Rhian Benson ‘Gold Coast’ (DKG)

Excellent contemporary voice combined with soulful and jazzy arrangements, make for this marvelous album. It would be only too obvious to compare the style of Rhian’s voice to that of Tracey Thorn’s, but that similarity gets a good kicking when the music opens up. For this is a true gem of an album, and one that will inevitably get overlooked by both the soul fraternity and the jazz one alike.
Do us a favour, go and seek this out and have a listen, check out her photos if you must because this is one beautiful lady that can sing, and that doesn’t happen too often.
Extra special moments are ‘I’m In a Bind’ and the title track ‘Gold Sky’, which will be one of those songs you will all be searching for when you can’t get it. Trust me on that one!

Steve Williams

The Rough Guide To The Music Of Morocco

We start with the brilliant Nass Marrakech and their global take on gnawa (look out for them on UK tour in the spring – not to be missed) who are followed by one of Morocco’s biggest stars, Jil Jilala. The Rough Guide takes us from the traditional gnawa and melhoun to some more contemporary influences all of which have helped to shape the varied culture of this exciting land. Further artists featured include, Nass El Ghiwane, Najm El Farah Essafi, Bnet Marrakech and Mustapha Bourgogne, 71minutes of music that will take you from mellow to full on hedonism, from chilled to party. Brilliant.

Graham Radley

Ed Motta ‘Poptical’ (Trama) 5/5

Considered by many as the new voice of Brasil, it will come as a shock to many of you to learn that this 30 and a bit year old has already notched up nine albums. His distinctive soulful voice has an appeal unlike any other. Where two-step grooves often meet beautiful colorful Brazilian sounds – ambiance on plastic.
But try finding his albums and you’re really in trouble. His previous release ‘Dwitza’ was very poorly distributed and not until Whatmusic took over the sales did it manage to surface properly. The previous albums are only available in Brasil at the moment.

Ed Motta is certainly different, so wash away any preconceptions about Brazilian music before you listen and boy are you going to be enthralled.
Appearing live in November at the Jazz Cafe on 28th and 29th to promote this new album, after his successful appearance at the Incognito gig not too long back, he is already setting himself up for great appreciation.

This album? Well Ed Motta is renowned for his collection of unusual and rare keyboards, and some of them are featured here, giving the listener some eye-opening moments. It’s very soulful with even an English song ‘The rose that came to bloom’ highlighting his many talents, that include wine critic and radio presenter to name a few. His uncle was the very Tim Maia who by all accounts was not the best of influences, who sadly died whilst Ed was in London, although he does recognise his uncle’s talents his true influence comes from his wife Edna.

Don’t be fooled here, this album is distinctive and inspiring. It is forward thinking but subtle and with an Ed Motta twist all of its own. Good indeed to see Trama taking this man under their wing, hopefully his distribution will widen and the previous albums see the light of the British day very very soon.
When you’re next in that record shop and you ask to listen to this album, just say to the assistant “drop on ‘Coincidencia'” and stand back… get your money out ready, ’cause it’s spending time!

Steve Williams

Jol ‘Moody Aow’ (April)

Out of the Gonkyburg music collective comes this bombardment of sounds ranging from the jazz funk enthusiasm of ‘Going down’ and ‘Kids in the song’ to the film score enriched ‘spirits of pyrinee’, which would fit nicely with the likes of Ryuichi Sakamoto’s ‘Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence’ – a masterpiece.
For the dance floors we’ve got ‘cool cat’, giving Koop a serious run for their money, with vibes all the way and ‘Hubba ghost’, which should certainly get either early evening club play or radio airplay.
Electronica is the umbrella, with eastern sounds present on both ‘brumpet’ and ‘gonky boa’ and oriental flavours on ‘think tin’ – this project should stand out in the inevitable rain.
With music already featured on the soundtrack to ‘the great forest’ you begin to understand the directions of the album. Movement and Music has also featured work by Jol… but moody music? I think not. this album would be a cherished item in solitary confinement – thought provoking at times, exciting and even just down right funky when you get too comfortable.
Thumbs up all round, it’s quirky enough to be a hit, sufficiently intelligent to maintain longevity and upfront for the nu jazz lovers, but accessible for them to make some money.
‘Spirits of Pyrinee’ stands out on this album and will take its place with many a classic record.

Steve Williams

Marcos Valle ‘Contrasts’ (Far Out) 5/5

Now readers, for those who bought and cherish Marcos Valle’s last offering, ‘Escape’ and thought it was the best thing since Terry Callier came to England… or was bread involved? You are going to blow your top on this one.
Marcos Valle does justice to both the fresh new sounds coming out of Brasil and those emerging from London. This album is everything Fernanda Porta’s album should have been. It’s fresh, strong and produced perfectly. The music and voice compliment each other and the arrangements cover all musical boundaries – its one hell of an album.
Instantaneously when you first skip through the tracks it’s the ‘Valeu’ featuring Joyce that hits you, it’s the 4 Hero and Bugz in the Attic that grips your attention, but listen again and it is Valle’s ‘Agua de coco’ that stands tallest on ‘Contrast’ tall like Milton Nascimento’s ‘Clube de esquina no.2’, tall like Joyce’s ‘Aldeia de ogum’, a marvelous album that takes the traps in the ‘best of 2003’ race for the tape.

