All posts by ukvibe

Kit Downes ‘Obsidian’ LP/CD (ECM) 3/5

ECM has rightly acquired a reputation for not pandering to conventional tastes and promoting left-field projects whenever possible. This is a case in point. Pianist Kit Downes is best known for his work in trios and sideman for larger ensembles, but for his ECM leader debut, he breaks the mold by performing on a variety of church organs in Suffolk and at the Union Chapel in London. It has to be stated that this is not really a jazz recording, though other jazz pianists have occasionally reverted to the sound of the organ, including on less than Fats Waller and on one piece, ‘Modern Gods’, Downes is joined by tenor saxophonist, Tom Challenger. A real treat is a fascinating rendition of the traditional folk number, ‘Black is the colour’, which Nina Simone famously sang. Otherwise, the compositions are the leader’s own. The project as a whole is devoted to the late pianist John Taylor, who was not averse himself to the occasional organ performance.

Tim Stenhouse

Bobo Stenson Trio ‘Contra La Indecisión’ CD (ECM) 4/5

There has been a wait of some six years for this trio to record together again with the much praised, ‘Indicum’ setting a high bar to match, and yet the belated follow up is every bit as strong and reflective. It is no accident that this trio have performed as one for over three decades and this includes being the rhythm section for, at different periods, both Charles Lloyd and Tomasz Stanko. Some have remarked on the parallel with the classic Bill Evans trio that included bassist Scott La Faro, whose life was tragically taken away, and certainly those comparisons are not without merit. On this occasion, however, the album is a good deal more straightforward than it’s predecessor, and for that reason is easier to digest for listeners who may be new to the trio. Once again, Stenson showcases his love of both Cuban and Spanish music, with the title track a delightful composition by singer-songwriter Silvio Rodriguez who is something of a hero for the Swedish leader. Another treat is an interpretation of the Catalan classical composer Frederic Mompou, with an extended version of, ‘Cancion y danza VI’, while quite possibly strongest of all is a refined reading of the Erik Satie piece, ‘Elégie’, which starts off in a more conventional classical vein, but then as the piece develops shifts into jazz and later rapid mode. As a whole, this is a recording that is full of intimate creativity, even if the extended bow playing will not be to everyone’s liking. An exemplary piano trio performance.

Tim Stenhouse

Various ‘Svensk Jazzhistoria Vol. 11: Jazz Cosmopolit – Swedish Jazz History 1970-1979’ 4CD (Caprice) 5/5

Spanning an entire decade of jazz musicians in Sweden (though excluding resident overseas jazz artists such as Don Cherry whose, ‘Organic Music Society’ was re-issued by Caprice a few years back and is well worth investigating) and covering myriad styles from mainstream to hard bop, to fusion, taking on board free, world beats and Latin jazz, with big band and vocals not forgotten, this is a wide ranging anthology and one that any scholar of modern European jazz will wish to have in his/her collection. It includes musicians who came to prominence in the 1960s such as Alice Babs, Georg Riedl and Monica Zetterlund (the latter internationally thanks to her collaboration with Bill Evans), as well as a whole new generation of Swedish artists who soaked up the new developments in the US of the late 1960’s. What emerges is less of a copycat version of across the Atlantic, and more of a gradual clearly identifiably Swedish and Scandinavian sound, though there is no single voice for sure that dominates. A very brief illustration of the ECM label is made here, with the Bobo Stenson quartet featuring a then young Jan Garbarek on a memorable, ‘Witchi tai-to’, though there are ample examples of that label in its infancy elsewhere. The music divides up chronologically, with the four CD’s roughly covering between two and three years per disc. Various domestic labels are covered and, needless to say, these would be virtually impossible to find outside of the country and its near neighbours.

