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Martin Freeman and Eddie Piller present ‘Jazz On The Corner’ 2LP/2CD (Acid Jazz) 5/5

Record collecting purists out there would shudder at the idea of purchasing a reissued album, let alone a compilation of tracks. For them it’s all about the original pressing, that trophy of sourcing and finding the original piece of wax in (ideally) mint condition with crisp artwork and the knowledge that they have another rare gem in their collection (and a considerably lighter wallet). If it’s a reissue, where’s the hard work in finding that record, where’s the value and pride in owning something that’s fresh from the pressing room? If it’s a compilation they’d walk even further away. And this I understand, and to a varying degree have adopted this attitude… but only after many years of getting myself acquainted with the trials and errors of looking for music to play at home or in clubs. Twenty years on from starting to build my own collection, my excitement has evolved into finding that original album or 45 to add to my hoard, trying to filter out and sell my reissues and comps and re-investing my money into original stone cold cuts.

But hey, back in the day when my knowledge was minimal, compilations were a safe way for me to discover new avenues of music and players without having to risk buying an artist’s whole album and not (excuse the pun) ‘digging it’. Very often the funk, soul and jazz compilations I would find in the little back street record shops of London, Brighton, Liverpool and Leeds would be very much geared to the dance floor and more often than not, contain rare tracks and obscurities that it would take years to discover if I was searching through an artists discography from album to album for tracks I liked.

Over the past twenty years, it’s compilations that have really helped bring resurgence in funk, soul and jazz music to a younger generation. Those getting to grips with turntables and setting up their own club nights and promotions have had the blessing of collectors and compilers on the scene, making it easy for these new enthusiasts to ignite a dance floor with a record box full of other selector’s wisdom. From the Jazz Juice compilations of the 80s and 90s and the Legendary Deep Funk comps of Keb Darge to the Soul Jazz Records selections and brilliant releases on BGP Records. I could go on and on naming the contributors and labels in the game that have lent their knowledge and tastes to the compilation market and inspired my journey, but you want to know about this record, so I’ll move on.

Two years ago, Eddie Piller, founder of Acid Jazz Records and guru to the acid jazz scene, asked friend and fellow mod and music addict, Martin Freeman to join him on his Electric Soul radio show for the brilliant Soho Radio. The listening response to this special broadcasting duet was overwhelming, causing a barrage of positive feedback via emails and social media and made them realise they had a special formula that needed to be replicated for this musically hungry and discerning public.

The idea was set, and time given for both selectors to dig deep into their collections to come up with 11 favourite tracks each to add to a compilation. Two years on, in March this year, they released ‘Jazz On The Corner’ on deluxe gatefold vinyl and CD to mark Acid Jazz’s 30th Anniversary celebrations and give back their listeners a large slice of what was heard on Soho Radio on that fateful day. This is a very generous collection of music, not only in the way that both Eddie and Martin have shared their intricate tastes and musical passions from their vaults, but also that you get 22 tracks, many hitting the six of seven minute mark. A true journey into 60s and 70s jazz, soul and crossover, but also with a nod to 90s acid jazz.

Martin’s selection begins with American jazz and blues pianist, Mose Allison’s ‘If You’re Going To The City’, with Mose’s individualistic and quirky vocals sat on top of his equally bluesy and jazzy piano riffs. With sax and trumpet jamming in situ and lyrics that are sprinkled with subtle humour, this track has a real nice mood to get the collection rolling. Joe Gordon’s ‘Terra Firma Irma’ drops in next from his second and final album ‘Lookin’ Good’, recorded in 1961 not long before his death. A track with a sense of urgency and style, one for the jazz dancers and a talent that hints at what might have been had Joe Gordon lived. It’s the solos that shine on this number and Joe’s trumpet cuts the way for the rest of the band to show their skills, directed by Art Blakey on the drums.

