Category Archives: Album Reviews

Gianluigi Trovesi / Gianni Coscia ‘La misteriosa musica della Regina Loana’ CD (ECM) 3/5

“The mysterious music of Queen Loana” is a delightful album featuring alto and piccolo clarinetist Gianluigi Trovesi and accordionist Gianna Coscia. The duo go back a long way together, as friends and musicians, sharing their love of music on three previous ECM releases between 1999 and 2009. On this present recording, they pay tribute to their distinguished comrade Umberto Eco. This album takes its title from Eco’s partly autobiographical novel of the same name, inspiring Trovesi and Coscia to embark on their own nostalgic and exploratory journey.

The Italian musicians cast a wide net with their choice of music. Playing songs associated with artists ranging from Louis Armstrong, Glenn Miller, George Fornby, Hupfeld and Janacek, alongside their own compositions, they cover a lot of ground and musical styles while keeping their dedicatee in view. “We have tried to run back through some of the book’s countless musical cues, as best we could and with no claims to completeness”, says Coscia. “In some cases, we have also inserted a few things that the author certainly had in mind but didn’t express explicitly.”

There is a very warm, nostalgic and romantic feel to this album. One can imagine the duo feeling just as comfortable performing together in a small Italian cafe as in an austere concert hall. Trovesi and Coscia share a telepathic-like musical understanding and are obviously in their element working together. The combination of the instruments create a melodic grace and each musician utilises his rhythmic virtuosity to bring life and light to the music being performed.

The album opens with “Interludio”, a piece that Unberto Eco and Gianni Coscia collaborated on more than 70 years ago when Coscia was 14 and Eco 13. There’s a tenderness and warmth to the playing that leaves the listener smiling and yet somehow reminiscing on his own past. The charming “Basin Street Blues” evokes memories of Louis Armstrong and an era of early jazz and all its tradition. Other favourites include an evocative “As time goes by”, the luscious “Moonlight Serenade”, and the duo’s self-penned tribute, “Umberto”.

In exploring their musical memories, Trovesi and Coscia have crafted an intoxicating album that not only pays homage to Umberto Eco, but also illuminates the duo’s music in a way that opens it up to a wider audience. That said, this is in fairness an album mainly for devotees of this kind of music/ accordion and clarinet instrumentation, but it does also offer a fresh and captivating listen to discerning jazz, classical and chamber music devotees who are open to a pleasing bit of musical craftsmanship and nostalgia.

Mike Gates

Michele Rabbia / Gianluca Petrella / Eivind Aarset ‘Lost River’ CD (ECM) 4/5

“Lost River” is an evocative and richly textured album that falls into one of those beyond-category recordings that the ECM label appears to be focussing more on these days. Those familiar with the three musicians on this sumptuous recording will have a good idea of what to expect. If I was to categorise this session, it would be clearly labelled “ambient”, with drummer Rabbia, guitarist Aarset and trombonist Petrella honing their skills as they come together as a trio for the first time to produce this feast of mysterious and captivating music.

At the suggestion of producer Manfred Eicher, the three musicians recorded “Lost River” as a trio project, with, for the large part, improvised music being created with the use of instrumentation and electronics. Rabbia and Aarset had played many duo concerts together, as well as working together on other projects such as Andy Sheppard’s recent ECM releases. And as Rabbia had also worked with trombonist Petrella in other contexts, it does seem like a natural progression for the three to work together.

This album is all about sonic soundscapes and ambient atmospheres. The trio create a palette of sound rich with diversity, texture, colour and a beauty that flows naturally from one piece of music into the next. Guitarist Aarset in his element, once more utilising his unique skills that have seen him grow in stature as a true innovator over the past couple of decades. Rabbia, one of my favourite drummers, brings an intuitive and highly personal creative edge to the music, his textural, evocative drumming flowing freely alongside intelligently used electronics. The surprise here is possibly the integration of Petrella’s trombone into the mix. His subtle playing brings melody and purpose to the tracks, with the electronics and effects working extremely well together.

All three musicians share an obvious interest in utilising electronic music alongside conventional instrumentation as a means for conveying or enhancing emotional expression and for shaping the environments and atmospheres borne out of the music itself. The results here are at times startling, with moods and thoughts drifting in and out of consciousness as the music effortlessly rises and falls like a dreamy Nordic landscape.