Helping to guide the non-Swedish jazz expert through this weighty tome is a beautifully illustrated and user friendly inner sleeve booklet of some one hundred and eighty eight pages, in both English and Swedish, though the latter naturally has pride of place and space. British jazz writer Stuart Nicholson has written a lengthy ten page introduction which sets the scene admirably, and thereafter there is an English language résumé of other sections in Swedish. Hitherto unheard of formations such as fusion band Oriental Wind are an interesting discovery, all the more so when one looks more closely at the band members and find out that Palle Danielson, Bobo Stenson and Turkish percussionist Okay Temiz are among the musicians. Free jazz band Mount Everest are another discovery and the innovations of Ornette Coleman did not go unnoticed with some. A major band leader to emerge during the 1970’s is alto saxophonist Bernt Rosengrans who, on this anthology, performs in both quartet and orchestral formats and is a fine musician and composer.

While there too many highlights to single out all individually, mention must nonetheless be made of the following formation who were influential in Sevda. On first appearance, they may look and even sound somewhat like a Swedish take on Pentangle. That is where is the parallel ends, however, for Sevda, were a band that fused world beats, especially Turkish, and folk-based jazz. The previous ten volumes go all the way back to the very origins of jazz at the very beginning of the twentieth century and especially noteworthy are volume 7, which is considered by Swedish jazz enthusiasts as a golden era between 1952 and 1955, coinciding incidentally, with the rise of Swedish film directors such as Ingmar Bergman, and volume ten during the 1960’s, chronicled in these columns previously. A praiseworthy latest installment of a series that is a comprehensive guide to jazz in Sweden.

Tim Stenhouse

The Dubbeez ‘Peace, Love and Dub’ (V2 Benelux) 4/5

From the peace-loving city of Amsterdam cometh their first album by two times award-winning six piece band The Dubbeez. In 2013 they took the crown at the battle of the bands contest in Holland and likewise were winners of the world reggae contest held in Poland in 2016. Their official debut long player entitled Peace, Love and Dub is exactly that with ten tracks exploring club reggae with a roots backdrop complimenting the soulful female vocals and the Jamaican delivery tones of MC Quincy. A tightly knit band with a superbly competent riddim section with female bassist Olivia Davina and the Carlton Barret style drumming of the one Earl Maddy who is a master of Hi Hat shuffle and drum fills.

So lets “bring out the cards and shuffle” as MC Quincy would say on the soulful candle lit reggae groove of a piece called ‘Hangover’ a Steel Pulse vibe that showcases the contrasting vocals of Joanne and Quincy which continue flawless throughout the album, an album of multi tempo vibes from the commercial upbeat happy (and should be a single) ‘Feelings’ to the laid back easy JA vibe body swayer that is ‘Rudeboy’ and the pop reggae ‘love in’ of ‘I Love Me’ and everything else in between.

OK let’s get down to serious vibe business, the ultra strong -and this is one of the three tunes on the album that seal their professionalism and playing passion- album title track ‘Peace, Love and Dub’ with an absolutely crucial bass run that brings Jamaica into your living room played with pure confidence by Olivia accompanied by Earl’s reverbed rimshots and with Quincy in full vocal throws exclaiming “Peace, love and dub, that’s what we stand for” on the hookline, this tune also contains a very convincing brass ensemble backdrop, this piece has a real vintage style mixdown, an uptempo ‘coming at ya like a bat with the shits’ ie; with attitude crowd pleaser complete with an extended few bars of the tune showcasing the band in full flow playout, superb, a 12″ version of this would be cool.

The other standouts..? the aforementioned ‘Feelings’ which is a full on commercial radio friendly hit waiting to happen, a sunny afternoon festival pleaser and also the very cool roots rock reggae that is a piece entitled ‘Obsession’ and what I dig about this album is that all the players are given their time to shine respectively during certain pieces, each player has ‘their’ moment given high light and that includes this piece where the overdriven sounding lead guitar work of Milan is given prominence in the mix with its roots rock crucial solo’s and the niceness that is Bobby’s organ shuffle work during the tune that also stands out as does Earl’s 80s style dancehall minimalist drumming, all tied nicely together with soulful vocals and MC interjections. The album plays out with a tune called ‘On The Road’ an easy going rockers vibe that proclaims this band aint for stopping.