Talking of Art Blakey, the next track is his, with his Messengers, from the stunning 1960 album, ‘A Night In Tunisia’, on Blue Note Records. ‘Kozo’s Waltz’ was written by Lou Donaldson, playing trumpet alongside fellow band members Wayne Shorter on tenor, Bobby Timmons on piano and Jymie Merrit on bass. This is a great example of these guys in their prime youth with Jymie’s extraordinary bass line, Lou and Wayne’s horns wrapped around each other like spaghetti and Art shuffling along on the cymbals and snare like a train leaving a station. This track has integrity and is a personal favourite of mine. Following suit you have the Eddie Harris’ ‘Listen Here’, and of the many versions Eddie recorded of this track, Martin has chosen his iconic sax solo take stretching out to over seven minutes in length. Slick double bassist Sam Jones steps in next with his punchy number, ‘Some Kinda Mean’, from his 1960 debut album ‘The Soul Society’, really showing off his finger work. David Axelrod, one of America’s most influential composers, producers and arrangers gets selected for the next slice of music in ‘Get Up Off Your Knees’, a 1974 jazz, rock and soul workout from his Capitol Records period, with a larger than life horn section.

There’s obviously been a lot of thought put into the shortlist for Martin Freeman’s contribution to this collection. There’s a great flow to the selections and although styles and time periods flit between the 60s and 70s, everything fits really nicely into place as you listen along. Moving through his choices you’ll hear the succulent soul jazz of Lee Morgan’s ‘Psychedelic’, the big band blow out of Jimmy Smith’s ‘A Walk On The Wild Side’, (from his first release for Verve Records) with all its mighty Hammond B-3 trimmings, alongside the softly intricate and peaceful vocals of Blossom Dearie’s ‘Now At Last’, and the Afro Latin shuffle and groove of ‘Trees and Grass and Things’ by Charles Williams.

To round off Martin’s list, he takes us all the way to 2015, with a visit to the spiritual sounds of Kamasi Washington, presumably to not only showcase a stunning song but also to give evidence to the listener that these deep sounds are alive and well today. Kamasi’s track, ‘The Rhythm Changes’, with Patrice Quinn on vocals is a beautiful piece, uplifting and groovy, with a bittersweet depth. It gives good pace to the main man’s sax workings and allows Patrice’s vintage tones to soar in an almost cinematic soundscape. The track Martin has finished up with here is taken from Kasami’s second studio album, ‘The Epic’, on Brainfeeder records, an offering that received worldwide critical acclaim.

Are you still with me? I hope so as I’m yet to uncover what Eddie Piller has thrown into the pot. And with a man who has been so prominent in the scene for thirty years, signed and introduced so many ground breaking artists to his label, and influenced so many people’s musical directions… it should be our absolute pleasure and privilege to hear music that makes him tick. I can’t even imagine how big a list of tunes would have to be short listed for this record but I trust that he has made the right choices and it’s refreshing that this isn’t a platform for his label releases and much more a delve in his personal tastes.

So to Eddie, and what an immaculate piece to start with. ‘Bend Your Head Down Low’ by Geoffrey Stoner is taken from his very rare and overlooked 1973 album ‘Watch Out’ on Ovation Records. A stunning laid back brooder, with Stoner’s deep soul vocals punctuated by killer flute, a building drum break and floaty Fender Rhodes. If you’re a fan of Terry Callier, then Geoffrey’s vocals sit very comfortably next to him and if you can get hold of this album it’s a must. Eddie Piller is dealing out vocal tracks where Martin Freeman provided mostly instrumentals and the next track is a scorcher in Leon Thomas’, ‘Just In Time To See The Sun’. Leon recorded this track in 1973, the same year he toured and recorded as a member of the band Santana and you can hear the Latin influence within the arrangement of this song with its tight horns and rhythm. A true vocal great, having previously been picked to front Count Basie in the 60s and most known for his work with Pharoah Sanders.

Most of the artists to appear on this compilation are of American heritage, but the next track comes straight out of 1970s Australia with blues band Chain singing about the country’s historical convict past in ‘Blacks and Blues’. Crying guitars and gritty soulful vocals provided by Phil Manning dominate the track with bluesy piano licks and a gliding bass line to keep momentum. Marlena Shaw keeps things on a vocal tip next with ‘Look At Me, Look At You’ from her 1977 album ‘Sweet Beginnings’, a big hit at the time with UK soul audiences. This track has a nice jazz infused style with Marlena’s heavenly sweet and soulful vocals creating a mystically cool sound.

