Florian Favre Trio ‘On A Smiling Gust Of Wind’ (Traumton) 4/5

Born in Fribourg, Switzerland, pianist Florian Favre completed his Masters degree in Composition & Theory with Django Bates and Dieter Amman at the High School of Arts in Bern (HKB). After a brief experience in the classical world of piano, he began to study jazz at the Conservatory of Fribourg with Richard Pizzorno. He entered the Swiss Jazz School the same year and in 2010 was selected to be part of the DKSJ All Star project with Pierre Audétat. That same year he received his Bachelor of Arts and the Friedelwald grant.

As a leader, Favre takes an active part in several projects, such as the Florian Favre trio, or his solo project. Recently he has also started two news projects, “Rêves de gosses” (rap and jazz) and “Fragments d’identités”. “On a smiling gust of wind” is a piano, bass, drums trio album, with bassist Manu Hagmann and drummer Arthur Alard joining composer/pianist Favre.

Favre’s style is wonderfully expressionistic. He plays with an assured touch, sometimes calm and thoughtful, sometimes lyrical and dynamic. His compositions work on different levels, being very listenable in an immediate way, yet also taking the listener deeper on repeated listening. Not unlike Esbjorn Svensson in the way that he skilfully lays down a foundation around a simple melody then takes a tune from jazz to pop and back to jazz again, many times over.

Eight original compositions feature on this recording. Highlights include “She just is”, a wonderful example of how lyrically beautiful Favre’s music can be. This is one of those tunes that takes me to a different time and place. The music transports this listener to a realm unto itself, where I can lose myself in the notes and chords, not having to or needing to think about anything else. “Flagile” is a deeper, achingly darker tune, yet still has light shining through to its core. I love the way “Nanomelie” gradually builds. From its sketchy, delicate beginnings we are soon drawn into a more colourful picture, with Favre’s classical influences never too far from the centre of things.

“On a smiling gust of wind” is a very enjoyable album. Those of you into your piano led jazz trios need to check this out. Florian Favre may not yet be quite the finished article in terms of stand-out jazz performers, but on this evidence there will be much more to come. His music has that flare and intelligence combined with melody and lyricism that many composers better known than him would quietly admire.

Mike Gates

Dubheart ‘Cool Under Pressure’ (Karnatone) 4/5

Bournemouth. Once a sleepy retirement south coast resort, nowadays it’s an eclectic cauldron of cool happenings and the sounds of musical reggae pleasure.
‘Cool Under Pressure’ is the new album release by Bournemouth’s very own 5 piece roots reggae band, Dubheart, presenting a showcase style 14 tracker of vocal and dub reggae culture with mixing duties traditionally provided by Fullness (drummer Gavin Sant), also starring is the brass section from London ska band Chainska Brassica guesting on the album as the Brassica Horns. It’s the bands latest long player release since their 2013 classic ‘Mental Slavery’ and its follow-up dub version long player ‘Mental Slavery In Dub’, which was released the following year in 2014 with Fullness at the dub controls. The band recently enlisted Zacheous Jackson, MC Tenja and Prince Jamo to accompany their creations lyrically.
The first two tracks on the album ‘Cool Under Pressure’ and ‘Tek It Fool’ are by far the strongest of the set closely followed by the end piece ‘Rocky Road’ and all come complete with their dub versions, a nicely produced set of tunes and dubs that fully showcase the players with Mark Shepherd on bass guitar, David Mountjoy on the keys, Richard Ramsey on guitar who does a nice job on ‘Rocky Road’ also with Steve Parsons keeping the riddim backwash rolling on percussive duties and the aforementioned Gavin Sant on the drum kit.
The band will play their new album live for its launch night on Saturday April 14 8pm at The Old Fire station, Bournemouth. The album is released on the bands own house label Karnatone Records. This is a band that knows how to drop the reggae groove in fine musical passion.

