’s Headhunters. The album closes with the silky smooth “For Nuts Only”, reigniting a smouldering flame that was left behind by Donald Byrd.
All in all, “Social Music” is a very enjoyable adventure. The writing is excellent, the performances warm, intuitive and intelligent, and the production levels of a very high standard. I’d highly recommend it, and on the evidence of what I’ve heard on this recording, I would say that Enrico Le Noci has a very bright future ahead of him.
French saxophonist Sébastien Jarrousse’s latest album, ‘New Frequency’, features a Franco-German ensemble of ten musicians with compositions which have taken influences from genres ranging from Fusion, Funk, Pop and Jazz. Known for playing both Tenor and Soprano sax, Jarrousse opted to play only Soprano on these sessions recorded over two years. Sole vocalist, Ellinoa’s ethereal timbre is more grounded in Pop, bearing similarities with the operatic Kate Bush and the sensitive Björk. The English lyrics are mostly indecipherable, but their delivery feels generally charismatic. Occasionally, she does not quite reach the band’s note, but this adds to what feels like a spontaneous and live album.
There is a 70s mysticism to the horn section sound, and it contrasts nicely with the vibrant rhythm section of electric guitar (Jonas Vogelsang), electric bass (Stefan Rey), drums (Nicolas Fox), percussion (Dogan Poyraz) and keys (Thibault Gomez). Specifically, the conga rhythms of Poyraz elevate the excitement when they appear.
Regarded as one of France’s best saxophonists Sébastien opens the album by paying homage to rockers Radiohead with the slightly tedious ‘Tribute to Radiohead’, which begins with a Rhodes keys riff more reminiscent of Bryan Ferry’s on ‘2 H.B’ by Roxy Music.
Second track ‘Monolithe 1’, feels a little chaotic and brash at times and the stagnant bassline combined with repeated generic wah guitar riff make for a lacklustre 6 minutes, something you can imagine hearing in an old B movie. ‘Pegaze 51’ instantly feels like a better arranged song, smooth vocals and a horn section complete with funky break. Jarrousse simmers away nicely here, weaving in and out of this electric orchestra before the suitably bombastic and synthy crescendo end.
The high-octane ‘Cuban Native’ sees the band playing at break-neck pace, except for Ellinoa, whose elongated melodies tend to sound out of sync with the song’s energetic and funky vibe, until the angelic harmonies of the outro.
‘Camelot Project’ begins with a James Brown vocal sample from Nikitch on the turntables, before the disco fusion arrives with Ellinoa now getting into the soulful mood and singing sensually in French. It has a beguiling effect in its repetitious groove.
Sébastien reappears for the middle-eastern introduction soliloquy of ‘The Three Waves’ before some slow neo-soul ambience provides a sparse backing for a fantastic, sauntering trumpet solo from David Heiss.
At times on ‘Burn Out’, the groove feels lost and the amount of instrumental voices and layers gets overwhelming, leaving one a little burnt out.
The last track is the forgettable ‘Mr JM’, the odd lyrics reference Icarus of Greek mythology: ‘Obsessing over light my friend, A moth you meet your burning end, As long as you won’t comprehend, These words of truth: die and become’. ‘New Frequency’, as an album, is about as interesting as its baffling lyrics.