Evritiki Zygia ‘Ormenion’ LP/CD (Teranga Beat) 4/5

Modern Thrace straddles Greece, Bulgaria and Turkey. Ormenion, after which this album is named, is the northern-most region in Greece. Next train stop is Bulgaria though it’s actually the meeting point of all three nations and as such, has been the focal point of migration and cultural exchange. This exchange appears to be the theme of this outstanding release.

Evritiki Zygia is a five piece folk group, formed with a mission to preserve musical traditions from the region, mainly performing local festivals and other occasions. Their main traditional instruments of kaval (a type of flute), lyre, bagpipe and davul (drum) are augmented by retro electronic keys and effects.

And keys introduce the album opener, “Fog”, then gently accompanied by kaval and the others. A theme is soon established and it’s all very pleasant but not surprising. However, after a couple of minutes, the intensity is ramped up as deep fuzzy electronic bass and percussion is pushed to the front of the mix; low feedbacky sounds duel with frantic kaval. It’s immediately clear that preserving musical traditions doesn’t preclude exciting experimentation.

Bagpipes introduce the tune for “Maritsa”, the Bulgarian name for the river Evros, emphasising how their culture transcends borders. Later as the percussion pounds out the rhythm, improvised parts and individual solos merge with electronic effects.

The sleeve notes inform me that “5 nights” is a traditional love song but the brief percussive introduction is actually vaguely reminiscent of electronica pioneers, Suicide. The electronic bass is persistent throughout the track which is not what you’d necessarily expect but I feel it highlights rather than detracts from the traditional instruments (especially lyre and kaval here) and voice.

Another traditional, “Karsilamas” is smoother as the some of harsh electronic sounds are reined in. Although the earlier tracks are enjoyable and exciting, it’s also pleasing to hear more subtle sonic textures. The mournful sound of the bagpipe takes the lead for “Ormenion”. The percussion kicks off the rest of the band and each take an uptempo solo.

An ancient ritual is invoked for “Anastenariko (Firewalking Dance)” with the frenzied bowing of the lyre, the insistent drum, the repetitive vocal and the space-rock-like electronic swirling. The closer, “The Sun is Setting”, is a joyous and energetic wall of sound as the rhythms and melodies weave and jostle.

This is not music for reflection and quiet contemplation, it’s dynamic, zestful and celebratory. This is an album of paradoxes. It preserves traditional music and instrumentation but is also progressive and open. It is tied to the land it comes from but accepts and welcomes influences from outside. This is essential to its success (and it is successful!), the music feels vibrant and modern while retaining the primal essence of the culture. Rooted to the past but not restrained by it.

Kevin Ward

Eivind Aarset / Jan Bang ‘Snow Catches on her Eyelashes’ LP/CD (Jazzland Recordings) 5/5

Listeners familiar with the music of Eivind Aarset (guitars, bass, electronics) and Jan Bang (programming, samples, editing) will have a good idea of what to expect from this album. Although the two musicians have collaborated since the early ’90s, featuring with artists such as Nils Petter Molvaer, Bugge Wesseltoft, Sly & Robbie and Jan Hassell, this is, in fact, their first recording together as a duo. Based on a live concept that emerged in the wake of Aarset’s excellent 2012 ECM release Dream Logic, which was produced by Bang, the roots for the music performed here can clearly be heard.

Ambient music is like any other genre, in that there can be good, bad and indifferent moments in time, punctuated by a piece of pure genius that takes the imagination on a timeless, wonderful journey. “Snow catches on her eyelashes” is overflowing with such beauty. Aarset and Bang have long been masters in this field of music, but on this album, it all comes together seamlessly in a sublime and emotively engaging journey of atmospheric sound.

