ROB ‘ROB: Funky Rob Way’ LP/CD (Mr Bongo) 4/5

Funky funky funky Rob. Funky funky funky Rob, yeah.

It’s FUNKY ROB WAY time. “Make It Fast, Make It Slow” was the first Rob Way track I heard. It immediately elevated him to legend status in my house and gave me a dirty catchphrase to throw out at every inappropriate opportunity. This album, “Rob: Funky Rob Way” was originally released in 1977 in a run of 500 copies on an Essiebons imprint. It’s the first album from Ron and his fierce backing band, Mag-2, led by songsmith, and aptly named, Amponsah ‘get your’ Rockson.

If you want to know why he’s called FUNKY Rob then let the title track happen to you. It’s a mercilessly ferocious slab of Ghanaian funk. Rhythmically tight as hell with punchy horns, warbling keys and Rob barking how it is. James Brown wouldn’t be fining anyone here.”Forgive Us All” immediately turns it on its head with a soulful Black Moses/Funkadelic, Moogtastic, wah guitar, wide-open-spaced epic.

“Boogie On” is a direct command. Its fierce horns and circular guitar are relentless, burning a path to the rhythmically-similar but less intense and more hypnotically schmoozy “Just One More Time”. The feeling of “Forgive Us All” is revisited in the soul ballad “Your Kiss Stole Me Away”; this time delivered with a tinge of zoned-out, narcotic space exploration. Rob, you funky, romantic so and so, you.

Final track “More” galaxy-trips us into Rob’s futuristic funky town. Tight rhythm section, hot horns and guitar/Moog taking us where no man has gone before. Prowling Ghanaian Space Funk!

There’s something warmly iterative about this album. If it was expanded to a 3 vinyl set you could imagine it becoming more and more of what it is; even tighter, hotter, spacier, funkier, dirtier, more soulful. It’s kinda overt but manages to creep up on you too. Whatever. At its core, it’s raw and funky. Funky Rob Way style. “Funky music is in my blood,” explains Rob. “What you hear is the coming out of my mind.” Funky Rob. Funky mind.

Ian Ward

Louisiana Red ‘At Onkel Pö’s Carnegie Hall / Hamburg 1977’ 2LP/2CD (Jazzline) 5/5

You expect some degree of sadness in any artist under the blues canopy. We know someone will have died, or run off to the bayou, we might even hear mention of a dog – It’s kind of expected, albeit cliché – there will be mention though of peas and rice! The reality is far harder to grasp by a western, modern society. Who can argue with the blues and the overwhelming hurt it portrays when you read that not only did Louisiana Red (real name Iverson Minter) lose his mother days after giving birth in 1932, but that his father was then lynched by the Ku Klux Klan. That pain, that suffering in the deep south had been part of life since the late 1800s. So it is from those African-American work songs and spirituals that we, thankfully, have this music, the blues, the Delta blues, Louisiana Blues even.

Although one can not overlook his early work with John Lee Hooker‘s Detroit band, it is often cited that “Sweet Blood Call” cemented Red’s growth in popularity, turning the blues on its side with lyrics “I have a hard time missing you baby, with my pistol in your mouth. You may be thinking about going north woman, but your brains are staying south” giving off an eery Tarantino-Esque concern. Shouldn’t we have moved away from such notions and sing about butterflies and flowers? Not at all. The blues does indeed run deeper than most art forms. It’s the real denim deal.

You can hear the early 60s British sound The Yardbirds and Rolling Stones had latched on to when revisiting Red’s music of 1963, in songs like ‘Ride On Red, Ride On’ and ‘Two Fifty Three’ from ‘The Lowdown Back Porch Blues’ album, although The Yardbirds would credit their experience with Sonny Boy Williamson more so, I can hear the Stones’ sound all over Red’s music. Perhaps when Red’s standing may not be as high as expected over the 50 year outpouring, although admittedly there were awards later on in his career, I myself was oblivious to his huge catalogue but unconvinced the aforementioned were not absorbed in it at the birth of their own ‘sound’. So, where does anyone start with the blues and how can inspiration be attained? Perhaps artists like Robert Johnson or Jimmy Reed were around the young Minter’s spaces. That combination of voice, harmonica and guitar was a well-worn look and one he must have focused towards whilst befriending John Lee Hooker and Eddie Burns, as you do.

