26th Sep2016

Scrapbook ‘Scrapbook’ CD/DIG (Spark) 4/5

by ukvibe

scrapbookI remember a program about jazz which was presented by my favourite of the two Marsalis brothers, Branford. In it, he looked at how jazz music has permeated most parts of the world and he made what I thought was an over simplistic statement and said that ‘real’ jazz was only written and played by American musicians – or words to that effect. This made my blood boil a little because for one I am British and I love jazz music and whilst we Brits may not boast a Duke Ellington, Monk, a Davis or Coltrane, we do produce some fine musicians that make some wonderful music.
Here we have a collection of nine songs that sounds as British as bangers n’ mash. The group/ensemble (whichever way they want to be considered) are collectively called Scrapbook and is led (if you had to name names) by pianist and man behind all of the compositions, Angus Bayley. The rest of the ensemble comprises:
Bass: Paul Trippett
Drums: Dave Hamblett
Violin: Nick Sigsworth
Viola: Daisy Watkins
Trumpet: Alaric Taylor
Trombone: Kieran McLeod

And what a sound they make! The two horns and two string instruments take this from mere acoustic jazz to something that is minorly symphonic. (P.S. the squiggly line underneath the word ‘minorly’ tells me it’s not a real word but I’m leaving it in any way…)

From the very start, with ‘Alex’s Song’ (co-written with Alex Chilton), the listener is embraced and bathed in a warm and subtle jazz waltz-like sound with the first bars of the melodic piano, to the horns stating the theme and the violin and viola reassuring the us that this will be a delightful experience. It was.

‘Henno’ is up next and begins with Angus setting the moment with a gospel sounding intro before being joined by the strings and then the rest of the instruments. This one is slightly more complex in composition than the first track with everyone playing to a nicely paced climax 2mins in before the violin and viola usher in a beautifully layered, but short, piano solo and a short and almost restrained solo from the trumpet. Another very listenable piece that almost puts me in mind of composers such as Mike Westbrook and Mike Gibbs.

‘Triads’ begins with piano and trumpet, then not too long in comes the strings to accompany. What a majestic sound they all produce together. Although this begins almost symphonically, it is a jazz piece and trombonist Kieran McLeod acquits himself well with a tasty solo – pure heaven.

‘Wrioter’ is a sparse arrangement, almost improvisational in feel but no less worthy than what we have listened to before.

I could go on and on about each track here but to me there isn’t really a bad piece of music on this release. Having said that, ‘My First Friends’ is another standout with the piano sounding decidedly Mehldau-esque and Dave Hamblett’s drums adding a percussive flair to the whole proceedings.

These seven musicians simply make wonderful gentle meaningful, (almost) elegiac music together. They don’t get in each other’s way musically and with the benefit of such insightful and thoughtful writing, the resulting sum is definitely greater than its component parts. Beautiful.

Look out for the band at these venues soon:

4th Oct The Stables, Milton Keynes
8th Nov The Spotted Dog, Birmingham
9th Nov The Lescar, Sheffield
9th Dec Spark Label night @ The Vortex, London

Sammy Goulbourne

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26th Sep2016

R.I.P. Shaun Bloodworth

by ukvibe

rip-shaun-bloodworth

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24th Sep2016

Corey Dennison Band ‘Corey Dennison Band’ CD/DIG (Delmark) 4/5

by ukvibe

corey-dennison-bandTennessee born bluesman Corey Dennison was born and raised in Chatanooga, Tennessee and as a child was exposed to the folk-blues guitar playing of his uncle, but his musical influences are very much in the 1960s Chicago electric blues tradition and this debut for premier Windy City label Delmark is testimony to the sounds he has soaked up in his adopted home.
Interestingly, Dennison’s interest in funk guitar riffs comes across on the JBs sounding, ‘Aw, snap’, which also features a mini rap by the leader. However, the feel is varied with the soul-blues of Bobby Bland merging on the excellent, ‘City lights’, and this approach suits Dennison’s naturally throaty delivery. As a teenager, Corey Dennison listened to a good deal of soul music that ranged from Curtis Mayfield through to the rootsy sounds of Bloodstone and more contemporary modern soul of the Controllers. Yet, he still found time to take in Junior Wells and regards his voice as equally soulful as the aforementioned. Close musical collaborator and band guitarist and organist Gerry Hundt is similarly eclectic in taste and performs elsewhere as a leader on harp, mandolin and bass and drums. For a rocking bassline, ‘Tugboat blues’ leaves no doubt that this band is the real deal and they are a regular live performance band in Chicago. This all original set places emphasis on the uptempo, but is adept on the slower material, with the melodic mid-tempo number, ‘The deacon’ an album highlight. Worth checking out if Chicago blues is your bag.