Steve Williams

V/A ‘The Wonder of Stevie’ (Harmless) 3/5

Two CDs here, a mix on CD one of the 15 tracks featured in their original state on disc two, this is put together by Spinna and Bobbito and features tracks produces, written and arranged by Stevie Wonder rather than any song by him.
There are some classics here, I have to admit, both Jose Feliciano’s ‘Golden Lady’ and Carl Anderson’s ‘Buttercup’ have lived with me for many years and the inclusion of ‘Another star’ by Cedar Walton (who worked with Kimiko Kasai back in the day… sorry got carried away there…) is a must-have record.
It’s an unusual array of songs, some I would not have chosen myself but others that need to be included. I have to give them 10 out of 10 for the concept, 7 out of 10 for the choices and for the mix…. mmmm, leave that one hey!
One final word, Norman Brown’s take on ‘Too High’ was a great moment in 1992, and it is nice to see it gets some recognition here, a just moment.

Steve Williams

Art Ensemble of Chicago ‘Tribute to Lester (Bowie)’ (ECM)

Lester Bowie’s album ‘The great pretender’ sits proudly on my shelf next to J.R.Bailey, Stevie Wonder, Yusef lateef and many others (as he looks over his shoulder) and is a precious moment in history. Lester’s departure from this soil left many feeling deprived and it’s ECM that holds and cherishes this feeling and takes you out there with this brand new album.
The Art Ensemble of Chicago are represented here by Roscoe Mitchell, Malachi Favors Moghostut and Famoudou Don Moye, three of the original members that gave us, so often, inspiration in their music back in the 60s and 70s and to whome present for us here a thought-provoking and deep incite into the world of jazz music through their established eyes.
We like this, the six compositions begin with enchanting African rhythms that build and build into a fabulous rich piece of free jazz for 2003. Typical ECM sound, quality in the recording, sophistication in every way, but distinctive in its application but perhaps not for every ear – it’s intelligent with a “must sit and listen” grip on the recipient. It is far from accessible. It is strong and precise, but most of all it is jazz.

Steve Williams

Fernanda Porto (Trama)

Bossa nova grooves mixed with Portuguese lyrics from a fantastic label with a fine stable of artists, a voice that is warm and infectious.. so what could possibly go wrong?
I’m afraid even with Fernanda’s beautiful singing this album just does not work for me. For this album is ‘drum and bass’ pretty much all the way, be not cleverly blended with vocals. Just bang straight in your face and pushing the vocals to the back. A bad move.
There are a few tunes, as with most albums, which will sell this for her. A pity the instrumentation does not allow her the latitude we would prefer.. this is a ‘here today, gone tomorrow’ kind of album. A shame, a real shame.
Drum and bass posse – this is a little too colour-washed and commercial even for you!

Steve Williams

V/A ‘The Soul Jazz Legacy – Vol2’ (CTI)

CTI like Blue Note and Impulse has a fantastic history of some outstanding artists and compositions, some of which, are included on this double CD package. In particular Ray Barretto’s ‘Pastime paradise’, Esther Phillips’ ‘Disposable society’, and what is probably the best ever version of ‘Take five’ by George Benson are magnificent records. So too are Freddie Hubbard’s ‘Red clay’ (track down Mark Murphy’s version also from is album ‘Mark Murphy sings’ Muse records 1975) and Airto’s ‘Flora’s song’. All in all a great round-up from this well rooted label and a must buy for those without the songs on their shelves.

Steve Williams

Carmen Lundy ‘Something To Believe In’ (Justin Time) 5/5

Here we go, the reference for which all others should be compared. Ms. Lundy ranks with the ukvibe posse as top dollar. Back in 1995 we interviewed this lady (see interview), and every project she works on has become a mission and a subsequent masterpiece from that time.
Here Carmen is joined by brother Curtis once more (a nice inclusion for those who missed the Jazz Cafe gig earlier in the year), with the marvelous Regina Carter on violin (who concludes on ‘Moody’s mood for love’ where the sax is usually found – deep) straight out of the verve stables.
Those familiar will appreciate me saying there is a significant ‘Good morning kiss’ appeal to this new album, though there are a few straight jazz cuts, there are more importantly some outstanding moments – ‘In love again’ is an up tempo, in-your-face jazz classic in the making, setting the mood for the following nine wonderful compositions.
The “you are going to cry listening” tune here folks is her take on Michel Legrand’s ‘Windmills of your mind’. This sits side by side with her best works, and don’t you doubt it. I am the self-proclaimed Carmen worshiper……’happy’ is typical Carmen, you will agree.
Again, Regina’s use of the violin adds character to this, a quirky approach that gives this album a boost unlike any of her previous works. Truly well put together and something I am sure is reflective of Curtis Lundy’s input and production skills. Justin-Time is the way forward for Carmen, that is a fact. This album is not a grower folks – it’s instantaneous pleasure!

Steve Williams

travelling the spaceways since 1993