Our lesson in musical craftsmanship begins with Purplebright, a slowly looping distant memory that sets the tone for the whole album. Asphalt Lake and Outer Sphere are two tracks that take me back to the Metheny/Mays masterpiece As Falls Wichita So Falls Wichita Falls. The music I’m listening to here could easily be a natural successor to that classic piece. Before The Wedding is more like an ode to sorrow… maybe it is, who knows… it is, however, one of the most emotively beautiful pieces of music I could hope to hear. Heartbreaking yet deeply uplifting, Two Days In June is reminiscent of a classic Eno track, with its simple yet spellbinding melodies cascading gently against a summer breeze. Whilst Witness has more of a retro 80’s feel to it, Inner Sphere is more 90s with its industrial soundscape sounding like something from a David Lynch movie. The atmosphere on Serenade is again cinematic in scope, yet achingly beautiful, more like a memory that brings forth an unnerving emotional response. The intense nature of Monochrome leads the listener into the final track Night Spell, a piece that completes the album’s cycle of sound perfectly, taking us back the beginning.

The skill with which Aarset and Bang have lovingly created, crafted and performed this music blows my mind. It’s like dreaming in slow motion, like teardrops touching a loved one’s cheek, and indeed, like snow catching on her eyelashes. It is beautiful, timeless and incredibly touching. Deeply rewarding music.

Mike Gates

Both Jan Bang and Eivind Aarset will be appearing as part of Punkt Birmingham which takes place 18-20 March 2020 at Royal BIRMINGHAM Conservatoire. Jan will be a very special guest with Birmingham based trio stillefelt (Percy Pursglove, Thomas Seminar Ford and Chris Mapp). Eivind will be remixing Trish Clowes and Louise McMonagle. Jan and Erik will also appear together in The Height Of The Reeds performance on the final night. Tickets and more information can be found here

Wednesday 18th March
Remixing The Festival Symposium (16:00)
Jan Bang, Erik Honoré, Tony Dudley-Evans, Sarah Farmer and Fiona Talkington discuss the future of festivals

Thursday 19th March
Trish Clowes and Louise McMonagle (21:30)
Remix by Erik Honoré, Arve Henriksen and Eivind Aarset

stillefelt with Jan Bang (20:00)
Remix by RBC and UOA students

Friday 20th March
The Height Of The Reeds (21:30)
Remix by Annie Mahtani and Chris Mapp

Thallein Ensemble plays Maja S.K.Ratkje (20:00)
Remix by Andrew Woodhead and Mark Sanders Punkt Birmingham concerts will be introduced by Fiona Talkington

Tickets// £15 one day // £25 both days // Symposium is free entry

The Devonns ‘The Devonns’ LP/CD (Record Kicks) 5/5

From the moment the utterly glorious 45 landed from this lot I was totally hooked, “Come Back” & “Think I’m falling in love” have been played continuously here, “Come back” is a swaying stepper” whilst “Falling” sits firmly in the crossover soul camp with its insidious strolling tempo. I’ll be honest; I did wonder whether the album would surface anytime soon, as initially, I thought that these were unissued tracks, but on discovering they were recorded at Kingsize Sound Lab, Chicago – which is a modern-day working studio – I was hopeful it was all new material, and so, here we have an album.

WOW! If you only buy one more album this year, do make sure it’s this one. Ten tracks of subtle soulful beauty, with all leads handled by Mat with the exception of “Green Light”, where Jamie Lidell steps in – the man who’s 2008 album for Warp Records contains the stunning flowing modern soul dancer “Another Day”, which also contained the original version of “Green Light” which is covered on here, with Jamie on lead. The band draws its influences from the likes of The Dramatics, The Isley Brothers, Leroy Hutson, Jamie Lidell (of course) and Raphael Saadiq.

Mat Ajjarapu explains:

“The city was at the epicentre of a lot of good music back in the ’50s all the way to the ’80s, a lot of the labels specialising in soul were based in the Chicago and we even had our own sound known as “Chicago soul”. Through several years of crate-digging it surprised me how many songs I loved were recorded in this city, for example, one of my favourites is this great little song by The Natural Four, produced by Leroy Hutson ‘Can This Be Real’, and released via Curtom Records. […] This is a definitely a throwback soul record, as well as being drawn to lush and intricate arrangements of Motown, I was also inspired by the more lo-fi works of smaller labels such as Chess and Capsoul, and I wanted to capture the magic they had in those recordings in our record, as everything feels too precise nowadays”

The group consist of Mat who is a multi-instrumentalist and songwriter, Khaiyle Hagood on Bass, Ari Lindo – Guitar, Khori Wilson – Drums, these guys were eventually joined by percussionist, organist and guitarist of some note, Ken Stringfellow. For this album, the group were joined by arranger and conductor Paul Von Mertens who has worked with the likes of Mavis Staples, Paul McCartney and Elton John. It’s Paul’s strings that caress and comfort the whole beautiful sound. The album took some 19 months to complete and the perfectionism shines. Coming from someone who has been collecting soul music in all guises for 53 years, owning the entire Capsoul output and the vast majority of Chess and its affiliated labels, and grew up listening to Motown first hand, I’m confident in claiming that this album bears all the soulful hallmarks of those influences and foundations.