Tim Stenhouse

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23rd Sep2016

Slim Gaillard ‘The Extrovert Spirit Of Slim Gaillard 1945-1958’ 2CD (Avid) 5/5

by ukvibe

slim-gaillardHipster extraordinaire who created his very own slang form of language, Slim Gaillard almost escapes definition. He is at once a self-taught linguist, singer, musician, comedian (in tandem with Slam Stewart, part of the Slim-Slam duo, with whom he also recorded music, most notably ‘Tutti Frutti’ and ‘Laughing In Rhythm’), DJ and raconteur with a heavy dose of satire. There simply is no equivalent character in present day society, but he certainly deserves pride of place among the likes of Lord Buckley and Kenneth Rexroth, and is invariably linked to the beat generation However, in truth he predates all of these, being active from the mid-1930s onwards, and is in a league all of his own. In the late 1980s, a brief vinyl re-issue of ‘Opera In Vout’ emerged and was quickly bought up by the cognoscenti, but other than that his name is better known for his 1989 BBC multi-part radio series, ‘The world of Slim Gaillard, and he remained in the UK until his death in February 1991.
Born and raised in Detroit, Gaillard tried his hand at being a boxer, mortician and even during the prohibition era ran a bootleg rum business. From a musical perspective, his interest coincided with the be-bop revolution in jazz and in fact he recorded his early hit, ‘Cement Mixer’, with the likes of Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker, included here. His musical inspiration included the guitarist Charlie Christian and boogie-woogie piano, and this is reflected in he music. While ‘Flat foot floogie’ is, perhaps his signature tune, there are numerous sides here to admire. They included the odd dose of Latin rhythms as on the early 1950s recording, ‘Sabroso’, or the exotic hues of the mambo on, ‘Mishugana Mambo’ and ‘Sukiyaki Cha Cha’. In general, Slim Gaillard was adept at capitalising on the craze for Eastern rhythms on ‘Arabian boogie’, but was still capable of singing straight ballads from the Great American songbook, and this is illustrated by his rendition of the Gershwin brothers, ‘Oh Lady Be Good’, or on ‘I can’t give you anything but love’. That he was taken seriously by jazz musicians is reflected in the number of top session instrumentalists who accompanied him and they included Ray Brown, Milt Jackson, Lucky Thompson and Ben Webster to name but a few. Above all else, there is a great sense of fun that permeates the totality of these recordings with ‘Babalu, ‘Soony-Roony’ and the four-part, ‘Opera In Vout (The groove Juice Symphony)’ typifying the relaxed and witty humour that flowed out of Gaillard. A fine re-issue and one that will provide endless hours of pleasure, not least from the invented language that Slim was able to conjure up from his highly inventive brain.

Tim Stenhouse

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22nd Sep2016

Earl Bostic ‘Four Classic Albums’ 2CD (Avid) 4/5

by ukvibe

earl-bosticOne of a select few rhythm and blues saxophonists who were studio regulars, Earl Bostic recorded prolifically and in a variety of formats. He was much favoured on the Juke boxes where he delivered some eighty or so 45s, his output of EPs numbered over sixty, and he recorded almost a dozen 10″ LPs and another twenty-five full-length LPs, nine of which were released in 1959 alone, stands the test of time and is an impressive testimony to his dedicated efforts. More importantly, however, he was an influential figure for later saxophonists in soul and rock music, as well as many jazz musicians and among the latter of those who performed in his band, one finds the likes of Blue Mitchell, the Turrentine brothers Stanley and Tommy, as well as vibist Teddy Charles and tenorist Benny Golson. Indeed altoist Lou Donaldson, who himself recorded prolifically for Blue Note, cites Bostic as a seminal influence. A young tenorist by the name of John Coltrane spoke in idolatry terms of Earl Bostic when he briefly joined the band on tour in 1952 and referred to Bostic’s, ‘Fabulous technical facilities’.