Is it a non stop crucial album? well, a couple of weaker tracks to my ears appear, the weakest track on the album musically is the opener track ‘Dont Walk Too Fast’ and the weakest track on the album content wise is a piece called ‘Hold Us’ It’s an OK tune but a touch self congratulatory lyrically for me, but that’s purely a question of my taste perhaps not yours. If you’re in the area then this is a must see band, the album is very easy on the ears to listen to at home in all occasions and I feel your ears will be even more delighted to catch them in full wall of sound concert. Enjoy the vibes, they’ve worked very hard as a tight and dedicated unit to get this far and they deserve all accolades. I have a feeling their next long player could well be a five outa five , I’m giving this a heavy four. Check out their official site for gig news at www.thedubbeez.com

Gibsy Rhodes

Mopo ‘Mopocalypse’ LP/CD/Cassette/DIG (We Jazz) 5/5

This eight-track release by Helsinki based Mopo, their fourth full-length but their debut album for the We Jazz record label, resumes their contemporary approach to jazz, but all with a Finnish twist. The trio consists of alto and baritone saxophonist Linda Fredriksson, electric and double bass player Eero Tikkanen who also contributes violin parts, and drummer and percussionist Eeti Nieminen, who adds some further synthesiser work. Additionally, Otto Eskelinen supplies organ chops on one track. Writing duties are shared between the band but with Linda Fredriksson being the most prolific of the group.

The set begins with ‘Tökkö’, a bold and brash composition, which was also released on 7” in 2017 with ‘Nääspossu’ on the B-side – a track not featured on the album, which possess an almost hip hop sensibility and would definitely be a popular live showcase piece. ‘Riisto’ continues this high-octane formula, with the electric bass being particularly affective here. The third track of the set, ‘Ruusu’, again makes effectual use of bass, but with Eero Tikkanen moving over to double bass, which underpins the whole composition.

‘Musafa’ contains elements of Ethio jazz and could almost be mistaken for a Mulatu Astatke track – but without the vibes, with its steady percussive accompaniments and winding rhythm section. ‘Niin Aikaisin’, the only non-original piece being a traditional Finnish song, again draws upon some Ethiopian jazz qualities as inspiration. ‘Noita’ combines various musical cultures and concepts, including 1950s sci-fi movie cues with its Theremin-esque sonics, choppy Farisa organ chords and spiritual jazz flavours all within a 3/4 time signature metering. ‘Panama’ begins with a more subdued feel with its incredibly funky but tight snare drum sound, but without the track being wholly funk based. Melody takes precedence here with its assortment of melodic frameworks, as Linda Fredriksson’s playing becoming less frantic but more poignant.

There is a diverse collection of ideas and themes that run throughout the album, and for a trio configuration, the album radiates a very textured and dense quality. This is not a quiet, sparse and meagre affair, but a rich, deep and riveting album. Similarities with the fertile work of Shabaka Hutchings and other young players is apparent, especially the more brazen saxophone workouts and fans of more edgy contemporary jazz will feel at home with ‘Mopocalypse’.

We are massive supporters of the We Jazz organisation here at UK Vibe. Their forward thinking and progressive approach to the contemporary jazz climate is welcomed, with their growing back catalogue unquestionably worth investigating and their annual festival each December expanding year on year. As standard practice by We Jazz, the album is available on vinyl, but also in digital and CD formats, and is even additionally released on cassette tape.

Damian Wilkes

Sly and Robbie meet Dubmatix ‘Overdubbed’ (Echo Beach) 4/5

OK here is an album that basically sounds just like it says on the tin.. Overdubbed. The latest installment from Canadian underground dub musician, remixer and producer, Dubmatix, collaborating this time with vintage Jamaican riddim section Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespear, aka Sly and Robbie, whom we are told gave a bunch of master riddims previously unreleased / new to Dubmatix to remix and overdub in carte blanche style and passion to which he has.

Dubmatix has a big following within the arena with nearly 300,000 followers on FB and over 2 million on Soundcloud, his catalogue runs into the hundreds with dub releases, remixes, collaborations, EPs and stand alone albums. It was 2004 when he debuted his first release, ‘Champion Soundclash’, since then he has collaborated with dozens of prolific players in the industry providing remixes and providing his own compositions showcasing numerous singers and MCs. He’s a hands-on touring producer and over the years has gained much respect from many big names within the world of reggae and dub. There are not many underground reggae and dub radio shows that don’t feature a Dubmatix workout in their playlistings and can be considered without a doubt a bonefide veteran of the second wave underground digital dub arena, one of the pioneers to brake away from the ‘dub by numbers’ sentiment that peppered the first wave of underground digital dub.

