Great mix of artists on this collection with Jamal Porto and Rasha from the Sudan, Les Orientales, Souad Massi and Maurice El Medioni from Algeria, Zaman from Palestine, Zein Al-Jundi from Syria, Charbel Rouhana and Hani Siblini from Lebanon, Mousto Largo from Morocco and Tiris from Western Sahara. Superb traditional music, highly recommended. Graham Radley
A celebration of 50 years of bossa nova, this 14 track compilation has a well rounded selection with Elis Regina, Carlos Lyra and Joao Donato among the artists helping to flex those limbs. Nostalgia for all the right reasons. Graham Radley
Terrific one man blues band who is a fine singer, guitarist and blues harpist. He’s not against inviting some classy friends to join him either including David Bromberg and Mike Katz with my pick going to to his take on Rory Gallagher’s ‘Going To My Home town’ joined by Brian Miller on mandolin. Great stuff. Graham Radley
Soundtrack to the film Tropa De Elite (Elite Squad) composed by Pedro Bromfman. The film tells the story of two childhood friends who decide to join Rio de Janeiro’s Military Police Department and in turn they then try out for a Special Operations Squad whose mission is to take down the drug-lords that plague the city. The music reflects this urban scenario with a mix that features MC Junior, MC Leonardo, Bateria da Rocinha, Barbatuques and styles that range from ambient to thrash punk. Excellent. Graham Radley
Love this, there’s a nice raw feel to the production so the music and songs can shine centre stage and they do superbly. The feel is folk meets singer songwriter meets subtle rock but it’s the songs and their delivery (Roddy Womble takes most lead vocals) that make this enchanting and moreish. Guests include Norman Blake and Francis MacDonald of Teenage Fanclub, Philip Selway of Radiohead, Heidi Talbot, Donald Shaw of Capercaille, Andy Cutting (BBC folk musician of the year) and Michael McGoldrick. Have a listen to ‘Into The Blue’ or ‘Moments Last Forever’ – magic. Graham Radley
Great album of seriously heavy music. The album flows beautifully and showcases some great music makers from more exposed names like Benny Sings, Tiombe Lockhart and Heavy through to relatively unknowns like Flako & Shaunise, Sandie Black and Oliver Day Soul. Deep joy comes from the Japanese god that is Mitsu The Beats with dabbling by Dwele and the monster track here courtesy of Coultrain with ‘Girl of my Dreams’ – a killer jazz groove. All in all, the albums just proves that in today’s financial climate there can still be great music made and great music released. Top marks start to finish.
Sonny Clark was a pianist who recorded almost exclusively for Blue Note and typified the superior late 1950s bop on the classic ‘Cool Struttin’ as well as performing as sideman on Jackie McLean’s ‘A Fickle Sonance’, Dexter Gordon’s ‘Go’ and Stanley Turrentine’s ‘Jubilee Shout’. By the early 1960s he was fighting a drug addiction that would take his life in January 1963. In 1961, however, when this album was made, Sonny was on top form and surrounded by an enviable line up of the cream of Blue Note studio musicians including Billy Higgins on drums, Charlie Rouse on tenor and Tommy Turrentine (brother of Stanley) on trumpet. The opener ‘Somethin’ special’ is a blues-inflected piece with melodic solo from Rouse and the clear lyricism of Turrentine. Miles Davis’ and John Coltrane’s modal explorations were in the early 1960s being digested by the jazz community and ‘Melody for C’ is a fine example of this.
In contrast ‘Midnight Mambo’ pays homage to the big band Latin sound of Machito and Tito Puente and illustrates how easily jazz could incorporate Afro-Cuban rhythms. Ike Quebec guests on the ballad ‘Deep in a dream’ and as ever it is the economy of style that impresses one with the tenor’s playing. Sonny Clark was an underrated pianist whose main influences were Bud Powell and Horace Silver in the evolution of bop and the soulful licks of the blues, but who by the early 1960s had a clearly individual style. It is a tragedy that he was unable to experience some of the innovations that took place in jazz from the mid-1960s onwards. Tim Stenhouse
Whether as a member of the classic Jimmy Smith combo on seminal albums such as ‘Midnight Special’ and ‘Back at the Chicken Shack’, or as a leader in his own right, Stanley Turrentine recorded his very best sides for Blue Note. In this 1961 recording, the group is pared down to a trio with then wife Shirley Scott on hammond organ and the excellent Roy Brooks on drums fresh from explorations in the Horace Silver band. It is a testimony to the ensemble playing that there is a depth to the overall sound and Scott would return to the trio format in the early-mid 1970s on albums for Cadet and Strata East respectively. The opener ‘Baia’, a Brazilian tune penned by Ary Barraso, was covered by John Coltrane and here Turrentine only plays a latin theme at the beginning and ending of the piece. He clearly knew how to play with the melody and extract the maximum from it. A trio of US songbook tunes including ‘My Shining Hour’ and ‘Yesterdays’ displays Turrentine’s ability to stretch out on a tune. Larry Young would in the mid-late 1960s take a leaf out of Shirley Scott’s dramatic style of playing. An all round effort from Stanley Turrentine who would continue to record the tenor-organ format for another few years.
The Three Sounds underwent a major stylistic change after mid-1967 with an accompanying minor change in personnel. Until then they had performed as classic jazz trio with a bluesy feel and had recently recorded the superb live album ‘Live at the Lighthouse’ in June 1967. Thereafter strings were added, flute and vibes introduced, and the drum pattern was more akin to that of the emerging funk sound pioneered by James Brown. Chicago-based producer Monk Higgins was clearly influenced by the soul orchestrations of the windy city and ‘Elegant Soul’ is a superior example of soul and jazz styles merging. Aided by the writing of fellow producer See Ervin and separate songwriter Virginia Bland, compositions range from extended workouts to tight blues-inflected grooves. The longest of these, ‘Sittin’ Duck’ weighs in at over nine minutes. For jazz fans the strings are far from intrusive as illustrated on ‘Do it right now’ with occasional background chants. A left-field winner is to be found in ‘African Sweets’. All in all arguably the best of the late period studio recordings Gene Harris and the band made for Blue Note. Tim Stenhouse
Jeremy Steig was a relatively little known flautist whose main claim to fame came much later in the 1990s when the track ‘Howlin’ for Judy’ was a hit on the jazz dancefloor scene. This compilation brings together the two albums he recorded for Blue Note and Solid State while under the control of Liberty. The title track is a wonderful piece of left-field inspired jazz and in truth nothing quite matches this. However, ‘Mint Tea’ evokes the influence of Roland Kirk and is an extended excursion for Steig. Throughout proceedings Steig is accompanied by a pared down accompaniment of Eddie Gomez on bass and Don Alias on drums and percussion. The recordings might have benefited from the occasional variation of piano or guitar. There is no questioning the skill of Steig, or the intensity of his playing as witnessed on ‘Alias’. However, as whole this compilation is little too one-dimensional and one is left wanting a temporary rest from the relentless flute improvisations. Tim Stenhouse