Move on through four 70s studio albums in ‘Sings The Blues’, volumes 1 and 2 of ‘The Blues Purity’ before ‘Live + Well’, with a solo ‘Live at Montreux’ performance that gained much favour from the festival (unreleased until 2003) and you find yourself listening to the session in question, the double vinyl of ‘At Onkel Pö’s’. A previously unreleased live set recorded on June 14, 1977 by NDR (formed by the famous avant-garde composer, Rolf Liebermann and Hans Gertberg, back in 1958 and whom during the same year of ’77 were working with Dudu Pukwana, Johnny Dyani, Dollar Brand, Ian Carr, Barbara Thompson and Urszula Dudziak, amongst many others) from Hamburg’s take on Carnegie Hall. Joined on stage by voice, guitar and harmonica with occasional audience appreciation for ambiance, asking the audience “if they love the blues?”. An establishment of some significant standing where there was already a steady flow of recordings from the venue; James Booker, Les McCann, Johnny Griffin, Buddy Guy, Peter Herbolzheimer, Sabu Martinez, Dieter Reith, Al Jarreau, Michael Chapman can all be found on record. Be convinced then that Red would have been a recognised force of the time, particularly throughout Europe, where during this period he could be found in London before marriage settled him in Hanover.

‘At Onkel Pö’s Carnegie Hall’ arrives with no less than 21 songs. All solo work with, at the time of recording, a few distinctive favourites on the set-list; ‘Too Poor To Die’, ‘Death Of Ealase’, the foot-tapper ‘The Whole World’, ‘ Who Been Fooling You’ and the popular ‘Sweetblood Call’, surrounded by, I suspect, many unheard pieces by the crowd on the night in question, and songs very few ears may have even heard before this release. One thing would be sure, his acoustic “Honky Tonk” slide-guitar and voice was distinctive Alabama born Louisiana Red and this recording truly delves into the man and his wondrous sound at a time when, for me, he was at his most captivating, and a new recording that betters by far the acoustic quality of other releases on labels Ornament, Blue Labor and Interfusion of the time.

I found myself particularly drawn to a selection of songs. ‘Good God Woman’ guitar work is fabulous and one of the highlights on the album; the clarity of his voice on ‘When My Mama Was Living’ is exceptional, as is the Jazzline recording quality – which can not be understated throughout the entire 1hr 30min; the clink of glasses from the audience on tracks like ‘Crime Emotion’ give the new listener a sense of presence in the room, which is why this writer finds live recordings engaging; and ‘Red’s Dream No. 2’ and ‘Red’s Boogie’ with the all-important harmonica and guitar combo that he is recognised and revered for; whilst not dismissing the raised eyebrow moment during ‘Travelling Boogie’, an unusual piece, which is distinguished by his foot tapping technique (myself picturing Seasick Steve bashing the life out of his stomp box while listening). It is a show-stopping performance and any listener new to Red or fan will be nothing more than completely submerged in the recording and his story-telling.

Sleeve-note writer Michael Laages provides both English and German translations. One that presents itself in the elegance of glorious 70s gatefold authenticity. Red passed away February 25th 2012, aged 79 in Hannover, Germany. A prolific writer with an overwhelming recoding output to his name(s) – Rocky Fuller being an earlier manifestation around 1949-1952 with a 78 RPM collectible and work beside Forrest City Joe all out there to be discovered. Double-CD version includes 12-page booklet.

Steve Williams

Orquesta Metafisica ‘Hipnotizados’ CD (Territoire Art et Création) 4/5

Hipnotizados is a concept album. Its concept is very ‘now’; concerned with ‘the system’ and how it uses populism, belief, fear, power and consumerism to hypnotise and subjugate the unaware, compliant masses. Snippets of various global political, religious and business figures (e.g. Trump, Jordon Maxwell – the album’s booklet details them all, thankfully) are positioned between instrumental tracks to probe the listener’s thinking around patriotism, religion, xenophobia, consumerism and their innate ability to manipulate. Always worth a discussion. The narrative is joyously and overtly exaggerated by the on-message montage artwork of Lola Garcia Garrido that politicises the hell out of the packaging.

