Terri Shaltiel ‘Sweet Thing’ (Private Press) 3/5

Back in November 2014 uk vibe gave the public a brief introduction to a young, dynamic, Northern based funky, blues ‘n’ soul singer/songwriter/musician who at the time was courting crowd-funding in order to bring her debut album to market. Well Terri Shaltiel is proof positive that persistence overcomes resistance. 2017 sees the manifestation of that dream in the form of a tangible seven track CD album entitled ‘Sweet Thing’.

The album kicks off with the feisty, punchy and ‘in your face’ ‘This Bitch’ with the horn section and Hammond organ duelling it out whilst Ms Shaltiel exercises her lungs to the fullest. Track 3 ‘Lose My Mind’ has a languid, lazy, bluesy lilt which is well-suited to Shaltiel’s earthy vocal tones. This bluesy, even paced vibe rolls over into ‘Fatherless Child’ an overt nod it seems in the direction of two of Terri Shaltiel’s prime influences i.e Marva Whitney and Etta James. Midway through the track changes gear to a bossa nova number entitled ‘Daddy’ which while pleasant is not the best musical vehicle for Shaltiel’s unique vocal styling.

Normal business is resumed on ‘Daddy Bad’ where both the band and the main protagonist let loose the shackles with a full on attack on the senses with those incessant horns pushing to the front culminating in a powerful saxophone solo from Atholl Ransom. The standout track for this scribe is the sublimely bluesy ballad ‘One of These Days’ which harnesses all of Ms Shaltiel’s expressive and distinctive vocal qualities and range as well as her proficiency as a guitarist. Furthermore Malc Deakin’s emotive Hammond organ playing is a constant undercurrent throughout giving the track that authentic old school blues tinge. The album finishes as it began with another feisty offering as an outro in the form of ‘Now I’m Gone’. As with most vocalists Terri Shaltiel’s talent is best experienced in the live arena where her intensity, sassiness and connectivity with the audience can be fully appreciated. However, as an introduction to an extremely talented songwriter, producer, singer and musician whose star is yet to ascend to its fullest height ‘Sweet Thing’ is a commendable debut release.

Michael J Edwards

Minco Eggersman ‘Kavkasia’ (Volkoren) 5/5

Minco Eggersman, a drummer by original trade, has over the years developed as a musician from singer-songwriter at the crossroads of Americana and Alternative, into a soundtrack composer for film. Whatever the genre or field of musical pursuance however, one cannot fail to hear his heart in the music that he makes.

“Kavkasia” was born from a four-wheel drive trip that Eggersman and his wife took into Georgia. The resulting music on this album is stunningly beautiful and perfectly reflects the search for beauty, fortitude and rest, deep into the Caucasian mountains. The rugged, broken landscape, in which each sound and every impression pervades one’s very pores, landed him a mixture of humility and comfort.

The music throughout this recording is minimalistic in nature, yet really captures the imagination in a spellbinding way. Ambient, atmospheric, spiritual, touching, graceful, enlightening and richly rewarding, Eggersman’s “Kavkasia” breathes with its very own life and passion, evocatively filling the heart with gentle contemplation, whilst refreshing the soul with a joyous, ethereal sense of belonging.

How often does an album come along that is just so different…in such a good way? Very rarely. I can hear such a breadth of musical influences in the composer’s music, but this is perhaps something that every listener will find- each in a different way. For me, there are hints of Brian Eno, Jan Garbarek, Talk Talk, John Martyn, Robert Stillman… a subtle blend of contemporary classical, ambient, jazz, folk, experimental…I could go on. But essentially, every listener will hear something different – this doesn’t matter. What matters is the music itself. Immerse yourself in it and you’ll get lost in its beauty, it’s as simple as that.