Let’s kick off with the strolling big bass sound of “Tell Me”, which is an absolute joy to dance to and dare I say a direct comparison with Raphaal Saadiq’s “Love That Girl” from 2008, which got some serious plays at the more enlightened soul gatherings over here in the UK. “Tell Me” will be the first single from the album released as a limited edition 45 early next month. Leroy Hutson’s “So In Love With You” has been elevated in the UK to grail status due to countless plays at the burgeoning Sunday Soul Sessions that now flourish across the UK, with The Devonns offering up their take on this release, and it’s a totally addictive tune too – my replay button has been seriously active. The real grower on here is “Blood Red Blues”, a meandering string-laden protest song asking the age-old question “How long must we wait for justice to be done”. The uptempo “More” should get plays on modern soul floors, strings abound, driving percussion, guitar trying to get in on the act and pumping bass – I would suggest our European friends may well take this one to there hearts… “I know” is a beautiful simple lowrider, with haunting organ, creeping strings and sympathetic percussion driven by some truly fine vocals. Folks, if this album breaks out over here, this will be the soul radio play for everyone, just stunning. And as we mentioned “Green Light” earlier, well on here it’s a flowing mid-tempo dancer that should garner some attention with Jamie sounding quite superb indeed.

The remaining track are all worthy additions. Ten very strong tracks and I can see this celebrated in the end of year lists for many a soul fan on these shores. Available in all formats from the 3rd April, however, their Bandcamp page notes only 25 Limited Edition vinyl packs up for pre-order, which includes two 45s – Well, I guess there’s now only 24!

Brian Goucher

Max Light Trio ‘Herplusme’ CD (Red Piano) 4/5

Max Light, originally from Washington DC and now resident New Yorker, is a guitarist who sits comfortably alongside contemporaries such as Julian Lage, Lage Lund and Rotem Sivan. In a similar way, it is this new release from the guitarist that showcases his writing and performing skills in a nicely rounded trio package. Matt Honer on drums and Simón Wilson on bass complete the threesome and together they perform eight original compositions, all of which are fairly short, yet concentrated and playful.

Light won second place in the 2019 Herbie Hancock Institute of Jazz International Guitar Competition and has performed with the likes of Donny McCaslin, Jason Palmer, Noah Preminger and Walter Smith III. “Herplusme” gives the guitarist an excellent platform to showcase his talents and with superb interaction and support from Honer and Wilson, the trio work intuitively well together, performing well and showing great promise throughout this recording.

The session is pretty much what one might expect to hear from a guitar-led contemporary jazz trio, and there are some lovely little touches and exquisite interplay highlighting the best elements of a trio at work. The opening track “Boy” shows an edgy originality to this trio that I really like, with its exploratory bass and drums the perfect accompaniment to Light’s inventive playing. The fiery “Overcooked” embraces an adventurous essence that spirals through different cycles of beat and tempo. The balled “Pumpkin Pie” is a slow-burner of a track that gradually draws the listener into its unexpected eloquence. The exploratory “Dog” highlights this trio at their most original, a driving force that confidently takes on the jazz idiom with a refreshing style and panache. I love the way that “Baby’s Hard Times” grows from birth to adulthood in the space of a few minutes, rising up with emotion and vulnerability. Whilst “The Things You” is a pretty straight-ahead jazz standard type piece, “Bagel” is anything but, with its wonderful bittersweet resonance. The final number “Dennisport” is a complex chordal piece reminiscent of a young Pat Metheny and finishes the album off in style.

“Herplusme” is well worth checking out, especially if you’re into your jazz guitar trios. I would expect there’s a lot more to come from Max Light, let’s hope so!

