Joe Armon-Jones ‘Starting Today’ LP/CD/DIG (Brownswood Recordings) 4/5

As the British jazz scene witnesses a new influx of talent, the name of multi-keyboardist Joe Armon-Jones should not be overlooked. He has featured recently on the excellent overview of the London jazz scene, ‘We out here’, and this new mini album comprising six tracks is an ideal introduction to his craft. Once again, some of the premier young Turks are on board to make this an enjoyable musical journey and these include drummer Moses Boyd, trumpeter Dylan Jones, guitarist Oscar Jerome, members of the Ezra Collective, and not forgetting the talented tenor saxophonist, Nubya Garcia. On selected numbers, various guest vocalists are present including Ella May and Asheber, to name but two.

The delicate use of keyboards by the leader is a feature throughout and a likely candidate for song to reach a wider audience, and one, moreover, that is incredibly soulful in approach is, ‘Almost Went Too Far’, which comes across as though it might have been a long-lost Stevie Wonder composition from his creative period in the early-mid 1970s. Collective vocals and minor chords on Fender Rhodes make this a definite album highlight and possibly the song most likely to garner airplay. However, as with several of the other musicians on the scene at present, Joe Armor-Jones has soaked up multiple musical influences that include reggae dub, dance music as well as jazz, and this is perfectly illustrated on the driving instrumental number, ‘Mollison Dub’, which is notable for the sparseness of the bass line, the lovely dub sound effects, and this time the leader on wurlitzer, all creating a spaced out atmosphere. Guitarist Jerome takes the limelight on ‘London’s Face’, with a memorable and repetitive riff, and this writer warmed to the subtle use of muted brass in the background. As for the title track, vocalist Asheber has a jazz-inflected voice which works well in tandem with the instrumentation that has an early house feel in the inventive drums underneath and the heavy bass line on top. It is Armor-Jones himself who is the focus of attention on ‘Ragify’, with excellent brass support and the vocals of Big Sharer. The album ends on a melodic high with the moody vignette, ‘Outro (Fornow)’, a clear indication that there is a good deal more to come from this talented musician. Attention should be paid also to the digipak sleeve which, as it unfolds, reveals in the form of a graphic illustration, some of the key albums that have informed Joe Armor-Jones’ musical thinking and development. A fine debut.

Tim Stenhouse