The album begins with “Hidden In Clouds” with its soft piano and gorgeous hovering strings that rise and fall, leading into “The Crossing Place” with its solo East-meets-West sounding viola, driven on by a beating heart with lush strings and subtle electronics gracefully touching one another as the tune’s beautiful melody breaks through. The music is largely instrumental, but “Dance” gives us the first vocal track. Acoustic guitar and orchestra offer the backdrop to this stunning piece of music. The vocal delivery sits somewhere between Eno and Talk Talk, with the incredible choice of harmony on the chorus reminding me very much of an early 70’s David Gilmour on Pink Floyd’s “Echoes”. It’s melancholic yet uplifting all at the same time. “The Black Sea” is like a harmonic version of the trumpet voluntary. Very simple, but as with all of this album, so exquisitely executed in a wonderfully musical way. If John Martyn (in thoughtful, instrumental mood) had met Jan Garbarek (in sparse Nordic mood), then “Holy Ground” would have been the resulting piece of music. Incredibly moving. “The Other Side Of Dawn” could be an Enio Morriconi composition from a pseudo Spaghetti Western. Its jangly guitar and rousing orchestration pull on the heart strings and create the mood of a surreal final act as the juxtaposed imagery of the beautiful mountains clash with the harsh reality of the gunslinger’s dust-laden hard-set features. The church bells and organ of “Stepantsminda” make for a splendid, life-affirming statement as they journey into a lone, classical Indian voice on “Melisma & Gurian”, a tune that is perhaps reminiscent of the skillful musicality and production of Nitin Sawhney. This blends effortlessly into “Deda Ena” as the voice floats and drifts in and around acoustic guitar and strings. The longest track on the album, “Tbilisi Calls” takes the listener right into the heart of Eggersman’s journey, shining a light on how the natural landscape and a musician’s vision can come together in a mix of graceful creativity. “Mount Arafat” features voice, piano, bass and strings, and has a lovely deep, meaningful feel to it that is like a release of spiritual energy, as the final tune “Home Of The Brave” lifts the spirits once more.

“Kavkasia” is Minco Eggersman’s wonderful musical journey, yet in many ways it is a shared experience as it is one of those albums that lets the listener in as the music surrounds and embraces with its own landscape and tales to tell. Immerse yourself in it now.

Mike Gates

Watermelon Slim ‘Golden Boy’ (Dixie Frog) 4/5

Vocalist, harmonica and slide guitar player Watermelon Slim (aka William P. Homans) is an artist who defies conventional wisdom and this latest effort that was recorded in Canada features that craggy voice in a variety of blues settings, that ranges from rural folk to electric blues, and taking on board blues-rock guitar hues along the way. In any case, it certainly works as a cohesive whole with a 1930s retro feel to the opening number, ‘Pick up my guidon’. There are shades of Robert Johnson even on, You’re going to need somebody on your bond’, which is really a vehicle for Slim to demonstrate what a fine slide guitarist he truly is. Possibly the blues-rock element could be downplayed a tad, and gets in the way on, ‘Wolf cry’, complete with sound of wolves replicated at the start. Most interesting of all are the lyrics to a political satire on combatting the neo-far Right in the united States. The seemingly innocuous title, ‘WBCN’, turns out to be an event (imagined or fact, we do not know) in Miami in 1972 when negotiated talks with neo-Nazis proved to be futile and violence ensued. Watermelon Slim deserves great credit for capturing this dangerous and deeply unpleasant underbelly of US society in musical format. A lavish booklet accompanies the CD in gatefold sleeve with evocative black and white photos and full lyrics which makes for an excellent read. Another mean brooding song is, ‘Mean streets’, with electrified guitar. While this writer has a marked preference for the rootsier side of Slim’s repertoire, with the folk-blues of, Cabbage town’, an album highlight, it has to be stated in fairness that Watermelon Slim has a wide and expanding gamut of blues influences and is adept in using them. Mark this down as an authentic journey through the blues.

Tim Stenhouse

Robert Cray ‘Robert Cray and Hi Rhythm’ (Jay-Vee) 4/5

Soul-blues man extraordinaire does the logical thing and devotes a whole project to rekindling the classic Hi Sound of the early-mid 1970s that was personified by Otis Clay, Syl Johnson and Ann Peebles, and not forgetting the daddy of them all, Al Green. The results are predictably excellent with what is left of the original Hi band members being supplemented by the neo-soul brass of the Royal Horns, and the sound, recorded at Willie Mitchell’s studio, is indeed an authentic and deliciously tasty Memphis soul-blues stew. The gatefold sleeve opens up to reveal a mural on a wall which reads, ‘I love soul’, under which Cray and band members hover. It pretty much sums up what this project is all about. A major guest in guitarist-singer-songwriter Tony Joe White features on two songs and adds just the right dose of swamp blues with a deeply soulful groove. Stand out tracks include the wonderful heavy bass line and percussion of, ‘You must believe in yourself’, while the understated delivery to a Bill Withers opus, ‘The same love that made me laugh’, is classic fodder for Cray to interact on with additional brass and guitar solo. White and Cray combine on the lovely, melancholic ballad written by the former, ‘Aspen, Colorado’, and White is still a wordsmith of some distinction judging by this excellent effort. Three originals by Cray round off a strong album all round and there are some inspirational gospel harmonies at play on the two-part, ‘I’m with you’, the second part of which ends the album on a high note with some gorgeous blues guitar. A recent UK tour has by his long-term fans and this new album is only likely to increase his flock of devotees further.