I’m partial to a bit of a concept, me. I like the way, if well executed, it can give my simple brain a structure; a story to hang the music around, with typically a start, middle and an end. The music then, however, needs to deliver a coherent message or a clear narrative arc. So, does the music successfully work the concept here, you ask?

What about the music: The music could easily appear a trifle trivial in the context of the overwhelming discussion taking place around it. Its creators, Orquesta Metafisica, were formed in Buenos Aires in 2009 and are led by composer Sebastian Volco, who has worked in the varied fields of classical, pop, contemporary ballet, compositions for art exhibitions, Argentinian rock and contemporary tango. Bass player, Sebastian Rosenfeldt acts as the band’s producer and is well versed in electronic music. The septet’s name is a tribute to the Argentinian metaphysician, Macedonio Fernandez. If you threw all of those experiences and influences into a sonic algorithm you’d probably end up with Metafisica’s sound. It makes fair sense; no defined genre, a kind of prog fusion of rock, jazz, tango, classical and contemporary avant-garde with a metaphysical, socially-conscious outlook. What’s not to like?

“Anestesia” opens with gorgeous, pensive strings before marching forward with a bandoneón and horn led, hard rock stomp. All instruments bring something of worth and it happily reminds me of a latin Styx. “Amnesia” is fundamentally an electronic ambient track; can’t remember who it reminds me of, though.
We then get the first of many voices, most Anglo-prominent (I can’t speak Spanish, I’m afraid, so can’t pick the others) of which is George W’s “God Bless America” address to the nation following 9/11; all dramatically fired-up by observant, judgemental violins. These voices segue effectively into the music throughout; words creating the thinkscape while the music cinematically emphasises and urges you to listen and think. In this case, the voices segue into “Bastardos Cosmicos”, a prog-lite bass line punctuated by horns, strings, keyboards; a bit like an instrumental Triana.

“Hiromy” is pure music for film; horns, strings, keyboard all busily, optimistically dancing to emphasise the important qualities of its subject. “Estrujamientos” shifts from bandoneón emoting to bass-driven, sax-wailing drama to quiet time (to allow the voices to be heard) to catastrophic breakdown.”Los Ojos” is a wonderful, watchful, reserved exploration while the piano-enlivened “La Salamanca” has an urgency even in its quieter moments.
The music’s coherence throughout ensures each track brings something important to the discussion while speaking a single language. In the latter part of the album “La Catedral” is my stand out track, with its Chris Squire momentum and ascendant voice.

This septet make one hell of a mature, detailed sound; an effortless mix of its musical influence across powerful, varied instrumentation creates unique, heightened sonics. And, in answer to the earlier question; Yes, the concept works too. Given the subject matter, it could quite easily have been a fearful, pessimistic recording. But it isn’t. It’s a space to think; to consider the complexities and implications of what’s happening in our world. That can only be a good thing, right? I just wish I could speak Spanish.

Orquesta Metafísica will present Hipnotizados on March 29th in Paris at Pan Piper

Ian Ward

OK:KO ‘Syrtti’ LP/CD (WE JAZZ) 4/5

Helsinki’s We Jazz Records have been releasing some fine albums of late, and this new offering from Finnish quartet OK:KO cements their growing reputation. This band is led by drummer Okko Saastamoinen and their spiritual, searching sound is characterised by their highly personal musical language and genuine teamwork which has been honed by continuous touring.

The ensemble includes “some of the most sought-after talents of the young generation of Finnish jazz”. Soulful sax player Jarno Tikka is joined by bassist Mikael Saastamoinen and pianist Toomas Keski-Säntti, with their combined talents successfully creating a strong identity and musical statement.

Sonically, OK:KO invites the listener to discover several delicious little bits and pieces within a bigger picture. The textures and melodies are enthralling, with smaller musical brushstrokes building up towards a colourful palette of sound. There is an undoubted warmth and joy to their music, one which obviously comes from the heart of the music… and the musicians themselves.

Each of the seven original compositions has its own identity, but there is a connection between all of the tracks, consolidating an overall sense of belonging. This is a group of young musicians who have already found their own voice and are confident enough to pursue a direction of their own making… and I very much like that.