Mike Gates

Keith Jarrett ‘Munich 2016’ 2LP/2CD (ECM) 5/5

A solo concert recording from pianist Keith Jarrett is always something exciting to anticipate, and this latest recording, from Munich’s Philharmonic Hall on July 16th, 2016, doesn’t disappoint. Jarrett’s solo performances form a unique and continually evolving body of work. An extraordinary musical journey that can be traced back to 1973’s “Solo Concerts Bremen- Lausanne”, with high points that include the now famous “The Koln Concert”, the inspirational “Sun Bear Concerts”, and wonderful “Paris Concert”, “Vienna Concert” et al, it is incredible to think that Jarrett is still capable of improvising at such a high level, and “Munich 2016” gifts the world with some startlingly beautiful and original music, adding yet more weight to the many decades of sensationally inventive music the pianist has produced.

The shape of Jarrett’s individual concerts has been transformed, the large arc of the early concerts, with unbroken improvisations spanning an entire set, giving way to performances made up of discrete, tightly focussed spontaneous compositions. Since Jarrett embarked on this quest the number of solo improvisers has multiplied exponentially yet his sense for developing motifs and melodies remains unparalleled. “Munich 2016” is something of a hybrid performance, taking the listener on a journey back in time to the earlier free-flowing lyricism of The Koln Concert, through to a more classical leaning, and a growing maturity that was to be heard on Vienna Concert, and into a new dawn of playfulness.

The first cd covers Parts 1 to 7 of the concert. Whilst Part 1 is a typically challenging Jarrett piece, Parts 2 to 7 feature some of the most melodically accessible and beautifully crafted music that Jarrett has performed in years. The stunning elegance of each piece he performs is matched by its purity and originality. From deep bluesy foot-tapping joyfulness to some of the most achingly, heart-wrenchingly beautiful music you will ever hear. As with much of Jarrett’s best offerings, the yearning melancholia is wonderfully and intuitively mixed with fresh hope and a sense of an ultimately uplifting essence, resulting in a life-affirming musical listening experience.

Cd 2 delivers Parts 8 to 12, along with 3 encore pieces. Continuing in the same vein as the first half the concert, Jarrett is in fine fettle, creating little passages of heartbreakingly gorgeous melodies combined with longer, repeating motifs that twist and turn as only Jarrett could make them do. Genius is not a word that should be used unless truly warranted, but yet again there is no better word to describe this musical innovator. One thing that Jarrett has become even more well known for over the years is his encores. The 3 encore tunes here remind us why. “Answer me, my love” takes me away on its warm-hearted journey of love and affection, and “It’s a lonesome old town” is darkly romantic with its blues-tinged melody tugging at the heartstrings, joyously bitter-sweet. It is though, perhaps Jarrett’s most defining piece that steals the show, as it has done on several occasions over the years, with another spellbinding performance of “Somewhere over the rainbow”.

Mike Gates

Read also:
Birthday profile: KEITH JARRETT AT 70 (including 10 Best Album Picks)
Keith Jarrett ‘A Multitude of Angels’ 4CD (ECM) 4/5
Keith Jarrett ‘Creation’ CD (ECM) 4/5
Keith Jarrett and Charlie Haden ‘Last Dance’ CD/2LP (ECM) 5/5
Keith Jarrett and Michelle Makarski ‘J.S. Bach Six sonatas for piano and violin’ 2CD (ECM) 4/5
Keith Jarrett Trio ‘Somewhere’ CD (ECM) 5/5
Keith Jarrett ‘Sleeper’ 2CD (ECM) 4/5

Julia Biel ‘Black and White Vol.1’ LP/CD (Rokit) 5/5

The immeasurably talented Julia Biel unveils her brand new, and incredibly personal, project ‘Black and White, Volume 1’.

Having established herself as something of a celebrated and leading indie jazz champion, Biel’s fourth album release sees her music presented within a more stripped down and intimate setting pairing her unmistakable vocal with the black and white keys of a piano over the course of eleven songs. Dipping into tracks from her previous releases, the project provides an exciting new dimension to past gems including ‘The Wilderness’ and ‘Diamond Dust’ from ‘Julia Biel’ (2018), ‘Little Girl’ from ‘Love Letters and Other Missiles’ (2015) and ‘Shhh…’ from ‘Not Alone’ (2011).