Tim Stenhouse

Terence Blanchard ‘The Comedian’ (Blue Note) 4/5

The music serves as the backdrop to the film soundtrack directed by Taylor Hackford and is worthy of your undivided attention in its own right since it includes a stellar line-up of musicians comprising Kenny Barron on piano, Ravi Coltrane on tenor saxophone, Carl Allen on drums and David Pulphus on acoustic bass as well as the leader on trumpet.
What makes this such an enjoyable listening experience is the unorthodox approach to essentially bop-influenced music. There is an absence of cliché and, at times, a brief incursion into freer form, though never straying to far away from melody. On the high speed, ‘Electricity’, the rhythm section operates in full flow. Barron is in his element on the trio-based number, ‘Kenny gets out’, with delightful interplay between pianist and bassist. Another winner of a tune is, ‘Jackie’s lament’, which has a gentle waltz-like groove with a lovely warm tenor solo from Coltrane, excellent use of unison horns and in general a slightly blues-inflected ambience. The whole quintet are in relaxed mode on, ‘Deli to soup kitchen’, which is notable for some inventive drum licks.

Blanchard is a film composer of some vintage having composed for George Lucas, Oprah Winfrey and not forgetting his lengthy collaborative work with Spike Lee. His lengthy tenure with the Blue Note labels stretches back well over a decade with, ‘Flow’ from 2005 and especially, ‘A tale of God’s will’, from 2007 stand out recordings.

Tim Stenhouse

Youn Sun Nah ‘She Moves On’ (ACT) 3/5

A new name to some, South Korean vocalist Youn Sun Nah has made a name for herself in her native land and was featured at the closing ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. She has now settled in France and has soaked up myriad influences including pop and folk (she sounds as though she has listened intently to Kate Bush among others), as well as American folk and jazz. Strictly speaking, her voice is not that of a jazz vocalist, but rather that of a pop singer with a jazz and folk sensibility with crossover potential, and that is clearly where her strengths lie. Accompanied by some seriously talented jazz musicians including bassist Brad Jones and guitarist Marc Ribot, the music works best on re-readings of folk-rock classics such as the on the edge interpretation of, She moves on’, originally composed by Paul Simon. Equally compelling is the kalimba-led intro to, ‘Black is the color of my true love’s hair’. Here, the pared down sound works wonders and is the kind of repertoire that compliments her voice best. There is both intimacy and warmth to the sensitive instrumental accompaniment, and while the phrasing is a little odd in parts, there is no doubting that the vocalist can sing and it is no mean feat for someone with so different a mother tongue to express herself in the English language.

Ideally, one would like to hear Sun Nah attempt some of the French chanson tradition also and she has already attracted widespread interest there with 150,000 record sales to date. Youn Sun Nah will be performing at Ronnie Scott’s on May 31.

Tim Stenhouse

Verneri Pohjola ‘Pekka’ 2LP/CD/DIG (Edition) 5/5

Verneri Pohjola is a new name to me and, I suspect, to many readers. The trumpeter and composer hails from Finland. He has released two previous albums on the prestigious ACT label (one of these garnered a five star review from The Guardian) and another on Edition, ‘Bullhorn‘, from 2015 which received the Uk Vibe stamp of approval. Pohjola having signed to the British Editions label is sure to become very familiar to all in the coming months, aided by the release of his latest album.
As with its Scandinavian neighbours, Finland seems steeped in a very lyrical style of jazz. Pohjola reinforces this with the deeply affecting purity of tone. Melody is key to his music, both in his playing and in his compositions, which linger long in the memory of the listener.
This latest album is available as a double LP in gatefold packaging, as a digital album, or as a conventional CD. It reinterprets the music of Verneri’s late father, the acclaimed prog-rock bassist and composer, Pekka Pohjola. Verneri uses his skills as a trumpeter to blend “raw emotion, technical finesse and control” and is able to tread the often difficult path between “accessibility and the avant-garde”.

Alongside the leader’s trumpet are Fender Rhodes, guitar, bass and drums. The music spans two decades of his father’s output and Pohjola has found the process of rediscovering and recording the music “an emotional and therapeutic exercise”.
The album opens with ‘Dragon’ and is delightfully melodic and evocative. Pohjola producing that familiar, breathy, ethereal trumpet sound, aided by pulsating bass and almost otherworldly keyboard and guitar sounds. Then, just three minutes into the theme, an altogether more urgent and aggressive sound emerges, alternating with the more melodic cadences of the song.
‘First Morning’ is next which gives guitarist and drummer a chance to shine. There is also a nice feature for the keyboard player.