The title track “Syrtti” rolls out as a Coltranesque large canvas piece, but takes its space naturally and pivots into unchartered waters after the sax led opening. This track showcases the band at their best, delivering the goods both in terms of hook-laden composition and in the fearless improvisation within. It also highlights the incredibly mature and inspired sax playing of Jarno Tikka, surely set to become a star of the jazz world in the near future.

“Soma” is a catchy composition, where the track’s DNA runs solid throughout while the focus switches from one instrument to the other, from layer to layer, it seems that the odd four minutes are plenty enough time for the band to build a sonic narrative which sticks with you long after the tune has finished.

The longest track on the album, “Kilpeli” reminds me a little of a Mark Guiliana Quartet tune, in its feel and style. As with much of this album, there’s a journey within a journey as the piece unfolds, finding its own path by way of several directions, before striding homeward. The complexities of the writing are matched by the improvisational freedom as all four musicians show their skills and understanding of how true original music lives and breathes.

There are riches to be found on all of the tunes presented here and if “Syrtti” is anything to go by, we have lots to look forward to from this new wave of Finnish jazz.

Mike Gates

Read also:
Black Motor / Bowman Trio / Jaska Lukkarinen Trio ‘Live Plates Vol.1: Berlin 27.10.17’ LP/CD (WE JAZZ) 4/5
Alder Ego ‘II’ LP/CD (WE JAZZ) 4/5
Mopo ‘Mopocalypse’ LP/CD/Cassette (WE JAZZ) 5/5

Julian Lage ‘Love Hurts’ LP/CD (Mack Avenue) 5/5

Hailed as one of the most prodigious guitarists of his generation, Julian Lage has spent more than a decade searching through the myriad strains of American musical history via impeccable technique, free association and a spirit of infinite possibility. Though only 31, the New York-based musician boasts a long, prolific résumé as sideman (alongside such icons as Gary Burton and John Zorn), duo partner (with Nels Cline, Chris Eldridge and Fred Hersch, among others), and as soloist and bandleader. Love Hurts – which marks Lage’s third Mack Avenue LP recorded with a trio, and his first to feature bassist Jorge Roeder and drummer Dave King (The Bad Plus) – sees the guitarist exploring the American song catalog from a unique vantage point, performing music written by a range of artists, from Roy Orbison to Ornette Coleman, Jimmy Giuffre to Peter Ivers.

Don’t be fooled by the album’s title… there’s nothing saccharine or mawkish about Love Hurts. Lage possesses a sublime touch, and although the emotion in his music may at times be subtle and thoughtful, it can also be anguished and animated. It’s not just his stylistic approach that impresses, it’s also his sound. I love the fact that his guitar sounds like he’s just come off stage from a 60s gig with The Yardbirds. Bassist Roeder and drummer King both react to this, so that when Lage starts letting go, the bass and drums echo the mood and moment, creating mouth-watering passages of sound.

“The covers on this record are like when you move into a new apartment, the last thing you do is hang your pictures on the wall,” Lage says. “Those pictures define your aesthetic in a way. So the tunes we chose kind of define the aesthetic I natively love but hadn’t put on a record yet.” Though composed more than a half century ago, songs like the iconic title track – written by Boudleaux Bryant and first recorded by the Everly Brothers – might well have been written to suit Lage’s fulsome, evocative style. Love Hurts contrasts that aspect of his artistry by demonstrating the profound influence on his work by such avant-garde jazz heroes as Ornette Coleman, Jimmy Giuffre, and especially Keith Jarrett, the latter’s huge inspiration embodied by two centrepiece tracks, “Encore (A)” and a strikingly epic take on “The Windup.” “The connection we were trying to draw was between this effusive era of Keith Jarrett’s music and all the tributaries that go away from or lead to it,” Lage says, “and then mixing that with music like Roy Orbison, this early rock ‘n’ roll that was also kind of effusive, rich and heartbreaking. We were looking at it as couplets, so we could very casually say, yeah we’re doing ‘Love Hurts’ and we’re doing ‘The Windup’ in the same breath and for it to feel genuine or native. That’s what we were excited about. It didn’t feel like we were making a sampler, it has a narrative.”

