British pianist and trio leader Alex Hutton offers an all original set of compositions that impresses with its focus on folk-based themes and a nice mixture of classical and folk influences alongside jazz and even rock elements. A gorgeous folk-jazz ambience is created on ‘Clouds’ with, on the surface, an apparent simplicity to the playing belying a more sophisticated approach and especially strong melodies. In particular the bass work fromYuri and Goloubev and drumming from Asaf Sirkin, the latter recently heard on the latrst Gwilym Simcock release, display a great deal of sensitivity. Leader Hutton reveals a genuine passion for Scandinavian music on ‘A Norsk tale’, with Grieg’s ‘Lyrical pieces’ immediately springing to mind and further classical tones emerge on ‘The legend is script’ with the delicate use of French horn and flute. The all too brief ‘Hymn II’ even features the cor anglais and is an intiguing blend of classical and folk. In terms of pianistic influences, Brad Mehldau and Keith Jarrett and possibly classical maestro Emil Gilels have all weaved their spell on Alex Hutton and it has done him a power of good. Guest vocals from Heidi Vogel and a rockier beat on the wordless vocalese piece ‘J.J.’. One of the more original pianists to have emerged in recent times with a clear idea of where he is working towards. A promising future beckons.
Composer and guitarist Jonny Phillips is the brains behind this intruiging octet that attacks the Latin repertoire from a decidely left-field perspective. Thus on ‘Mountain flower’, a Brazilan flavoured piece (though from a folkloric baiao rhythm rather than the usual bossa nova take and all the better for it) the craggy tenor solo from Idris Rahman combined with Latin vamps from pianist Nick Ramm comes off a treat. Elsewhere ‘Levante’ hints strongly at Spain with a fine flamenco guitar solo and this is a truly wonderful way to start the album on a high while Venezuelan rhythms surface on ‘La sonrisa picara’ (’The mischievous smile’) which has a most unusual signature tune and is augmented by another flamenco-inspired guitar. More conventional, but still infectious is the 3/4 time paced samba ‘Temba’ with effective use of Brazilian percussion, fine vamping from Ramm and some soulful saxophone licks courtesy of Ingrid Laubrock. To indicate how wide ranging this collective really are South African gospel hues are revealed on ‘Sherpa song’ with the music of Abdullah Ibrahim being conjured up as a result. Overall a nice summation of a variety of Latin music styles which could accordingly be developed in more depth on future releases. The only minor gripe this writer has with the CD is the actual cover which does not sufficiently indicate the Latin flavours on offer inside and verges on the gaudy. Otherwise a fascinating take on Latin music and one that is deserving of wider attention. Tim Stenhouse
Summertime grooves galore on this dancefloor-imbued compilation from Lack of Afro founder aka remixer extraordinaire Adam Gibbons. The tracks work best on the Latin fusion flavours on ‘Polonio’ by Los Manolos v Lack of Afro where Latin and reggae drum and guitar patterns combine effortlessly while go-go style percussion is in evidence on the reworking of the Ray Camacho and the Tear Drops’ ‘Si se puede’. More classical Brazilian rhythms are to be found on ‘Bossa for bebo’ by Flow Dynamics where, if there is a Brazilian undercurrent to the vocals, then the keyboards are straight out of the Joao Donato piano repertoire. Pan Latin flavours emerge on ‘Borken samba’. However, Afro and nu-soul influences are apparent elsewhere as on Mr Confuse’s ‘Lookout weekend’ for the former where Afro-Beat meets Santana head on while ‘Idle time’ by the New Mastersounds could be the template for an Erykah Badu instrumental. Expect around two hours of musical métissage mayhem. When warmer temperatures return to our shores, make sure this is on your summer listening schedule. Tim Stenhouse
Keyboardist Hilton Felton comes across as an equivalent of Jackie Mittoo for the jazz world, yet was sufficiently well respected to have performed with Grant Green. This collaboration immediately springs to mind when one hears the eight and a quarter minute jazzy groover that is ‘Spreading fever’. With its use of rhythm guitar, hammond organ and heavy percussion, it recalls in style Green’s epic rendition of the James Brown classic ‘Ain’t it funky now’. There is no questioning whatsover about the calibre of the musicianship on this release with delicious guitar licks on the nine minute ‘Bee bop boogie’ which, far from being be-bop jazz infused, is rather a Latin-tinged ditty with Felton playing on what sounds like a fender rhodes. However, only five tracks are present on this anthology which totals less than forty minutes. Given the extensive discographical details in the expansive and excellent sleeve notes, one needs to ask why these othewise fine tracks were not coupled with others (or at the very least one of Felton’s albums). As it stands, this is only a partial overview of the musician and a far more comprehensive selection of material is urgently required. In terms of content alone, the release merits a 4, but only receives a 3 because of the paucity of time for what purports to be a ‘Best of’ collection, but in reality only covers a tiny fraction of the keyboardist’s output.
Among unrecognised jazz musicians, multi-instrumentalist Owen Marshall is a name that will not be found in any authoritative jazz guide and yet, like many musicians of his kind, his aesthetic contribution to music far outweighs any commercial considerations. Part of the Jazzman ‘Holy Grail’ series, with a bonus brace of 45s for vinyl purchasers (both contained on the CD), Marshall comes across as an in-between of the spiritual early-mid 1970s sounds of Pharoah Sanders with hints of Sun Ra and, perhaps, more frequently Alice Coltrane on keyboards. Underpinning the majority of album tracks is a driving, percussive rhythm section. Owen Marshall doubles up on electric piano and flute on ‘Planet funk’ which is more subtle than its title would at first suggest and features laid back fender bass playing and a delicate electric piano solo from Ernest Slaughter. Both Alice and John Coltrane are evoked on separate pieces with the former’s echoey electric piano surely influencing Marshall on ‘Nana’s sleeping’ while the bassline to ‘Casa del soul’ sounds distinctly like that of Coltrane’s ‘Love supreme’. On the two bonus cuts Marshall sounds as though he is playing baritone saxophone on ‘Grunt-uh-uh-uh’ and this has a funkier feel to the rest while he peforms on flute on ‘Evolove’. Since no discography is provided in the brief notes, either as sideman or leader, one can only presume that this recording was not preceded by any others. Owen Marshall earned his living primarily as both a live performer, having played with the likes of Jimmy Garrison and McCoy Tyner, trumpeter Ted Curson and tenorist Jimmy Heath among others, and as a composer. In this latter role he composed two pieces on the debut Blue Note album for Lee Morgan as well as other pieces for Jackie McLean, Max Roach and Horace Silver. One day greater light will be shed on his collaborations with the aforementioned artists. For the time being this excellent re-issue of an extremely rare and limited original vinyl will suffice. A one-off musician with a clear vision of his craft. Tim Stenhouse