All posts by ukvibe

Rogue Parade ‘Stomping Off From Greenwood’ CD (Greenleaf Music) 5/5

Greg Ward’s Rogue Parade is frothing with the smart and the impressive of Chicago’s scene – bassist (and wonderful composer in his own right) Matt Ulery, drummer Quin Kirchner, the dual guitars (always a good thing) of Matt Gold and Dave Miller and, the leader, my distant relative, saxophonist/composer Greg Ward.

“Stomping off from Greenwood” is Greg’s fourth album and features a band who’s obvious chemistry and energetic counterpoint has been forged by the the band’s month long residency at The Whistler and an extensive tour of the Midwest.

“Metropolis” stomps things off with urban verve. Each instrument strolls over and introduces himself one by one: “HI, I’m the busy snare, I live over there”, “Howdo, I’m probing bass”, “Alrite fellas, I’m pulsing guitar #1”, “Dude! I’m shimmery guitar #2”. Layers build, probing, pulsing, a spiky groove reminding me of a much less awkward, less art-sharp version of Belew-era King Crimson before Ward’s easy melodies, “Yo, alto”, bond the group, smoothing the edges. First leading us through a short rock-lite section and then into a beautiful open space where all is well and communicative, slowly building to a heart bursting zenith. Remarkable opener.

“Excerpt 1” is deep and swelling. Guitars and alto create themes while cymbals splash and envelope. Again there’s heartfelt connection but with tenderness this time. “The Contender” has no truck with tenderness. It’s dark bass pumping (RIFF!), angular guitar and alto, all quite prog with an occasional jab of the M-bases. It then steps back to give space for sax and guitar solos, both economic, effortless, lyrical and oh-so fluid before finally letting rip with Ulery/Kirchner fyah.

“The Fourth Reverie” is a broody and atmospheric release before “Let Him Live” returns to that pulsing, prodding, progging. It rocks back n forth, forth n back with a hypnotic urgency, like a meditative alarm played by shit hot musicians. I cannot wait to see this band live.

Ulery acoustically splutters the heck out of the start of “Black Woods” before bowing us into the densest, darkest bluesy woodland you’ve ever ventured into only to have light enter again via alto and guitar alternately answering all the big questions.

“Pitch Black” is wide open. 11 minutes worth. Initially considered, almost pensive, with sax and guitar doubling up before it expands with Gold/Miller bouncing off each other, one passing chords as the other dances Scofield-like, before Ward picks a melody for a while and then drops it back to the 6 stringers then eventually back to the doubled up motif. Not really sure why it ends. I guess because an elegant version of Hoagy Charmichael’s “Stardust” has to start. Ward is magnificent on this, his subtle, light-touch control is bobbed along on the band’s energetic current led by Kirchner. Beautiful.

“Sundown” is blues rock guitar shimmer and haze with Ward floating loose, handsome lines over and in between as Kirchner and Ulery push on. A ‘siren’ wails nightfall and it’s our bed time. Sweet dreams.

I couldn’t have asked for a better first review of 2019. It’s my personal remedy to this January’s unique UK blues. It’s a heady mix of cerebral, heartfelt, hopeful, exploratory and inclusive. It focuses and uplifts. Musicanship is tophole. And it has two guitars.

Ian Ward

Zaz ‘Effet Miroir’ 2LP/CD (Warner/Play On/Jo&Co) 3/5

This seventh album from French singer Zaz (Isabelle Geffroy) sadly pales in comparison to the promising debut with the cheeky girlish sounding voice and the new all original set panders, to these ears at least, far too much to mainstream rock norms rather than charting out her own distinctive territory as in the previous recording. The second half of the album in particular veers towards clichéd rock-guitar tinges and, in the process, confuses her natural and potentially large audience. Where the music does work is on the more traditional chanson of ‘Mes Souvenirs De Toi’, with piano and light percussive accompaniment, or on the combination of piano and strings that follows Zaz on ‘Demain C’est Toi’. Arguably, for new inspiration, Zaz might be better served recording a live context, where her outgoing personality comes across better, rather than somewhat less than successful attempts at replicating others. That is the case for example on, ‘Toute Ma Vie’, which is little more than rock music with a Motown beat while Zaz’s attempt to enter into Spanish language territory, ‘Qué me viendra’, sounds like cod-flamenco and is at best a half-hearted attempt that should be dispensed with. However, when Zaz returns to more familiar songs such as ‘Ma Valse’, she does prove to be a proficient communicator.