Mike Gates

Scott Kinsey ‘We Speak Luniwaz: The Music of Joe Zawinul’ 2LP/CD (Whirlwind Recordings) 4/5

Scott Kinsey is a jazz fusion keyboard wizard. During his illustrious career, he’s covered a lot of musical ground and worked with many, many faces. I first became aware of him as the synth part (alongside the guitar-heroic Scott Henderson) of the fierce fusion four-piece, Tribal Tech. Outside of that, he’s worked with Alphonso Johnson, Seamus Blake, John Scofield, John McLaughlin, Lalah Hathaway, Thundercat, Airto, Philip Bailey and, concluding an endless list to ensure I quickly get to the point…Joe Zawinul.
In fact, he did a wee bit more than just work with Zawinul. He became Zawinul’s protégé and their relationship developed to the extent that Zawinul personally requested that Kinsey should be the one he would trust to carry on his musical legacy. No small expectation that Kinsey has achieved in spades, not least via directing the Tony Zawinul-formed, Zawinul Legacy Band. With such deep Zawinul connections, it comes as no surprise that Kinsey could, and would, create an album of reimagined Zawinul music.
He’s joined by Hadrien Feraud on bass, Katisse Buckingham on saxophone/flute and drummer Gergö Borlai. Guest spots are taken by Yellowjackets bassist Jimmy Haslip, Weather Report percussionist Robert Thomas Jr. and Zawinul Syndicate percussionist Arto Tunçboyaciyan and drummer Michael Baker. All entirely conversant in the common language of Luniwaz!

A studio live version of “The Harvest” (Dialects, 1986) announces, off the bat, that although there’s palpable love for the great man, the intention here isn’t to play note-for-note/harmony-for-harmony/feel-for-feel covers. There’s a new dynamic, different sonics, reharmonisation and a personal accent to the Luniwaz spoken. This “The Harvest” is a driving, slow-builder of a tune with Haslip, Borlai and Danny Carey (Y’know, from Tool!…on the Simmons kit), all bringing the propelling jabs while Kinsey vocodes and Buckingham flutes playfully above the busyness and pure filth that is Haslip’s mucky bass.

“Victims of the Groove” (Lost Tribes, 1992) features the energy and precision of Bobby Thomas Jr. spicing up the nailed-down, yet always fluid, rhythm of Borali/Feraud. It has a looseness and depth-bringing layered aspect that the original doesn’t.

Buckingham’s back-in-the-day flow of “If I were you, I’d let the legendary Joe Zawinul empower you. Just the name alone can devour fools. ‘cos it’s powerful” leads the “Cucumber Slumber” (Mysterious Traveler, 1974) into his “World Citizen” rap. There’s an early 90s optimistic groove about it all and Baker and Thomas Jr. feel great together.

An improvised take on a 15-20 year old Kinsey track called “We speak Luniwaz” pretty much brings together all things Zawinul; vocoder, ethnic chanting, popping synth, improvising that sounds composed. Borlai’s driving metronome-with-feeling vibrates the track forward giving it an essential heartbeat that creates a reassuring, but creatively pressurised, space for Kinsey, Feraud and the soprano/voices to explore. “Black Market” (Black Market, 1976) initially runs slower than the original and feels nicely relaxed after “We speak Luniwaz”, before kicking in to that riff and a slick tenor solo by Buckingham. It then branches out into an exotic Arto Tunçboyaciyan spirit vocal wander before gently running out of steam.

“Fast City” (Night Passage, 1980) is..errrr…FAST. It’s pretty relentless with fantasy fusion doubling from Kinsey and Buckingham and some awesome Feraud fyah. The other original on the album, “Running the Dara Down”, has, according to Kinsey, the essence of “Dara Factor” (Weather Report, 1982). It’s a builder – kinda throbby/dancey with some sweet, devotional Buckingham soprano and Thomas Jr. wooden flute.

“Port of Entry” (Weather Report, 1982) gets the full, fretless, Jaco homage treatment and very nice it is too. “Between the Thighs” (Tale Spinnin’, 1975) shifts effortlessly between gears and motifs while Borlai’s fresh, inventive and occasionally fierce drumming intensifies and showers all it touches with a welcome ardour.

“Where the Moon Goes” (Procession, 1983) is an exuberant end to the album with Naina Kundu singing in blessed, vocoded Luniwaz, the band feeling bonded but loose and a trademark ethnic chant wraps it all up. It’s celebratory and sums up the album’s message to a tee.

I’m a fan of Joe Zawinul’s intelligent, innovative work but for some reason, I don’t listen to it that often. I think Scott Kinsey may have given me an insight as to why. This album brings an added vitality, looseness and a multi-pronged power attack that maybe I feel less in the original work. Naturally, some of that might be era-based sonics but, no matter, the point is that I really like this album and its energy and I appreciate it as a natural extension of the great man’s work and language. As Kinsey says about working with Zawinul “with time, I also learned to speak Luniwaz, perhaps using my own personal dialect.” Sounds about right to me.

