Brad Garton and Dave Soldier ‘The Brainwave Music Project’ (Mulatta) 4/5

A snail is close to reaching a lettuce leaf, only to be stood on. It could almost taste the succulent greenery.

An agoraphobic juggler, trying to impress her friends, is suddenly afflicted with the power of flight, and lands onto a tightrope. She does not stop juggling.

Meanwhile, ten Native Americans meet ten Ancient Romans at a beach resort, have a fantastic time, and remain lifelong friends. They never miss each other’s birthdays, but cannot read the cards they receive.

The images passing through my mind whilst listening to Brad Garton and David Soldier’s new album are as random and sporadic as the music itself, which is precisely the point.

In 2008, Garton, Director of Computer Music at Colombia University, and neurophysiologist-cum-composer Soldier (a.k.a. Sulzer, a.k.a. the person who built giant instruments for Thai elephants), began developing software which could generate music from brain patterns. Using Electroencephalographs (now to be shortened as EEG’s) to measure brainwaves, the data is outputted sonically, translating a stream of numbers into sound.

Cut to ten years later, the result is ‘The Brainwave Music Project’, 58 minutes of complete auditory madness. Four soloists – Dan Trueman, Margaret Lancaster, Terry Pender, and William Hooker – duel with their own waveforms. Linked up to the EEG, each musician, equipped with their respective instruments of the hardanger fiddle, flute, mandolin, or the trap drum, interpret the peaks and troughs, whilst the EEG creates music of its own.

Gabbling terror on Harajuku Hiccups gives way to moody Serotonin, whilst the later antidote Histamine evokes peaceful lulls of parting clouds and shining sun, only for the peace to be broken by the rolling thunder of Initiates, and then drenched by the ensuing irrational downpours of Rational Entities.

One can imagine David Lynch sticking this on, kicking back in an easy chair, dreaming up his next feature whilst his pet log whispers sweet nothings in his ear. It’s human music at its purest form, displaying the true nature of our untameable minds.

The Brainwave Project is made by the brain, for the brain, so don’t worry if you don’t enjoy it, your grey matter will be having a rollercoaster of a time. It’s a fascinating, high concept album with a truly unique construction. Give it a listen, and see where the cranium-composed cacophony takes you.

Sam Turnell

James Payne ‘Love Talk (Ecko’s From The Past)’ (Snake Free) 3/5

Well 2018 just meandered in musically the way 2017 ended, more soul records coming through the door than the postie can handle and the wants list, in terms of new material, just growing daily – don’t you just love this world of ours?

James Payne is one of black America’s journey men, having been given his first guitar at the age of 9 and been on one hell of a journey ever since, which saw him join numerous gospel groups from and around Mobile Alabama. Not one of life’s prolific recorders of music but has earned his living playing a myriad of live gigs touring with the Blues Unlimited Band and with his good friend, southern soul legend Mr David Brinston. By 2001 he was an artist with the Mr Tee Record Company performing with his own band, The Justice Show Band, travelling on to Jacksonville and eventually to Florida. In 2001 he had a hit single, “Fat Woman”, with the full length CD appearing shortly after.

And so to this tasty 11 tracker, the usual warning with southern soul albums applies, no real instruments, and at times a sparse production, but all this allows us to listen to his smoky lived in vocals that occasionally wander off key, there are a couple of scintillating downlow ballads on here one of which, “I Ain’t Gonna Cry No More”, could just be destined for further exposure on the Soul Discovery and Soul Sermon soul shows, it’s early yet but it could make it through the year as a constant play here as it’s so so good and then we slip effortlessly into “Love Talk” which is perfect radio fodder, the production on both these is top notch and couldn’t be bettered really. Upping the pace a cracking stroller which also got the nod here “If It Feels Good”, and if you fancy shaking your tail feathers then jump on “Two Good Women” a feel good dancer. Staying in that groove we have “My Outside Woman”, and mellowing out slightly we have “I Never Take A Day Off”, of the other tracks they all have something to offer. For me a great way to kick off the year.