Tim Stenhouse

Billy Pod ‘Drums to Heal Society’ LP/CD (Puzzlemusik) 4/5

Greek born and raised drummer Vassilis Podaras (aka Billy Pod) releases this his debut album on the Athens based Puzzlemusik record label, a diverse and progressive label set up by Christos Alexopoulos in 2006. This new artist to us at UK Vibe features a high calibre roster of mainly Athenian musicians, including guitarist Michalis Tsiftsis, bassist Kimon Karoutzos, pianist Yiannis Papadopoulos and Jannis Anastasakis adding electronic embellishments.

The album begins with ‘Void’, a short introductory composition of mostly drum textures with some lightly added electronic drones and effects. ‘Minor Mystery’ which was written by Billy with Yiannis Papadopoulos, is centred around guitarist Tsiftsis and both piano and Rhodes parts. The infections ostinato chord changes and solos are never over done, all being very lyrical and melodic in their presentation. ‘L’ is another guitar focussed number with further immaculate playing again by Tsiftsis. Title track ‘Drums To Heal Society’ actually features another drummer, the experimental drummer, percussionist and sound artist Stephanos Chytiris. His use of minimal percussive objects allows for an abundance of creativity which is displayed here. The added sound effects provided by Jannis Anastasakis, himself an accomplished guitarist, offers a somewhat Radiophonic Workshop experience to the piece.

The more radio friendly ‘Limit To Your Love’ features the vocals of Katerine Duska and is a remake of the 2007 Feist track that was later made famous via James Blake, with this version probably more influenced by the Blake cover than the original, with the ambient electronic tones mixed with acoustic and electric piano producing an electronic ballad of sorts but with jazzy undercurrents. Personal favourite ‘Connection’ with its dynamic arrangement, offers bassist Kimon Karoutzos a time to shine as does ’Billy Pod’, the most straight-ahead jazz track of the set as it stays within the classic trio formation, but with George Kontrafouris on piano.

As per any respectable bandleader, Vassilis Podaras (as an artist name one prefers this) is as comfortable in the background as he is in the foreground, insomuch that it would be difficult to identify the leader for the project (without reading the LP title). There’s a community spirit here with all of the group ensemble contributing the appropriate amount to the album, especially as the arrangements and solos are relatively uncluttered, and thus, possessing a genuinely live feel rather than a studio production quality. The mix of traditional jazz instrumentation with electronica, although in a more subdued fashion in comparison to other more electronic-based jazz records provides a relatively nuanced approach to the project.

Drummer led projects are not always successful, but in recent years the increase in focus maintained by drummers and percussionist has created an interesting time for contemporary beat smiths. But to further capitalize on this, with the younger jazz consumer moving increasingly towards the vinyl format, a short limited edition run of say 300 copies may possibly help to broaden its reach – but this may be something to consider in the future. But what’s remarkable about regularly discovering these new artists from around the world on an almost weekly basis, is one then learns about another new set of musicians who also have their own separate projects for us to discover. It can be difficult to allow time for all this new music, but one feels it’s better to have a surplus than a shortage.