Kinsey also added, “I’m pretty sure he would have loved this record.” Reckon.

Ian Ward

Ashley Henry ‘Beautiful Vinyl Hunter’ LP/CD (Sony Music) 5/5

The historical relationship between jazz and the major record label system has been both productive and problematic throughout its history. Larger budgets and departmental infrastructure has sanctioned and fostered many of the jazz greats we adore, but the majors have also been guilty of stifling creativity within the genre. And thus, in 2019 jazz has a peculiar relationship with major record labels. The debate regarding the benefits or otherwise of contemporary jazz artists signing to a major is for another time, but this leads us to Ashley Henry’s debut album, ‘Beautiful Vinyl Hunter’ – which is released on Sony Music Entertainment. Home to Mariah Carey and Beyoncé (but also Weather Report and much of Herbie and Miles’ catalogue), Henry signed with Sony in 2017, which was quite surprising, especially considering there were other more well known and established UK jazz artists at the time. Nonetheless, in 2018 the successful ‘Easter’ EP was released on Sony, a pre-cursor to this 15-track album.

Henry’s band generally consists of Daniel Casimir on bass and Eddie Hicks on drums with Henry playing piano and Fender Rhodes, with additional guests and line-up changes occurring during the record. The first track, ‘Star Child’ utilises the vocals of Judi Jackson for this initial jazz ballad, before it moves into a robust double-time groove with Judi’s jazz poetry moving the track away from its more static beginning. The brilliantly rousing ‘Realisation’ features a larger ensemble with supplementary players Binker Golding adding saxophone, Dylan Jones playing trumpet and percussion played by Ernesto Marichales, with Ferg Ireland on bass and Luke Flowers on drums. The more R&B themed ‘Between The Lines’ includes Keyon Harrold (aka Sparkz) on rap vocals, a track that may have been better left as an instrumental.

Guest duties on ‘Introspection’ are handled by Florida born trumpeter, Theo Croker, for this excellent Rhodes and trumpet double-header, with Henry’s vividly melodic electric piano solo an obvious highlight. Track six is a cover of the superb Solange original, ‘Cranes (In The Sky)’, from 2017, which sees the group transform this modern pop/soul classic into a bounding jazz trio romp. A fantastic club track and one that will definitely receive a lot of attention from the DJ fraternity. ‘I Still Believe’ possesses a jazz standard quality, although it’s a new composition written by Henry and featured vocalist Milton Suggs. The confidence presented here by the vocalist is astounding and possibly why one initially thought it was a cover, but the name Milton Suggs is familiar to this writer so after some digging it seems that Milton Suggs Sr., played bass on many legendary jazz records. These include Shamek Farrah’s classic Strata-East ‎album ‘First Impressions’ and the incredible bassline on the Byron Morris’ jazz dance masterpiece ‘Kitty Bey’. The discography of Milton Suggs Jr. must also require investigating after this performance.

‘Sunrise’ is another uptempo number with its brilliantly fiery piano, bass and drum setup which will undoubtedly be a crowd-pleasing live piece, while ‘Dark Honey (4TheStorm)’ includes esteemed drummer Makaya McCraven on this vibrant 6/8 workout. Other worthwhile mentions should go to ‘Battle’ with again Binker Golding on saxophone and Moses Boyd on drums for another club jazz creation. But with 15 tracks totalling 1 hour 10 minutes in length, ‘Beautiful Vinyl Hunter’ is a time-intensive record which requires repeated plays. It isn’t a 100% pure jazz LP with its touches of R&B and hip hop, although, jazz is the overseer and the musicianship throughout is exceptional. And even though the album is released on Sony, it sounds like an independent jazz record and it could have been released on any small label in the UK.

It is impossible to predict where the UK jazz scene will be in a few years, but it’s hopeful that Sony will continue to allow Ashley Henry to maintain his musical freedom as he possesses the appropriate attitude and ability to have a long and fruitful career irrespective of trends and fashion.

