One of the most anticipated live acts at this year’s Womad and now on a couple of weeks residency in Edinburgh as part of the annual festival, Dub Colossus have attracted a good deal of media attention in recent months. Does the album live up to the hype? The answer is a resounding thumbs up and must surely be a prime contender for best world roots fusion album of the year. Of course, western roots fans have been enthralled by the superb Ethiopiques re-issue series pioneered by French enthusiast Francis Falsetto and Dub Colossus clearly have been inspired by this awesome ongoing series. On the haunting ‘Tazeb Kush’ it is clearly the Ethiopian side that comes to the fore with beautiful tenor sax and vocals courtesy of Bahta Gecrehiwot. However, it is the intriguing combination of modern Ethiopian sounds with Jamaican dub that has rightly grabbed the headlines and this is no better exemplified than on ‘Ento to dub’ with subtle use of the kraar harp with several other fine examples on the album. One should not forget that for many Rastafarians Ethiopia is considered the homeland and thus the musical connection is a very organic one. What impresses here is the degree of respect for the two countries musical traditions and crucially the sensitivity displayed in fusing the two so effortlessly. Unquestionably one of the soundtracks to the summer and destined to remain so for several summers to come.
The latest in Mr Bongo’s Brazilian Beats compilation series focuses on some of the favourite vintage grooves played at the weekly party sessions, Brazilian Beats Brooklyn hosted in Brooklyn by DJs Sean Marquand and Greg Gaz. With 22 tracks included there’s a lot to take in but Silvio Cesar’s soul groover ‘A Festa’ and Helio Matheus’ ‘Mais Kriola’ with it’s spacey keys shine through immediately. Well worth purchasing for these 2 tracks alone!
John Kong, head honcho at Do Right further delves into the Canadian Broadcasting Company’s archives to bring us another fine selection of deep jazz grooves. Highlights include Nick Ayoub’s ‘Perception’ and Alvin Pall Sextet’s ‘Melancholy’, both exceptional modal pieces, The Montreal Black Community Youth Choir’s take on Roberta Flack’s ‘Tryin’ Times’ and the funky fusion outings ‘Hidden Strength’ and ‘Beloved Gift’ by Ted Moses Quintet and Bernie Senensky Trio respectively. Note there are 12 tracks on the CD but only 6 on the vinyl version. However the vinyl does feature 2 exclusives not found on the CD, Elizabeth Shepherd Trio’s ‘Soya’ and the firing dancer ‘Capricorn Dance’ again from Bernie Senensky Trio.
After teasing us with the Nostalgia 77 Remix of ‘Reversed’, Elizabeth Shepherd Trio now come with their impressive debut album. Contained within are some first rate vocal jazz performances from the opening title track, which pays tribute to some of the scene’s innovators, to the quirky ‘Price Is Right’ which concludes the set. In between there are moments of pure brilliance like the original version of ‘Reversed’, ‘Melon’, an up-tempo Latin jazz excursion and the immaculate ‘Circles’.
On ‘Search For Peace’ Birmingham ‘s Sugar Beats lay down a selection studio versions of choice cuts from their live repertoire. Their sound is firmly rooted in 70s jazz-fusion, whilst keeping an eye firmly on the present. The opening track and recent 12”, ‘Tickled Zinc’, is a perfect example, a dedication to fellow UKVibe family member Bruce Q and his weekly broken-beat sessions held at Zinc bar in Birmingham . The title track is a beautiful dreamy vocal outing and follows a similar path to their debut single ‘French Girl From Luton ‘, which is also included. My particular favourites though are ‘Thanks’, reminiscent of 60s Blue Note and the swinging dancer ‘Rosa’.
Although there is no denying Natalie Williams’ vocal capabilities her previous albums have followed the formularised soul/R&B path a little too closely for my liking. Her 3 rd instalment however, ‘ Secret Garden ‘, sees her branching out to include much richer and more complex arrangements. This is particularly evident on cuts such as the title track, ‘Psychedelic Love’ with its luscious strings and the amazing ‘Butterfly’, all coming off like a Minnie Riperton/Rotary Connection classics.
Sheffield’s DWH impressed me greatly with their 2 EPs, effortlessly fusing soul and jazz with contemporary yet timeless arrangements and all topped off with the mesmerising vocals of Genifa Vernon-Edwards. The tracks ‘Latter Rains’, ‘Darkside’ and ‘Still Here’ from the EPs are all present and correct along with other inspired moments such as ‘What Would You Chose’, ‘Soundtrack’, ‘Broken Pieces’ and ‘Seveneight’. The album may well have been a long time coming but it’s well worth the wait.
After grabbing my attention with ‘Morning Brings The Light’ featured on the compilation ‘Welcome To The People Tree’ and their ‘Jane Jane’ EP, Grand Union now present their stunning debut long player, ‘Through The Green Fuse’. ‘Jane Jane’ and ‘Wonderful World’ from the EP along with ‘Morning Brings The Light’ are included with further folk-jazz delights such as ‘Rain And Snow’, ‘Sally Free And Easy’ and the uplifting ‘Fall Into My Arms’. One for the sandal and spat wearing beardies alike!
Although Robb Scott has been performing on the live circuit for years now, ‘Afro Odyssey’ is his first long player. He seamlessly blends cosmic-soul with Afrocentric-jazz and subtle broken-beat to create an album that is contemporary yet classic sounding at the same time. Consistently strong throughout, it’s difficult to select particular favourites but at a push I’d go for the single ‘Fallin’ and ‘Reflections’, featuring the legendary Ellen McIlwaine.
Koop’s long awaited follow up to ‘Waltz For Koop’ continues is a similar vein, taking influence from 60s Latin jazz but on ‘ Koop Island ‘ the duo also incorporate elements from the 40s swing era. Guests include Yukimi Nagano, who impresses on the string laced ‘I See A Different You’ and the beautiful waltz ‘Whenever There Is You’. Earl Zinger contributes to 2 cuts with the melancholy ‘Beyond The Sun’ sounding good to these ears. In fact I would go so far as saying this is his finest performance since the early days of Galliano.