Sly and Robbie were most prominent during the whole of the 1980s and into the 90s, the riddim section supreme, the bass and drum inna dub ‘n spesh for one’s musical vest. Undisputed Jamaican champions. Diffiult to count exactly how many bodies of work Sly and Robbie have appeared on during the past four decades but it safe to say it probably runs into the thousands, and not only within the Jamaican reggae world of vintage dub and collaboration, but also the mainstream pop and rock world with their work with Grace Jones, The Stones, Herbie and dozens more. Most probably by now, weighing it all up, the most respected riddim section from Jamaica ever.

But that’s not all.. We have a full brass section appearing throughout the album and additional percussion plus appearances by some top drawer MCs that you may have heard of… Dubmatix pulling out all the stops by guesting on Trombone; Chris Butcher, on Trumpet; John Pittman, on Sax; Paul Metcalfe with conga duties provided by the one Pato Irie. Guest MC duties come courtesy of the mighty Prince Allah, Screechy Dan, Jay Spaker, Megative and Treson.

The album’s opener, ‘Dictionary’, comes in at full distorted throttle, with a punk attitude that is heavily embraced by the underground dub scene, and then mid way the lazer lights in a field moment arrives, just as I was expecting, but what I wasn’t expecting was the wall of sound brass section that comes in the mix to finish off the last few bars, a spaghetti western themed ‘Atom Heart Mother’ moment, this is what makes today’s underground eclectic dub movement so interesting.

Prince Allah and Screechy Dan make their appearance on the second piece entitled ‘Smoothie’ which it is, a nice rolling 90’s mid tempo traveling style roots and pleasure track, I predict this tune will be a big drop at any sound system special.

Now a piece called ‘Riding East’, and it is with this third track that the pure underground digi dub is in evidence, on the download album this piece gets the pleasure of having two bonus mixes, one called ‘Riding East’ alt. version and the other bonus ‘Riding East’ Orig Western Version and it’s this version that again harks back to the original second wave ‘comming at ya’ attitude with its movie samples and on the edge of distortion mixdown, big speaker special, no candyfloss situation as does the piece entitled ‘Shabby Attack’ which has a Jahno (French Dub Artist) mix vibe with the difference being the lazer lights in a field moments that arrive with extra attitude and I’m diggin it.

A piece called ‘Communication Breakdown’, featuring Jay Spaker on vocals, is very uncannily like the Congos from the Black Ark Studio days, both in Jay’s vocal delivery and harmonies and in the mixdown. Then there’s a piece called ‘Ruff House’, which takes one way back to early 80s minimalist dancehall dub, the days just before the Jamaican digital era arrived. The backing riddim track on this piece does sound deliberately dated with its tape hiss and lo fi splendor and it’s just perfect and somehow recognisable. There are plenty more tracks to discover on this album… Tune in and discover them.

This album is not untra hi-fi pristine sound Abbey Road affair, it is Jamaican dub riddim fully embraced by Dubmatix outa Canada.

The CD release has 13 tracks, the digital release has 16 and includes alternate mixes. So what happens when you put these singers and players together? One gets the best of both worlds. Dubmatix is having great fun with this album, passionate fun with a serious mixdown delivery, why only 4 out of 5 then..? Well I’ve kinda gushed enough with the descriptive above haven’t I so it loses a point for my gushing. Good work, I love it. I wish it was on tape cassette also. Dubmatix is everywhere on the dub internet but do check out his Bandcamp page for an easy to follow and concise musical adventure.