Damian Wilkes

Live Dates:
11TH SEPT – L’ESCARGOT LONDON/UK
10TH NOV – ORANGE CLUBMUNICH/DE
11TH NOV – BADEHAUSBERLIN/DE
12TH NOV – HÄKKENHAMBURG/DE
13TH NOV – DE ROMAANTWERP/BE
14TH NOV – ENJOY JAZZ FESTIVAL – LEITSTELLE HEIDELBERG/DE
16TH NOV – SUPER-SONIC JAZZ FESTIVAL – PARADISO AMSTERDAM/NL
19TH NOV – EARTH LONDON/UK
20TH NOV – POP UP DU LABEL PARIS/FR

The Nat Birchall Quartet ‘The Storyteller: A Musical Tribute to Yusef Lateef’ 2LP/CD (Jazzman) 4/5

When Gerald Short at Jazzman records suggested to Nat Birchall that a tribute to Yusef Lateef could work, it proved the old adage that it’s usually the simplest ideas that are the best. Recorded over two sessions almost a year apart, this is mostly a tribute to early Yusef, the Yusef of Eastern Sounds, Jazz Moods, The Cannonball Adderley Group, wood flutes and Impulse! This is Yusef from 57-65 creating and composing, experimenting and reimagining music from Istanbul and Delhi, Kyoto and Cairo and everywhere in-between.

The quartet give us interpretations of some classic tunes. A subtle reading of ‘Love Theme from Spartacus‘ stays true to Yusef’s original even down to the sublime soprano part. A bass-heavy version of ‘Ringo Oiwake’ is not quite as jazzy as Yusef’s version, but no worse for it with Birchall on reeds and John Ellis’ minimal piano staying true to the tune’s Japanese roots.

‘Morning’ is taken at a slightly faster tempo than the original with shakers, thumb piano and a super funky, heavy rhythm section, particularly Andy Hay’s drums giving it a really modern sound.

The introduction to ‘Ching Mau’ is given a Malian makeover; Nat’s bass clarinet catching us unaware as it merges with Michael Bardon’s bass and Ellis’ piano and suddenly lifts off into a very different space. To these ears, it’s ‘Brother John’, by another name, and although the band also give us a stunning version of one of Yusef’s most famous tunes, it’s near impossible for it to match the soaring heights of the live version with Mike Knock and Richard Williams.

Where this record really catches fire is on the original compositions, especially the stunning group effort ‘Mashanki’. It sounds like George Gruntz, Roland Kirk and Rufus Harley running riot in the souk with Adam Fairhall’s Harmonium solo and Hay’s off-kilter percussion building in intensity and moving the tune way over the border first to Egypt and then Arabia.

The rest of the album is giving over to Birchall originals. Album opener ‘Tales of Saba’ more than hints at what’s to come; wailing horns, bowed bass, and arrhythmic drums give way to a beautiful meandering, modal waltz. ‘Salaam Brother Yusef’ is a slow blues that doesn’t quite get going while ‘Not Yet Ornette’ is another side of Yusef, late-sixties, soul Jazz, Atlantic Yusef the perfect counterpoint to Brother from the Complete album.

‘Willow’s Walk’ could have been an outtake from Eastern Sounds. Bass and drums create a peaceful but brooding canvas for Birchall’s expansive solos. While ‘Inward Flight’ is joyful and uplifting, Fairhall’s piano soars and sings and Nat is magnificent, a Mancunian Pharoah Sanders; his warm rich tone perfectly expressing the obvious love he feels for the music.

For all the exoticism, experimentation and strange instrumentation, Yusef also had a great ear for a pretty and memorable tune and hearing his music in this context is a fabulous reminder of what a great composer and arranger he was. It also hints at some fantastic, exciting and originally new music still to come from Nat Birchall, an artist who has been around for a long time and finally getting the acknowledgement and respect that his music deserves.

For new listeners, ‘The Storyteller’ is a perfect introduction to the music of two incredible musicians. For the rest of us, it’s a simple idea, magnificently executed – I just wonder why nobody thought of it sooner?

Nick Schlittner

Read also:
Nat Birchall Quartet ‘Akhenaten’ CD (Sound Soul and Spirit) 5/5
Nat Birchall ‘Cosmic Language’ LP/CD (Jazzman) 5/5
Nat Birchall ‘Creation’ CD (Sound Soul And Spirit) 5/5
Nat Birchall ‘Invocations’ LP/CD (Jazzman) 5/5
Nat Birchall Quintet ‘Live in Larissa: Divine Harmony in Duende Jazz Bar’ 2LP (Sound Soul and Spirit) 4/5
Nat Birchall ‘World Without Form’ CD (Sound Soul and Spirit) 4/5

Makoto Terashita meets Harold Land ‘Topology’ 2LP/CD (BBE Music) 4/5

More modal than spiritual this highly collectable album recorded in 1984 is now once again available, and it’s presented with impeccable attention to detail. Check out the sleeve notes as provided by Tony Higgins who as well as compiling the first volume of J Jazz alongside fellow contributor Mike Peden, became instrumental alongside Gilles Peterson in compiling the two volumes of the Universal ‘Impressed’ compilations, which highlighted some of the best British jazz from the likes of Michael Garrick, Don Rendell, Norma Winstone and many more musicians who built on the earlier waves of pioneers such as Joe Harriott and Tubby Hayes.

