Category Archives: Album Reviews

Satoko Fujii’s Orchestra Berlin ‘Ninety-Nine Years’ (Libra) 4/5

When I say free, you say jazz. Free. JAZZ. Free. JAZZ.

When I say free, you say jazz. Free. JAZZ. Free. JAZZ.

Okay, now we all know what to expect, which is, of course, the unexpected.

Pianist and composer Satoko Fujii returns with 48 minutes of free-spirited expression straight out of nobody’s handbook. Now solidified as one of the foremost figures in her field, Fujii has built an enviable portfolio of more than 80 albums. Her latest, ‘Ninety-Nine Years,’ is sure to confuse and excite anyone looking for no holds barred composition.

Ten-piece ensemble Orchestra Berlin are the drones of the Japanese pianist’s wanton revelry. Having first worked together in 2015 to record Ichigo Ichie, she asked German saxophonist Gebhard Ullman to gather a band of merry souls willing to let themselves go. And so he did, and they did.

“I really didn’t know how they would play together or how the music would sound,” Fujii says. “I didn’t expect them to play so hot, with so much energy.”

Fewer birthday presents are as wackily grand to welcome in a person’s 60th year as Fujii’s present to herself. In 2018 she plans to release 12 albums, one every month. She goes by no rules.

So, back to business; you stick a bunch of musicians in a room together, fronted by an individualist maestro, and tell them to dig deep. They oblige, and their special character comes forth as each is given time to show their abilities and covey their ideas.

Opening, and aptly named, track ‘Unexpected Incident’ is the perfect introduction to Fujii’s manifesto. The music is a perfect representation of the Japanese government’s euphemism for the Fukushima nuclear disaster, from which the name derives. Over the course of 10 minutes we gain a real insight to the band’s bold, energized glory. Tenor saxophonists Matthias Schubert and Gebhard Ullman push to boundaries beyond, with Schubert and trombonist aggressively fighting midway through. Ullman brings it home, but not on this world, with a raving unaccompanied solo.

There’s something creeping in the latter part of ‘Ninety-Nine Years.’ Perhaps a fox is skulking in the shadows, until spotted, running for its life in a frenzy of shrieking saxophone. One may find it difficult to believe that the track opens to bassist Jan Roder, paying tribute Fujii’s late mother-in-law.

Natsuki Tamura is the embodiment of sheer horror during ‘On The Way.’ After a nice, relaxing sequence of percussion, demonstrative of the musicians’ command of rhythm and groove, hell breaks loose. Demons possess trumpeter Tamura. He gabbles uncontrollably. One can imagine him twitching in a corner somewhere, grounded by some otherly being, trumpet stuck snake-like to his lips.

It was Tamura who suggested the title of fourth track ‘Oops,’ perhaps given to him during his trance. In actual fact the inspiration came from the horn players finding the track’s rhythms tricky, or so Tamura says. Any hint of difficulty is not present in the final recording. Pure, intended, trumpeted havoc ensues.

The album closes with ‘Follow The Idea.’ Peter Orins and Michael Griener set the precedent with a parade of rolling drums. The track ends up breaking into something evoking a call to arms. Don’t be fooled though, there’s plenty of mad gargling hidden away throughout, a fitting close to Fujii’s vision.

Cadence Magazine have called her ‘the Ellington of free jazz,’ but that’s untrue. She’s Satoko Fujii, and her music’s coming to get you.

Sam Turnell

The Dissolute Society ‘Soldiering On’ CD/Dig (Babel Label) 3/5

As a fan of psychedelic, sludge and garage rock, I’m not one to usually listen to lyrics. That changed when I first played ‘Soldiering On’ by The Dissolute Society, captivated by the sadness of verse. London born trombonist, improviser, composer, and educator Raph Clarkson’s new ensemble has created a debut album sure to absorb even the hardier of people.

A graduate of York and Oxford Universities, Clarkson is probably best known as member of award-winning jazz-punk ensemble WorldService Project. He’s been involved in a huge array of projects, a true restless creative, and embarks on this album with no sign of lacking energy.