The track listing may sound like a strange collection of tunes to bring together, but it works perfectly as an album. Lage forges a connection between all of the music, bringing it all together as a musical bridge in his own image. The striking thing about this recording is how the trio take possession of the tunes whilst still showing reverence and respect to them. The interactivity between the three musicians is of paramount importance and their skill, artistry and understanding make for a wonderful listening experience. This for me is one of the best guitar-led trios at work today.

Mike Gates

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

Tim Stenhouse (22nd Oct 1963 – February 2019)

It is with a heavy heart that we are hearing news today that our chief reviewer, Tim Stenhouse, has died at home in Manchester. Tim has been the back bone of UK Vibe for over 20 years and we struggle to find the right words to use to convey our deep sadness.
Steve Williams (Editor)

When Charles Aznavour died in October last year, Tim Stenhouse searched the Internet for the best documentaries and concerts to remember him by. * When Albert Finney died this February, an actor local to our Salford roots, Tim made a point of revisiting Saturday Night and Sunday Morning. Tim’s devout commemorative streak affirmed that people mattered, that a purpose of culture was to preserve that recognition.

So now it’s time to reread some jazz reviews and revive some memories that affirm Tim Stenhouse as a fellow who mattered: the contribution of his personality and awareness made good copy for anyone hoping society might yet find a way to get civilized. His passion for the arts enthused about the best qualities in humanity.

We went to the same early schools but I was five years senior so that coincidence passed us by till we met in our fifties. I only knew Tim in his last year but here’s how fast we caught up: Tim would call round about once every three weeks around 2pm, usually weekends, and shoot the breeze until 11 or 12 at night. Good company!

His enquiring mind was open to stacks of books and films and vintage posters and magazines cluttered everywhere in my home when he wasn’t sampling his own collections from his bag. And a well-worn notebook: Tim carried with him everywhere not a mobile phone but handwritten notes on topics and titles and contacts to follow up tomorrow. What he was sharing with you, whenever he posted a review, was his latest findings in the culture he was building for himself.

“Through learning French, I discovered Brazilian culture and literature (both Jorge Amado and Chico Buarque and Caetano Veloso), Italian and Japanese cinema and even independent American cinema (a season of David Lynch films). Moreover, you are able to place yourself inside the mind of a French national to try and understand why they collectively think the way they do.”

Tim wrote that in his autobiographical article ‘Living and Woking in France’, on his linkedin page in 2017.

There’s nothing he didn’t know about the French New Wave or anything French that crossed the Channel. His jazz appreciation was off the scale; and he shared his findings by regularly presenting to Manchester’s Jazz Society because there was no difference in Tim’s mind between learning and socialising; and the only thing that exceeded his knowledge was his curiosity, as if his doctorate didn’t stop with a PhD but was a lifelong endeavour.

I showed him a jazzy feature adaptation of Othello called All Night Long from 1962 — Patrick McGoohan and Richard Attenborough and coincidentally featuring Mingus and Brubeck and Dankworth and Tubby Hayes and all — along with the original poster autographed by some of the people — and his ebullience was Christmassy. He spoke like the House of Lords but his vivacious affirmation of the life of the mind spoke of his Irish descent, somewhere between James Joyce and Edna O’Brien. His sensibility was English, Irish, French, and somehow Caucasian Caribbean.

The absurdities of society didn’t pass him by; he carried Jacques Tati’s worldview around in his head. When I told him, more than once, that I was not interested in anything Coltrane had done past 1958, so contrary to his own estimation, he’d let it go and laugh, and then so would I. He had a recognition of personal space in his writing and his manner, like Miles Davis spacing the notes. I heard it whenever he called at my door: he knocked like a dormouse. Timorous, despite his House of Lords bravura.

When Michel Legrand died in February, Tim was mindful of how much history was going down all the way to The Other Side of the Wind. And so, in one of his last visits, Tim handed me a USB and a request of Legrand documentaries and concerts to copy from YouTube. This was a regular routine since I showed Tim the software that could download and convert them to play on his television set via USB. Tim had no trouble filling 2×64 GB USBs that way. Computer technology was one area that overtook Tim, so this way of accessing artists to commemorate at home delighted him like a magic trick.