Reissued by BBE Music for the first time since original release 36 years ago, ‘Topology’ brings together the young pianist Makoto Terashita and veteran tenor saxophonist Harold Land for an interesting collaboration which has until now been largely resigned to the obscure and highly collectable category that few collectors have managed to track down. It was Makoto Terashita’s second of two albums which he recorded as a leader; the 1978 ‘The Great Harvest’, on the same cult Tokyo based label from five years earlier featured Bob Berg on tenor saxophone, and this album ‘Topology’, recorded in 1984 with five compositions written by Makoto Terashita and one by tenor saxophonist/composer Harold Land.

Harold Land was a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles. He joined the UCLA Jazz Studies Program as a lecturer in 1996 to teach instrumental jazz combo. “Harold Land was one of the major contributors in the history of the jazz saxophone”, said jazz guitarist Kenny Burrell, founder and director of the UCLA Jazz Studies Program.

Harold Land recorded some classic albums as a leader, as well as featuring alongside many of the great jazz musicians dating back to around 1954 when he joined the Clifford Brown and Max Roach set up, appearing on classic albums such as ‘Study In Brown’ and ‘Clifford Brown & Max Roach’ which won a Grammy. His sound graced many Bobby Hutcherson albums during the 1970s and the recent reissue of Bobby Hutcherson/Harold Land ‘San Francisco’ album epitomises how they complimented each other.

Makoto Terashita was an accomplished composer who wrote five of the six compositions performed by this quintet on ‘Topology’. It’s the opening twelve-minute track, ‘Dragon Dance’ which fires on all cylinders. ‘Dragon Dance’ is also featured on Tony Higgins and Mike Peden’s excellent J-Jazz volume 2 album: their follow up collection of more rare and deep Japanese Jazz, in collaboration with the BBE record label. The composition begins with the eminent pianist crafting an exquisite solo before the quintet join to lift the tempo and momentum. There’s a percussive tone to Makoto Terashita’s playing on this track and in places, there’s a gentle nod towards the influence of the great Horace Silver. Harold Land’s beautiful crafted tone seems to bring a grounding sound which complements the piece without overpowering the composition.

Harold Land’s composition, ‘World Peace’, highlights his more restrained tone and it’s a late-night reflective piece with airs of his long-standing collaboration with Bobby Hutcherson and subtle shades of John Coltrane. There’s a real lyricism about Harold Land’s playing and looking back at albums like ‘The Peacemaker’ and many of his contributions during the late 1960s and early 1970s, he seems to be the perfect person for many leading musicians who are looking to expand the parameters without becoming detached from their roots.

‘Takeuma’ is another highlight from the album showcasing the writing qualities of pianist Makoto Terashita, a contemplative composition drawing from the stage and artistic performance of Japan’s folk history. On this piece, Harold Land adds a more gentle tone to complement the restrained feel of the music but it’s the pianist who takes centre stage adding a real depth of sound and dexterity.

Every track on this album has something special about it so it’s difficult to bring up highlights. The cover drawing design by Tsutomo Sagami is a great depiction of the lengthy interaction between Harold Land and Makoto Terashita whilst shaping compositions and arrangements. Alongside Makoto Terashita and Harold Land, the album also features Bassist Yasushi Yoneki, percussionist Takayuki Koizumi and drummer Mike Reznikoff, making a great line up.

Drummer Mike Reznikoff is the other American who features within this Makoto’s quintet on ‘Topology’ and like many other talented jazz musicians who resided in the States during the 1970s, there seemed to be more appreciation abroad and especially in Japan. Mike found his second home in Japan in 1977 after a hiatus of 8 years; he first played in an army band whilst stationed in Japan in 1969. His many successful musical relationships included stints within the Hideto Kanai Quintet, who featured on one of the Shibuya Jazz Classics compilations.

A long out of print rarity known only to a handful of Japanese jazz collectors, ‘Topology’ is now available once more, reissued for the first time as a 45rpm double 180g LP, featuring exact reproductions of the original artwork, obi strip and insert. It also comes with the original notes fully translated plus a new extended 3700 word essay by Tony Higgins. ‘Topology’ is also available as a CD and across digital formats.