Damian Wilkes

Maurane ‘Brel’ LP/CD (Blue Wrasse) 5/5

Francophone Belgian singer Maurane was one of the hidden (to the English speaking world at least) gems in the chanson tradition and her passing last year has left a gaping chasm in that genre. Her deep and emotionally powerful voice is heard to best effect on this pared down tribute to the great singer-songwriter, Jacques Brel, and her own work comes highly recommended. An anthology of her work will surely be forthcoming. For the moment, this wonderful epitaph will have to suffice. What appeals about this homage is the degree of reflection taken to ensure that the musical accompaniment is sumptuous, on occasion deviating from the original, and elsewhere, remaining faithful to the Brel interpretation. Thus, ‘Rosa’, is performed as a joyful tango, with a lightness of touch that is memorable. One of a number of highlights is the exquisite take on, ‘Orly’, with guitar and piano to accompany and just the right dose of strings. With some songs, the stripped down to an absolute minimum sound works a treat as on, ‘La chanson des vieux’, with just piano to embellish the voice while, ‘Quand on n’a que l’amour’, has all the feel of a classic folk song with voice and guitar in tandem. By contrast, ‘Une île’, has a tropical flavour, taking a leaf, perhaps, out of the work of Henri Salvador. That feel is taken a step further on, ‘Vesoul’, which is transformed into an uptempo bossa nova piece. A personal favourite is the lavishly supported strings on, ‘Je ne sais pas’, but throughout so loving is the music presented that Brel in person could not have wished for a more faithful interpreter who nonetheless succeeds in marking her own imprint on the song repertoire.

For accomplishing this feat, major thanks are in order, both to Maurane’s daughter, Lou, who oversaw the project under difficult circumstances, and especially to the wonderful pianist and arranger, Philippe Decock, whose masterful work here has made this far from a left over album, but instead a fully completed one that is a truly fitting tribute to both singer and composer.

Tim Stenhouse

Minco Eggersman/Theodoor Borger/Mathias Eick ‘Unifony’ CD (Butler) 4/5

My first encounter with Dutch musician, producer and composer Minco Eggersman’s music came in the form of his excellent 2017 album release “Kavkasia”. Eggersman and fellow Dutch musician Theodoor Borger started collaborating under the name Unifony some years ago. For this album, together with guest Norwegian trumpeter Mathias Eick, they create carefully crafted layers of sound resulting in soundscapes that paint meditative pictures of colour and texture, where each track blends seamlessly into the next.

The album was mixed by British studio engineer Phill Brown, who has worked with a wide range of artists including Pink Floyd, David Bowie and Brian Eno. It is however, the fact that Brown played an important role on the two seminal Talk Talk albums; “Spirit of Eden” and “Laughing Stock”, the sound of these recordings greatly influencing both Eggersman and Borger. Coincidentally, those two Talk Talk albums are high on my own list of top albums of all time, so it has been interesting to listen to Unifony with this in mind.

Listening to Unifony does actually capture the spirit of those Talk Talk sessions, albeit in a less melancholic and ground-breaking way. Bringing in Mathias Eick on trumpet is a masterstroke. His ethereal sound is the perfect addition to the Eno-like ambient music presented here. At times his playing could almost be the voice of Mark Hollis, whilst at other times he brings a spiritual energy to the proceedings, giving the music a lift just when it’s needed.

A couple of other references I’d add in as an idea of the overall feel of this recording are releases fresh in my mind from last year. Unifony share a gentle beauty with the music of Snowpoet, their “Thought You Knew” album having that similar contemplative and thoughtful appeal to it. Saxophonist Andy Sheppard’s recent ECM releases also share the same mood of subtlety and deceptively gorgeous crafting of sound.

Imagine sitting under a tree, totally at peace with yourself, looking up at the beautiful clouds passing by. The world around you is finally silenced and all your eyes can see is the stunning natural landscape that surrounds you. As you breathe the air it feels fresh and clean. As your hand reaches down and touches the earth beneath you, it has new meaning. As you open your mind you feel overwhelmed at just being alive. This is how music like this can make you feel when you’re in a receptive place.

