Ethan Ardelli ‘The Island of Form’ CD (Self-released) 4/5

Sydney, Nova Scotia born/Toronto based drummer Ethan Ardelli has been one of Canada’s most in-demand jazz musicians for more than a decade now. Having shared the stage with a who’s who of contemporary jazz (Dewey Redman, Mark Turner, Mark Feldman, Jeremy Pelt, George Mraz, Mulgrew Miller, and Greg Osby) he
was due to make his first statement as a bandleader. “The Island of Form” certainly doesn’t disappoint as a debut, and moreover shows plenty of signs that Ardelli could in years to come be as revered as the aforementioned jazz greats.

As is often the case with a very good album such as this, there are many factors that need to fall in to place for it to sound great. Not least the choice of musicians. The quartet we have here work brilliantly together. Drummer Ardelli is joined by Luis Deniz on alto sax, Chris Donnelly on piano and Devon Henderson on bass. Throughout the entire album there appears to be a kinetic connection between the musicians, one which allows for some exciting interaction and improvisation. The tunes themselves are skilfully written and often inspiring in their inventiveness. As a session, debuts don’t come much better than this, with the album having been recorded at Sear Sound in New York by legendary engineer James Farber, with mastering by acclaimed engineer Greg Calbi.

One of the key factors about this album is how Ardelli doesn’t push the obvious. For example, in the same way that Paul Motian or Jack DeJohnette let the spirit of their music take centre stage, as opposed to any unnecessary showmanship, so does Ardelli. The tunes speak for themselves, and the time and space afforded to the group as a whole is a mature statement from Ardelli, one that reaps many rewards for the listener.

There are several tunes that stand out for me. “Agua” is very reminiscent of a Michael Brecker piece, and certainly wouldn’t sound out of place on one of the great man’s albums. Ardelli’s compositions are deceptively subtle, with the composer’s musical intelligence matched by the performers. Deniz sparkles on alto sax, trading shimmering solos with pianist Donnelly. With “Les Calanques” I could be listening to an ECM recording, with maybe Bobo Stenson and Chris Potter taking my ears on a magical oratory journey. It’s that kind of feel. “Thanks For Something” is edgier, more exploratory, with the intro sounding akin to listening to JD Allen or Joe Lovano, before the full quartet propels the track forward. All four musicians stretch out on this piece. Over the last few years I’ve very much enjoyed listening to Mark Guilliana’s Jazz Quartet. I was reminded of his music when listening to “Shangri-La Pearl”. This is a stunning piece of music. I love the way Henderson’s bass picks out the melody to begin with, and as the tune develops the beautiful piano chords are matched by the emotive sax playing. And as always, Ardelli’s drums are played with a rare poise and effortless perfection.

“The Island of Form” is an excellent debut from Ardelli. I hope he keeps this Quartet together for a while, as there’s so much promise here. I can see them making a very big splash in the world of contemporary jazz if they carry on making music like this.

Mike Gates

Chris Youlden and the Slammers ‘Closing Time’ LP/CD (The Last Music Company) 4/5

Regarded by some as the British equivalent of Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland, Chris Youlden was one of the finest vocalists to emerge from the 1960s British blues scene and found success in the motherland of the blues, touring and performing at prestigious venues from Fillmore East (New York) to Fillmore West (San Francisco) and including also the Grand Ballroom in Detroit. He is, perhaps, best known as a key component in the Savoy Brown Band which included the later Rolling Stone, Bill Wyman. Due to musical differences, Youlden left that band and subsequently recorded two albums on the London label, ‘Nowhere road’ and, ‘City child’. During a prolonged absence from the music scene, Chris Youlden wisely used his time to study for a degree in sociology, before eventually returning to the London scene and to R&B (in the traditional meaning of the term) bands. The music recorded here dates between 1987 and 1991, and reflects the kind of modern blues and R & B influences that Youlden and his contemporaries were soaking up during the 1960s and beyond. These ‘lost tapes’ were lovingly preserved are in excellent condition. Among the covers which Youlden imbues with his own personality, a slower than per usual take on Mose Allison’s ‘Fool’s Paradise’, offers up a new perspective on that song, with melodic guitar and harmonica in place of piano, while Ray Charles’ ‘Roll With My Baby’, is more faithful to the original, as is Percy Mayfield’s ‘How Deep Is The Well?’. Since leaving Savoy Brown, Chris Youlden has rarely performed and therefore these eighteen previously unreleased analogue recordings are a very welcome addition to his career and are supplemented by a lengthy and informative inner sleeve booklet. His own group, ‘The spirit of ’71’, reformed in 2011 and performed at the 40th anniversary Glastonbury festival. For fans of 1960s blues, you will not want to be without this recording.