And hers is a stunning catalogue to dip into. Having won the Perrier Vocalist of the Year Award in 2000, Julia Biel went on to unveil her first full-length in 2005 with the album ‘Not Alone’ (co-written with Oriole’s Jonny Philips) which subsequently went on to see her nominated for the Rising Star award in the BBC Jazz Awards in 2006. Now paired with long-time collaborator, and partner, producer and bassist Idris Rahman, ‘Love Letters and Other Missiles’ and the self-titled album followed in 2015 and 2018, respectively, solidifying Biel’s unending talents as a vocalist, songwriter, producer and musician, and her dynamic, all-encompassing approach to jazz.

New Julia Biel projects will always be cause for celebration. Any listener fortunate enough to have caught either of her last three albums will attest to the devotion she has for her craft – an inimitable and exquisite vocal coupled with intricate penmanship that can be as sharp and cutting (‘You Could Turn a Rainbow Grey’) as it can be warm and affectionate; tagging that to a seasoned live performer who always delivers an always impassioned set and it all contributes to a sincere and fairly remarkable artist. And one never afraid to try new things – as well as past collaborations with Everything But The Girl’s Ben Watts, Hidden Orchestra, Oriole, Lautrec and of course as the long-standing vocalist for reggae/afrobeat collective, Soothsayers, there was also the release of the ‘Licence to be Cruel’ remix EP back in 2015 which opened the door to past recordings being taken in completely new directions at the hands of electronic and dance producers including Son Lux, Wu-Lu, Other Worlds, Triptyc and Yes King.

‘Black and White’ may perhaps not be as drastic a change of pace as ‘Licence to be Cruel’ but certainly proves to be an incredibly bold step when considering the deconstruction of some of these songs – the ethereal quality of ‘Say It Out Loud’ translates beautifully as does ‘Little Girl’ which, originally housed on ‘Love Letters and Other Missiles’ as a guitar-heavy dalliance into Nigel Godric and Radiohead territory, further proves to be a testament to Biel’s abilities as even through just her vocal and the keys at her fingers, she manages to hold on to the song’s brash energy.

Since delving into this project, there’s a quote from Nina Simone that has really resonated with me when weighing up the very nature of ‘Black and White’ and the inspiration behind the project: “Did you know that the human voice is the only pure instrument? That it has notes no other instrument has? It’s like being between the keys of a piano. The notes are there, you can sing them, but they can’t be found on any instrument. That’s like me. I live in between this. I live in both worlds, the black and white world.”

Imran Mirza


Mar 26 – Streatham Space Project London, UK
Apr 24 – Kulturzentrum Schlachthof Bremen, Germany

Andrea Scala ‘Coming Back, Leaving Again’ CD (Shifting Paradigm) 3/5

“Who or what is Andrea Scala then?” I thought as I gave Coming Back, Leaving Again its first quick spin. “Well, sonically it’s jazz but musically it’s a fusion of fusion, jazz, prog, electronica. Especially prog.” Always agog about prog, I googled ‘Andrea Scala drummer’ and top results focused on a chap delivering top batterie for an Italian prog act called Moonlight Comedy. “The same Andrea Scala?”

Didn’t know Shifting Paradigm Records either. Turns out it’s a musician operated and owned collective, founded in 2012 and based in Minneapolis. It hosts some deftly designed album covers (this one by the multi-talented Jamie Breiwick who recently released a fine homage to Don Cherry on this very same label) and a perfectly reasonable $ Patreon subscription.

Recorded in Scala’s home studio and two Italian locations, the lineup consists of Scala (drums), Francesco Puglisi and Giuseppe Romagnoli (bass), Fabio Raponi (keys), Roberto Tarenzi (piano), Nicola Costa and Manlio Maresca (guitar), Rosario Liberti (trombone) and Franco Santodonato (flugelhorn).

The opener, ‘Synthesis’, is a buoyantly stop-starty, prog-time piece fuelled by a relentless phat synth bass. Tarenzi delivers bursts of energised runs, phrases and chords before a Rhodes extraterrestrial exit. ‘Trees’ is a lush copse of Scando-ish piano jazz stylings with the simple, serenely elegant Raponi motifs collegiately enabled by Scala and Pglisis keeping it mostly simple (how unprog of them) until Scala kicks harder (could’ve been even harder, for my taste) to close.