The fifteen track ‘Soldiering On’ is a deeply personal display of a talent in love with his craft. There is no shortage of brilliance from the album’s contributing artists. Clarkson’s father, Gustav, plays delightful viola, and there are compositions by the late John Taylor, who sadly died in 2015.

Singer Fini Bearman guest stars as the vocalist, and is supported masterfully by the other musicians. She sings sweetly on opening track ‘Opening (A Journey)’ in a performance which could be straight out of a West End show.

A change overcomes her on ‘Grandma’, lilting with a cut-up poetism like a broken train of thought. The song is inspired by Clarkson’s German-Jewish grandmother, who lived in Palestine for many years. But, if you were unaware of this, one might see it as a representation of a mind overrun with dementia. Few songs have captured the trials old-age so accurately.

Later on, on ‘Soldiering On/On,’ she bites with Bjork like brilliance whilst Huw Warren breaks through a scintillating piano score. Suddenly, on ‘I’m Sorry’ Norwegian singer Mia Marlen Berg transforms into a sort of female 80’s post-punk vocal, before unleashing a full-blown operatic staccato.

This is not an easy listening record. Far from it. There’s a deep sadness to much of what goes on which I’d recommend listening to in the right mind-set. Although ‘Find The Way Through’ is a really good, groove laden antidote featuring a rap from Joshua Idehen. But, you’ve got to wait until track 14 to reach respite if listening as a continuous stream.

The only criticism I have is that I often find poetry quite self-indulgent, but so is writing reviews, I guess. Contrary to that, the musicianship on display is all exceptional, exuberant sadness.

Soldiering On is out on the 11th May on the Babel label.

Sam Turnell

Ilios Steryannis ‘Bethany Project’ CD/Dig (Private Press) 4/5

Drummer, percussionist and composer Ilios Steryannis has been a stalwart member of the Canadian jazz community for a number of years. A Berklee alumnus, ‘Bethany Project’ is (we think) his first full album length release as bandleader after years of contributing to other musical ventures. This set comprises of 11 tracks of varying sounds, styles and flavours with an experienced mid-sized group of musicians including Sundar Viswanathan on alto and soprano saxophone, Kenny Kirkwood on baritone sax, Joel Visentin on Hammond organ and synth duties, Connor Walsh on electric and upright bass, Scott Neary on guitar, Larry Graves playing various percussion parts, Adam Hay on congas
and Eric St-Laurent playing electric guitar and acting as producer for the project.

The album begins with ‘Group of Seven’, a 7/4 Afro-Cuban piece with heavy drums and percussion including conga and timbales running beneath the duel saxophones of Kenny Kirkwood and Sundar Viswanathan – but it is rather short at 3’20”. Any jazz music student should be able to identify the inspiration behind ‘Keep The Change’, which is based around the chord changes of ‘Giant Steps’, Coltrane‘s 1960 masterpiece, which is now used heavily within music education as a device for developing improvisational skills and an understanding of key centres. Luckily, the added guitar and B3 additions move it away from just another ‘Giant Steps’ remake.

The funk inspired ‘College Street Knowledge’ with its changing JBs encouraged bass lines and heavy use of melody make it an obvious crowd pleasing live number. ‘Mombasa Lisa’, as the name suggests, takes its influence from the African continent, again, making great use of percussion, guitar and alto saxophone, and ‘Florina’ utilises Eastern European rhythms, taking motivation from Ilios’ father’s hometown in Greece of the same name with its jazz sensibility and again heavy use of sax and guitar.

‘The Ornado’ returns to the funk with its melodic unison chorus and individual solos running throughout the verses. ‘Alek’s 11’ fuses Mediterranean and African textures, but again, at just over four minutes in length feels a touch short in allowing for all musical conversations to be made, and ‘To Infinity’ is essentially a Hammond workout for Joel Visentin. The final track of the set, ‘Soledad’ contains be-bop, Afro-Cuban and fusion ideals, keeping an obvious eye on its place as a solid live performance inclusion, being very much an ensemble affair.