Mark Jones

Read also:
Tohru Aizawa Quartet ‘Tachibana Vol. 1’ 2LP/CD (BBE Music) 4/5
Koichi Matsukaze Trio + Toshiyuki Daitoku ‘Earth Mother’ 2LP/CD (BBE Music) 4/5

Arthur Adams ‘Here To Make You Feel Good’ CD (Cleopatra Blues) 5/5

Any new Arthur Adams project is an immediate purchase in my world, and on its arrival today had five consecutive plays, upholding my faith furthermore. This scintillating ten-track CD is a wonderful ride through soul, blues and on a couple tracks a country feel comes through, and throughout those instantly recognisable fragile sounding vocals comfort your ears; it’s like an old friend has come to visit. Born on Christmas Day 1943, a blues guitarist from Medon, Tennessee, and told that he was inspired by BB King. Playing gospel before attending college and eventually moving to Los Angeles, where throughout the 60s and 70s released a number of 45s and albums on a myriad of labels, with untold appearances as a very in-demand session musician, playing on countless tracks for other artists with even spots on television and movie soundtracks.

As the years passed, his sound became funkier, but the soul and blues have always been the backbone of his music. In 1969 he released the immortal ‘It’s Private Tonight’, on the Chisa record label (and destined to be the title of his 1973 debut album too), which is rightly regarded as a deep soul classic and collectors of this genre regard owning it as a right of passage into what many regard as the last bastion of true black music. Over the years he has provided the soul man with any number of highlights, check out his 1979 A&M album, ‘I Love, Love, Love, Love, Love, Love, Love My Lady’ and drop the stylus on ‘You Give Me Such A Good Feelin’ and wallow in the sheer beauty of a genius at the top of his game. I also have two cracking CDs tilted ‘Back On Track’ from 1999 (his first for some twenty years), and the wonderful ‘Stomp The Floor’ from 2009 which both deserve your attention as both are regular visitors to the CD player at home. And who could forget his huge 1981 club hit ‘You Got The Floor’, which over the years has been sampled and still features today in Modern Soul rooms.

And so to this album then. We kick off with possibly the dancer of the year, I kid you not, ‘Tear The House Down’ launches itself with Reggie McBride’s thumping bass, James Gadson on drums beating out the rhythm, David Leach on percussion, which adds some nice touches, Arthur’s guitar is on top out front, but mixed so well as not to intrude, and then in comes Ronnie Laws on sax filling those spaces nicely, and on top of all this you have Arthur riding the storm as only he knows how. We also have Hense Powell on keyboards too – some serious players on this – a monster way to kick of your new album. Other beauties include two radio-friendly head nodders in ‘Pretty Lady’ and ‘Sweet Spot’; in fact, I can see the latter putting a few bodies on the dance floor early at any event. Ballad time, and the glorious simplicity of ‘Forgive Me’ fills the room, it’s a swayer, pint in one hand, a woman in the other, eyes closed, head back, lost in Arthur’s world. Raising the pace slightly for ‘Gonna Make Me Some Money’ he’s looking for work, heading down the freeway with his CV in hand, got to feed his family, so right for today’s message from folks across the pond. Track seven, ‘Enjoy Each Moment, has crept up on the rails and is just such a good song with the perfect musical arrangement and yet another supreme moment in the world of Arthur Adams. The rest of the album has its moments too but you need this for ‘Tear The House Down’, as it’s doubtful a better dancer will come along this year.

This album hasn’t been easy to acquire these past few months, so best head straight to the label website or on CD/Digital over at Bandcamp.

Brian Goucher

Lee “Scratch” Perry ‘Rainford’ LP/CD (On-U Sound) 5/5

‘Rainford’ is perhaps the most personal LP ever made featuring Lee Perry. Producer Adrian Sherwood likens it to an ageing Johnny Cash post-Rick Rubin. Personally, while this LP has some outstanding tracks I can’t see it that way because Sherwood is comparing chalk and cheese. Perry, ever the hustler, the sound man who became a producer and made the legendary Black Ark Studio in Jamaica has little to do with Johnny Cash, the legendary US singer-songwriter. The intent, from a marketing point of view, is digestible, but it does feel a little bit staged, and I guess most reviewers are jumping on the comparison, but as much as I admire both artists, they are radically different. Perry, now in his golden 83rd year is not just an eccentric old dubster who many argue propelled The Wailers to another level, his essence is that sound of the Black Ark. The bass, which no one else can match. The off the wall sounds, like cows mooing in the mix. There was something supersonic to those frequencies which took Dub music to another dimension in the 1970s. It was a revolution which would happen again in the 80s with a young engineer called The Scientist who took Dub to different galaxies. So, when approaching all things Perry, I find it hard to shake off so many sounds, memories and images, including hailing him up one day in Harlesden in the late 1980s. With all that in mind ‘Rainford’ is a marriage made in Dub heaven. Sherwood and Perry go back a long way so them teaming up again is a significant cultural osmosis, from start to finish.