There was nothing elitist about the knowledge in his head. His boyish sense of wonder extended from local nostalgia to worldwide talent. You hear that resonance in his honest and amiable authorial voice, in his reviews. You see it in his face in the recent photograph on this page — which is why, though 55 years old with a comb-over rather than a quiff, the person he most reminded me of, vividly, always, was Hergé’s cartoon character Tintin. Had a white Terrier accompanied him in that photo, I wouldn’t have been at all surprised.

A professional c.v. detail in his online career profile:

PGCE. French, Written: Pass. Practical withdrew through illness (chickenpox).

He’s not being ironic in parenthesis: the medical exemption becomes part of the qualification by natural eccentricity: his illness specialized in chickenpox. That scrupulous fidelity to the facts is, typically endearingly, purely-naïvely- incorruptibly Tintin Tim.

He strategized his line of questioning of what I knew, discounting what he didn’t want to know; he planned his knowledge in his notebook, except for the last thing I ever told him. “How long have we known each other now? six months, a year? If you get nothing else from me, it’s not the British New Wave or film noir technique or any of that but this: Information is useless.” I was trying to distinguish between information and awareness but without explaining, just leaving the space for his own realization. He was trussed up askew at the time against the February cold like a big snowman that kids had equipped too late for Christmas; and with my central heating not on, Jacques Tati in a cockeyed woolly hat made his way down the lobby after ten hours of conversation, and I joked, “Well at least you haven’t asked what the temperature is.”

And obliviously, he took it as a cue to ask what the temperature was, and politely enough, he asked: another instance of Tintin Tim. “I don’t know!” I laughed, and repeated my last advice; and it was lost on me then that in repeating it I had downgraded the advice from awareness to information itself; and so comedy made chumps of us both in short order.

“See you.”

What a curious blend of intensity and sensitivity and sunny verve in an enquiring mind that could turn an epitaph into the creative celebration of a life. I will miss Michel Legrand and Albert Finney and Charles Aznavour, but I will miss Tim Stenhouse more.

*Tim was delighted to find this YouTube link last October, so it’s an apt sign-off for Tim, too: Aznavour’s club concert, copied over to watch on his television, immediately brought the singer back to life for Tim:

Gary McMahon

Rōnin Arkestra ‘First Meeting’ Vinyl EP (Albert’s Favourites)

A new name to all when an unexpected digital single appeared online in February 2019, but this newly formed project is headed by Mark de Clive-Lowe alongside various members of the Japanese jazz scene including members of Kyoto Jazz Sextet, Kyoto Jazz Massive, WONK, Cro Magnon, Sleepwalker and Sauce81 but all produced by bandleader Mark de Clive-Lowe. This 4-track EP, which is very much a contemporary take on spiritual and deep jazz, is a forerunner to a future full-length album scheduled for an autumn 2019 release.

‘Stranger Searching’, as a precursor to the rest of the EP as blends the old with the new, that is, jazz sensibilities mixed with modern production qualities. The horn section of Shinpei Ruike, Kohei Ando and Wataru Hamasaki leads the way with MDCL’s floating piano chords used to confirm some of the changes, with the driving drum beat providing the rhythmic foundation. Additionally, the added light synth tones provide a sense of modernity to the track. The shortest track of the set at 4’48”, ‘Redeye Reprisal’ is again a very brass heavy composition but here drummer Hikaru Arata is particularly strong as he displays his proficient jazz drumming chops with his double-time accents riding over the frantic 7/4 time signature.

‘The Silk Road Prelude’ is definitely a journey indeed with its extended musical sections, loose arrangement and dynamic playing by all concerned, which includes the hypnotic bassline of Shinju Kobayashi which alongside the rest of the rhythm section which underpins MDCL’s excellent piano work. At the midpoint, guitarist Tsuyoshi Kosuga offers a timely melodic solo before the bass and drum groove take over for the final few minutes.

The final track is the Coltrane standard ‘A Love Supreme’. Covering one of the most acclaimed compositions in jazz history is a decision not to be taken lightly and it would be preposterous for the band to try to emulate the timeless modal classic. But here, the Rōnin Arkestra have chosen a far more contemporary approach with its use of hip hop type drums, audio filtering effects and sampled percussion blended with the unmistakable McCoy Tyner piano lines. Probably the free-ist track of the EP, with the horns and piano moving away from the usual musical grid within their later improvisational sections.