It’s only fair that Eddie gets a couple of tracks from the Acid Jazz back catalogue into the selection, and I couldn’t think of a better example of those early releases than The Brand New Heavies ‘Sphynx’ from their 1990 self-titled debut album. The Heavies may be known for their very successful vocal hits but when you dig into their early recordings it’s certain that they are totally at home creating music for instrumentalisation. This particular track has a stormy feel to it, like something is brewing in the air. A blissfully anxious jazz funk work out, with a bass line that stabs you in the chest. The storm doesn’t calm yet, Jamaican born Harold McNair jumps in with ‘The Hipster’ from his 1970 album ‘Flute and Nut’ with his intense but breezy flute work soloing throughout the majority of the track.

Moving towards the last few tracks, ‘Sad Little Girl’ by Les McCann brings the mood deep down and dark with this thoughtful upbeat mover, whilst Blue Mitchell takes things on a trumpet, tenor and Rhodes solo trip with ‘Mi Hermano’. One of the best crossover soul jazz artists of the 70s, Norman Connors’ ‘Mother Of The Future’ is pure jazz dance fire, with its infectious rhythm, spirited vocals and percussive groove. Just before we get to the end of the record, Eugene McDaniels slips in a mellower vibe with his soulful jazzy vocals on ‘Cherrystones’, a laid back head-nodder and an artist that has been heavily sampled for his psychedelic soul, funk and jazz rhythms.

On a few of the tracks on this collection I’ve physically found myself wanting to clap the solos, maybe I need to get out to jazz clubs more! Everything on here is immaculately well-chosen and each individual track is a potential opening to another branch of music for both people new to the genre and those more acquainted. Whether you want to sit back and chill or get up and add spins to your dance this compilation has everything and is a totally listening pleasure from start to finish, which leads me into the last track of the collection.

Eddie gives you a Swedish jazz quartet fronted on piano by Ulf Sandberg with ‘Bolivia’, his second inclusion from the vaults of his Acid Jazz label. You just have to love this track… a graciously seductive piano intro sweeps along into uptempo shuffly snare, hats, synchronised piano and sax riff which meander into individual solos with all the players giving each other room to move. The whole tune has a feel of Autumn about it. Interestingly James Taylor of The James Taylor Quartet was Ulf Sandberg’s pupil and James recommended him as an artist to Acid Jazz Records. ‘Bolivia’ certainly feels like a suitable end to this collection, but the mood of the track feels like the dawn of a new chapter… Jazz On The Corner 2? Yes please.

Ollie Lloyd

Sir Charles Jones ‘The Masterpiece’ (Southern King Entertainment) 4/5

First up I have to admit that I am totally hooked in every way with Sir Charles Jones. I have every album and MP3 that has surfaced, including all the YouTube tunes that haven’t featured elsewhere. Two things have been constant over the years, his voice, so distinctive with its slight southern drawl, and the percussion, sounding like the edge of the drum is being struck with a slight echo, it’s so addictive. Having had to wait some two months to get my hands on the physical album – I was sent the digital album while waiting – so I’m well acquainted with all 13 tracks. Essentially a downtempo album with a couple of dancers, one of which is a throw away “Wherever I lay my bone” might mean something to some but it’s just a waste of time, talent and my money. But the rest of the album makes up for it. Let’s go straight to the biggie on here for me, the self penned/Mike Swartz’ song, “100 Years”, which is quite possibly SCJ’s finest moment to date, almost acoustic in its approach but lyrically and vocally one of those stop you in your tracks moments, a pleading ballad stripped to the bone. Yes this is a southern soul album but the production is exactly what you would want, bass heavy, no gimmicks, just a solid musical backdrop that supports the main man perfectly. We have David Lee (Daven) Wilmon on drums, Tony Russell and Terry Grayson on bass, Phil Seed and Jonathan Ellison on electric guitar duty, we have a further five players on keys with Alan Meridith on acoustic guitar. No horn section or strings but this lot create a great sound. Okay, to the other tune on here that has captured my attentions; the simply stunning balladry of “Call On Me”, Sir Charles accompanied by non other than two serious heavy weights in my world, Calvin Richardson and Omar Cunningham and if there was any justice this would be a huge play on the likes of Solar, Starpoint, Stomp, 365 and any black music radio station out there, it should be on the playlist for sure. It has everything to reach the masses and introduce three new names to them.

