Legends of Jazz-Funk

AGMP Presents Legends of Jazz-Funk

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NORMAN CONNORS & THE STARSHIP ORCHESTRA

LONNIE LISTON SMITH & THE COSMIC ECHOES

RONNIE LAWS

MARVA KING

An explosive line up of Jazz-Funk & Soul legends are coming to London’s Indigo at the o2 for a European exclusive date.

Tubby Hayes ‘The Complete Fontana Albums (1961-1969)’ 11LP/13CD Box Set (Decca) 5/5

Last Summer, Decca records unveiled a lovely surprise for fans of British jazz by releasing the previously “lost” Tubby Hayes’ ‘Grits, Beans and Greens’ Fontana LP recorded in 1969 but never released at the time. Now the company has followed up by making good on its promise to release an extensive Hayes Fontana box set.

In truth, the story of Hayes’ tenure with Fontana has its roots in the final period of his contract with Tempo Records. Tempo was a small operation enthusiastically led by Tony Hall but with its purse strings tightly held by its parent company – ironically also Decca! Hayes final record for Tempo (the excellent Tubby’s Groove) was a breakthrough and, in 1960, became the first British jazz LP to be lauded as album of the month by Melody Maker magazine. It went on to sell well almost in spite of a ludicrously low budget marketing campaign. The final straw came when Decca refused Hall the paltry £19 budget to record a follow-up (but that’s a “lost” Hayes LP legend for another time). So Hayes took matters into his own hands and directly approached Fontana’s UK boss, Jack Baverstock. It worked, as is evidenced by the decade’s worth of material collected in this set.

The vinyl version of the box set comprises 11 records that cover all of Hayes’ LPs as leader that were released between 1961 and 1970 with the addition of the aforementioned ‘Grits, Beans and Greens’. It’s a numbered limited edition only available online but how limited is unclear. The CD version goes a little further by adding both sides of a 1962 single as well as unreleased recordings, alternate takes and false starts from four of the albums: most excitingly, three complete previously unreleased takes from Hayes’ masterpiece ‘Mexican Green’. Wonderful as this is, it does expose Decca’s decision-makers to an obvious criticism that they’ve shown the same shameful and callous disregard towards vinyl collectors as they did with the release of ‘Grits, Beans and Greens’. The very audience most likely to rejoice in the additional material is denied it and not even offered the sop of a free download of the missing material. Decca isn’t alone in this policy as witnessed by the recent Miles Davis Bootleg series releases from Sony Legacy.

It’s impossible in the scope of a single review like this to provide a detailed critique of all the music in such a significant set. However, some important observations are in order to help potential buyers orient themselves, and there’s no better place to start than at the beginning. The first LP Hayes recorded for Fontana was ‘Tubbs’, which is somewhat of an unusual mongrel in that it stitches together tunes recorded in three different group configurations: the familiar quartet and two larger bands augmented by guitar, flute, oboe, trombone and various clarinets. It appears that the aim was to demonstrate the breadth and depth of Hayes’ talent (composer, arranger, musician) as a single “big bang” for his Fontana debut. I’ve always felt that the programming doesn’t come off. Taken individually, each performance is at least fine and in some cases, Cherokee for example, blistering but it demands a lot of any listener new to Hayes to switch mode from track to track.

If you are a Hayes neophyte, then the best advice for navigating such a volume of recordings is simple: the smaller the group, the stronger Hayes performed. In other words, you won’t go far wrong if you set your compass for the magnetic North of the quartet and quintet sessions. The live twins of ‘Down In the Village’ and ‘Late Spot At Scott’s’ have legendary status as the first live records taped at Ronnie Scott’s and feature Hayes’ regular working quintet at the time. They ease you into that genuine 1960s Soho vibe and expose you to Hayes’ gregarious wit as well as his wide-ranging talent. He was “the little giant” of the tenor but could also perform well on vibes (Down In The Village) and evocatively on soprano (In The Night).