Brian Goucher

LyricL ‘UnequiVocaL’ (Tokyo Dawn) 5/5

Since 2001 her voice has graced many a release, appearing on various artist compilations, singles and 12″ platters, many collaborations within an array of musical directions across a big pool of record labels which culminated in her debut album release back in 2011 which was entitled ‘Amazed’ after which she continued her steadfast collaborations and appearances on V/A albums most notably on the compilations released by the Tokyo Dawn records label such as their ‘The Move Volume 2’ and ‘The Heart Volume 4’ long players.

London born writer, arranger, spoken word social commentator and singer, Lillian Mgbado, aka LyricL has released her next album and people, I have to say that this is one of the most encompassing albums that I have had the pleasure of being entertained by in a very long time, both lyrically and musically, with its low lighting -indeed candle lit-production warmth and LyricL’s passionate and soulful yet ultra serious spoken vocal deliveries, an MC of super high calibre, a commentator of the life, the lives that affect us all, love, dissatisfaction, violence, social breakdown, people, hope.

An eclectic pot pourri of progressive hip hop density, jazzy funk grooves and soul stirrings being the order of the day from the EPMD style 70s keyboard slung low groove of ‘Dreamstate’ featuring a rap collaboration with 3rd Person and Breakplus and the equally slung low of ‘Try’ with Enrico Delves and Stephen Bam Busette in attendance with its distinct Jamiroquai vibe and rollin’ riddim. Then we have a piece entitled ‘Appreshelove’ a vocal led instructive and statement with seductive club powered harmonies forming the hookline backdrop and LyricL confidently in spoken word throughout addressing relationships and loss which can be read in either its personal and/or in its social context as she states “So we’re connected, through different ways, artistically, spiritually, creatively, socially, culturally, lovingly, memorably, beautifully and wonderfully, So when you lose something you panic right? or you worry, blame yourself whilst tracing your steps and when you lose those that you love or are in love with or, someone, I guess its more of the same yet the feeling is far worse” said in clear and confident tones and one cannot help but simply listen to her voice intensely, a very addictive voice it has to be said.

The track ‘Appreshelove’ first appeared on Tokyo Dawn’s V/A compilation ‘The Move Vol 2’ back in September of last year and is included thankfully here featuring Stephen Bam Busette. Equally addictive is a piece entitled ‘Wanna Make’ again featuring Stephen Bam Busette, I wont quote from the song this time, you’ll simply have to listen to feel, I will say it’s driven by a classic dance groove and in my humble opinion should be the album’s single, a double A Side single, it’s short with a catchy chorus, and yet again, it’s her delivery, the voice. I have the video of this single already directed in my head as should be expected by a catchy piece like this, the other A side of this single would be a piece entitled ‘Expected’, a wonderful underground lazer light in a field moment with its dubby synth bass and swirling melody and again with an ultra catchy chorus, this piece featuring Daz-I-Kue. Pure Niceness.

Seriously, check it out and feel the lyrics. There are 16 tracks on this album, I could go on, but I want to listen again. This album is ever so luxurious, not in dreammy la la land fashion, it is Seriously luxurious and it hits home and it absolutely warrants 72 minutes of your time and thoughts. In fact, play it twice through in one session. Released on Tokyo Dawn Records. Pure production. Feel it.

Gibsy Rhodes

Arnan Raz ‘Chains of Stories’ (Rabbit Rabbit Rabbit) 4/5

“Chains of Stories” is the follow-up to tenor saxophonist Arnan Raz’s excellent 2016 debut “Second to the left”. And a very accomplished album it is too. This release sees the Israeli born composer teaming up with alto saxophonist Eyal Hai, with Daniel Meron on piano, Tamir Shmerling on bass, and Dani Danor on drums.