‘Inke and Me’ is different again, more thoughtful and contemplative, almost wistful. There’s a wonderful anthemic nature to the theme that emerges towards the end of the performance.
‘Pinch’ is much more extrovert in nature, the group making full use of the possibilities available to them by the use of electronic instruments. Each track seems to have distinct episodes, the music seems to ebb and flow, keeping the listener’s interest throughout.

There are some very lengthy tracks on the album ‘Madness Subsides’ is a tour de force at almost fourteen minutes, This is a beautiful tone poem, initially highlighting the guitarists sound to which is soon added pensive keyboards. And soulful double bass. Again, around the half way point, the pace changes to something more sinister, making full use of the electronics. Then the tempo picks up, before finally subsiding into elegant repose. This is a completely absorbing piece of music.
‘Benjamin’ follows, initially highlighting the magnificent bass playing. The trumpet here makes subtle use of what I guess to be over-dubbing. Again, this track has various sections, almost like ‘movements’.
‘Innocent Questions’ commences with ethereal keyboards and is a lovely introduction to the trumpet. For me, this is the highlight of the album.

There are seven tracks on the album, most coming in at around the seven to eight minute mark but with a couple exceeding ten minutes.
I soon forgot that the source music for the album was prog-rock. This is completely original and compelling music. Pohjola and friends succeed in taking the listener on an emotional journey into a hitherto unexplored area of music. Even if you are unfamiliar with his father’s music, there is still much enjoyment to be gained from this album.

Alan Musson

Trish Clowes ‘My Iris’ (Basho) 5/5

This is the saxophonist’s fourth album for Basho Records and features her latest quartet which shares its name with that of the album title. This really is a powerhouse aggregation, featuring the cream of the current crop of British jazz musicians (or to carry forward the horticultural reference, Night Blooming Jazz Men, perhaps) Chris Montague is on guitar, the eponymous Ross Stanley on piano, alongside his more familiar Hammond organ and James Maddren is behind the drum kit. All three men are certainly no shrinking violets!
I have to agree with my fellow writer Dave Gelly, himself no mean saxophonist, when writing in The Observer that “with just four players, the variety of tone colour is remarkable”. Just like the colour variety of Irises. In addition to her abilities as a musician, Clowes is also a fine composer, being a BASCA British Composer Award winner.

Clowes is in turns warm-hearted, sprightly, introspective, graceful and pithy. Influences range from Wayne Shorter to Stan Getz and beyond.
I imagine that Clowes has an audacious sense of humour as exhibited in some of the titles that she gives her compositions. ‘I Can’t Find My Other Brush’ and ‘A Cat Called Behemoth’ are just two examples.
‘Muted Lines’ is a non-Clowes composition where the verse, an adaptation of a 16th Century Armenian poem, is sung by Clowes. This piece mirrors the grief of Armenian genocide and more recent atrocities in Eastern Turkey.
Montague’s electronic effects bring a contemporary sheen to what may otherwise have been an almost conventional sounding ‘In Between the Moss and Ivy”. This is a particularly outstanding performance by all concerned.

The opening piece on the album, ‘One Hour’ gets things under way in a very pensive mood with atmospheric organ and soprano saxophone. The soprano sound reminding me somewhat of the music of fellow saxophonist Theo Travis. Gradually, the intensity builds, as drums join and after a brief pause, guitar and acoustic piano enter with an altogether more sunny feel, the music taking on a freewheeling nature, until a wonderful guitar and saxophone unison statement after which the guitarist is allowed free reign, closely followed by the saxophonist.
‘Blue Calm’ is a playful sounding theme with the leader on tenor sax, negotiating the serpentine melody. What follows thereafter is pure musical perfection.
‘Tap Dance (For Baby Dodds)’ is great fun. With a fine bluesy solo from the guitarist, reminiscent of some of John Scofield’s best work.
All eight tracks on the album are masterpieces, many weaving delightful musical tapestries for the ears. Repeated listening reveals new delights. The many vivid colours of the Iris are evoked by the quartet.