Being critical, it could be stated that the large numbers of influences and variety of musical ideas within ‘Bethany Project’ could produce a disjointed and fragmented album, but due to its strong Afro-Cuban theme I feel the LP still maintains a consistency. Some of the compositions are a touch short but the playing is of a very high standard and the song writing is also of high quality. The group are also touring, so maybe a trip to Greece is forthcoming.

Damian Wilkes

Ilios Steryannis is a new name to me and, I imagine, to many readers. He is a drummer and composer from Toronto, describing this project as “World Jazz from the Heart”. This seems an apt description. The unusual group instrumentation consists of Sundar Viswanathan (alto and soprano saxophones), Joel Visentin (keyboards), Eric St-Laurent (guitar, producer), Steryannis (drums and djembe), Larry Graves (percussion), Connor Walsh (electric and upright bass), Adam Hay (congas), Scott Neary (guitar) and Kenny Kirkwood (baritone saxophone), all of which offer up a heady mixture of Mediterranean melodies, Afro-Cuban rhythms and West African percussion with elements of funk and bebop thrown in for good measure.

“The Group of 7” gets things underway described as a jaunty melody with an Afro-Cuban vibe. I can’t argue with that. “Keep the Change” (surely a distant relative of John Coltrane’s “Giant Steps”) follows; a piece with a “bright bouncy swing”. Another highlight is “Mangambe” which, as its title might suggest is a catchy upbeat tune with energetic West African percussion.

There are eleven varied tracks in total and other influences include “Coltranesque post bop”. Most are relatively short pieces with only two running in excess of nine minutes. Africa comes to the fore with “Mombasa Lisa”, “Florina” seems to bring to mind the composer’s roots in Greece with the piece including elements from Greek folk music and “The Ornado” at times seems reminiscent of something that Weather Report might produce.

The theme statement of “ScoJoe” brings to mind the music of John Scofield and Joe Lovano. Could they be the dedicatees in the song title?

“To Infinity” is a joyous swinger with some fine organ-playing.

The album concludes with “Soledad”. This is a lengthy track but it succeeds in retaining the listener’s attention throughout. It is full of musical variety and is yet another example of the musical expertise of these musicians.

It is sometimes difficult to bring together so many disparate musical elements to create a cohesive whole. In this case, however, all concerned have put in sterling work in bringing to life the drummer’s accomplished compositions. This is certainly an album worthy of repeated listening as it reveals new musical pleasures every time.

Alan Musson

Dijf Sanders ‘Java’ (W.E.R.F.) 3/5

Let’s go to Indonesia where, southwest of Malaysia and Sumatra, south of Borneo, and west of Bali, lies Java. Here, rich soil gives birth to plush, exotic plant life. From east to west runs a mountain chain, interspersed with volcanoes, like a spine through the island. Whilst here, why not try some Bubur Ayam, the delicious breakfast made with porridge and shredded chicken. If that doesn’t take your fancy, how about some music? Go and find a nice spot for a drink, soak up the sunshine and listen to a few of the 141 million people play.

Belgian musician Dijf Sanders did and made an album of the music variety, but probably also of the photo description, from his travels, taking in every rural and urban corner in search of the Javanese sound. Inspired by ethnomusicologist Alan Lomax, Dijf engulfed himself in the island’s culture and tradition, fervently collecting an impressive repertoire of recordings.

Back on Belgian soil, he cut and spliced, and gave his ear to, hours upon hours of field recordings. When he was satisfied he’d captured Java to it’s most bountiful, he enlisted the help of Nathan Daems, Filip Vandebril, and Simon Segers, musicians who specialise in creating Oriental sound.

Did they pull it off?

Course they did. And it’s a mighty nice listen. Although I’ve only seen images of Java on Google images, I do feel like I’ve been transported to some distant shore.

Sam Turnell

Guy One ‘#1’ (Philophon) 5/5

If it hadn’t been for Max Weissenfeldt’s label, Philophon, the world wouldn’t have heard this album, and this review would never have been written. Let’s not dwell on what if’s, but concentrate on the what’s it all about’s.

And what it’s all about is a man from a small North Ghanaian town called Bolgatanga. That man is Guy One, and his debut album is very good. Now, that’s not very good in the usual sort of way; Guy One isn’t usual.