There are two key features to this album; the pairing of the tenor and alto saxophonists, and the effortless approach to writing which enables a beautiful, thoughtful and engaging sound to flow from each of the saxophonists’ horns. The music has a gentle, sensitive feel to it, reflective in nature whilst at times still being inquisitively playful.

There’s a childlike innocence to the compositions, evidently poignant as Raz recalls: “When we were kids there was a game we used to play. It was called ‘Chains of Stories’. The first to go would write a sentence, fold it and pass it over to the next one, and they would write a new sentence without seeing what was written before. The game would continue the same way until everyone wrote their sentences. Then we would unfold the entire page and read aloud as one coherent story. When I wrote the title song for this album, I experimented and wrote one short phrase each day without over thinking it, waiting to see what would come out eventually. After a few weeks, I had an entire song written. Thinking of how I wrote the song, I realised it was written the same way that we used to play the game. This album is my chain of stories.”

It’s an interesting concept, and it might explain why some of the melodies and musical lines of notes are so surprising and delightful. There’s a natural beauty to my ears, accentuated by the quite remarkable harmonies provided by the two saxophonists. They accompany one another with such ease and precision, it really is a rare joy to behold. It’s subtle and at times spellbinding, a lovely intuitive sound that warms the heart.

Listening to this album reminds me in a way of Keith Jarrett’s classic album “My Song”. A soft and quiet tone is the overriding feel of the recording, as is heard on several tunes here, “Her Story”, and “Soul Talk” being prime examples. Yet there are times when the saxophonists stretch out and flex their musical muscles, “His Story” being a piece of music where the musicians do take things off on a slightly more adventurous tangent. Another reference point might be Brad Mehldau’s “Highway Rider”. Gorgeous piano melodies underpin some emotive horn playing. “Two Worlds One Soul” along with the title track are both tunes that focus the mind with their intelligent writing, whilst retaining an element of dreamy wistfulness.

“Chains of Stories” is a lovely recording, one which will stand the test of time. Arnan Raz continues to provide us with skilfully crafted, exquisitely executed music. It’s a different vibe to “Second to the left” but I really like that, and I for one can’t wait to hear what he does next.

Mike Gates

Stephane Nisol ‘Trafic d’Influences’ (Aurasky Music) 3/5

There are moments on saxophonist Stephane Nisol’s Trafic d’Influences which could slide right into Jacques Tati’s final film. The last in the tetralogy of Monsieur Hulot outings, Trafic see’s the bumbling protagonist transporting his innovative motorhome from Paris to an automobile show in Amsterdam. It’s a farcical affair, full of insights and car crashes that only long distance journeys can arouse.

The album begins with the switching of a radio. You can almost see Monsieur Hulot, hat firmly on his head, tapping his pipe on the outside of his door whilst he flits to a station of his satisfaction.

Happy, he puts the motorhome in gear and pulls off. The drumming in Lou Maë acts as a perfect representation of a sputtering engine, working hard to carry the heavy load of Monsieur Hulot’s holiday provisions. A bell rings two-thirds of the way through the song; a cyclist has been comically forced off the road, landing in a hedge. Unaware of the incident, Hulot drives on. The cyclist waves his fist.

Track three, Magatte, and we’re really rolling; wheels smoothly go around. This is open road, not a care in the world music. Hulot looks out of the window at a passing van, the driver of which is relieving his nose of obstacles. Today, Hulot cannot be disgusted by such an action, he is enjoying the drive too much. Premier Jour De Printemps plays on.

Some way into the journey, right at the point of the DJ selecting Elia as his next track, it begins to rain. Hulot passes a couple, huddled together, trying to escape the downpour. They left the house without a coat or umbrella; the forecast didn’t suggest rain. The windscreen wipers go back and forth.

Finally, sunshine, happiness resumes. But, little does Hulot know, around the next few bends a farmer is having a hard time controlling his sheep. They are blocking the road, stumbling in time to La Panthère Bleue. Monsieur Hulot slams onto his breaks. A line of cars in waiting forms. The farmer looks exasperated, but eventually clears the road with the Hulot’s help.