Gibsy Rhodes

Kay-Gees ‘Keep On Bumpin’ & Masterplan’ / ‘Find A Friend’ / ‘Kilowatt’ 2CD (Robinsong) 5/5

Jazz-funk is a much maligned term and one that is prone to be misinterpreted as a mere substitute for easy listening muzak. At its essence, however, is an edgy fusion of styles that had a significantly rougher side than disco, and yet combined elements of jazzy brass and appealed squarely to the dancefloor. The Kay-Gees are one of the hidden gems of this genre that have been crying out to be re-discovered (original vinyl is highly sought after) and this is actually the first ever re-issue of the group on CD in the UK, which given their roots is all the more surprising. They are in fact an off-shoot of Kool and the Gang, the latter of whom were formed in the late 1960’s and were influenced by the likes of James Brown, the sound of Motown and the collective horns of jazz. While Robert and Ronald Bell were the co-founders of the Kool collective, younger brother Kevin was the brainchild of the Kay-Gees, and they recorded on the De-Lite label side imprint, Gang. Their 1974 debut kicks off proceedings and the eight piece band have close affinities with Kool, but are considerably tighter in sound and track length, and were aimed far more at the dancers than the elongated jams with which early Kool and the Gang are best associated. From the first album, ‘You’ve Got To Keep Bbumpin’ came as a two-part 45 that came together on the elongated album version, while two more singles followed, the third, ‘Get Down’, ironically, being the bigger of the hits, just reaching the R & B top forty in early spring of 1975. However, from, a purely musical listening perspective, the second single, ‘Master Plan’, was equally strong and an early prototype of jazz-funk with chanted chorus and tight horns guaranteed. A second album continued in a similar vein, with ‘I Believe In Music’ coming across as a composite of both Earth, Wind and Fire, and perhaps inevitably, Kool and the Gang. Again, it was the second single, ‘On The Money’, that fared slightly better chart-wise. A third album extended the franchise, and this time Latin and disco flavours came to fore on ‘Tango Hustle’, with yet another dance craze being celebrated, while the real killer tune was ‘Kilowatt’, featured here in the original album and two extra long versions. Familiar to many will be the opening cut of the third album, ‘Kay Gee’s Theme Song’, while another is ‘Cheek to Cheek’, (not the Fred Astaire associated song) that exists both as an album track and as 12″mix. To provide a fully comprehensive coverage of the band, the bonus cuts include non-album songs such as, ‘Hustle Wit’ Every Muscle’, a TV theme track, and three separate 12″ versions, two of ‘Kilowatt’. This is probably all the Kay-Gees you will ever need and they can be compared with bands of the calibre of Brass Construction who typify this era.

Tim Stenhouse

M.F.S.B. ‘The Definitive Collection’ 2CD (Robinsongs) 4/5

The acronym itself may well have its divided camps (we shall stick to the politer version of ‘Mother, Father, Sister, Brother’, but a foul-mouthed, more street-wise version does nonetheless exist), but there is little disputing their wide-ranging historical influence on the field of dance music that MFSB have exerted, and this in different guises, since the very same collective of musicians are known equally as the Salsoul Orchestra who operated out of the same Sigma studios in Philadelphia. This double CD is a tribute to that very sound, although their Salsoul career is a different story altogether and covered elsewhere on CD’s by BBE. They surfaced just as early disco was emerging and one of their most endearing numbers, ‘TSOP’, became the back drop to the Don Cornelius led ‘Soul Train’ programme that graced US television, doing so much in the process to promote black music nationally, and eventually internationally when clips were broadcast throughout the globe. A further classic disco anthem is to be found in ‘K-Jee’, and the only surprise here is that this has not received up until now a major and extended re-edit. On the left-field of dance, ‘Picnic In The Park’, was always a classy piece of music, while MFSB prided themselves on covering some early 1970’s funk and soul hit songs in their own inimitable fashion. These included, Sly and the Family Stone’s ‘A Family Affair’, a wonderful re-working of ‘Freddie’s Dead’, that provided the instrumentation to a Curtis Mayfield soundtrack, and a take on the O’Jays ‘Back Stabbers’.