He had no schooling, and had to build his own instruments, whilst herding cows and goats. He had to teach himself to sing, then plied his trade at funerals and weddings, becoming a North Ghanaian icon. His stature grew to such reverence that it is said that if Guy One was unable to sing at somebody’s funeral, they simply wouldn’t be buried.

The fire spread quickly throughout Ghana, fanned by appearances on Ghanaian TV, reaching the ears of Weissenfeldt, who swept it up and took it to Berlin accompanied by a full orchestra.

It’s a sweet story, their meeting. Weissenfeldt found a Guy One CD, got on a bus, and arrived in Bolgatanga. It took ten minutes to track down the man, soon they were shaking hands. Two hours later they were at a funeral, crowded by villagers who listened as Guy one sang.

Jump to sometime later, to now, and the resulting album. #1. It’s an eclectic record fit for the man. There’s tradition, there’s flutes, there’s fanfare. Guy One harks to the skies, yells to them, all the while playing the lute-like Kologo, named such by the Frafra people from which he comes. The orchestra don’t dominate, they cooperate, picking up the Frafra sound with reverential ease. In N’yella Be Bobere? a vibraphone resonates unexpectedly, an appropriate surprise from a surprising musician.

Guy One left Ghana for the first time in 2013, taking with him a genre of music little known to shores outside Africa. His music is sure to travel the world from now on.

Sam Turnell

Mélissa Laveaux ‘Radyo Siwèl’ (Nø Førmat!) 3/5

Mélissa Laveaux is in search of a lost past.

Born to Haitian parents in Ottowa, Canada, her Creole culture wasn’t something which was talked about in her household. Some years later, in Paris, Laveaux is putting that right.

On an album as globally encompassing as her passport, she succeeds in exploring voodoo rhythm, Haitian folklore, and calypso, mixed with a French sultriness. This is not an album full of self-regret and longing, a trap easily fallen into by artists who have put something down somewhere and forgotten its exact location. This is a full blown of celebration of re-discovered roots and new horizons.

Instead of smacking with desperation, the music smacks joyfully with juxtaposition. Shimmering guitars rain down whilst Laveaux sings about Haiti’s occupying parties, lilting through a history of American rule between 1915 to 1936. She perfectly encompasses the Haitian culture; resilience, colour, strength in spirit.

Radyo Siwèl is out tomorrow on Nø Førmat!.

Sam Turnell

Jamison Ross ‘All For One’ (Concord) 4/5

A new name and voice to these ears and eyes, but mark my words, the Floridian born singer/drummer Jamison Ross has a promising future ahead on this second recording (hIs debut, ‘Jamison’, dating from 2015) that showcases his understated take on standards and a few original compositions which reveal a potential major talent for the future. in fact, Ross was recipient of the Monk International Jazz Award in 2012 for his drumming prowess. The softly spoken delivery may remind one of the young Al Jarreau, but this singer has a penchant for both jazz and nu-soul and is adaptable enough to operate in blues and even funk idioms. His influences include Marvin Gaye in orchestral jazz mode as on a rare 1964 Motown album, When I’m alone I cry’ [editor only – I’ve been after this on CD and think it includes ‘Love for sale], while his all-time favourite singer is Lee Dorsey, and he regularly performs live in that city which is steeped in the history of blues and jazz.

The opener is a breezy, New Orleans influenced groove reading of an Allen Toussaint opus, ‘A mellow good time’, and the collective chanting in the chorus is a real treat. Multi-keyboardist Chris Dunn serves as co-producer with Ross and their range of influences is impressive. His voice is ideally suited to an interpretation of Mose Allison’s, ‘Everybody’s crying mercy’, with a restrained piano solo. Pianist Chris Pattishall comes to the fore on a work our of, ‘Don’t go to strangers’, a number that Chaka Khan memorably covered with Rufus on their reunion album. Emotionally invested soulfulness is an apt description of Ross’ cover of Ira Gershwin and Kurt Weill’s, ‘My ship’. Of the originals, there is a strong nu-soul feel that permeates, ‘Unspoken’, again delivered as a down tempo vehicle. Original compositions will improve with age, but already on the Latin inflections of, ‘Safe in the arms of love’, his writing talents are beginning to bear fruit. Soul-jazz singers are relatively rare creatures these days. Al Jarreau, Jean Carn and Phyllis Hyman all emerged in the 1970’s while Anita Baker was a star in the making from the early 1980’s onwards. Could Jamison Ross be the next in that esteemed lineage? Recent live performances early in 2018 have included a five night residency tribute to Nina Simone.

