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

Astor Piazzolla & Quinteto Tango Nuevo – Live In Colonia 1984. Intuition Music

Brilliantly capturing the essence of this true legend at this live gig recorded almost twenty years ago at the end of a 30 date european tour, they were fired up and ready for it. the band formed some 25 years before that to bring the new tango of Argentina to a wider audience as Astor says, it was viewed as ‘crazy music’ which people had difficulty understanding (& still did when this was recorded originally) as with so many artists worldwide who are adventurous, those in Argentina who only recognised traditional tango veiwed him as a traitor. sad isn’t it that we can’t just enjoy music and are not more open to listen with open ears, there’s far too much good music out there to miss out on with that blinkered view, their loss. Brilliant. Graham Radley

Phuturistix ‘Feel It Out’ (Hospital) 5/5

Onions….that’s what this album is all about. Zed Bias and Injekta knowing their onions.
The album kicks off with the already tried and tested title track, tripping up many a dancer over the last month or so on 12”. Hard masculine bass lines meet up with soulful infusions on this fourteen-track drop-foot monster.
This album truly is the footprint for the way forward, ‘Beautiful’ will support that claim alone – uncompromising deep dance floor killers. Lads you need to get some new dance shoes for this one! girls, you may just need to sit this one out.
No pussy-footing bland beats on this debut album, both ‘Beat jerky’ and ‘Stop it!’ are going to blow up – even the soul track ‘Sunshine lover’ is awesome. Can so much beauty be created in Milton Keynes?
‘High rollin’ is deep and moody – one messed up underground tune you will not be able to comprehend. Head nodding is the order of the day.
Let the lions loose… the gladiators are in town! and boy, do we know where we’re going to stand.

Steve Williams

Putumayo World Music 10th Anniversary Collection

Packaged with all the care of presentation we’ve come to expect of Putumayo this a double CD issue divided into ‘travel the world’ and ‘Putumayo party’ with a total of 24 tracks plus three music videos. the music is a diverse and celebratory mix of some of the best you’ll hear – here’s a few to wet your appetite: Ladysmith Black Mambazo with Phoebe Snow (People Get Ready) Ricardo Lemvo & Makina Loca (Mambo Yo Yo) Rita Ribeiro (Ha Mulheres) Capercaille (Inexile) Blekbala Mujik (Drangkinbala) Ali Slimani (Moi et Toi) Chico Alvarez (Val’ Carretero) and Angelique Kidjo (Batonga). there’s an endless quantity of wonderful music out there so this is a series that is set to run and run, join in and expand your horizons. Graham Radley

Malabo Strit Band – M.S.B. Nubenegra Inn

Equatorial Guinean African pop from this 4 piece named after the capital city of Malabo. A dancey collection that centres around the compositions of guitarist David Owono, the keyboard of Pepe Dougan, percussion of Alex Ikot with singer Muania Sinepi adding her own distinctive flair. in places quite light & frothy but before you know it they are back on track & infectiously grooving along, strongest for me though is the opener ‘Bonola’. Graham Radley

Gianmaria Testa – Altre Latitudini. Le Chant Du Monde

Described as the Italian Leonard Cohen (if that doesn’t conjure up too strange an image?) this is his fifth album and it will surely add to his recognition as one of the most important contemporary Italian songwriters and singers (although he was first ‘discovered’ in France). This is elegant music, Gianmaria¹s delivery is warm and simple, his voice both husky and tender enveloped in an aura of a sort of beautiful melancholy that provides the foil to his poetic lyrics. Superb.

Graham Radley

Poetz 4 Peace (Haji Mike & Zeki Ali) – A Pair Of Olive Leaves. Olive Tree Music

Poetz4Peace might initially sound a somewhat dated name bit it¹s simply what they are, a small group of writers and musicians using their art to overcome cultural and political divide within Cyprus’ and healing the way to reunification.

Based in Nicosia, Olive Tree Music is a newly formed record label behind this first ever project of its type linking both communities and funded by the United Nations. The aim is to bring the people of the divided nation of Cyprus together by providing a structure in which artists from both Cyprus and northern Cyprus can work freely together to heal years of pain.

Poetz 4 Peace combines the talents of Haji Mike (a Greek Cypriot poet and MC), Zeki Ali (a Turkish Cypriot poet), Mike Minas (an English Cypriot bouzouki master), Mike Cherry (keyboards) and Steffen Franz aka Standout Out Selector (a Northern California based producer. Musically there¹s a lot going on with hip-hop layered with bouzouki and reggae laced with beats all with a vibe and all providing a perfect mix to spread the word. Excellent.

Graham Radley

Astral Travelling Since 1993