Once you’ve got a handle on that highly representative set of performances, you have the choice of moving on chronologically to the mid-1960s big band records ‘Tubbs’ Tours’ and ‘100% Proof’ or skipping ahead to the advanced tour de force ‘Mexican Green’. I have to confess a personal lack of fondness for big bands so that kind of material doesn’t move me much but I know for others it is quintessential Hayes. The consensus about ‘Mexican Green’ is much more clearcut: this quartet date was by far Hayes’ most impressive and sophisticated record released during his lifetime. As the lone horn, there’s no hiding place for Hayes and he, true to his lights, doesn’t seek one. The opening three tracks alone: Dear Johnny B, Off The Wagon and the flute outing Trenton Place are worth the admission price several times over. Although Hayes is at his irrepressible best on these, that doesn’t mean he wasn’t generous with solo space for his new young rhythm section and their post-bop leanings.

There’s a carry over of the core of this quartet into the 1960 “lost” session and a continuation of Hayes’ efforts to meld his pre-existing style onto newer ideas. You can still hear the Hank Mobley and Sonny Rollins influences but now those of Joe Henderson and, to some extent, John Coltrane have started to surface. As I wrote in my previous review of this disc for UK Vibe, had this record been released before Hayes’ death, it would have been a far more fitting epitaph than the one that was the final Fontana release he saw: ‘The Orchestra’. If there is a dud in this box set, then ‘The Orchestra’ is it, simply because it plays like an ill-conceived attempt to capture a commercial “easy listening” market. We will probably never know the thought processes that led to its recording, but I suspect that influences other than artistic ones were in control.

The music is accompanied by a lovely booklet containing some great photos and an extensive loving yet unsentimental essay by Simon Spillett who has unrivalled Hayes expertise as his biographer. The remastering by Gearbox Records from original master tapes using vintage analogue equipment is both sympathetic to the source and delivers magnificent audio. I compared more than half of the new pressings to original first pressings and the differences are wafer-thin. For the overwhelming majority of people, the combination of silent new vinyl and rarity/expense of the originals will make the choice of this new box set a no-brainer. Yes, there is a quibble about short-changing vinyl collectors versus CD collectors; there is the unexplained decision to use a mono master of ‘Late Spot at Scott’s’ while opting for the stereo master of ‘Down in the Village’ which draws on material recorded on the same dates, and there are the rather flimsy facsimiles of the original covers. However, these pale into insignificance given the historical importance and quality of musical and mastering execution.

Martin Kelly

UK Vibe ‘Best of 2019’ – Steve Williams

Steve’s 20 favourite albums of 2019:

1. Mark Lomax II – 400: An Afrikan Epic (CFG Multimedia)

2. Adam Rudolph’s Go Organic Orchestra with Brooklyn Raga Massive – Ragmala: A Garland of Ragas (Meta)

3. BRAHJA (aka Devin Brahja Waldman) – Brahja (RR Gems)

4. The Curtis Brothers – Algorithm (Truth Revolution)

5. Mikkel Nordsø Quintet – Out There (Stunt)

6. Scopes – Scopes (Whirlwind Recordings)

7. Scatter The Atoms That Remain – Exultation (Dot Time)

8. Leon Maria Plecity – Otherworld (JazzHausMusik)

9. Nat Birchall – The Storyteller – A Musical Tribute to Yusef Lateef (Jazzman)

10. Mark Lotz Trio – The Wroclaw Sessions (Audio Cave)

11. Muriel Grossmann – Reverence (RR Gems / Dreamlandrecords)

12. Benjamin Boone / Philip Levine – The Poetry of Jazz Vol. 2 (Origin)

13. Ashley Henry – Beautiful Vinyl Hunter (Sony Music)

14. Alexi Tuomarila Trio – Sphere (Edition)

15. Plume – Escaping The Dark Side (jazz&people)

16. Club d’Elf – Night Sparkles Live (Face Pelt)

17. Etuk Ubong – Tales of Life (Jazzaggression)

18. Petter Eldh – Koma Saxo (We Jazz)

19. Jason Palmer – Rhyme and Reason (Giant Step Arts)

20. Peter Lin & TNT Quartet – New Age Old Ways (Self-released)

UK Vibe ‘Best of 2019’ – Kevin Ward

In alphabetical order:

Joe Armon-Jones – Turn To Clear View (Brownswood Recordings)
BaBa ZuLa – Derin Derin (Glitterbeat)
BRAHJA (aka Devin Brahja Waldman) – Brahja (RR Gems)
John Coltrane – Blue World (Impulse!)
The Comet is Coming – Trust In The Lifeforce Of Deep Mystery (Impulse!)
Earth – Full Upon Her Burning Lips (Sargent House)
Amirtha Kidambi’s Elder Ones – From Untruth (Northern Spy)
Ezra Collective – You Can’t Steal My Joy (Enter The Jungle)
The Flaming Lips – The King’s Mouth (Bella Union)
El Khat – Saadia Jefferson (Batov)
Kokoroko ‎– Kokoroko (Brownswood Recordings)
Kongo Dia Ntotila – 360° (Pussyfoot)
Mother Earth – Soona Than Much Layta (Self-released)
Georgia Anne Muldrow – VWETO II (Mello Music Group)
Neue Grafik Ensemble – Foulden Road (Total Refreshment Centre)
Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry – Heavy Rain (On-U Sound)
Pond – Tasmania (Marathon Artists)
Phil Ranelin – Collected Works 2003-2019 (Wide Hive)
Steam Down – Free My Skin (Decca)
24-7 Spyz – The Soundtrack To The Innermost Galaxy (Fraternity Music Group / Gumbo)

Randy Brecker / Ada Rovatti ‘Brecker Plays Rovatti: Sacred Bond’ 2LP/CD (Jazzline) 4/5

‘Brecker Plays Rovatti’ may mark the first official album that sees trumpeter Randy Brecker and saxophonist Ada Rovatti share top billing but, as many may know, the husband and wife partnership has actually served as long-term collaborators appearing on many of each other’s past projects dating as far back as Rovatti’s first solo album ‘Under The Hat’ released in 2003.

It’s the prestigious German label Jazzline who can now boast having hosted this long-overdue project which sees Ada Rovatti’s compositions take centre stage for the album. As a quick aside, it would be remiss not to mention Jazzline’s very successful 2019 – along with ‘Brecker Plays Rovatti’, there was the recent stunning live project from Snarky Puppy pianist Bill Laurance pairing him with the WDR Big Band for their ‘Live At The Philharmonie Cologne’ set, and in fact a further Brecker project ‘Rocks’ which saw the trumpeter partnered with NDP Big Band – The Hamburg Radio Jazz Orchestra.

But such is Brecker’s prolific nature – the US trumpeter’s staggering career kicked off in the mid to late ’60s having contributed to music from acts as diverse and iconic as Horace Silver, Jaco Pastorius, George Clinton, Bruce Springsteen and Frank Zappa as well as having appeared in countless quartets and big bands. And then there’s the other half of that coin, Italian saxophonist Ada Rovatti. Although having taken a much different path, Rovatti’s credentials have proved awe-inspiring – there have been collaborations with artists including Carmen Lundy, Jeff Lorber, Aretha Franklin and Herbie Hancock, four solo projects as well as her work with The Elephunk Band.

‘Brecker Plays Rovatti’ brings together many long-term friends and collaborators really highlighting the personal and family-inspired nature present throughout ‘Sacred Bond’. The musicians include bassist Alexander Claffy (Charles Owens Quartet, Ben Eunson), keyboardist Jim Beard (Pat Metheny, Steely Dan), pianist David Kikoski (Wayne Escoffery, Monday Michiru), drummer Rodney Holmes (Wayne Shorter, Carlos Santana), percussionist Edson Da Silva Cafe (Harry Belafonte, James Taylor) and guitarist Adam Rogers (Terri Lyne Carrington, The Michael Brecker Group) who appears on a handful of the album’s tracks.