He jumps back into the motorhome; the traffic is now moving steadily along. City roads morph into country lanes. Hulot relaxes, going right over a red light at a crossroad. Two oncoming vehicles collide, at the exact moment symbols crash in the title track, Trafic d’Influences. Again, our man Hulot doesn’t know of the carnage he has left. He drives on. Amsterdam is now on the signposts.

On an unpopulated stretch of motorway, blue skies above, grass lands to the left and right, Monsieur Hulot’s mind drifts to the plains of the savanna. Gazelles run around his head. His air freshener is Parfum d’Afrique, it is also the standout track on the record.

However, the reverie is short lived. Another turning, another jam. A lorry carrying multi-coloured rubber ducks has overturned. This time Hulot is far back in the line. He tries to remain patient, but can see the frustration of the people around him. Histoire Secrète plays to his sadness.

Obstruction cleared, he sets off again. As he passes, the driver of the lorry asks him to roll down his window, which he does, and is handed a little rubber duck. He places it affectionately on the dashboard; the singer on Couleurs d’Automne serenades, saying ‘look into my eyes, and you will see, my love is still there.’

The song continues as Monsieur Hulot arrives in Amsterdam and finds the automobile show. He parks, steps out of the motorhome, and puts the little rubber duck in his jacket pocket. The last he hears before he closes the door, marking the end of his journey, is the contemplative Après Minuit.

The radio continues to play. The battery of the motorhome runs flat.

Sam Turnell

Bar-Kays ‘As One / Nightcruising / Propositions / Dangerous’ 2CD (Robinsongs) 3/5

There are two distinctive phases in the history of the Bar-Kays and sadly the first was ended in dramatic fashion by the tragic plane clash in 1967 in which the majority of the young group members, along with soul vocalist and legend Otis Redding, lost their lives. This period when they recorded as a separate functioning witnessed the group at Stax records, scoring an R & B hit in ‘Soul Finger’, and then working as the tour backing band to Redding, is not featured here and indeed it predates these 1980 recordings by almost two decades. Furthermore, they are not an alternative ‘Best of’ either from the Mercury label period and, ideally, a 2CD anthology of the second formation of the group from the mid-1970’s and into the 1980’s would have made for a better and more cohesive package, avoiding some of the filler within and including stronger material from the mid-late 1970’s. That said, for long-term fans, or those who already possess the truncated two volumes of their greatest hits in the post-Stax era, then these re-issues will be welcomed and, to this writer’s knowledge, are not readily available on CD, at least in the UK.

The one band survivor of the original band, bassist James Alexander, recreated the band for a new decade, the 1970s, and they very much modeled themselves on the new and highly influential emerging groups such as the Commodores and Earth, Wind and Fire and it is important to stress that the Bar-Kays could produce gentler soulful music when they really wanted to, and had they continued, they might have broken through into a wider acceptance. Beginning with, ‘As One’, from 1980 and going as far as the mid-1980s with ‘Dangerous’, the Bar-Kays by this time were chasing trends rather than making them, and there is a good deal of stylistic repetition within that the likes of the Ohio Players had performed in the mid-1970’s. As for the music on offer here, the Bar-Kays could capture and deliver a strong funk tune when they put their minds to it and, ‘Freakshow On The Dancefloor’, and ‘Sexomatic’, have become enduring song favourites of the group’s devotees. The titles were not exactly thought-provoking, but then that was never the point with funk, with the Bar-Kays scoring a minor hit 45 with ‘Boogie Body Land’.

By 1984, however, the sound of the group was now attempting to catch up with newer instrumentation with synthesized bass/drums and the new sound of electro music, and traditional funk simply sounded no longer relevant at the time. However, thankfully music runs in cycles and a new and more appreciative generation, as well as an older one in the know, were in the mood for some of the old school funk. It is just a pity a wider range of the Bar-Kays music is not showcased here. Extended notes and illustrative photos and labels round off the generous sets of four albums.