Tim Stenhouse

Alexis Korner ‘Every Day I Have The Blues: The Sixties Anthology’ 3CD (Grapefruit) 5/5

Long time BBC Radio 2 broadcaster and blues musician, Alexis Korner, occupies a pivotal role in the development of British blues and many of the greats passed through his group, Blues Incorporated, and these included Eric Clapton, Cyril Davies, drummers Hughie Flint and John Stevens, vocalist Paul Rodgers and, surprisingly, avant-garde jazz saxophonist, Evan Parker. Myriad line-ups all have their respective merits and it is up to the individual listener to make his/her own mind up. Indeed, it is difficult to imagine how the blues in the UK would have evolved without his towering presence. This box set celebrates his life as a musician in the 1960s and brings together some of his most highly regarded albums and 45s. Those who grew up with his sounds may argue that a good deal of the music has been available elsewhere. However, the key point is that you would have to search in numerous directions to find that very material and this box set has the considerable merit of grouping together disparate labels and accompanying musicians into one cohesive whole, with a plethora of graphics to communicate in the clearest manner possible the story of Korner the musician, and to this extent, for younger blues fans and more seasoned observers of the blues alike, it is an essential platform with which to discover and appreciate his musical talents.

This writer first came across Alexis Korner the blues aficionado who recorded a regular Friday evening broadcast programme on Radio 2 back in the late 1970s and early 1980s up until his sad and untimely death in 1984. However, even that knowledge of several years of listening religiously to his masterful knowledge and storytelling qualities barely touches the surface of Alexis’ lifelong devotion to the cause of blues music and it was a cause he was utterly passionate about and committed to. He began way back in 1964 as a broadcaster with the BBC World Service, before he moved over to a regular blues show when the BBC extended their network channels. That distinctively gruff tone of voice, but equally warm heart, permeated the airwaves and influenced many, not least Paul Jones, who would at a much later date take over duties, and occupy the BBC blues slot for twenty-five years up until his retirement earlier this year, with Cerys Matthews now the present incumbent. This extremely informative box set does full justice to Korner’s contribution and includes a highly informative twenty-two page booklet crammed with everything you could possibly wish to know about the musician and broadcaster, complete with high quality original album covers, picture sleeve 45s, original concert flyers and newspaper reviews. As for the music, it includes key coverage of the critically acclaimed albums with Alexis and Blues Incorporated ‘R&B at the Marquee’ (a highly sought after album on vinyl and right up there with the Georgie Fame live classic, ‘Live at the Flamingo’), the equally hard to find, ‘At The Cavern’, as well as albums on Transatlantic, BBC live studio sessions, and former bootleg releases, as well as a legitimate and rare Dutch release on Philips, recorded in late 1969, but made available from 1970.

On a CD box set of this length, attempting a comprehensive overview would be near impossible, but some key highlights stand out and require commentary. The folk-blues instrumental ‘3/4 A.D.’ with a medley of pieces is a stunning way to start off the box and features Davy Graham who co-wrote the track with Korner. A variety of tempos are to be found on the first CD, with the laid back blues of ‘She Fooled Me’, another personal favourite. Gritty Chicago electric blues heavily influenced Korner and is reflected in the driving bass line and harmonica (another Korner trademark) accompaniment to ‘Gotta Move’. In addition to being a gifted composer, Alexis Korner could also interpret contemporary and classic blues standards. Thus, Son House’s ‘Preachin’ The Blues’ fits comfortably alongside Willie Dixon’s ‘I Got My Brand On You’, and even Muddy Waters immortal, ‘I Got My Mojo Workin’, taken at an appropriately sprightly pace, but with a catchy guitar riff and piano. The truth is, Alexis Korner was far less interested in searching for artificial authenticity, or technical virtuosity. What truly mattered to him was catching the true feeling of the blues, and in that respect, he succeeded magnificently. Above all else, it is Alexis Korner’s generosity of spirit that permeates the music contained within and that makes the package as a whole indispensable to any self-respecting devotee of the blues.