With MDCL drifting towards his cultural background with recent records, including his Japanese influenced ‘Heritage’ album released in January 2019 being a firm favourite at UK Vibe HQ, ‘First Meeting’ displays another opportunity for Mark de Clive-Lowe to showcase his virtuosity and current growth as a musician. And with this very accomplished set of musicians, the EP is an ideal vehicle for the band to also be in touch with their more experimental side, especially in contrast to many of their own records where they may be more conservative with regards their own creativity.

Damian Wilkes

SILMUS ‘Laaksum’ CD (Volkoren) 4/5

It is somehow fitting, (and comforting) that today I’m sitting listening to “Laaksum”, an album of creative beauty from composer/musician Gert Boersma, otherwise known as SILMUS. For today is just 24 hours on from the news of the passing of ‘Talk Talk’ frontman Mark Hollis. A feather has fallen, yet can still be heard.

While walking down the street on no particular day in his hometown Leeuwarden, it was the discovery of a single feather that brought back memories from days of youth and long forgotten scenes from early childhood. After more than 30 years, the feather triggered SILMUS to go back to a little inland bay in the southside of Friesland, the North of the Netherlands: Laaksum. It was the perfect picture to the sounds he would later create.

Assisted by Jan Theodoor Borger on piano, Minco Eggersman on drums, and Guy Gellem on cello, “Laaksum” is awash with ambient soundscapes, reminiscent of a post-rock era in which the likes of Mark Hollis, and before him a Berlin-era David Bowie and Brian Eno, made their music with little else in mind other than the music itself.

This is one of those albums that can be as equally melancholic as it can be uplifting. The music comes at you in gentle waves, like a meditation on the breath, gently breathing in, mindfully breathing out. Its nature is peaceful, relaxing, contemplative. Like a small pebble thrown into a large pond, the quiet waters ripple outward, before falling silent once more.

Gorgeous guitar melodies make me think of an Ennio Morricone soundtrack. Luscious strings make me think of a Max Richter composition. Atmospheric subtleties of sound make me think of Pat Metheny and Lyle Mays on As Falls Wichita So Falls Wichita Falls. And as a whole, this album makes me think of friends, family, endearing memories, and the impermanence of everything. Take some time out of a busy life to reflect awhile. Like a feather drifting in the wind, music can be timeless. Let it in, let it flow, let things go…

Mike Gates

Read also:
Minco Eggersman ‘Kavkasia’ (Volkoren) 5/5
Minco Eggersman/Theodoor Borger/Mathias Eick ‘Unifony’ CD (Butler) 4/5

Alexis Evans ‘I’ve Come A Long Way’ LP/CD (Record Kicks) 4/5

The last 5 years have been a glorious period for new release soul records in all formats, with more and more albums getting a vinyl release, and with a plethora of 45s, it’s a tough time keeping up with it all. I spend two hours every day looking for new additions to acquire, and most of that time is searching out new releases. You can tell we are in a golden period when outlets start stocking albums like this. It has no nods to the modern-day productions, not a synth in sight thankfully, all real instruments with the main man being quite an accomplished guitarist. The whole sound is that of the early 60s rhythm and blues with a real southern edge, and sitting very comfortably along side The James Hunter Six, and although Alexis’ voice isn’t the strongest around, more a smooth and delicate one, he clearly sits within this epic musical backdrop effortlessly.

Let’s talk about the music score. Vast, stabbing horns and sweeping strings battle the bass and percussion with the occasional guitar joining the fray. Alexis is 25 and hails from Boudeaux, France. He is not “the next big thing on the French Deep Soul scene”, as we are told. There are no deep soul tracks on here or on his previous album; deep soul is slow torturous, with pleading vocals, over a simple backdrop, far from what is offered here. What he is, is an exciting new addition to soul music.