‘Out Here’ stays in a similar vein but more powerful this time – a bit more Rymden than EST. Tarenzi is always playful and there’s some much appreciated, innervating syncopation. “If you want to be the best, if you want to beat the rest, Syncopation’s what you need”.
‘Overnight Walk’ is moist and bluesy, benefiting from a slick, judiciously-tremelo-armed solo by Costa. The hopeful ‘Young Sunrise’ reminds me of that delightfully perky, summer’s day when Guaraldi met Svensson.

‘Winter Haze and Far Off Lights’ is a short, aptly named ambient piece while ‘Towards Oxygen’ brings unexpected avant-garde ‘revelry’ via a soundscape that subtly shifts gears and develops into a sheet of, fellow countryman Giulio Aldinucci’s, white noise with a topping of lighty symphonic fluff.

‘Cracked’ disrespectfully elbows past the preceding high art. It’s progtastic, with the band relishing playing the naughty offspring of the noblest of royal couples, King Crimson and Queen PFM. Hammerstein’s ‘Nobody Else But Me’ ends things with Tarenzi as the ivory Sarah Vaughan.

There’s something here for everyone: Prog, Euro piano jazz, Hammerstein, avant-garde, Ambient. Sounds a bit much on one album doesn’t it? But it’s Scala’s baby and it highlights his fertile creativity. ‘Trees’, ‘Out Here’ and ‘Towards Oxygen’ are standouts for me and suggest that if Scala can further focus his fused vision in their voice, he’s at the start of a potentially exciting journey.

Ian Ward

Various ‘Rainer Trueby presents Soulgliding’ 2LP/CD (BBE Music) 5/5

German DJ and producer Rainer Trüby/Trueby has had an illustrious career over the last 25 or so years including compiling numerous albums for various labels including Compost Records in Munich, and here he returns to assemble another set of soulful heavyweights for this new 13 track BBE compilation series.

With such a strong set it was difficult to select which songs to highlight, but Patrice Rushen ‘To Each His Own’ was originally included on Patrice’s final album for Elektra in 1984 ‘Now’ which contained the more famous ‘Feel So Real’, with this track incorporating sparse instrumentation including 808 drum machine rhythms and Freddie Washington’s fluid bass guitar underneath Patrice’s rich keyboards and mesmerising vocals. The Brooklyn born and raised vocalist Donna McGhee and ‘It Ain’t No Big Thing’ has been a DJ favourite for decades with its string-heavy arrangement and lush keys. Remarkably, this was never released as a single but was featured on Donna’s only album, the classic ‘Make It Last Forever’ in 1978 which was written and produced by east coast legends Patrick Adams and Greg Carmichael.

Fifth of Heaven ‘Just A Little More’ is a UK street soul gem from Manchester and was quite a popular 12” with underground soul and pirate DJs upon its release in 1989 and was recently sampled by Lynda Dawn on ‘Move’ in 2019. Another Patrick Adams production, Cloud One ‘Dust To Dust’, was initially released on Peter Brown’s highly collectable P&P Records in 1976 during the New York City disco frenzy, but this is more known as a sultry two-step jam with its downtempo piano led grooves and infectious synth lines. Crystal Winds were a Chicago outfit who were previously members of Rasputin’s Stash in the 1970s, but this 1982 LP-only cut ‘Lover’s Holiday’ is from their solitary LP ‘First Flight’ – and is another rare groove monster.

Bridge and the sultry female vocal led ‘Next To Me’ is taken from an unreleased album that was originally recorded in 1981 and titled ‘Crying For Love’ but first issued in 1999 on First Experience Records. It’s interesting that this has now become quite elusive and itself fetches £100+ on vinyl. The drum less ‘Without Love’ by Peter Brown (not the NYC based producer as mentioned above) is an after hours, late night come down piece with lavish electric piano and warm synths, and can be found on ‘A Fantasy Love Affair’ LP (1977) and as a cheap UK 12” b-side to the well known ‘Do Ya Wanna Get Funky With Me’.