Tim Stenhouse

Michel Sardou ‘La Dernière Danse’ 2CD + DVD (Mercury/Universal France) 4/5

One of the all-time great lyricists, singer-songwriter Michel Sardou is held in the highest esteem by lovers of the French language and chanson tradition, and his evocative lyrics have graced subject matter on myriad issues from gratitude for American support during World War Two to evocative songs depicting far way places such as Argentina (‘San Lorenzo’) and, from a French perspective at least, Ireland (Les lacs du Connemara’). Now seventy-five years of age, he has decided to retire from music altogether and this concert is reputed to be his last ever. If the delivery comes across at first as deadpan and with relatively little theatricality to begin with on stage (that changes later in the concert), then Sardou nonetheless captivates the adoring audience and the richness of the text in French is mightily impressive with anyone who has an advanced level of French.

On occasion, his songs have aroused controversy, not least ‘Être une femme’ (aka ‘Femmes des années 1980’), which resulted in some accusing him of being both, ‘macho and facho’ (‘fascist’). However, that would be to misunderstand his true intentions and his love of humanity shines through in his defence of women of the Muslim faith (‘les musulmanes’), his profound love of Irish culture and people (‘Les lacs du Connemara’), or indeed his nostalgia for the old French government controlled ship liner, ‘Le France’ (another song title) that sailed across the Atlantic to the United States. Moreover, his profound feeling of compassion for Americans in the song ‘Les Ricains’, is heartfelt and he belongs to the generation that witnessed first hand the liberation of France, thereby saving the French nation, in his view, from permanently speaking German (explicitly alluded to in the text).

Sardou fits comfortably into the history of the chanson tradition, but pays homage to that same tradition, with a lovely cover of Barbara’s ‘L’aigle noir’, and in reprising the original version of Claude François’ ‘Comme d’habitude’, which English language audiences know far better in the translated version that Frank Sinatra made his own with ‘I Did It My Way’. At various points during the concert, the French audience express their unadulterated love of Sardou with cries of, ‘Michel, Michel’, and he does attract long-term devotion among his coterie of fans. Powerful love ballads are another forte with simple yet meaningful titles such as, ‘Maladie d’amour’ and ‘Je vais t’aimer’. If this sounds a tad melodramatic, then it is part and parcel of the French character and DNA and Sardou is capable of tackling all manner of topics, including the French exam system on a duet with cellist Mathilde Gervas plus piano on, ‘Le bac G’. It has to be pointed out that the creative conceptual imagery is deserving of the highest praise and the evocative lighting and background images are never less than spectacular. A more pared down approach is adopted also on his ode to Buenos Aires, ‘San Lorenzo’, with accordion to accompany. Of note is the Gotan Project violinst, Lise Krause, who participates. In fact, there are some major names among the audience too including French nouvelle vague actor and star of ‘A Bout de Souffle’ and other classic films, Jean-Paul Belmondo, name checked by Sardou. Interestingly, the concert party takes off with a discofied version of ‘Être une femme’, which is sung by the women in the audience in a humorous and somewhat ironic tone. Any potential offence it might have caused when it was originally released has long since evaporated. If you only wish to cut to the essential of Michel Sardou’s vast repertoire, then this may just be the ideal package and the exemplary DVD complements the same set of songs on the two CDs. Merci Michel!