Step in with ‘Cricket On The Moon’, a durge like dub track showcasing Perry’s outerplanetary intentions. Crickets, along with tree frogs, hummingbirds and lizards are part of the characteristic Jamaican acoustic. The thought of them reaching the moon shows just how far Jamaica and Dub reach. ‘Makumba Rock’ was recorded in Brazil and is a crazy combination of sounds and chantings from Perry. It builds as a freestyle with the drum and bass staying steady, and everything else just happening, unfolding into a series of acoustic surprises. Perry and Sherwood save the best til last. ‘Autobiography’ has Lee Perry telling his life in his own words as ‘prophecy’. “I was born as Rainford Hugh Perry, little boy blue”. In this he weaves his past as mini-dramas, from his father being a Freemason, to “can you help me Mr Perry” from Bob Marley, ‘Curly Locks’, ‘Blackboard Jungle’ and so much more. The prophecy is fleshed out with a catchy chorus “I am the Upsetter” and you are just singing “Murderer” along with the melody. This tune could well become one of the best of the year in the dub realm. May Rainford reign and dub for decades more to come. I give this A 5 Star intergalactic outernational rating…

Haji Mike

Mikael Máni Trio ‘Bobby’ LP/CD (Bad Taste) 3/5

Based in Reykjavik, young, up-and-coming guitarist Mikael Máni Ásmundsson is joined by fellow Icelandic musicians bassist Skúli Sverrisson and drummer Magnús Trygvason Elíassen for this debut trio recording. Inspiration for ten original tunes came from an unusual source; chess grandmaster Bobby Fischer. Having read Fischer’s biography, guitarist Máni decided to base his compositions on a fictional interpretation of his life, centred around his winning of the World Chess Championships, held in Iceland, against Russian Boris Spassky in 1972. One has to say that knowledge of this is most definitely not a prerequisite to enjoying this album. In fact, the information is superfluous to the listener to be honest, as the music speaks for itself. It’s always nice to have a bit of background info though as often it can help to understand where the musicians find their inspiration.

Máni is something of an old-school jazz guitarist, in a very good way, drawing on the rich jazz tradition of guitarists like Wes Montgomery and Jim Hall. He successfully blends this respectful nod to the past, with a keen ear on more contemporary guitarists such as Lage Lund and Rotem Sivan. “Bobby” is predominately a straight-ahead jazz guitar/bass/drums album, but it also benefits from an atmospheric richness that is rare to hear from a composer so young. At times the music is alive with melody and improv, with all three musicians creating a beautifully interwoven tapestry of sound, whilst at other times there is a calming, meditative flow to the music that is as equally impressive in its own way.

Each of the ten tracks have a lovely fresh vibe to them. There’s a refreshing 70’s-like gentle groove to the opener “Board Games”, the trio very quickly showing the intuition and skill that flows through the music of the entire album. Tracks like this, along with the wonderful “Reykjavik 1972” and the cool originality of “Sol” highlight the trio at their best. The reflective nature of the guitarist comes to the fore on pieces like “First Impression of a Fragile Man”, “Betrayal of an Insecure Soul”, and “Down in the well”. Máni shows a subtlety beyond his years on many of these tunes, with a delicate, thoughtful touch which provides the reflective spark for his band-mates to create a spellbinding atmosphere through intuitive playing of their instruments. The collective feel is of a oneness and togetherness that many trios struggle to achieve through many years of performing together.

Whilst this album shows much promise from the young guitarist, I can’t help feeling there is so much more to come from him. It’s like there’s a more vibrant, adventurous version of himself just waiting to be set free. He’s an emerging talent for sure, on the cusp of something special.

Oh, and if you are a chess lover, I’d heartily recommend putting this album on whilst reading one of the finest chess-based novels ever written; Walter Tevis’ “The Queen’s Gambit”.