To the best dancer on here then; “My Everything” has an R Kelly feel and bounds out of the speakers to create an irresistible groove from the off, the first ballad to hit your ears sets the standard for the rest of the album, “Squeeze Me”, a love song sang perfectly, but for even more of the same go straight to “This Is Your Night”, he really is the king of the southern balladeers. Moving into “Destiny”, which is another sumptuous ballad, whilst the album comes to a close, “Mother” has all of the hallmarks of being an anthem in years to come. And finally, the album finishes with a mid tempo stroller, “Fight The Pain”, where the percussion dominates the sound with subdued guitar solos, effortless. There is a subtle funker on here that’s been growing on me too, called “What Can I Say”, but took a number of plays to sink in. Without doubt the top southern soul album to surface so far this year, well worth the long wait, I wouldn’t call it a masterpiece, but it’s damn well near it.

Brian Goucher

Various ‘Mexico – Luz de Luna – The Best Boleros from the Costa Chica’ (ARC) 4/5

Just over a decade ago, this writer went on a extended musical journey to locate one of the seemingly hardest to find compilations of roots music, searching the southern most states that border Mexico. It was a box set on the Carasón label of the very roots of Mexican folk mu,sic and it opened up a whole new world of sounds, the magnificent son de Mexico, influenced by its Cuban brother, el son Cubano, but newly adapted to the Mexican landscape and with a pared down instrumentation. The same team that brought you ‘El Son De Mexico’ returns on this terrific updating of the anthology to take on board the bolero sounds of an isolated part of Mexico, inland from the Pacific coast and where commercial labels would not even be aware of their existence. The guitar groups and the repertoire they practice is representative of diverse ethnic and musical traditions and these include mestizos (mixed race), native Indian and the Afro-Mexican traditions. A major inspiration to all musicians is the late Alvaro Carrillo, a composer who was born in Costa Chica. All of the musicians are featured at least twice which enables the listener to gain a real flavour of what they are capable of, pride of place going to the irrepressible Pedro Torres with no less than five appearances.

Indeed, it is Pedro Torres on his requinto guitar, who opens up the compilation, interpreting a Carrillo composition, and one with a mysterious ‘eso’/’that’ (the song title) in reference to the woman in the verse that hispanophiles can debate endlessly. No less than the seminal bolero band of the 1950’s and beyond, Los Panchos covered this song. Elsewhere, families are represented such as Las Hermanas García, and they interpret the highly respected composer, Marcos Martinez, on ‘Un amigo como tú’/’A friend like you’, while on ‘Cancionero’/’Songman’, the Carrillo composition refers in fact to a self-portrait of the writer’s father. Other singers worth checking out include Fidela Pelaez and the male harmony trio, Los Tres Amuzgos.

Detailed liner notes by co-Corasón label founder Mary Farquharson, with a plethora of colour photos of the musicians in traditional costume, and in some cases, being recorded and filmed simultaneously, place the music in its rightful historical context. Full lyrics in Spanish with an explanation in English of their significance. One of the year’s most interesting discoveries of roots music. This is what compilations should be all about, finding a niche where other labels have not previously trodden (outside of Mexico at least). With the twentieth anniversary of the Buena Vista Social Club phenomenon, you might question whether there is anyway left in the world of music to (re)discover. Spanish film director Pedro Almodóvar featured bolero music from mexico in his 1987 classic, ‘The Law Of Desire’, but it passed most viewers by. Mexican roots music might just be the antidote.

Tim Stenhouse

Julian Lage ‘Modern Lore’ Vinyl/CD (Mack Avenue) 3/5

Guitarist Julian Lage is another young Turk out to conquer the world of jazz and he is heard here in a trio setting with bassist Scott Colley and drummer Kenny Wolleson who also doubles up on vibraphone. The leader’s musical influences take in electric jazz guitarists such as Bill Frisell, Pat Metheny and especially the sound of John Scofield. There is a country-folk feel to both the opener, ‘The ramble’, with nice melodic interplay between the musicians, and to the gentle, reposing piece, ‘Atlantic limited’, with fine rim-drum work from Wollesen. For fans of jazz-rock, the drum propelled groove of ‘General thunder’ will impress, while in stark contrast, a lovely lyrical duet between bassist and guitarist ensures on ‘Wordsmith’, and indeed it is this more introspective side to Lage’s work that this writer would like to hear more of on future releases. Some of the self compositions need to be stronger lyrically, but there is nonetheless a good deal to praise equally, as on ‘Rodger the dodger’, where the influence of Frisell is once more felt and country-folk-blues does suit this guitarist down to the ground. A definite case of work in progress on this talented young guitarist.