Tim Stenhouse

The Upsetters ‘The Upsetters’ / ‘Scratch The Upsetter Again’ CD (Doctor Bird) 4/5

Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry gained his early pre-Black Ark reputation from the late 1960s recordings with The Upsetters and this fine pairing of original albums from 1969 and 1970 respectively explains why. They capture Perry and co. at an early creative zenith and some of those later trademark zany sound effects find their genesis in this work. Both surfaced in the UK on the Trojan label which is celebrating its fortieth anniversary this year and what a fitting way to end that year of celebration with one of the all-time reggae greats who fits the definition of ‘original artist’ with the greatest of ease. Typical of his craft is the anthemic ‘People Funny Boy’, complete with a crying baby accompaniment (a precursor, perhaps, to Stevie Wonder’s ‘Isn’t She Lovely’?), and throughout both albums, Perry deploys stunningly innovative extraneous sounds to embellish the atmosphere of the music. On the first album, Perry is aided by some musicians who he would later producer during the Black Ark period. These includes The Muskyteers (aka The Silvertones) who contribute their harmony vocals on ‘Kiddy-O’. Another contributor is Busty Brown who is featured on two songs, ‘To Love Somebody’ and ‘Crying About You’. By far the strongest instrumental on ‘The Upsetter’ is the opener, ‘Tidal Wave’, which is so eclectic that it manages to take in the easy listening sound of Jim Reeves, while, ‘Heat Proof’ uses a riff from Otis Redding’s ‘Too Hot To Handle’. The second album, ‘Scratch The Upsetter Again’, carries on in a similar vibe and, interestingly, covers the Gerry Goffin and Carole King standard, ‘Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow’, with a male lead vocal of distinction. Of the other tracks on the original album, ‘Outer Space’ stands out as a strong melodic instrumental and R&B influences re-surface on the lyrical ‘Soul Walk’.

As per usual with Doctor Bird’s attention to detail, the excellent inner sleeve notes come complete with a plethora of graphical and discographical additions, including original 45 and LP labels and covers, the original master tape, a business card flyer of the original record shop in Kingston that Perry bought off Prince Buster, and black and white photos of band members. Compiled with informative historical notes by Trojan specialist, Lawrence Cane-Honeysett, this is an ideal way to begin or complete your existing Lee Perry collection.

Tim Stenhouse

Various ‘Stirring Up Some Ska: The Original Sound of UK Club Land’ CD (Jasmine) 4/5

Here is a fine pretext for putting together a compilation and a prime example of when and where they work well. The 1960s era was a time of profound social change and, with the Windrush generation arriving and settling, Jamaican popular music started to be played in the clubs in the know in places such as Soho in swinging London. This compilation confirms the kind of sounds that were played at the time and showcases both R&B and ska genres, with both instrumental and vocal performances exemplified. A groovy take on the jazz standard, ‘Night Train’ (compare with Oscar Peterson’s uptempo piano trio version), opens up proceedings from the traditional calypso conductor and arranger Byron Lee, ably abetted by the Dragonaires. Some of the most famous ska vocals include the immortal, ‘Madness Is Gladness’ from Prince Buster and included here, as is the R&B flavoured ‘Easy Snapping’ by Clue J. and his Blues Blasters that pianist-singer Theophilus Beckford first penned. Blues and especially New Orleans-based R&B exerted an indelible influence on the evolution of Jamaican music and that is reflected in the contributions of singers Jackie Edwards, Owen Gray and Jimmy James, but also happens to include singers such as Prince Buster, whose ‘Got To Go’ reveals that very same Crescent City twist. A vocalist well worth checking out and who recorded a select number of 45s was Eric Morris, and, ‘Oh What A Smile (can do)’, is a fine example of that oh so distinctive voice. That said, catchy instrumentals feature prominently here with the fine trumpet work of Baba Brooks and his group on ‘Strong Arm’ and likewise trombonist Rico Rodriguez on Rico and Happy’s ‘Rico’s Farewell’. Meanwhile our old friend and saxophonist, Willis Jackson, turns up once more on ‘Call Of The Gators’. No indication of who exactly did assemble these sides other than the somewhat vague, ‘Jasmine Soul Series’ production. Will the worldly sage(s) who put this well-balanced compilation together please come forward and take a bow! Impressive stuff and there is in fact a companion jazz side which will be reviewed shortly in these columns.