Perhaps aptly, Iris may be being used in its capacity as an ambiguous colour term – ranging from blue-violet to violet. Aptly reflecting the many colours of music on display here. Or perhaps Trish is depicted here as the Greek goddess of the rainbow. But, more worryingly, I’ve discovered that there is a species of praying mantis which shares the name.
This album is really just one wonderful musical selection box, a cornucopia of musical riches.

Alan Musson

UK Vibe team mix no.10 – Brian Goucher

UK Vibe Mix No.10: Brian Goucher – Sunshine People

Tracklisting

Gillespie & Co – Sunshine People
The True Pages Of Life – Truth And Love
Benjamin & The Right Direction – Light Of My Life
Big Lee Dowell And The Cannonballs Feat. Maxim Moston – What I Done Wrong
L.V. Johnson – We Belong Together
Z.Z. Hill – I Don’t Want Our Love To Be No Secret
Little Milton – Survivors Of Love
King Diamond – That’s All She Wrote
Archie Bell & The Drells – I Just Want To Fall In Love
Temptations – Heavenly
The Chapells – You’re Acting Kinda Strange
Tyrone Davis – Was I Just A Fool
The Enticers – Storyteller
Elevation – Love Won’t Pay The Bills
One’Sy Mack – I’ll Never Go Away
Sam Dees – Signed Miss Heroin
Chick Willis – Love Stealing Ain’t Worth The Feeling
Clinton Harmon – I Want To Get Close To You
El Dorados – Looking In From The Outside
Jimmy Elledge – Can’t Take The Leavin’
Danelle Darris – Don’t Love Me And Leave Me
The Esquires – Girls In The City
Eddie Hinton – Dreamer
Exsaveyons – Somewhere
The New Way – I’m Sorry ‘Bout That
Chi-Lites – Let Me Be The Man My Daddy Was
Extensions – Your Heart Belongs To Me
Shelley Fisher – Dear Love
Jack Montgomery – Beauty Isn’t Born
Mel Davis – Double Or Nothing
The Rance Allen Group – I Give My All To You
The Dontells – I Can’t Wait
Durand Jones & The Indications – Is It Any Wonder
Fred – Love Can Last Forever
Soul Scratch – Kiss Me In The Morning
The Monophonics – Too Long

Andrew Hartman ‘Compass’ (Private Press) 4/5

New York City based guitarist Andrew Hartman was born into a musical family in Cincinnati. Hartman grew up playing a variety of instruments, beginning his formal studies on trumpet, but with the guitar occupying an ever-increasing number of hours in his day. Studying guitar at the Ohio State University, Hartman became active in the Columbus jazz scene, learning on the gig from many of the area’s experienced musicians. This left an indelible mark in Hartman’s taste in jazz music. In addition to working as a sideman, he led the group Still Motion, for which he was also the main composer and arranger, with the quintet releasing an album of Hartman’s original compositions in 2010. In 2011 Hartman moved to London, where he worked as a freelance musician and teacher. Over the course of a year, he met and performed with some of the UK’s finest jazz musicians, eventually leading a group playing his new original music. His latest release “Compass”, is a quartet outing and features saxophonist Chris Cheek, bassist Ike Sturm, and drummer Zach Harmon.
The album features nine of the guitarist’s original compositions and an arrangement of Paul Simon’s “America”. Largely written over the last five years, the music reflects a period of frequent travel for Hartman. There’s a lovely warm, rich tone throughout the recording which is fairly straight-ahead contemporary jazz for the most part, with Brazilian and Indian musical influences creeping in here and there.

Hartman has chosen his trio of fellow musicians well. Bassist Ike Sturm and drummer Zach Harmon both provide excellent support, whether that be laying the foundation for the guitar and sax solos, creating a groove that sits nicely behind the composer’s melodies, or on occasion taking the lead. But it is saxophonist Chris Cheek that lifts this album up and above the average. I have always been an admirer of Cheek’s playing, and his melodic, lyrical and fluent style is perfect for Hartman’s compositions.

Stand-out tracks for me include the infectious “Chic Korea” which features some marvellous interplay between all four musicians, the uplifting “New Day”, with its journeying, meandering and wistful feel, the tuneful, slightly melancholic “Devices”, the effervescent “The Heights” which is perhaps the most accomplished piece on the album, and the quartet’s take on Paul Simon’s “America”; a quite stunning arrangement that makes me want to hit the repeat button on my music player.

“Compass” is an enjoyable album, with some fine compositions and skillful playing from guitarist Hartman. It is though, as previously mentioned, the wonderful tone and virtuosity of saxophonist Chris Cheek that brings most pleasure to this listener’s ears.

Mike Gates

travelling the spaceways since 1993