Mike Gates

Read also: Minco Eggersman ‘Kavkasia’ (Volkoren) 5/5

Kenneth Dahl Knudsen ‘Tété’ CD (Sound Seduction) 5/5

Danish bassist, composer and arranger Kenneth Dahl Knudsen is in high demand as a musician due to his intuitive virtuosity on double bass, a mastery that has led him to work with the likes of John Scofield and Aaron Parks. “Tété” is his fourth release as a composer and bandleader, and follows his excellent large ensemble outing “We’ll Meet In The Rain” album. The quintet of musicians on “Tété” are Knudsen on double bass, Uri Gurvich on saxophone, Brian Massaka on guitar, Gauthier Toux on piano and Rodolfo Zuniga on drums.

Knudsen talks in the liner notes about the album and it’s title: “When I was very little, before I would speak, I somehow managed to give myself a name. A word that I would call out every time I was in need of something. Until the day she died, my mom would still call me by that name: ‘Tété’. It has a joyful ring to it and I see before me a boy that grew up in a safe, loving place. With this project I’m trying to find my way back there.” The multiple awarded bassist went on a journey through 33 countries accompanied by his bass, his sheer belief in the uniting forces of music and the glimpse of hope to get back some of the lightness he had in his youth. And it is perhaps this musical and emotional journey of self discovery that has led to his mature, multi-faceted writing that intuitively encompasses so many cross-cultural influences. He goes on to say: “With the rhythmic influences of Africa and Latin America, the expressiveness of Jewish folk songs and the harmonic elements of our European tradition, I now have a band that can go anywhere in the music that I want to. And hopefully, it can lead me back to Tété”.

There is a heartfelt joy and compassionate spirit to the 8 original tunes on this album. The whole quintet play with a freedom and skill that complements the composer’s musical ethos perfectly. The opening track “Stars” is aptly described by the composer as “Putting the night sky into music. It’s so unbelievably interesting that we are here, blazing through the universe on a floating ball.” And this feeling is captured perfectly in the music, like a joyous dance from someone on this earth watching a million stars buz by overhead. “Resettling” is a thoughtful, more reflective piece, based around the composer’s time living in Berlin, Copenhagen and Aalborg, cities that the bassist came to call home. “Shinjuku Silence” highlights the differences we encounter between people and places. It is also more generally a reflection on modern times. Knudsen was in Japan, surrounded by thousands of people in the busiest train station in the world, the Shinjuko station in Tokyo. Events led to an emergency stop on one of the trains and he was struck by how nobody interacted, feeling how many we are and yet how little we interact with one another. The anthemic “Three Boys” paints a musical picture of belonging and togetherness. “Viber” is the longest tune on the album, and perhaps best encompasses what this band are all about. Knudsen’s unique blend of contemporary jazz and folk-tinged melodies sparkles with a delightful effervescence. “A Thousand Days” is the composer’s tribute to Berlin. As he says “It was a stressful, blissful and beautiful time. The city is full of poverty, wealth, creativity and life in every aspect.” One of my favourite tracks on the album is “Lost Hope”. The tune was written after Knudsen took a phone call from his mother, with her telling him the sad news that she had been given just 3 weeks to live. Unsurprisingly it is a very emotive piece of music, encompassing many different emotions from start to finish. The album ends on an uplifting note with “Lunar View”, a gorgeous piece of lyricism based on the writer’s thoughts when reading an article written by one of the astronauts of the Apollo 8. They were circuiting the moon and the astronaut said “From up here, we don’t see any borders, any colours of people and religion. There is just a lightbulb we call planet earth.” I think this resonates in many of us.

“Tété” is a wonderful album. I for one hope that Kenneth Dahl Knudsen keeps this quintet together for some time to come. It’ll be very interesting to hear what they’re capable of musically as they grow together as a band.