‘Soulgliding’ will probably be one of my favourite compilations of the year. There isn’t a weak link and I could have written about all 13 tracks in detail as they are all worthy. Rainer Trüby has simply opted for a heavily curated selection of fantastic soulful based music from across various spectrums of soul, jazz and disco, rather than creating a fashion statement of only super rare records. Rather, Rainer has plucked out tracks due to their quality alone. Some are rare such as Ray & James ‘Nature Boy’ 7” (1982), but many are just records that are a little ‘off-piste’ or forgotten about in record collector and DJ circles. Essential.

Damian Wilkes

Various ‘Alex Attias presents LillyGood Party Vol. 2’ 2LP/CD (BBE Music) 5/5

Alex Attias releases the second of his ‘LilyGood Party’ compilations on Barely Breaking Even this year exposing some more of those hidden gems plucked from deep within his own bag of tricks.

The LillyGood compilation series – named as something of an homage to the club nights Alex and his brother, Stephane Attias, would host in their hometown of Lausanne, Switzerland – showcases selections of tracks that the revered DJ has become synonymous with over the years. As a DJ, producer, record collector and founder of the UK/Swiss label Visions Recordings, Attias has always managed to express his commitment to innovative and contemporary genres and styles across the spectrum of nu-jazz, broken beat, disco and soul.

Featuring the tag line of “A selection of really really good grooves”, Volume One, having been released through BBE in 2018, showcased music exemplary of Attias’s ethos. Even music from, in some ways, unlikely sources like Nicole Willis, Sunaga T Experience and Kathy Kosins were able to boast strategically selected remixes neatly pulling them into the LillyGood realm.

Volume Two masterfully continues in that vein with a selection of sublime, up-tempo numbers designed to put you on a Swiss dance floor for the archetypal LillyGood experience. ‘Touch’ by the Kaidi Tatham helmed/Copenhagen collective, 12 Senses, kicks the project off perfectly with a broken beat, jazz-funk excursion from their 2018 ‘Movement’ EP; Martin Iveson – perhaps best known under the alias Atjazz – hooks up with vocalist Sarai Jazz for the lush ‘Playground’; Daymé Arocena’s disco-esque number ‘Stuck’ from her sophomore Brownswood Recordings release, ‘One Takes’, also finds itself snugly at home.

As would probably be expected, the set boasts a hefty selection of remixes including Ben Brophy’s excellent take on ‘Children of the World’ by The Elements of Life with Josh Milan, Yam Who’s wonderful take on Dwayne Morgan’s ‘Everything’ boasting a scene-stealing closing two minutes of trippy sonic bliss which could have happily continued for a further five minutes as far as I was concerned, and of course the GU Peak True Time Mix of Stacy Kidd’s ‘How Bad I Want Ya’ featuring Peven Everett. But in the remix stakes, Attias himself throws his own name amongst the selections with an excellent re-edit of David Murray & The Gwo-Ka Masters’ ‘Gwotet’ featuring the legendary Pharoah Sanders.

With the first two instalments of the LillyGood compilations boasting such incredible selections and introducing prospective listeners to exquisite artists, tracks and even alternative mixes that may have initially slipped past your radar, there’s the absolute hope that these are now being positioned to become an on-going series for BBE Music, and that Volume 3 won’t be too far away. And should that be the case then we look forward to another round of “really really really good grooves”.

Imran Mirza

Lonnie Liston Smith & The Cosmic Echoes ‘Visions Of A New World’ 180g Vinyl (Pure Pleasure) 4/5

Lonnie Liston Smith recorded 5 albums for Bob Thiele’s Flying Dutchman label, including ‘Expansions’, which became a mid-’70s jazz-funk classic, alongside other notable albums around that time including Donald Byrd’s ‘Spaces & Places’ and Johnny Hammond’s ‘Shifting Gears’. That same year Lonnie Liston Smith recorded ‘Visions Of A New World’, which has since become a landmark album and is now restored, remastered and reissued on 180g vinyl by the Pure Pleasure label out of Middlesex.