Tim Stenhouse

İlhan Erşahin’s Istanbul Sessions ‘Solar Plexus’ 2LP/CD (Nublu) 5/5

Back in 2015, Bugge Wesseltoft released his ‘Bugge and Friends’ album into the world through Jazzland Recordings, recorded through Nublu, responsible now for a record label, club nights and a festival. The album featured several familiar artists; Beady Belle, Joe Claussell and Erik Truffaz (keep a note of that name), but also an unknown name in İlhan Erşahin on tenor saxophone. The album was well received and the co-written ‘Clauss It’ is now something of a keepsake. And as one does, on investigating further, discovered the release of ‘Istanbul Sessions – Istanbul Underground’ around the same time, again through Nublu with Alp Ersönmez (keep a note), Turgut Alp Bekoğlu (keep a note), İzzet Kızıl (keep a note) and İlhan Erşahin. The plot was thickening and not being one to “overlook” anything began to dig deeper. In fact Erşahin went as far back as 1997 with ‘Home’, a trio modal/bop and self-written delight featuring Kenny Wollesen (keep a note) of a more modern jazz approach and unlike the latter ‘Istanbul Sessions’ direction. Check out the wonderful ‘Zem Zem’ from the album to get a glimmer of where he would take his music. İlhan Erşahin’s Istanbul Sessions ‘with Erik Truffaz’ (there’s that name again) was an album released in 2009, from which one of this writer’s favourites, ‘Freedom’, appears, with perhaps the best example of this group in any one album. Do search out ‘Sam I Am’, which has the energy of a classic 70s fusion track, while ‘Our Theory’, with its slight reggae undertone provides Truffaz with a backdrop to experiment over. This piece does remind me very much of Ibrahim Maalouf, who appears on the new album (you have stopped taking notes haven’t you?). Pointless then mentioning Eddie Henderson is part of the Nublu Orchestra which also features İlhan Erşahin, Kenny Wollesen and Kirk Knuffke (new album alert) and back in 2006 gave our ears the magnificent ‘Nublu Orchestra Conducted By Butch Morris’ and from which ‘We Are The Ones’ is highly recommended. History, and lots of it around for İlhan Erşahin then; a constant, and ever-changing sound that never bores the listener. Experimenting and yet grounded performances throughout the 40+ releases he is involved with but whom many in the UK may be unfamiliar with.

Step in ‘Solar Plexus’; the fourth in the Istanbul Sessions series, released out of Turkey on Nublu with now familiar names on board in Erik Truffaz (trumpet), İzzet Kızıl (percussion), Turgut Alp Bekoğlu (drums), Alp Ersönmez (bass), Ibrahim Maalouf (trumpet), Kenny Wollesen (drums) plus Nils-Petter Molvær (trumpet), Mauro Refosco (percussion) and Brandon Lewis (drums) [not to be mistaken for saxophonist James Brandon Lewis] – aren’t you glad you were taking notes – with 10 compositions over the double vinyl album and CD releases. “Inspired by the likes of 2001: A Space Odyssey and the original Blade Runner” is what we’re told – the photo on the album cover not giving that away – with ‘Jupiter Window’ featuring the unmistakable trumpet work of Maalouf taking us into space itself, and from which the group develop the theatre. This is not so much a film score sound but more a contemporary jazz one. ‘Love in Space’ maintains the theme of the album with electronic effects overlaid, but this is about the saxophone and drums and their evolvement through the piece and exciting, unlike much under the contemporary umbrella in 2018. Yes we have more powerful pieces here. ‘Pris’ drives hard and keeps one’s attentions through the entire piece, and the longest, at over 11min, on the album. The star of the show is ‘Arrival’, a fierce tour de force with funky groove throughout and as creative as 2018 gets. Not only would this be serious club material on the turntables of the DJing fraternity but one which heard live must wow every one of the senses. Not just great, but contender for track of the year great! How on earth their Ronnie Scott’s visit this June escaped me is still a bone of contention.