With subtle dalliances into Latin styles the music here is very much presented as a celebration – ‘The Other Side of the Coin’ and ‘Quietly Me’ serve as strong album highlights, as is the swing of ‘The Queen of Bibelot’, helping the poignancy of ‘Sacred Bond’ really shine through. Beyond the fact that saxophonist Ada Rovatti now stands beside her husband Randy in the way his brother, saxophonist Michael Brecker, once did as the other half of the renown Brecker Brothers, the album’s title track also features additional vocals from Randy and Ada’s 10-year-old daughter, Stella, which is an exquisite touch.

Imran Mirza

UK Vibe ‘Best of 2019’ – Imran Mirza

Catching Flies ‘Komorebi’ from Silver Linings (Indigo Soul)
The Comet is Coming ‘Unity’ from Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery (Impulse!)
Mark de Clive-Lowe ‘The Offering’ from Heritage (Ropeadope)
Ishmael Ensemble ‘Lapwing’ from A State of Flow (Severn Songs)
Jason McGuiness Feat. Keyon Harrold ‘Empyrean Tones’ from Empyrean Tones (Common Good)
Scrimshire Feat. Georgia Anne Muldrow ‘Thru You’ from Listeners (Albert’s Favourites)
Ghost Funk Orchestra ‘Modern Scene’ from A Song For Paul (Colemine)
ATOMGA ‘Lucidity’ Full Album (Color Red)
14KT ‘Down The Street From Peace’ from For My Sanity (First Word)
Alfa Mist Feat. Jordan Rakei ‘Door’ from Structuralism (Sekito)
Bobby Oroza ‘Alone Again’ from This Love (Big Crown)
Koma Saxo ‘Cyclops Dance’ from Koma Saxo (We Jazz)
Cykada ‘Dimension Stepper’ from Cykada (Astigmatic)
Quantic Feat. Denitia ‘You Used to Love Me’ Alfa Mist Remix (Tru Thoughts)
Tensei Feat. A Billi Free & Brandee Younger ‘Liquid Tongues’ from Constellations (Tokyo Dawn)
Building Instrument ‘Lanke’ from Mangelin Min (Hubro)
Bryony Jarman-Pinto ‘Threads’ from Cage and Aviary (Tru Thoughts)
Lasperanza Feat. Heidi Vogel and Keni Stevens ‘Under The Moon and Over The Sky’ from Seeds (Dome)
JEDI ‘Momento’ Full Album (Color Red)
Durand Jones & The Indications Feat. Aaron Frazer ‘Don’t You Know’ from American Love Call (Colemine)

Gianluca Vigliar ‘Plastic Estrogenus’ CD (A.MA) 4/5

Plastic Estrogenus is the second album for Rome based saxophonist Gianliuca Vigliar. Here the quartet of Vigliar on tenor sax, Francesco Fratini on trumpet, Luca Fattorini on double bass and Marco Valeri on drums is now a quintet with the inclusion of Andrea Biondi on vibraphone. The majority of the tracks are also composed by Vigliar.

The hypnotic theme of the first track, “Julaya” is kicked off by warm chiming vibes, closely followed by horns in harmony. There’s a refreshing Latin feel which is especially effective during the good quality sax and vibes solos. The throbbing insistent bass underscores the more sombre “Apokalypto” with a neat call and response solo section from sax and trumpet.

A burst of vibes introduces “Plastic Estrogenus”, the stand out track on this release. The title refers to the effect of our pollution of the oceans. The empty space is slowly and sporadically encroached by the individual players as they orbit and gravitate towards the wondrously sinuous motif. The instrumentation is acoustic but the precise and intricate playing is in the spirit of fusion.