Tim Stenhouse

ukvibe at 25

What a journey we have had these past twenty five years and a huge thank you to the contributors new and old, active and dormant, who set the seed all those years ago and have fed our musical growth ever since.

Michael J Edwards, Tim Stenhouse, Sam Turnell, Mark Wallace, Andy Allen, Donald Palmer, Thomas Pooley-Tolkien-Sharpe, Steve Ward, Bruce Q, Glyn Phillips, Andy Hazell, Mike Gates, Nadjib LeFleurier, Alan Musson, Richard Trew, Carl Hyde, Suzy Mariott, David S. James, Matthew Hart, Kerstan Mackness, Chris Menist, Nic Vipond, Sarah Triggs, Fechedo, Brian Parsons (Deceased), Graham Radley, Stephen Parker, Howard Bowen, Damian Wilkes, Elizabeth Holden, Andrew Gray, Gibsy Rhodes, Wendy Douglas, Manwai, Brian Homer, Steve Funkyfeet, Deborah Jordan, Jonathon Abbott, Kate Green, Ben McDonnell, Michael Payne, SHG, Erminia Yardley, Sammy Goulbourne, Aurélie Gérardin, Julian Walden, Mark Harrington, Patricia Harris, Garry Corbett, Maya Golt, Steven Cropper, Keith Parsons, Suzanne Bull, Simon Rawles, Pete Buckenham, Brian Goucher, Lexus Blondin, Haji Mike, Lindsey Evans, Madeye, Tony Stewart, Peter Sampson, Robert Moore, Bill Shannon, Dzifa Benson, Nigel Madhoo, Andy Frazer, Gavin Mills, Mami, Jacque Henry, Yoshi Nakase, Ife Piankhi, Michael Fordham, Jedhi, Mickey Nold, Bill Randle, Stuart Baker, Jabba and Julia Warrington.

I salute you.

Steve Williams (Editor/Founder)

The Floyd Harvey Robinson Project ‘Here To Stay’ (Private Press) 4/5

Anything to do with FHR is acquired asap, he has a very unique way of presenting the music I have listened to all my life, his voice has an instantly recognisable timbre and musically he is never afraid to try something different. This album has a cavernous production for a contemporary album but even within this genre he’s created a sound that won’t be imitated too often by his peers. This project has presented us with 8 tracks, all danceable with not a ballad in sight which is a shame, but hey, I’m not complaining. Not a duff track on the album, you can play from start to finish or pop it on shuffle – it will not disappoint.

Let’s point you in the direction of the tracks that hit me on the first play. ‘Friends Indeed’ is a rolling mellow toe tapper which seeps into your head, you do wonder for a moment if you have popped on an old friend from the shelves rather than a new tune. ‘Don’t You Know’ is another slightly more urgent but not by much, with huge production making it clear that the calibre here is high. ‘We Got The Loving’ is simply stunning, sounding like it could have come off an Isaac Hayes’ album – this is a serious rewind here. As for the title track, well it is destined to become a weekender anthem once the word gets out, its got that heavy weekender swaying going on, you know the score; your favourite woman in one hand and your beer in the other (and you don’t spill a drop), head back giving it your best vocal. I feel like a kid in a sweet shop these past few weeks. It appears to be raining soul music releases and ‘Here To Stay’ is a fine example of what is big right now.

Several tracks have already been plundered on soul radio shows, it just remains now for the club jocks to get on board. As is always the case here, we really would like this release to be pressed on vinyl. Failing that, at the very least a CD as it thoroughly deserves it. It would be a travesty if it simply got lost in the world of ‘Downloads’.

Brian Goucher