Kindred Family Soul ‘A Couple Friends’ (Shanachie) 4/5

Kindred-Family-SoulOnce again, husband and wife duo, Fatin & Aja give us an album chock full of quality songs, soulful modern instrumentation and the usual super vocals, lets get the negative out of the way – there are two tracks on here that are so removed from the rest of this album you can only shake your head in wonder at what they though they were doing. The rest however is soul music personified, straight then to the shuffling “Everybody’s hustling” so immediate, it’s like an old friend turning up after some time and catching up, you soon get into the groove, well you’ll be singing at the second play, destined for huge radio plays with its conscious lyrics and easy on the ear backing track, a monster all the way. The Philly sounding dancer “Never loved you more” with its Lou Rawls “See you when I git there” feel, this will blow up dance floors everywhere, this might even cross over to the handbag brigade, ripe for all manner of remixes. The other dancer on here is the simply stunning 70’s retro flavoured “All night lovin” the more adventurous jocks could drop this right in the middle of a crossover set, wonderful in every way. The title track is a ballad and what a way to showcase your voice, joined by only a piano, Aja takes the honours here, she has never sounded stronger, determined and so damn soulful. With the exception of the two nonsense tracks the rest of this album is spot on. With live show’s over here on the way it’s never been a better time to be a Kindred fan, I now have five albums by these guys sitting on the shelves, roll on number six.

Brian Goucher

Avery Sunshine ‘The Sunroom’ (Big Shine Recordings) 5/5

avery-sunshineA beautiful woman with a voice to match and what an album she’s served up to us this time, kicking off with the Ann Peebles inspired “Love wont you try” with its Royal Studios sound, a chugging opus that should see some action in the more adventurous arena’s, “Call my name” is already getting strong radio plays, a down tempo modern day ballad without any theatre, just simple singing against a sympathetic backing, easy to see why the jocks have jumped on this, all very safe, but so good too. And so to my personal fave “I do love you”, a finger clicking base heavy stroller in a 60’s style that just builds and builds, her voice gets a good work out too as she tries to inject some feeling into the proceedings, a piano comes to the fore as we move through this gem, love it. “See you when I get there” is another finger snapper that will have you swaying and nodding your head, lovely tuneage. Buy it, stick it in the laser flicker, turn the volume up, and treat your neighbours to the sound of the summer 2014.

Brian Goucher

Keith Jarrett and Charlie Haden ‘Last Dance’ CD/2LP (ECM) 5/5

Keith-Jarrett-Charlie-HadenDuet recordings in the jazz idiom are by no means a new phenomenon. One thinks immediately of piano-saxophone pairings such as Steve Lacy and Mal Waldron, or more recently of Joe Lovano and Hank Jones. However, piano-bass duets are somewhat thin on the ground, though not entirely unheard of and Haden himself has performed with the likes of Kenny Baron during the 1990s. The initial spark for the present collaboration came with a 2007 documentary on Haden’s career entitled, ‘Ramblin’ Boy’ on which Jarrett spoke about the bassist. This, in turn, led to informal playing between the pair and an eventual recording session at Keith Jarrett’s own home in March 2007. It is the music from those sessions that are contained within. This album is a reunion of sorts since Charlie Haden was part of the earliest formation that Keith Jarrett led dating back to 1967. Furthermore, Haden participated on the 1975 ECM album ‘Arbour Zena’ that also featured Jan Garbarek. Haden returned the compliment when recording in 1976 his first set as a leader, ‘Closeness’ (A & M/Horizon), that featured Jarrett as one of the duo partners. Indeed there is a pertinent parallel between the two small ensemble careers of the musicians in that Haden has recorded with Quartet West while Jarrett has recorded extensively with his long-time trio. A classic selection of the Great American songbook and a few jazz standards are the fare here and the listener is immediately greeted by the solemnity of the opener, ‘My Old Flame’, while there is an interesting comparison to be made between the cover of Rodger and Hammerstein’s ‘It might as well be spring’ here with the Brad Mehldau trio version contained on the latter’s debut recording for Nonesuch. Whereas the Mehldau reworking is taken at a sprightly pace, Jarrett, in contrast, opts for an achingly slow interpretation, yet one that is nonetheless charged with human emotion. On Monk’s ‘Round Midnight’, the tempo is a tad more uplifting than might usually be attempted, though in the phrasing at least there are subtle shades of the composer/pianist in Jarrett’s interpretation. The latter states the main theme beautifully on Kurt Weill and Ira Gershwin’s ‘My Ship’ and he has never lost the ability to play prettily with rock-solid accompaniment from Haden. Bop inflections permeate Bud Powell’s ‘Dance of the Infidels’. What comes across on these duets as a whole is the beautifully phrased stating of the theme as illustrated for example on ‘Every time we say goodbye’. Each piece has been carefully thought out by the duo and a different approach adopted accordingly. However, the duets never become formulaic since both musicians possess that key quality of being able to listen closely to one another and correspondingly play off one another. In general, the duets are surprisingly long in length with several over the nine-minute mark, yet the test of genius is that the time flies by for the listener and that speaks volumes of the quality of music on display here.