The driving bass initially propels “Minors” with relatively simple lines but the joy comes from the measured and intelligent improvised interaction between the players when it breaks down midway through. “Taxi Stereo” is smooth but groovy and has slight hints of soul. The uptempo, idiosyncratic “Loopy”’s galloping rhythmic signature is a little disorientating but the track is a platform for more wonderful improv. Slow blues “Suerte!” closes the set, an extended showcase for enjoyable solos from all the players.

This album’s a pleasurable listen with some really quite exciting and beautiful moments. The standard of musicianship is good and the band is tight and energetic. The musical interchange gives the impression there was a pretty strong rapport between them in these sessions. I admit I have a soft spot for the old vibes but expanding to the quartet is a master stroke and has brought more balance and colour to the mix.

Kevin Ward

Dan Rosenboom ‘Absurd In The Anthropocene’ 2LP/CD (Orenda/Gearbox) 4/5

“This album is about responding to our modern world in a way that is reflectively critical yet frenetically joyous,” Dan Rosenboom says. “Maelstrom and cognitive dissonance are everywhere, online and on the news. People cherry-pick what they want to believe and discount factual data. Inequity is rampant. In the face of such overwhelming chaos, turning toward our inner humanity is a powerful move. I want to take all that emotional fuel, and turn it into something creative, spontaneous, and beautiful.”

Trumpeter-composer-producer-entrepreneur Rosenboom is considered one of Los Angeles’ top musical pioneers. Indeed, the Los Angeles Times dubbed him “a musician dedicated to exploration and expression, regardless of anyone’s imagined boundaries.” His cross-genre penchant has had him work with John Williams, Hans Zimmer and Josh Grogan as well as many personal projects including Balkan jazz-rock group, PLOTZ, and socio-political protest band, Burning Ghosts. His need is not lost on the wide-ranging mix of high-quality musicians assembled here either: Jeff Babko (keyboards), Vinnie Colaiuta, Gary Novak, and Zach Danziger (drums), Jimmy Johnson, Tim Lefebvre and Jerry Watts Jr. (bass), Rosenboom’s longtime mate Gavin Templeton and jazzer David Binney on saxophones…the list goes on, you get the picture.

“Mr. Lizard Said” has Danziger hurling himself around the kit and around Babko’s fat synth bassline as Rosenboom horn-scats some smoothed-off angles, sometimes doubling up with Babko, sometimes returning to a motif. Special energy between them.

If God gives you lemons…riff hard. “Lemonade” high-density rocks. Danzinger again bringing power, as the band make deep, thick saxy Sabbath and Tim Conley goes all Maggot Brained on us.

“Pushed to the Edge of Ideas by Dispassionate Bias-Algorithm Bots” is definitely the best track title of 2020. Musically, it has an early-mid 90s vibe about it, like a slightly less algorithm-obsessed M-base or something. The space created for solos by Novak and Watts Jr is inviting, enthusing and both Templeton and Rosenboom take full advantage. Rosenboom’s solo is so well-paced and deliberate, creating high drama and continued expectation. Love it when the horns come back together to coda.

Expansive and hovering with very little projection is “Still”. +6 minutes of sparse glam space jazz backing to a deft, pure, heartfelt Rosenboom’s slow exploration of feeling and location. Gorgeous.

“Heliopteryx” is wild and exuberant; washes, scrapes, grinds and burps support Danzinger’s massacre of his kit as fierce riffing horns lead to both Rosenboom and Templeton letting rip. Kinda art jazz prog metal, kinda.

“Nebulounge” (another great title) is tight n funky with Rosenboom a bit Miles and Templeton nice and lyrical. Feels like they’re jamming but keeping it tidy.

“Apes in Rapture” (yet another great title!) is a joyful, big band, 70s space trekking TV soundtrack with a touch of the Zappas about it. It’s so good-natured yet classy in its captivating swells and releases, its difficult time changes. High glamour too; it must be that Hollywood influence…

The jazzy IDM-aware “Forget What You Know” has Danziger battling some robotic square fuzz as first Templeton then Rosenboom heroically duck n dive. The serpentine “Green Moon” appears to effortlessly meander until Novak’s explosive work is finally wrapped up tight by those damned snake horns.