Earl Bostic enjoyed a lengthy tenure with King records for whom he signed as early as 1948 after a stint with the Gotham label and it is the King sides that the listener hears on the two CD set. While success was not immediately forthcoming, the label’s patience was finally rewarded in 1951 with two R &B hits,’Harlem Nocture’, and ‘Where or when’, both of which open up the first CD set here on the album, ”Dance time’. In general, Bostic’s approach was to take standards, and these sometimes included a classical piece, and imbue them with his own infectious rocking dose of R & B that appealed to a wide audience and one that signficantly cut across genres and ethnic group interests. They were instrumentals that were instantly catchy possessing strong hooks and yet within these numbers, Bostic was fully capable of delivering a blistering solo in miniature. Thus Irvin Berlin’s, ‘Blues skies’ and Oscar Hammerstein’s, ‘Lover come back to me’, could rub shoulders on the record, ‘Let’s dance’, with the likes of Franz Liszt, on ‘Leiberstraum’ and Saint Saens’, My heart at thy sweet voice’, which tells you everything you need to know about Bostic’s wholly eclectic approach to music.

Ideally, one would have liked to have seen included some of the other early major hits such as ‘Flamingo’ or ‘Sleep’, and the stunning overview album, ‘Earl Bostic blows a fuse’, which covers Gotham and King sides, is equally deserving of a new re-issue since it last surfaced on vinyl in 1985 on Charly. Otherwise, this is a fine entrance point for those not familiar with classic R & B instrumentals and the influence of Bostic on a later generation simply cannot be ignored and among these, King Curtis and Bruce Springsteen’s favoured saxophonist, Clemence Clemons (both now sadly departed) certainly owe a debt of gratitude to the pioneering work of Earl Bostic.

Tim Stenhouse

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21st Sep2016

Myriad3 ‘Moons’ CD/DIG (Alma) 4/5

by ukvibe

myriad3“Moons” is the engrossing third album from Myriad3, an eclectic jazz-rooted trio comprising pianist Chris Donnelly, bassist Dan Fortin and drummer Ernesto Cervini. Each band member brings original material to the group, resulting in an intriguing and often beguiling set of tunes. There’s a refreshing variety to the trio’s tunes, no doubt due in some respect to the fact that the compositions are spread between the three band members. Fortin explains that “We all write with our distinctive style but we’re very much informed by the others. I write a very different kind of song for this band compared with other projects, and Chris and Ernesto’s songwriting is a real influence on me.” For the listener what this means is that although there is healthy variation, it’s also pleasantly hinged together by the understanding and collective interplay between the three musicians. This works really well overall, with rarely a dull moment or an out of context tune to worry the listener’s ears. A dynamic act in performance, Myriad3 have successfully toured Canada, the US, Europe and Japan in recent years, and it’s good to hear them transferring this energy in such a positive way into a studio recording.

Eleven tunes grace this album, taking the listener on an eventful journey, one that has the potential to delight and surprise in equal measure. I particularly enjoyed the quirkiness and hard-edged feel of the opener “Skeleton Key”. This tune is known as a crowd pleaser apparently, and it’s easy to hear why. It has passion, verve and style and it’s anthemic qualities and uncompromising originality make it one of the stand-out tracks on the album. Fast forward to the closing track, and this gives a perfect example of just how skilfully adept the band are at creating an atmosphere – in this case in a beautifully subtle and engaging way. “Exhausted Clock” combines the talents of all three musicians so well, producing emotive music that is just as powerful when being introspective as when they power-up with a gleeful exhibitionism. There are plenty of wonderful moments to enjoy on the nine tracks that sit between the two aforementioned tunes. I loved the melancholic meanderings of “Stoner”, the dynamic “Sketch 8” and the dreamy yet ultimately contemporary feel of the title track “Moons”.