The album very much leans to the ‘jazz-fusion’ but one might refer to this release as a fusion of ideas from a wide selection of musicians all at the top of their game, with multi-instrumentalist, Dave Harrington, onboard here. A fusion that brings both east and west together with a little experimentation, a little electronica but with a larger dose of musicianship and of ideas that are fresh and creative. With now four albums under this banner, there is clear passion from both those delivering the music and those receiving it. One that live I feel would overwhelm each member of the audience and fuel the need for further albums. This is as good as is gets. A broad statement yes, but a thought out one and one not lacking in research, hours of listening and years of enjoying music. Grab your headphones, your space suit, jump aboard the shuttle of Erşahin and get ready for some extravehicular musical activity. There’s not much else like it on earth.

Vinyl addicts note: There are also two 7” singles available, the first with album tracks ‘Infinite Gathering’ and ‘Jupiter Window’, and another with two not featured on the album in ‘McCoy’ and ‘Senin İçin Geldim’ worth exploring.

Steve Williams

Various ‘Discophilia Belgica : Next​-​door​-​disco and Local Spacemusic from Belgium 1975​-​1987’ 2X2LP/2CD (SDBAN) 3/5

It may be stating the obvious to indicate that Belgium is generally not regarded as a hot bed of disco, or related genres. However, it does count France and Holland among its close neighbours and has soaked up classic dance music emanating from those countries, both of whom have musicians (Cerrone) and labels (Ram’s Horn) that have prided themselves on their own brand of disco. What is unquestionable are the considerable efforts that independent label SDBAN have gone to in order to unearth some of these ultra rare grooves. That includes searching high and low in flea markets, charity shops as well as exchanging vinyl. The casual listener can reap the benefits of all that hard crate digging work.

As a whole, the music comprises myriad pop, electro, disco, soul and funk influences, and is best sampled in either small or individual parts. A real favourite is the Chic-esque instrumental, ‘System Love’ (1978) by System who bear no relation to the slightly later American group with the same name and the classy brass of, ‘Tropicana Beach’ by Fancy (1983) similarly impresses. Some 1970s rare groove is offered up by Carl Watson on his funk-tinged, ‘King Kong’ from 1975. For an interesting departure from any kind of formulaic disco, the folk-soul feel that permeates ‘Baby Won’t You Turn Me On’ by Charles Vernon makes him a candidate for Belgium’s answer to Bobby Womack. Several of the names of singers and groups have American-sounding provenance, but are in reality Belgian nationals, or at the very least naturalised Belgian citizens. There are some highly amusing titles and sounds on both of the CDs and arguably the winner of that prize goes to Steve and ‘I’m Free’ (1975), which has absolutely nothing in common with actor John Inman’s catch phrase from ‘Are You Being Served?’ It is, rather, a heavily stringed Euro disco number with heavy bassline, while, ‘Groovin’ To The Music’ by Flame (1977), features Hammond organ and female lead vocals. A close contender for amusing vocal delivery is, ‘Jungle Love’ by Cora Corona, who possesses one of the strangest voices this writer has ever encountered.

The sheer eclecticism of the musical range is, at times, difficult to take in and requires several listens to fully digest. Hence, on the opener, ‘Ethero-Disco’, Jethro Tull meets Roland Kirk head on, with sleazy French spoken vocals thrown in for good measure. In fact, the French language makes a regular appearance even on songs with English titles. Kevin Morane lays down a French Euro disco vibe on ‘Ivre De Vie’/’Drunken On Life’, and L2 do likewise on ‘La Gomme’/’The Rubber’. Elsewhere, British pop influences abound. This is exemplified by ‘Cosmos 81’ by The Rogers, which is a hybrid of Euro disco meets Gary Numan from his Tubeway Army period. In fairness, for fans of soulful underground disco, there is very little of that ilk here. However, some of the more obscure pieces are worth a listen and these include the 12″ (‘maxi 45’ in French) of ‘Disco Bush’ by L.A. Bush. A few embarrassing rock numbers that are best left to the cut out racks include ‘Queen To The Pharaoh’ by Marianne and ‘Sexy’ by Love Dream. Prince could have penned this song and made it into something memorable. This female singer sadly cannot. Fans nostalgic of early 1980s synth-pop will feel right at home here.