Chugging dampened metal guitar throbs “Obsidian Butterfly” along. Swinging horn riffs come and go. Haunted, chaotic sax. Distorted, delayed guitars wail. Scales occasionally head east. Epic.

Novak gets very busy during the final adventure, “Drowning On The High Ground”. Ganged, tentacle-like lines explore the higher ground, comping and dancing keys take over, subduing Novak briefly before Rosenboom stands proud, tentacles return and our musical journey gently comes to an end.

There’s A LOT going on here. The musicianship is faultless throughout. And, yes, genres are blurred and envelopes are pushed but it never feels forced or that the blurring-and-pushing is its main purpose. It feels spontaneous, euphoric, characterful and always like the musicians are having lots of fun; together. That’s a pretty healthy response to this chaotic, dissonant modern world, I would’ve thought.

Ian Ward

UK Vibe ‘Best of 2019’ – Molly Gallegos

My favourite albums of 2019
(In No Particular Order)

Orieta Chrem – Tótems (Matraca)
Mitú – Tandem (Ajabu!)
Nicola Cruz – Siku (ZZK)
Mateo Kingman – Astro (AYA)
Various – Flora y Fauna: Ecosistema de Folklore Digital Argentino (Pura/Discos Crack)
Combo Chimbita – Ahomale (ANTI‐)
Quitapenas – Tigrada (Cosmica)
Helado Negro – This is How You Smile (Universal Music Australia)
Liniker e os Caramelows – Goela Abaixa (Self-released)
Catalina – Multifacética (Self-released)
Los Retros – Retrospect (Stones Throw)
Girl Ultra – Nuevos Aires (Finesse/Empire)
La Santa Cecilia – La Santa Cecilia (Rebeleon/Universal)
Sister Mantos – Songs in the Key of Destroy Capitalism (Self-released)
Making Movies – ameri’kana (3/2 Recordings)
Fémina – Perlas y Conchas (Self-released)
Juana Molina – ForFun (Crammed Discs)
Y la Bamba – Mujeres (Tender Loving Empire)
Daymé Arocena – Sonocardiogram (Brownswood Recordings)

UK Vibe ‘Best of 2019’ – Mike Gates

Mike Gates’ Best of 2019:

1. Dr. Mark Lomax, II – 400: An Afrikan Epic (CFG Multimedia)

2. Nat Birchall – The Storyteller: A Musical Tribute to Yusef Lateef (Jazzman)

3. Bridges with Seamus Blake – Continuum (AMP Music & Records)

4. Plume – Escaping the Dark Side (jazz&people)

5. Muriel Grossmann – Reverence (RR Gems / Dreamlandrecords)

6. Ethan Iverson Quartet with Tom Harrell – Common Practice (ECM)

7. Liam Noble – The Long Game (Edition)

8. Tom Syson – Different Coloured Days (Self-released)

9. Julian Lage – Love Hurts (Mack Avenue)

10. Esbjörn Svensson Trio – Live in Gothenburg (ACT Music)

11. Espen Berg Trio – Free To Play (Odin)

12. Szabolcs Oláh Quintet – Crystal Book (Self-released)

13. Kit Downes – Dreamlife of Debris (ECM)

14. Rebecca Nash/Atlas – Peaceful King (Whirlwind Recordings)

15. Adam Rudolph’s Go Organic Orchestra – Ragmala (Meta)

16. Crosscurrents Trio [Dave Holland / Zakir Hussain / Chris Potter] – Good Hope (Edition)

17. Enrico Rava / Joe Lovano – Roma (ECM)

18. Anton Eger – Æ (Edition)

19. Andy Hay – Many Rivers (Self-released)

20. Mike Walker – Ropes (Market Square)

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