If you’re into your piano trios then this is an album well worth checking out. I’d say it’s slightly quirkier than the average trio album, but it’s undoubtedly all the better for it. Strong performances and songwriting that evokes a fearless sense of adventure make it stand out well above your average tried and tested piano trio session. It’s fresh, invigorating and spirited.

Mike Gates

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20th Sep2016

Nnduduzo Makhathini In Interview

by ukvibe

post-nduduzo-makhathini

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20th Sep2016

Derrick Hodge ‘The Second’ CD/DIG (Blue Note) 1/5

by ukvibe

derrick-hodgeJazz bass players are an enigma: they can be the glue that holds the rhythm section of a band together; they can set the pace and feel of how a song is going to sound and on occasion, their sound becomes recognised and revered in its own right.
Taking all of the above into account, some players decide to strike out on their own and lead their own group, or as Derrick Hodge has done here, play most of the other instruments themselves.
Having bought and listened to many records and CD’s over the years, lead by bass players, I find the resulting sets tend to fall into two categories: the first is the bass player who gets all of his/her friends into the studio and produce an album that has lots of things going on (vocals, percussion, horns etc.) with the bassist ‘keeping it all together’ in their distinctive style. Other artists take solos and you hear the bass player working hard in the background and then taking their own solos.
The other category is that of the bass being the lead instrument taking the place of, say, the saxophone or keyboard.
Derrick Hodge has veered more to the latter but as he is playing most of the instruments on the album, one could say that the electric bass is not the lead instrument.

‘The Second’ is Hodge’s sophomore album for Blue Note and like his debut album ‘Live Today’ pretty much leaves me a little cold and scratching my head. This is a much respected artist that has a formidable reputation for his live performances. He has worked and toured extensively with Robert Glasper, performed live with Herbie Hancock, Marcus Miller and José James to name but a few.

So the question here is why is this album so boring?

I can understand from an artist’s point of view, this must have been a blast in the studio to make but from a listener’s point of view, there is little that peaks their interest.

The set starts with the title track with its progressive drumming but simply descends into an almost 1990’s instrumental soft rock foray with an electric guitar sounding instrument taking the lead.
‘Transitions’ pretty much carries on in that same 1990’s instrument rock vein but it is much slower.

Whilst many of the tracks just meander on with drum machines, synths and effects padding the song, ‘World go Round’ seems to be the one piece that has a little improv imagination going for itself featuring bass, guitar and hand percussion in the form of finger clicks and claps.

‘For Generations’ is an old world bluesy New Orleans type song featuring saxes and horns which does what it is supposed to.

‘Don Blue’ is more engaging with its listenable melody and tasty bass playing and more hand claps. This does have a feel of something from a Thundercat album.

There is one solitary vocal at the end which I believe is Derrick’s voice.

I think the artist tried to make a progressive record which pushes the boundaries a little more but the result is an album that feels anachronistic and quite frankly uninteresting to the listener for the most part. Unfortunately, one of the flaws of being your own producer in the studio is that there is no one behind the glass to tell you these things.
Go and pull out (or indeed purchase) the Jaco Pastorius albums from the 1970’s and early 80’s to get a better representation of what an album by a bassist could sound like.

Sammy Goulbourne

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19th Sep2016

Sinikka Langeland with Trio Mediaeval and Arve Henriksen ‘The Magical Forest’ (ECM) 4/5