Mike Gates

Read also: Kenneth Dahl Knudsen Orchestra ‘We’ll Meet In The Rain’ (Two Rivers) 5/5

Best jazz albums of 2018

To read our full year-end round up jump HERE

1. Muriel Grossmann – Golden Rule (RRgems)
Review here

2. Ayanda Sikade – Movements (Self-released)
Review here

3. Jamie Saft Quartet – Blue Dream (RareNoise)
Review here

4. Sinsuke Fujieda – Hyper Harmony (SoFa)

5. Web Web – Dance of the Demons (Compost)
Review here

6. Nat Birchall – Cosmic Language (Jazzman)
Review here

7. Ill Considered – 3 (Ill Considered Music)
Review here

8. Woven Entity – Two (Enid)
Review here

9. Makaya McCraven – Universal Beings (International Anthem)
Review here

10. Adrien Chicot – City Walk (Gaya Music Production)
Review here

11. Bruno Råberg Trio – Tailwind (Red Piano)
Review here

12. Spirit Fingers – Spirit Fingers (Shanachie)
Review here

13. Trygve Seim ‘Helsinki Songs’ (ECM)
Review here

14. Tenderlonious Featuring The 22archestra – The Shakedown (22a)

15. Maisha – There is a Place (Brownswood Recordings)

16. Kamasi Washington – Heaven and Earth (Young Turks)

17. Kamaal Williams – The Return (Black Focus)

18. Snowpoet – Thought You Knew (Edition)
Review here

19. Butcher Brown – AfroKuti: A Tribute to Fela (Self-released)

20. Menagerie – The Arrow Of Time (Freestyle)

Go HERE for our extensive list of promotional albums received at Vibe HQ and purchases made by the team with a 2018 date stamp from which those choices were made.

Guest Top 20 of 2018: Oliver Brunetti @ Olindo Records

Top New Albums (in no order)

Makaya McCraven – Universal Beings (International Anthem)
Insólito UniVerso – La Candela del Río (Olindo Records)
Woven Entity – Two (Enid)
Waaju – Waaju (Olindo Records)
Rodrigo Tavares – Congo (Hive Mind)
Sarathy Korwar – My East Is Your West (Gearbox)
Hypnotic Brass Ensemble – Book of Sound (Honest Jon’s Records)
Various Artists – We Out Here (Brownswood Recordings)
Jessica Lauren – Almería (Freestyle)
Emanative – Earth (Jazzman)
Children of Zeus – Travel Light (First Word)
The Expansions – Murmuration (Albert’s Favourites)
Ben LaMar Gay – Downtown Castles Can Never Block the Sun (International Anthem)
Nu Guinea – Nuova Napoli (NG)
Allysha Joy – Acadie:Raw (Gondwana)
Nat Birchall – Cosmic Language (Jazzman)
Moses Boyd – Displaced Diaspora (Exodus)
Sons of Kemet – Your Queen Is A Reptile (Impulse!)
Idris Ackamoor and the Pyramids – An Angel Fell (Strut)
Sean Khan – Palmares Fantasy (Far Out Recordings)

Best EPs/Singles

Dengue Dengue Dengue – Semillero (On The Corner)
Modified Man – Modifications: Set 2 (Albert’s Favourites)
Nat Birchall – Tunji / Mode For Trane (JAZZ45)
The Scorpios ‎– Mashena / Samha (Afro7)
Kaidi Tatham – In My Life (2000 Black)

Top Remixes

Yazz Ahmed – The Lost Pearl (Hector Plimmer Remix) (Naim Absolute)
Jaubi – Lahore State of Mind (Al Dobson Jr Remix) (Astigmatic)

Top Reissues/Archive Releases/Compilations

Jesse Sharps Quintet and P.A.P.A. – Sharps and Flats (Outernational Sounds)
John Coltrane – Both Directions at Once (The Lost Album) (Impulse Records)
Momo “Wandel” Soumah* ‎– Matchowé (Buda Musique)
Various – Levanta Poeira – Afro-Brazilian music & rhythms from 1976 – 2016 (compiled by Tahira) (Jazz&Milk Recordings)
Various – Musica Per L’Immagine II (compiled by Lorenzo Bandiera) (Fly By Night Music)
Various – Disques Debs International Vol. 1 (compiled by Hugo Mendez & Emile Omar) (Strut)
Il Guardiano Del Faro – Oasis (Time Capsule)
Creative Arts Ensemble – One Step Out (Outernational Sounds)
Bobby Rodriguez ‎– Simply Macrame (Jazz Detective)
Victor Assis Brasil ‎– Esperanto (Far Out Recordings)