During the mid-1960s, Lonnie Liston Smith played alongside Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers, Betty Carter and Max Roach and many others before progressing onto working with Pharaoh Sanders in the late 1960s. It was on Pharaoh’s ‘Thembi’ album that Lonnie Liston Smith wrote the composition ‘Astral Travelling’ using the Fender Rhodes electric piano in place of the acoustic piano. The track became the title of his 1973 debut album, and the beginning of a sound which brought so many great albums and memorable tracks over the years, with unexpected collaborations and resurging interest, with each generation discovering his music and soulful expression.

It’s worth noting that producer Bob Thiele never took the publishing rights from his musicians and that held many of them in good stead and allowed for the future to remember their important contributions. It’s probably a good job when it comes to Lonnie Liston Smith as he has been sampled so many times. On ‘Visions Of A New World’ Ras G sampled ‘Summer Nights’ for his 2005 track ‘Juju’ and back in 1996, Kenny Dixon Jr sampled the same track for his ‘January’ cut off the classic ‘Soul Sounds’ EP. More recently Guillaume Berroyer [Ark] sampled ‘Aspirations’ for his electronic dance track ‘Lenlife’ off his ‘Noises & Some Voices EP’. Many of his other albums are heavily sampled and his music greatly respected by the communities surrounding many underground styles of music. Hopefully, the royalty cheques didn’t get posted to Dr. Lonnie Smith!

‘A Chance For Peace’ starts off in with a funk edge before the blend of the Fender Rhodes piano and the vocals by Donald Smith add a colourful textured palette, amplifying the peace message whilst retaining the groove throughout the track. It’s one of those classic tracks which has featured on many compilations over the years and one of the standout cuts from the album, although it’s an enjoyable experience from beginning to end with every track adding something different towards the album’s overall feel. ‘Devika’ and ‘Sunset’ are both exceptional pieces of music and ‘Visions Of A New World’ (Phase II) is almost an extension of ‘Expansions’ and, the only track which reaches out of the meditative feel of the album, using more percussion and an upbeat sound that retains the warmth and feel but adds a welcome punch.

The line up is similar to the Expansions album featuring Lonnie Liston Smith’s brother Donald Smith on vocals and flute – check his contribution on Billy Parker’s Fourth World album ‘Freedom Of Speech’, recorded a year earlier – whose voice is perfect for the album, lending an atmospheric relaxed tone and balance.

Joining Lonnie Liston Smith and his brother Donald are Guitarist Reggie Lucas, who played extensively with Miles Davis as well as Carlos Garnett, Norman Connors and many other jazz and soul artists whilst writing music for tracks such as ‘Gentle Smiles’ for Gary Bartz and Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway’s ‘Back Together Again’. Trumpeter and tutor Cecil Bridgewater featured on many memorable albums in the 1970s including the seminal ‘Afro Blue’ album for his then-wife Dee Dee Bridgewater, before joining Lonnie Liston Smith for this recording. Trombonist Clifford Adams came into the project after a few years alongside Charles Earland, recording 4 albums with the soul-jazz organist/composer. Check him out on Robert Watson’s 1978 album ‘Estimated Time Of Arrival’.

Drummer/percussionist Michael Carvin enjoyed some memorable collaborations during this period around the 1970s, working with artists including Doug Carn, Jackie McLean, Pharaoh Sanders, Cecil McBee and of course with Lonnie Liston Smith. On this album, he teams up with percussionist Ray Armando who featured on many great jazz albums including some great soul-jazz albums for Blue Note by Lou Donaldson and Grant Green during his early career. Saxophonist Dave Hubbard plays both horns and the Soprano saxophone on the album. His depth of sound is epitomised on his self-titled album on Mainstream Records from 1971. Bassist Greg Maker was part of the Composer’s Workshop Ensemble on the 1974 album ‘We’ve Been Around’, recorded in 1974 on Strata-East. Drummer Art Gore, who recorded alongside Teruo Nakamura and Larry Young shares a platform on ‘Visions Of A New World’ with fellow drummer Wilby Fletcher who had just come from Roy Ayers band as a younger musician. Pharaoh Sander’s percussionist Lawrence Killian shared the stage with Angel Allende, who worked with Mongo Santamaria, Sivuca and many other renowned artists in the jazz and Latin​ community.

So then, a classic early insight into the incredible career of this inspiring musician/composer and an album which is highly recommended.

Mark Jones

Astral Travelling Since 1993