Gibsy Rhodes

Jorge Drexler ‘Salvavidas de Hielo’ (Warner) 4/5

Uruguayan singer-songwriter, now resident in Spain, returns for another distinctive and, at times, idiosyncratic, travel through Latin Americana, with a stronger nod to Brazilian rhythms, notably the samba (though other world roots are discernible), and sounding at times as though a disciple of Caetano Veloso. This is illustrated on the lyrical samba-influenced ‘Abracadabra’, with guest vocals from Julieta Venegas and a melodic electric guitar solo from the leader as well on the mid-tempo groove of, ‘Pongamos que hablo de Martínez’. A Cuban-style instrumental, ‘Estalactitas’, then goes into something altogether rockier, and the different phases and tempi make this song a most interesting one. In contrast, the reposing ‘Asilo’, is pared down to just guitar and the guest vocals of Mexican singer Mon Laferte. The duets create beautiful harmonies and are deserving of a whole album at some stage. Spanish flamenco influences are hinted at, with the possible use of the cajón on ‘Telefonía’. In general, the simple rhythms created linger long in the memory, and the melodic and sparing use of instrumentation, as on, ‘Mandato’, with collective harmonies and hand clapping, work a treat. This recording builds up on a well received 2014 release, ‘Bailar En La Cueva’, and produced by Carles Campi Campón. Handwritten notes on the inner and outer sleeve notes and the creative art design gives the package as a whole a highly individual and even a 1970’s inspired rustic folk feel.

Tim Stenhouse

Till Brönner / Dieter Ilg ‘Nightfall’ (OKeh) 4/5

An intriguing pairing of bass and trumpet/flugelhorn might not at first seem appealing, but this is a duet that works and is at once a moody and intimate evocation recording. A melancholic feel permeates the album, speaking of interminably long winter evenings.

Both musicians have gained useful experience collectively and separately on the enterprising ACT label, but have now moved on to major label OKeh where they now nestle comfortably alongside the likes of Bill Frisell. Divided up between contemporary and classic covers on the one hand, and originals on the other, there is much to admire here and a genuine warmth to the rapport between the two instrumentalists. On the opener, ‘A Thousand Kisses Deep’, the vulnerability of the trumpet sound is showcased, with fine bass line work that brings the two together. For Lennon and McCartney’s ‘Eleanor Rigby’, the modal bass intro and muted Harmon operate wonderfully in tandem and this is a most inventive take on a well-worn classic. Western classical music forms part of the interpretations with J.S. Bach’s ‘Air’, a perennial favourite of jazz musicians. Here, the flugelhorn takes the lead, with bass following, and this is a very different interpretation from other jazz readings. An adventurous version of Ornette Coleman’s, ‘The fifth of Beethoven’, opens up the space, as piano and bass might, and indicates what an unusual combination the trumpet and bass are operating together. More reflective tones are adopted on the ballad, ‘Body and Soul’, with a Chet Baker-esque solo from Brönner and sensitive bass accompaniment. While this is their debut album for OKeh, it is far from their first recording together and this is an accomplished set that bodes well for future collaborations.

Tim Stenhouse

Calibro 35 ‘Decade’ (Record Kicks) 5/5

Celebrating their tenth year with this their 6th long player, Italian 5 piece band, Calibro 35, present ‘Decade’ a no expense spared across all formats 11 tracker running at a classic 48 minutes in what can only be described as an all out assault melange of cosmic freakout jazz, progressive and alternative hip hop grooves and outer space prog synth funk jamming, a pure instrumental album with a wall of sound production.

The first four tracks are a ‘set in stone’ romp through 70s style action TV series background music, the kind of TV that was American produced yet became staple watching for millions during afternoons and early evenings throughout the western world, for example all those wonderful background mini scores playing throughout episodes of Streets Of San Fransico, The Persuaders, Hart To Hart (er, OK), those kind of gritty, funky, organ and wah-wah guitar led pieces of musical art and these first four tracks, although very enjoyable to listen to, a nostalgic trip back in time -and it has to be said superbly played and executed ultra professionally without a doubt- are in danger perhaps of tempting one into believing that the remaining 8 tracks will be of same stock, well, sort of but it’s track 4 and onwards that to this listener’s ear the album finds its own identity and conceptual originality and thus begins a more experimental journey, a fuller cinematic approach with on occasion parts of the remaining tracks nodding back a glimpse to the three track opener.

