Nicola Conte ‘Rituals’ (Schema/Emarcy) 4/5

Jazz dance DJ Nicola Conte is best known for his compilations of new artists and collection of rare vinyl. However, in recent years he has become increasingly interested in producing and performing on acoustic jazz. On this new album he goes beyond the normal dance oriented music to produce a supremely well rounded release that incorporates vocal, big band, modal flavours and left-field compositions. Latin polyrhythms and big band horns abound on ‘The Nubian Queens’, one of the albums’ many highlights, with the excellent vocals of Jose James and on the big band vocal piece ‘I see all shades of you’, featuring the vocals of Alice Ricciardi. The instrumental ‘Macedonia’ allows the musicians to really stretch out with pianist Pietro Lussu impressing with some McCoy Tyneresque licks and horns reminiscent of the Jazz Messengers. Long-time fans will love the dancefloor beat of ‘Black is the graceful veil’ and this is a possible song to be lifted for 12” release. In a similar vein is a big band version of ‘Caravan’ while the intimate bossa ‘Paper Clouds’ has an easy lounge feel to it. Further variety comes in the form of ‘Red sun’, which is laid back with lovely flute and the vocals of Kim Sanders, and ‘Karma Flower’ with a Pharoah Sanders inspired Eastern intro that floats along like the vocals. The title track has a modal feel that recalls Miles’ late-1950s recordings with the subtle use of harp. A stellar cast includes alto saxophonist Greg Osby, an array of other American, Finnish and Italian musicians and Conte himself on guitar, clearly influenced by the Blue Note grooves of Grant Green. By far the most complete album recorded by Conte thus far.

Tim Stenhouse