The album kicks off with the 45, “She Took Me Back”, a wonderful throwback dancer which could grace any Northern Soul/Crossover dance-floor. The big track on here is the simply stunning “Your Words” an absolute anthem in the making, crossover soul nights in the UK and Europe will be hammering this once word gets out and and can clearly imagine this getting some healthy attention at the forthcoming Soul Essence Weekender in April – perfect timing indeed. The myriad of Sunday Soul Sessions up and down the country will cement its place on the scene as one of the true modern greats. Recorded in the Bordeaux, mixed in Sydney by Dojo Cuts and the Liberators head man Nate Goldentone and mastered in LA at Golden Mastering. “I’ve come a long way” deserves special mention too, starting off in classic soul man mode and continues to excite, very subtle, quite superb. Alexis has been at this game a long time, discovering Afro-American music at a very young age and taking up the guitar thanks to his father, an English musician. Alexis stated “I spent a few months composing and arranging all these tracks with the idea of approaching the songs of The Impressions, Allen Toussaint or Bobby Womack (…) and with everyone in the right mood, we found our own sound and we recorded the album”. The other track that’s grown on me and is now a constant play is the unlikely titled “Chocolate Seller”, which starts off with horns that sound out of tune and then morphs into a funky choppy dancer, heavy on the horns throughout. If you’re into the sound of Timmion, Daptone, Kimberlite, Colemine etc then this album is an absolute must. Search out the vinyl and appreciate the music.

Brian Goucher

Lage Lund ‘Terrible Animals’ CD (Criss Cross Jazz) 4/5

Norwegian born, New York based guitarist Lage Lund follows up his excellent 2015 trio outing “Idlewild” with “Terrible Animals”, a quartet recording featuring Lund on guitars and effects, Sullivan Fortner on piano, Larry Grenadier on bass, and Tyshawn Sorey drums.

“I basically could have recorded this right after Idlewild” Lund says. “The first time we played, I was like, ‘Oh yeah, that’s it’. I love this combination of people, and most if not all of this music started out as stuff I wrote for them. I felt we could play anything, and it would make sense.” And there is a genuine warmth and comfort that comes across on this session, one that does make the listener share the feeling that all the musicians feel at home and at ease with one another, thereby allowing them the freedom to express themselves.

The album is made up of ten Lund originals, with the overall feel being quite different to the guitarist’s previous trio release which featured bassist Ben Street and drummer Bill Stewart. Obviously with a change of personnel, along with the addition of piano, the dynamic changes. “Terrible Animals” sounds more polished than its predecessor, with strong tunes backed up by top drawer performances, but for me it lacks a little of the surprise and originality that came with “Idlewild”. But “Terrible Animals” is of course a different beast, and stands strong as Lund’s fifth release for Criss Cross Jazz.

Listeners familiar with the Pat Metheny/Brad Mehldau collaborations will perhaps share my thoughts on the similarities with this recording. The Metheny/Mehldau “Quartet” album especially (which also featured bassist Larry Grenadier), is as good a reference point as any for the music on this project. Both albums share a similar stylistic approach and the performances on both are pure quality.

“Hard Eights”, undoubtedly one of the strongest tunes on the album, opens proceedings. Lund’s use of effects is worthy of special mention; always cool and seamlessly integrated into the music itself, they add some wonderful textures and memorable moments. The intuitive combination of Lund’s guitar and Fortner’s piano is a feature throughout the album, the pair sharing an obvious empathic understanding. I love the way the quartet intuitively work together and build on ideas and melodies, before taking them off in different directions. The soloing is wonderful at times, as on “Suppressions”; cool, fluid and enchanting. Yet the tunes themselves are never far from their core, the writer’s inventive and sharp intelligence always creating a structured base from which everything else develops. “Octoberry” is a great example of how all of the musicians are free to explore and improvise around a theme. Lund’s quirkier side comes across well on tunes such as this, and indeed, the very impressive title track “Terrible Animals” leaves me wishing there was more of this to be heard. It’s on tunes such as these that for me, the individual character of Lund’s music really shines through. This is his voice, his thoughts, his expression, his music.

“Terrible Animals” is a strong release from Lund, adding to a glowing portfolio of music from the guitarist. He’s right up there with the best for me, and with a more frequent output that focusses on the individual character of his playing and writing, should be one of the leading lights of jazz guitar for many years to come.

Mike Gates

Read also: Lage Lund ‘Idlewild’ (Criss Cross Jazz) 5/5

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