Tim Stenhouse

Jackie Moore ‘This Time Baby’ [expanded edition] (BBR) 5/5

The classic disco single, ‘This Time Baby’, is one of the all-time classic dance floor winners, but how many people are familiar with the rest of the album? Jackie Moore was anything but a one-hit disco sensation and had enjoyed a career as a quality soul singer well before disco emerged. Although recorded at the very end of the main disco era, this album, produced by Bobby Eli, has all the ingredients of a classic soul recording, with elegant strings, punchy brass and prominent percussion. What should have been a major hit, ‘Let’s Go Somewhere And Make Love’, departs from the disco formula and is quite simply a storming uptempo soulful number, complete with a killer hook. DJs probably avoided this altogether at the time and instead opted for ‘How’s Your Love Life Baby?’, which is the one track that sounds slightly dated by virtue of the cheesy synth. Yet even here, the strings and brass help compensate. A stronger contender for a direct follow up to ‘This Time’, comes in Rufus influenced ‘Do You Get What It Takes’, which could just as easily be an alternative to Rufus and Chaka Khan’s ‘Do You Love What You Ffeel?’, with the fine use of percussion here giving it a more contemporary feel. Not all is aimed at the dance floor, however, with two quality ballads, in ‘Joe’, and ‘I’m On My Way’. There is also a lovely mid-tempo soulful song, ‘Can You Tell Me Why?’, which has a distinctive mid-1970’s feel.

Naturally, the title track has pride of place and the major advantage of this new expanded edition is that you have two separate extended versions of the disco hit. The first and original 12″ is by re-mixer extraordinaire, John Luongo. who was rightly feted last year with a terrific compilation, but this can now be compared with a more recent remix by DJ Muro. All in all, a classy album that re-affirms the credentials of a wonderful soul singer and this under-valued album definitely needs re-investigating some time soon. As with previous BBR re-issues, a plethora of vintage label photos from the 45’s, 12″ that were off-shoots and black and white photos of Jackie Moore from back in the late 1970′ and now.

Tim Stenhouse

Uri Gurvich ‘Kinship’ (Jazz Family) 5/5

Israeli born, New York resident, saxophonist/composer Uri Gurvich is an adventurous and fresh voice in the world of jazz, and this, his third release, marks him out as one of the most exciting musicians I have had the pleasure of listening to in some time.

There is a natural flow to Gurvich’s performance here, reminding me at times of the masterful playing of Michael Brecker. And with a wonderful line-up of fellow musicians; Bulgarian bassist Peter Slavov (a member of Joe Lovano’s ‘Us Five’), Cuban drummer Francisco Mela (who holds the drum chair in the McCoy Tyner Trio) and Argentinian pianist Leo Genovese (known for his work with Esperanza Spalding), this multi-cultural quartet transcends boundaries and serves up a stunning menagerie of unpretentious yet intelligently written and deftly performed contemporary jazz.

The music throughout “Kinship” has an organic feel to it. I’d imagine this is partly due to the fact that this quartet have now been working together for ten years, with the resulting connectivity and understanding an obvious benefit for anyone who listens, but also their multicultural heritage appears to run through the music itself, like the life-blood running through their veins, there appears to be an almost unparalleled shared respect and confidence that shines through in the music they make together.

This recording deals with the different meanings of “kinship”, whether celebrating family and folkloric traditions, or reflecting on various aspects of kin relations. There is a genuine warmth in the music that I believe is there for all to witness. The music also deals with differences, diversions or uniqueness in society due to belonging to a certain group or tribe, and to this end, one can also hear a certain edginess combined with a questioning and searching attitude that speaks volumes of the band-leader’s compositions along with the foursome’s willingness and joy in stretching out and making the music work on such a high level.