Tim Stenhouse

Jacob Young ‘Forever Young’ (ECM) 4/5

Jacob-YoungNorwegian guitarist Jacob Young, now in his mid-thirties, will be a new name to some, but has a dual US-Norwegian heritage in that his father is American and this is a wonderfully lyrical debut recording that promises a bright future for the young musician. Earning a scholarship to the New York School for Jazz and Contemporary Music in Manhattan, Young performed there under the tutorship of guitar great Jim Hall and it is the introspective nature of the latter’s approach that seems to have influenced Young’s more reflective approach alongside, perhaps, the early recordings of Pat Metheny. Friend and fellow Norwegian saxophone player Trygve Seim alternates between tenor and soprano to excellent effect and the tight rhythm section is made up of the Marcin Wasilewski trio, all three of whom are equally members of Manu Katche’s band which ensures a rock solid accompaniment throughout. The emphasis is on gently uplifting numbers, all of which are group originals, and this is typified by ‘Bounce’ which recalls the old-school tenors of Coleman Hawkins and Ben Webster with beautifully melodic piano and a deeply soulful piece overall. Indeed, there is a impressive lyrical sensibility to the duet between guitarist and saxophonist softly sounding opener ‘I lost my heart to you’, and with delicate piano accompaniment from Wasilewski. Arguably the strongest number of all is the gorgeous ‘Sofia’s Dance’ with some gorgeous work from piano and soprano saxophone in unison and a main theme that is straight out of the Pat Metheny bag. Balladry is a particular strong point of Jacob Young’s work and acoustic ECM period Metheny is hinted at on ‘We were dancing’. The biggest compliment one can pay to this well grounded ensemble is that the album as whole sounds like it has been recorded by seasoned musicians who have performed together over two or three decades and that augurs well for future recordings.

Tim Stenhouse

Gary Burton ‘Seven Songs for Quartet and Chamber Orchestra’ (ECM) 3/5

Gary-BurtonAs part of ECM’s CD re-issue programme which handily comes in slimline CD packaging, this original 1973 release is a welcome reminder of the long-term association that vibraphonist and leader Gary Burton has with the label and features members of the NDR Symphony Orchestra conduced by Mike Gibbs. In fact the album coincided with the very beginning of the collaboration with ECM since the first actual recording by Gary Burton’s ‘New Quartet’ was made in March 1973 and ‘Seven Songs for Quartet and Chamber Orchestra’ was recorded in December of that year. Both albums feature guitarist Michael Goodrick and the compositions and arranging skills of Mike Gibbs who is the author of all bar one of the numbers featured here. The orchestrations work best on compositions such as ‘Phases’ which, in its use of bass solo and ensemble work, hints at ‘Sketches of Spain’, though there is just an element of more avant-garde musings in Burton’s own space-like solo. An atmospheric Mahler-esque piece ‘Three’ is another highlight with strings and vibes combining well and the use of layered textures is repeated on the lengthy medley of an opener, ‘Nocturne Vulgaire/Arise, her eyes’.Of course these early albums pre-date the terrific ‘Dream so Real’ set from 1975 where Steve Swallow and Bob Moses formed part of the band as well as revealing a then relatively unknown Pat Metheny who would go on to great things and was a band member between 1974 and 1976. Nonetheless, this recording represents an interesting phase in Gary Burton’s career post-Atlantic and in so far as it exemplifies his chamber jazz period is far more introspective in overall approach.

Tim Stenhouse