Keyboards play a crucial role throughout these scores, you will hear a multitude of big brand synths and organs such as the Roland Juno, The Minibrute, The Prophet5, The Wurlitzer organ, my gosh I am within my own musical sweet shop hearing all these key’s, other instruments are provided by an array of guest musicians such as Vibrophones and Glocks, the Viola, Flutes, Trombones, Saxes, Cello, the Clarinet, all real and played with absolute passion, and of course the backbone; the drums and bass keeping it all together in an all out riddim assault.

My highlight tracks? Well let’s begin then with track 4 with its laid back and funky drumming featuring the very cool sounding ride cymbal of Fabio Rondanini and rolling bass of Luca Cavina on the piece entitled ‘Pragma’, with its lovely surrealist guitar work by Massimo Martellotta and early 70s style Floydian organ workout complete with full brass ensemble, then a piece called ‘Modular’ with its low slung groove, dystopian synths and wubba wubba bass splendor underpinned by a very infectious foreboding flute, deep piano and ghostly guitar effects, a sort of trip hop dystopian dub but not dub with slight echo’s of the guitar style one hears in certain pieces from ‘The Wall’ album, then there is the sub psychedelic piece ‘Polymeri’ although disappointingly short running at just over 2 minutes it’s a real experimental wonder, I wonder where the band could have taken this piece with another 4 minutes added to it..? Possibly past the moon. Then there is the magnificent 7 minute ‘Modo’, a one stop shop of creativity and playing, a funky jazz workout with dark synth chords, piano and again with full brass and wind ensemble. The final track on the album is a nice wind down and laid back Airesque sounding piece entitled ‘Travelers’ as we drift off into a voyage of our own before the next episode of something 1970s. An album excellently delivered, very interesting and passionately played.

Formats: The single from the album ‘Super Studio’ b/w ‘Gomma’ is available as limited edition 7″ black vinyl, the album itself is available as a limited edition Gatefold cover clear vinyl and on black vinyl, plus a limited edition Cassette tape and digipack CD and of course as download. For your own journey into a musical sweet shop of format bundles, player and studio credits check out their Bandcamp page.

Gibsy Rhodes

Søren Nissen ‘Departures’ (Private Press) 4/5

Bassist Søren Nissen has spent some time travelling in India and teaching at the Global Music Institute in New Delhi. His experiences seem to have informed the music on this seven track release even to the extent of including snatches from speeches given by the philosopher, speaker and writer Jiddu Krishnamurti focussing on the importance of spiritual discovery.
The eastern influences are taken further with the inclusion of a table in the instrumentation. Motifs from Indian classical music are also employed throughout the album, sometimes in an ambient vein and sometimes more energetically. Notwithstanding this, the jazz sensibility shines through. Synthesiser is also employed, thus seeming to bring the musical worlds of both the east and the west together in harmony.
This is certainly an assured debut recording. Nissen is clearly an accomplished musician playing not only acoustic bass but synthesiser and Fender Rhodes piano, James Hill plays piano, Fender Rhodes and Juno (a Roland synthesiser), Jeff LaRochelle is on tenor saxophone, Agneya Chikte plays tabla and percussion on some tracks and Ian Wright is behind the drums.
Nissen is still a young man in a short space of time has established himself as a premier bass player on the Toronto jazz scene. He describes his journey through India as a life changing experience. Not only was it a physical departure from home but also a psychological one too. The memories from the trip live on both in Søren’s memory and in these songs.
I particularly enjoyed the more considered pieces, such as ‘Mantra’ which has a relaxed feel. ‘Himalayan Constellation’ also has a wonderful feel. The saxophonist’s full bodied tone is best exhibited here. ‘Universal Exchanges’ is another fine piece, beginning delicately but soon building up a head of steam. ‘Alternatives’ is thoughtful and shows off the ethnic percussion to fine effect. For a true example of east meets west, ‘Eyes of Riya’ can’t be bettered. This is a lengthy, almost ambient piece which builds very slowly and includes a fabulous table and synthesiser section at about the half way mark. The leader’s bass gets ample space throughout the album and is really the beating heart of the album.
This is clearly a well-considered labour of love from Nissen and with such an auspicious debut album one is left wondering what is next to come in his discography. Let’s all hope that we don’t have to wait too long for the next thrilling instalment.

Alan Musson