Tim Stenhouse

Shinya Fuyiomori Trio ‘For 2 Akis’ (ECM) 4/5

Japanese jazz musicians seldom receive their due in the West so it is with great pleasure that Manfred Eicher has placed his faith in drummer and leader Shinya Fuyiomori of a youthful trio comprising pianist Walter Lang and French tenor saxophonist Matthieu Bordanare, the latter coming across as a composite of his countryman Barney Wilen and of Stan Getz. This album is the typically ECM terrain of succeeding in being esoteric on the one hand and lyrical on the other. As whole, it has an impressonistic feel with shades of classical influences, most notably Erik Satie. If the unusual line-up is devoid of any double bass, you do not really miss it which is testimony to the cohesive nature of the trio. The all original compositions are divided up between band members and, although several have Japanese titles. they are not overtly influenced by the Japanese folk tradition, even though imagery seems to be a constant throughout most of Japanese art, be it audio or visual. A delightful title track number has pianist and tenorist duetting over a beautiful melody, with the plaintive tone of Bordanare recalling Getz, and the percussive accompaniment is sensitive. A repetitive minimalist piano riff is a feature of, ‘Hoshi moguri nouta’, which opens up the album and has a subtle nod to the music of Jan Garbarek. Another minimalist number, ‘Ai san sai’, has a quasi-religious undertone and Lang takes the limelight, while on the pianist’s own composition, ‘No goodbye’, an elongated solo provides the backdrop for some gentle wailing from Bordanare. Lyrisicm is the order of the day on this recording which was made at La Buissonne, but could just as easily have been conceived in Kyoto.

Tim Stenhouse

Various ‘Spiritual Jazz 8: Japan Pt 1+2’ 2x2LP/2CD (Jazzman) 5/5

Let us rewind briefly to the end of World War Two. United States forces under the leadership of Edwin Reischauer occupied mainland Japan and the surrounding islands. The reconstruction of Japan was slowly underway, but it was not only material, devastating though the Allied bombing of Tokyo was and never ever forgetting the utter devastation exacted upon Hiroshima and Nagasaki. With respect to the Japanese people, however, there was a psychological reality of an occupied force that they had been taught to hate and a policy of isolationism, and consequently a great cultural re-awakening. Reischauer, later to become a professor of Political Science, and an expert on matters Japanese (born in Japan originally), had the perceptiveness to handle the occupation with great sensitivity, and avoid alienating the local population. It is into this complex socio-political context that Western music and jazz more specifically soon entered the equation. Renewed interest in the arts resulted in thousands of books pouring off the Japanese press in cheap translated editions and thus the Japanese people slowly began to embrace social concepts of the West, including mass culture.

Jazz had in fact first emerged in Japan as early as in the 1920’s when the import of records and the music was regarded as a romantic pass time and difficult for a Japanese taught tongue to pronounce ‘Chjazz’. During war itself, by 1944 young Japanese (the same applied to German soldiers in the Wehrmacht) flouted the rules and were playing jazz records. The transgressive quality of jazz and its questioning of orthodoxy was to the fore here. A first example of how swing jazz was influencing the young Japanese population in the emerging dancehalls of the immediate post-war reconstructed Tokyo can be found in an insightful film by Kurosawa Akira, ‘Drunken Angel’ (1947) and numbers as immortal as ‘Tokyo boogie woogie’, but fast forward another thirteen years to 1960, and another masterly film by Naruse Mikio, ‘When a woman ascends the stairs’, now depicted a totally transformed Tokyo night scene in the satellite village topography where jazz regularly played a pivotal role via gramophones and the first beginnings of what would be the jazz café culture begun in the 1950s (often in response to the touring U.S. musicians under the tutelage of Norman Granz) that mushroomed throughout the city and to other parts of Japan. American jazz musicians were among the vanguard of cultural representatives, and these included Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers who remain a much-loved band, pianist Horace Silver who took his group over to tour, and at a later stage, Miles Davis who reveled in the adulation he and his wife received, and the spiritual awakening of John Coltrane. Novelist and jazz musician Hiroshi Murakami would regularly feature scenes from and references to that same café culture.