Mike Gates

Various ‘J Jazz Volume 2 – Deep Modern Jazz from Japan 1969 – 1983’ 3LP/2CD (BBE Music) 5/5

It’s really worth checking two Tony Higgins interviews on Worldwide FM for an excellent introduction to the Japanese jazz scene during the period that he and fellow compiler Mike Peden have focused on for this latest J-Jazz compilation. Tony Higgins, Paul Bradshaw and Gilles Peterson illuminate the music and share their personal experiences of the Japanese jazz scene and culture surrounding, not just Tokyo but throughout Japan.

https://worldwidefm.net/show/tony-higgins-01-11-16/

https://worldwidefm.net/show/straight-no-chaser-paul-bradshaw/

As well as Mike Peden’s Orgy in Rhythm blog, James Catchpole has documented an essential introduction to the world of Japanese jazz, clubs, bars, music and cafes of which there are many playing jazz and even updating the playing list in real-time. Last track Booker Ervin ‘Exultation’ Prestige Records. Check out his excellent website and start checking airfares! It’s a really fascinating glimpse into the culture and the Japanese art of preserving an important part of jazz history with dedication and a real love for the music. The front cover features some of the faces and places that have been integral to the music, which is a nice touch from BBE and the compilers.

http://tokyojazzsite.com/tokyo-yokohama-jazz-spots-bars-clubs-cafes-shops-introduction/

From a Japanese perspective, the collection of music on J-Jazz volume 2 is to jazz as Dave Godin’s selection was to the world of soul with his excellent ‘Deep Soul Treasures’ series on Kent Music. It’s an honest personal journey, deep into the world of jazz which reaches beyond the music into the essence and context of a particularly significant period in Japan’s musical history between the years of 1969 and 1983 where, during the stated period, there was a cultural shift taking place, away from the American mould of influence towards an identity emerging from a new generation of Japanese musicians.

It’s easy to underestimate the importance that Japan has played in the cultural preservation of jazz, and many renowned yet under the radar overseas jazz artists have been effortlessly kept in focus by the sheer enthusiasm and dedication towards the music and artists over many years.

The J-Jazz Masterclass Series is personally curated by Tony Higgins and Mike Peden and is dedicated to presenting the very finest in Japanese jazz. The series features rare and unreleased material presented in the highest quality reproductions of the original releases, fully licensed and authorised. There’s a triple vinyl presentation and a double CD variation with a bonus track on the CD from the Koichi Matsukaze Trio.

Mike Peden started one of the leading jazz-based online music blogs, Orgy in Rhythm. It is through the connections Mike made via his leading jazz-based online music blog that he began to travel to Japan to explore the scene there. The J-Jazz compilation for BBE came about as a direct result of these Japanese record buying trips. Mike’s passion for, and knowledge of, Japanese jazz is evident in these deep and rare selections.

Taken from Makoto Terashita and Harold Land’s 1984 album Topology, which is also reissued this September 2019 through BBE Music, ‘Dragon Dance’ opens up J-Jazz volume 2 featuring the young pianist and elder statesman bringing together a deep spiritual sound and a meeting of minds from the past and future generations.

Miyasaka + 5 ‘Animals Garden’ is the title track taken from the 1979 album led by master drummer Takashi Miyasaka featuring the saxophonist Koichi Matsukaze and its rerelease is also available through BBE Records this autumn so look out for the full album. Raphael Sebbag – Shibuya Jazz Classics featured a track from another album by the leader called ‘Soul Tomato’ from his later 1982 album.

‘Teru Teru Bozo’ by Teru Sakomoto trio adds a Headhunters style touch track to the laid back beat with effects and percussion and traditional instruments added towards the funky feel which is quite a unique track in respect of the overlaying of effects and almost broken beat feel in places.

Electro Keyboard Orchestra brings the space-age effects of the keyboard to the foray with an amazing heavy synthesizer fusion interpretation of Norman Connors’ ‘classic ‘Mother Of The Future’.

Koichi Matsukaze ‘The Original Bill’ is another sharp twisting groove with some eminently sophisticated brazen saxophone playing not too dissimilar to what you might expect from say a Black Jazz release with Rudoph Johnson. It’s the rhythm section which really ignites this track with great use of the cymbals and padding elongated into a solo of distinction.

George Kawaguchi’s ‘Vietnam’ is a deep reflective modal piece from 1969 taken from the drummer’s rare album ‘George and Sleepy’ with a quartet setting. This exceptional jazz composition was recorded at a time of great unrest and upheaval in Japan against the government policies of both the USA and Japan. Both Kawaguchi and bassist Isoo Suzuki played in Art Blakey’s band during the 1980s.

Following in the approach of volume 1 of J-Jazz, volume 2 is selected with a great understanding of not only the obscure deeper side of Japanese jazz but also the importance of context, sound quality and question to detail. It’s a stylish package with great content, representing an important time, documented by two of the most knowledgeable collectors of Japanese Jazz who have both visited the country many times and who both share an affinity and connection with the music and the people.

A solid deep jazz collection of real quality.

Mark Jones