Best Gigs

Jaimie Branch: Fly or Die – Cafe Oto, November
Ben LeMar Gay – Cafe Oto, November
Insólito UniVerso – Sylvia’s House (London Fields), December
The Cookers – Church of Sound, May
Brandee Younger – Church of Sound, October
Waaju + 30/70 – TRC @ Giant Steps, July
Arun Ghost – Corsica Studios, November
Okumu Herbert Skinner – Jazz re:freshed @ Mau Mau Bar, September
Tal Janes x Yusuf Ahmed – SET Dalston, September
Collocutor play Miles Davis’ ‘On The Corner’ – Total Refreshment Centre, March
Ill Considered & Emma-Jean Thackray – Total Refreshment Centre, March
BCUC – Total Refreshment Centre, January

TEAM VIBE: Best of 2018 – Ian Ward

(In no order)

Nat Birchall – Cosmic Language (Jazzman)
Review here

Abstract Orchestra – Madvillain Vol.1 (ATA)
Review here

1000 Kings – Raw Cause (Jazz re:freshed)
Review here

Muriel Grossmann – Golden Rule (RR Gems)
Review here

Sons of Kemet – Your Queen is a Reptile (Impulse!)
Review here

Ed Motta – Criterion of the Senses (MustHave/Membran)
Review here

Moses Boyd – Displaced Diaspora (Exodus)

Ambrose Akinmusiere – Origami Harvest (Blue Note)

Al Doum and The Faryds – Spirit Rejoin (Les Disques Bongo Joe)

Kikagaku Moyo – Masana Temples (Guruguru Brain)

John Coltrane – Both Directions at Once: The Lost Album (Impulse!)

Uniting of Opposites – Ancient Lights (Tru Thoughts)

Jason Isbell and the 400 unit – Live from the Ryman (Southeastern)

Aidan Moffat and RM Hubbert – Here Lies The Body (Rock Action)

Kamasi Washington – Heaven and Earth (Young Turks)

Peter Gall – Paradox Dreambox (Traumton)

Maisha – There Is A Place (Brownswood Recordings)

White Denim – Performance (City Slang)

Nu Guinea – Nuova Napoli (NuGuinea)

Tenderlonious Featuring The 22archestra – The Shakedown (22a)

Ian Ward

TEAM VIBE: Best of 2018 – DJ Set Chart

1. Àbáse – Align feat. Wayne Snow (Cosmic Compositions)
2. Moodymann – Pitch Black City Reunion (KDJ)
3. Fatima – Only (Eglo)
4. Emma-Jean Thackray – Ley Lines (The Vinyl Factory)
5. Children Of Zeus – Vibrations (First Word)
6. Auntie Flo – Havana Rhythm Dance (Brownswood Recordings)
7. Menagerie – Escape Velocity (Freestyle)
8. Kaidi Tatham – But You Bring It Up (2000 Black)
9. Ashley Henry & The RE:ensemble – Pressure (Silvertone)
10. The Lewis Express – Cancao De Momento (ATA)
11. Souleance – François (First Word)
12. Butcher Brown – Benin City (Self-released)
13. Web Web – Sandia (Compost)
14. The Stance Brothers – Minor Minor (We Jazz)
15. Chip Wickham – (Soul) Rebel 23 [Reginald Omas Mamode IV Remix] (Lovemonk)
16. The Expansions – Transcoso (Albert’s Favourites)
17. Mabuta – Log Out Shut Down (Afrosynth)
18. Tenderlonious Featuring The 22archestra – SV Disco (22a)
19. Makaya McCraven – Suite Haus (International Anthem)
20. Mark Kavuma – Into The Darkness (Ubuntu Music)

Damian Wilkes