Horace Silver enjoyed as close a relationship as virtually anyone (Elvin Jones and Wayne Shorter would go further still and marry Japanese nationals and were not the only ones. Charlie Mariano and Lou Tabackin at different periods married the same Japanese woman, virtuoso Japanese pianist, Toshiko Akiyoshi, whose music is showcased here). In Silver’s autobiography, ‘Let’s get to the Nitty Gritty’, explains matters thus in reference to a 1962 tour by the Horace Silver quintet: (…) We were treated like royalty Western musicians, or superstars(…) The red carpet was extended to us in those days’. In his autobiography, Reischauer alludes not only to the intermingling of Japanese natives and jazz musicians, but to a relaxing of established codes of behaviour'(…) And there was ground out American jazz and emancipated young men (who) enjoyed the company of pretty young waitresses of doubtful morals’. French director Alain Resnais would make his own masterpiece, ‘Hiroshima mon amour'(1959), on the relationship between a Japanese man and French woman.

Chronologically, the music within this panoramic view of modern Japanese jazz dates from the early decade of the 1960’s with Toshiko Akiyoshi through to the early 1970’s. Stylistically, it embraces, bop, free, modal, fusion, including elements of Japanese folk, and funk. While it will require several listens over a longer period to fully take in all the musical treasures on offer, and in the case of some pieces, they do develop into quite different beasts over one of more movements, some key pointers can nonetheless be made at this early juncture. A love of delicate sounding instruments seems to be a hallmark of the music here and an indication, perhaps, of a great sensitivity towards this reflective of the Japanese folk tradition. This, a lilting harp-led trio interpretation of, ‘My favourite things’, opens up proceedings with leader Tadao Hayasaki operating on the harp, as Alice Coltrane would do also. A Japanese flute, the shakuhachi, is heard in all it’s glory alongside the graceful sounding koto on. ‘The positive and negative’ by Minoru Muraoka which is taken from a highly sought after album, ‘Soul bamboo’, from 1970, that has a drum solo hip-hop samplers would identify with. East and West combine, with a strong Indian flavour on Ragan Sinthubairavi’, where reedists Sadao Watanabe (arguably the best known Japanese horn player on an international stage and capable of performing in a variety of styles from a disciple of Parker-esque bop to fusion) and Charlie Mariano join forces, the latter on the high-pitched Indian reed instrument, the nadaswaram. Further highlights on the first CD include a lovely modal reading of Wayne Shorter’s ‘Footprint(s)’ by guitarist Shungo Sawada, and a fusion piece that build into a cacophony of sound from the ‘Godfather of the Japanese avant-garde’, guitarist Masayuki Takayanagi, as part of a larger collective known as New Direction for the Arts and a 1972 offering entitled ‘Sun in the East’.

The second CD is notable for the inclusion of pianist Toshiko Akiyoshi and a trio version of a Japanese traditional classic that the pianist has subsequently revisited in different formats, but here offers a gentle 1961 reading, ‘Kisarazu jinku’. She remains by far the best known of all Japanese jazz musicians abroad and a major inspiration for younger generations of women pianists, in both jazz and classical idioms. Psychedelic jazz-fusion with gospel voicings surface on a 1971 number with psychedelic guitar that come straight off a Serge Gainsbourg film soundtrack, ‘Kikazaru’, by pianist and composer Keitaro Miho. A keen appreciation of other folk culture and adaptation to a jazz context results in one of the most enjoyable tracks on the whole compilation, a gorgeous, multi-faceted interpretation of ‘Scarborough fair’, an English folk tune that Martin Carthy taught Paul Simon who sold it to the masses and probably served as the inspiration for this version, one that commences in gentle mode before picking up a head of steam with an increasingly energetic tenor saxophone solo from Miyazawa Akira as part of the Four Units group.