Tim Stenhouse

Cesar Mariano and Cia ‘São Paulo Brasil’ LP/CD (Mr Bongo) 5/5

Rarely does a Brazilian re-issue, that went largely undiscovered upon its original release in 1977, have as much inner depth and refined sophistication as this, but keyboard wizard, Cesar Camargo Mariano, the other half of the late Elis Regina, conjured up pure magic on this outstanding album from start to finish. With a vastly expanding array of musical technology at his disposal, Mariano used his considerable creative talents to create a musical fresco of infinite nuanced textures and that results in some glorious sounds that do not necessarily impact upon first hearing, but gradually and permanently seep into the subconscious. A case in point is the somewhat experimental ‘Fábrica’, where the synths are deployed as quasi-wordless vocals and this, in turn, creates the most melodic of sounds. Sheer bliss! In places the music is at once moody and laid back, with a restrained yet nonetheless bubbling jazz-funk undercurrent, as illustrated on the gentle ‘Poluição’, which during the course of its existence shifts in tempo with Fender Rhodes and layered synths operating in tandem. A strong ECM feel permeates ‘Metro’, and the unnamed guitarist on board could just be Egberto Gismonti, or at least someone heavily influenced by his style of playing. There are definite comparisons to be made with the early work of Azymuth from the same period and that multi-keyboard approach favoured by the late José Roberto Bertrami is seemingly evident on the jazz waltz, ‘Estação Do Norte’, which is notable also for shuffling percussion, alternating acoustic and electronic keyboard usage, and the shift from medium to rapid tempo in quick succession is pulled off with skillful aplomb. Possibly best of all is reserved for the opening piece, ‘Metrópole’, that captures the daily of a major city such as São Paulo and the heavy funk bass and rhythmic guitar underpins some lovely electric piano, while the piece goes through different moods, including a memorable bass and percussion breakdown. Music of this calibre simply does not turn up that often and that makes it all the more important to champion it from the rafters, and, in general, celebrate the pure creative genius of a musical mind that Cesar Camiargo Mariano has in abundance. One of the all-time great Brazilian recordings of the 1970s and music that is overlooked at your peril. A definite contender for re-issue of the year in all categories.

Tim Stenhouse

Toquinho ‘Toquinho’ LP/CD (Mr Bongo) 4/5

Guitarist and singer Toquinho recorded some of the finest ever samba-jazz sides with the late and very great Brazilian poet, Vinicius de Moraes. This excellent re-issue dates from the late 1960s/early 1970s and finds him paired on selected numbers by Jorge Ben on vocals. By far the best known of the songs is ‘Carolina Carol Bela’, with its stunning cuica drum heavy percussive accompaniment which has become something of an anthem and worth purchasing the album alone for. However, this is by no means a one track album and just as enthralling is the samba-funk of ‘Que maravilha’, with once again Ben guesting on joint lead vocals with the leader (the pair co-composed the song), and it is quite simply two and a half minutes of unbridled Brazilliance. What may be unknown to uninitiated in the UK is that Toquinho is a guitar specialist, and similar to Chet Baker who alternated between primary musical instrument, the trumpet, and vocals. The delicate voice that Toquinho also possesses is a joy in itself and is heard to wonderful effect on the opening number, ‘Na Água Negra Da Lagoa’. Elsewhere, choro rhythms meet samba flavours on the delicious instrumental, ‘Tocando Prá Silvinha’, with deft guitar work displayed by the leader. A third stunner of a song is ‘Zana’, with tamborim percussion, a catchy guitar riff and more sublime vocals. Classically trained, Toquinho excels on the gentler pieces such as the reposing, Chuva na praia de Juquí’, which is very listenable. Ending the album on a contemplative note is a truly beautiful guitar solo piece, ‘Evocação À Jacob’. An early and worthy example of Toquinho’s twin talents.

Tim Stenhouse