Jazzier cuts such as ‘Zach’s Fanfare’ indicate how closely disco, Latin and jazz elements could cross-pollinate and still sound convincing and authentic, whereas Gershwin’s ‘Summertime’ has undergone a refined salsa/disco makeover that actually works. Later on in their career, they moved into the 1980’s with the understated ‘Mysteries Of The World’, which joins Dexter Wansel as the soulful side of keyboard-led music and co-founder of the label, Leon Huff, regularly performed on Hammond organ. Meanwhile there is a strong blues vibe to a piece like ‘Lay In Low’. Sophisticated disco is where MFSB excelled as with ‘Get Down With The Philly Sound’, but they could also contribute biting social satire when required as on the collective Philly International All Stars, 1977 smash hit ‘Let’s Clean Up The Ghetto’.

The one pity here is the absence of an extended version of arguably their greatest claim to fame, the epic ‘Love Is The Message’. The album version does not quite do justice to the extra long interpretation that DJ Tom Moulton spun this tune into and making way with space for this essential piece of dance floor history should have been a priority, even if it meant leaving out some of their latter product which does tend towards easy listening. Likewise, it is pity we have no examples of them live which do exist and are worthy of our attention. In several cases, these would have been preferable to the inferior later tracks. Otherwise, a solid selection of the essential. Extensive liner notes from Mojo journalist Charles Waring provide a useful overview to the evolution of the collective of musicians.

Tim Stenhouse

Snowpoet ‘Thought You Knew’ Vinyl/CD/Dig (Edition) 5/5

“Thought you knew” is the second album from Snowpoet, the London based band led by the writing duo of Lauren Kinsella and Chris Hyson. For vocalist Kinsella, the new album follows two notable previous releases, the aforementioned 2016 eponymous Snowpoet debut, along with the highly imaginative 2014 “Under The Moon” from Blue Eyed Hawk. Multi-instrumentalist Hyson steps up the production levels on this latest release, skilfully bringing together Kinsella’s engaging and characterful vocal style with warm and beautifully crafted arrangements. The results are stunning and the compelling nature of the lyrics and music make for a mesmerising listen.

There is a deep and raw emotion prevalent throughout the lyrical writing style and vocal delivery of Kinsella, mirrored wonderfully by Hyson’s delicate and thoughtful arrangements. For this session the duo are joined by Nicholas Costley-White on acoustic guitar, Matthew Robinson on piano, Dave Hamblett on drums, Josh Arceleo on saxophone, Alice Zawadski on violin, Francesca Ter-Berg on cello and Lloyd Haines on percussion. The musicians involved illuminate the gorgeously crafted songs with a tasteful and intelligent palette of colour that allows the originality of the compositions to shine through with a refreshing subtlety and beauty.

Ten tunes grace this exquisite album. The lyrics are reflective in a short story-telling kind of way, thought-provoking and intriguing. As tempting as it is to use words like introspective and melancholic, I would rather use words such as illuminating and conscious, portraying that rare quality of honesty that may begin with a very personal thought, but ends up speaking in a very human and universal way. Stand-out tracks include the mouth-watering opener “The Therapist”, a piece of music that surely has to be shortlisted as one of the compositions of the year, “It’s Already Better Than OK”, with its Bjork-like vocal delivery, the beautiful and moving “Snow”, and the heart-wrenchingly reflective music and arrangement of the folk inflected “Two of Cups”.

To categorise Snowpoet is difficult – which to my mind is always a good thing. Sitting in the realm of a folk/jazz/ambient crossover would perhaps best describe this wonderful band, with an originality that is both reflective and innovative. “Thought you knew” is music to my ears. Edition Records continue to go from strength to strength as a label, and with recordings such as this, one can only simply say ‘thank you’ for giving the platform to acts such as Snowpoet to write, record and release such charismatic and original music.

Tour dates:
APRIL 19th Birmingham, UK – Hare and Hounds
APRIL 29th CCA, Scotland
MAY 3rd Bennigan’s Bar, Derry, UK
MAY 4th Derry, Northern Ireland – Derry Jazz Festival
MAY 5th The Model, Sligo, Ireland
MAY 6th Waterford, Ireland – Coastguard Cultural Centre
MAY 10th London, UK (Kings Place, Album Launch)
MAY 11th Southampton Turner Sims Double bill with Olivia Chaney
MAY 12th Cardiff, UK – Millennium Centre

Mike Gates