Highlights, of which there are many, include the album opener “Song for Kate”, a melodically free-flowing tune that was written by Gurvich for his wife. “Dance of the Nanigos” is a fascinating piece that draws inspiration from Cuban culture and more specifically the Nanigos, members of the secret Afro-Cuban Abakua society. The celebratory “Go Down Moses” has to be the perfect jazz number; a beautiful melody combines with exhilarating performances to create a quite spellbinding piece of music. “Kinship” the title track, owes more than a touch to Coltrane, with its spiritual essence soaring and bringing out some true emotion from the saxophonist. And indeed, the wonderful “Ha’im Ha’im” was influenced by Coltrane’s composition “Spiritual”, with its folk-blues-gospel sensibilities underpinning all that sparkles.

Uri Gurvich has produced a wonderful album with “Kinship”. He is the real deal. Sublime, graceful playing, with a style that can move and excite the listener all within the space of a few seconds. Glorious writing and a killer band make this an album any jazz lover should really stick their neck out and just go and purchase.

Mike Gates

The Main Ingredient ‘Brotherly Love: The RCA Anthology’ 2CD (SoulMusic) 4/5

Often likened to The Stylistics, though a group such as Philadelphia’s Blue Magic might be a more accurate parallel, The Main Ingredient enjoyed a far greater degree of success in their native country, and just one medium sized hit in the UK, with a top thirty pop chart entry in 1974, ‘Just Don’t Want To Be Lonely’. While they certainly modeled themselves on the close harmony groups of the era, they were capable of being a more versatile act, with mid-tempo and dance oriented tracks, and, interestingly, covered 1970’s classics by both The Isley Brothers and Stevie Wonder, which was a brave thing to do given the superb originals. The group was formed as far back as 1964, but worked under different names, The Poets and The Insiders, before finally they changed to their permanent name and the genesis of this choice was apparently a bottle of coke. By 1970 they had already signed to RCA where they enjoyed their greatest commercial success and were under the production talents of Bert de Coteaux, later of Crown Heights Affair fame. The group enjoyed first success with a top thirty R & B song in, ‘You’ve been my inspiration’, and then a cover of The Impressions’ ‘I’m So Proud’, that placed them in the top twenty before they hit the R & B top ten with ‘Spinning Around (I must be falling in love)’. By far their biggest American success came in 1972 and a terrific groover in, ‘Everybody Plays The Fool’ (a number two R & B, and number three pop hit no less) with a mini rap, harking back to the Lou Rawls monologues. By this time, the former lead vocalist, Donald McPherson had died of leukemia and been replaced by Cuba Gooding Sr., who would go on to become the lead and most distinctive voice of the group sound. Sadly we also lost him in 2017 too.

There was, though, a different side to the group that seldom gets mentioned. In 1971, they cut a more socio-political commentary in, ‘Black Seeds Keep On Growing, and then recorded their two most endearing albums in, ‘Afrodisia’ and ‘Euphrates River’, from 1973 and 1974 respectively. From these two wonderful albums twelve tracks have been judiciously selected here. They include a creative reworking of The Isley Brothers’ opus, ‘Summer Breeze’, which creates an altogether different vibe with harp, piccolo and strings intro, and operates at a slower tempo than the original. The only pity is that the other cover, ‘Work To Do’, is not included here. A medley of Stevie Wonder’s epic ‘Superwoman/Where Were You When I Needed You’, while not on a par with the original, nevertheless offers up an interesting second version with flute and light orchestrations. Another song from the mid-1970’s that has been picked up on by subsequent generations is, ‘Happiness Is Just Around The Bend’, which has a subtle Latin funk accompaniment and is a real slow burner of a tune that could comfortably fit into the rare groove (though not as rare as all that) idiom. Excellent and extremely well researched discographical notes courtesy of Charles Waring and label illustrations to accompany. Far more than just another 1970’s harmony group, The Main Ingredient made their own personal imprint upon 1970’s soul music.

Tim Stenhouse

Astral Travelling Since 1993