by ukvibe

langeland-mediaeval-henriksenCombining folk and jazz elements has been something of an ECM speciality over the years and on this occasion it is the art of singing poetry with a strong does of instrumental improvisation that transports the listener into hitherto unknown territory and is ceratinly evocative of a byegone era. Norwegian Sinikka Langeland is both a singer and practitioner of the Finnish table-harp the kantele, an instrument that has a meditational quality and even some echoes of Alice Coltrane on the conventional western harp, and the overall feel is that of a pan-Scandinavian folk sound that blends in improvisational music. The piercing female vocals and collective harmonies on ‘Jacob’s dream’ impress, with brooding interplay between the saxophone of Trygne Seim trumpeter Arve Henriksen, with Langeland adding a new layer on the kantele. A times here there are hints of the Hilliard Ensemble, but there is a jazzier edge on some pieces as on,’Sammas’ (Forest Finns)’, with Miles-esque tones from Henriksen. The successful crossing of genres is illustrated on the opener, ‘Puun Loitsu (Prayer to the tree Goddess)’ with sparse instrumentation and lovely vocal harmonies in abundance.
Like other Scandinavian singers who have discovered the roots of their folk music tradition, Langeland studied for a degree in musicology and has used that as the stepping stone to further exploration, and has not been afraid to marry sounds of the past with more contemporary musical influences, most notably jazz. With a group that includes Finns and Swedes as well as fellow Norwegians, Sinkka Langeland has managed to create a sound that straddles national traditions, and yet still comes across as authentic. Previous ECM releases date back to a 2002 collaboratino with Henriksen, ‘Runoja’, a 2006 recording, ‘Starflowers’, and more recently a 2010 album, ‘The land that is not’. Bi-lingual lyrics in the inner sleeve help and are supplemented by striking black and white photos of the instrumentalists and Trio Mediaeval members.

Tim Stenhouse

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18th Sep2016

Dexter Wansel ‘Stargazer: The Philadelphia International Records Anthology 1976-1980’ 2CD (BBR) 4/5

by ukvibe

dexter-wanselSome musicians are fixed in a given time frame and in the case of keyboardist Dexter Wansel, he will be forever associated with the mid-late 1970s. A native of Philadelphia, in his early teenage years, Wansel witnessed from the sidelines some of the major soul artists who visited the city of brotherly love and these included James Brown, the Isley Brothers (one of whom members just happened to be a promising young guitarist Jimi Hendrix) and the Supremes. The young Wansel would often assist and do errands for the esteemed musicians.
His 1973 debut for Gamble records was an unauspicous one and in truth the rock-influenced band Yellow Sunshine made very little impact and there was no real audience for that sound. Wansel therefore changed his sound by incorporating the then new of the ARP synthesizer and it was this conscious effort to forge a new direction that would eventually reap dividends and create a clearly distinctive voice fusing soul, funk and jazz that he could finally call his own. The tracks on this anthology focus squarely on Wansel’s albums that were mainly instrumental in nature, but tended to include the occasional vocal guest piece and it is these, where soulful voices merged with jazz-tinged keyboards, that would cement Wansel’s reputation. Most famous among these are the vocals of Terri Wells on the anthemic, ‘The sweetest pain’, but the leader regularly worked with the Jones Girls and Jean Carn, all of whom feature here in places. The only pity is that Phylis Hyman who is captured in her prime on photo with Dexter never recorded with him. What a sumptuous album that might have been and the two surely had lots in common musically.

A real favourite of this is writer is the soulful dancer, ‘I’ll never forget(my favourite dancer)’ that is a whole lot less formulaic than the title might first suggest, while in a jazzier vein, Jean Carn offers up, ‘Dream of tomorrow’. However, Dexter Wansel comes into his own on the instrumental cuts and of these, the gritty, ‘Life from Mars’, is now regarded as a jazz-funk essential and was a left-field disco hit, and others of a similar calibre include, ‘Times is slipping away’, ‘Voyager’ and ‘What is the world coming to’, all of which were released as singles and made minor ripples in the US R & B charts of the period. While never a straight ahead jazz keyboardist, Dexter Wansel deserves his place alongside say the soulful vibes of Bob James who has influenced countless hip-hop artists and Wansel’s appreciative public is similarly diverse, with a nod towards the soulful side of the music spectrum. Fans of George Benson from his ‘Breezin’ album will feel right at home here. Informative and lengthy inner sleeve notes with usual BBR attention to detail, and generously illustrated with original album covers, 45 labels and photos of the musicians involved.

Tim Stenhouse

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