It is important to stress that the 2 CD set comprises the totality of the tracks while the vinyl editions are divided up into two separate parts. A lavish bi-lingual thirty-two page booklet in English and Japanese leaves no stone unturned and comprehensively covers the individual pieces. While not the first jazz compilation of Japanese jazz, in Japan at least and there have been praiseworthy efforts on individual labels (if you can find a copy, try the ‘Shibuya jazz Classics Sleep Walker’ collection of Columbia Japan that includes another Sadao Watanabe and Charlie Mariano collaboration, ‘Iberian waltz’), this cuts across far more territory and eras within the parameters of modern jazz at least. This is likely to become a groundbreaking compilation of Japanese jazz that will appeal to those who have long searched for something to quench their appetite for jazz as envisioned by its practitioners in the Far East, and especially the undoubted love in which the music is held and the exquisite attention to detail paid to the (re)issuing of jazz products in Japan. A follow up might want to explore in greater depth the cross-fertilisation of visiting American and other Western jazz musicians with the cream of Japanese musicians, and/or further delve into those Japanese only releases that have rarely if ever been heard outside the land of the rising sun.

Tim Stenhouse

Vibronics ‘Woman On A Mission’ (SCOOPS) 5/5

Over a couple of decades on the scene and with an already very healthy back catalogue and collaborative history, presented here is the superb new long player from the underground reggae and dub heavyweight, Vibronics, an album with an all female cast of vocalists entitled ‘Woman On A Mission’.

This album contains that treasure known as the extended mix, where every vocal piece effortlessly flows into its dub version, like the good old 12″ vinyl reggae platters from many moons past, thus my ears were delighted whilst listening through the opening track from this album, a digital lovers rock flavoured piece called ‘All Sisters Unite’ -with the vocal tones of Nia Songbirdand its belly rumble big bass sound- as it soared into its dub version, the quality of the mixdown, production and the delivery of Nia’s vocal is quite frankly outstanding and this quality continues unabated throughout this extended set with all the guest vocalists shining on their respective tracks, like the next piece, ‘Each One Teach One’, a cool rootsy swayer featuring a soulful vocal from Nish Wadada followed by the digital steppers vibe of ‘Rise Up’, with a double tracked harmony style vocal which is then dubbed to glory in its extended mixdown, a heavy-duty floor filler of a tune and I would imagine a big crowd pleaser at any half decent ‘soirée dans un chapiteau’.

Hailing from Leicester, England, Vibronics has been entertaining underground and uptown ears since the 1990s with a heavy-duty reggae and dub catalogue spanning 60 plus titles, including the long running ‘Scoop’ vinyl singles series produced by Vibronics from the early 2000s that featured a variety of vocal collaborators such as Murry Man, Echo Ranks, Lutan Fyah, madu, Bushchemists and other luminaries of that period, and all complete with their ‘version’ on the flip side as any good reggae vinyl single should. His experience as a producer and mixdown specialist stands in good sted and one can really apreciate this moreso when listening to the tune that is, ‘Peaceful Warriors’, most particularly as it journeys through its extended version segment with -the wonderfully named- Sis I-Leen’s voice being put through the effects unit in fine musical dub passion – it’s another floor filler. The whole set gels together as a complete and also every single tune shines as a ‘stand alone’ at the same time, is as strong and potent as the last one played, that is quite a rarity these days, absolutely no filler.

A quote from Vibronics “In this project, we are focusing on women, specifically women in music, literally providing a voice for their cause. It is no secret that, even today, women face all kinds of obstacles on their way to equality, yet many are quick to dismiss that fact”.

A message for unification, a compassionate plea, a stunning reggae album. A percentage of profits from sales will go to the charity Womankind. Availabe as double vinyl LP and CD Digipak from April, and of course at various download and stream stores now.

Gibsy Rhodes