‘In The Heat’ marks the new release from Brooklyn-based trumpeter Kenny Warren and his Trio released through Whirlwind Recordings.
Before we go any further, I’d like to take a very quick moment to tip my hat to the fantastic achievements of Whirlwind Recordings. Not only has this year seen the London-based independent label celebrate their tenth year of releasing an exceptional array of contemporary jazz, but the exclamation point was also certainly cemented on that monumental “10” by ensuring that this year the label played host to some stunning releases like Michael Olatuja’s ‘Lagos Pepper Soup’, Jure Pukl’s ‘Broken Circles’ and Josephine Davies’s ‘How Can We Make?’, naming just a few of the projects that were bestowed upon the world.
Whirlwind has always had a penchant for the improvised and it’s a discipline that Kenny Warren practically celebrates throughout his album, ‘In The Heat’. Much like his previous release for the label – the Kenny Warren Quartet’s ‘Thank You for Coming to Life’ (2017) – Warren’s style is rooted within his ability to begin with a set-piece but still have the freedom to take the performance into unexplored territory while empowering his fellow players to take those same risks and creative freedoms.
Warren’s résumé is really something to marvel at – from the projects that position him as the bandleader to the extensive nature of his session work. Taking some of his other projects from just this year alone as an example sees Warren providing trumpet for singer/songwriter Scott Matthews’ ‘Adorned’ album as well as playing for the Webber/Morris Big Band project ‘Both Are True’. Kenny Warren’s skill has literally positioned him amidst such a wide variety of groups, styles and collectives that to see this minimal approach to his own projects is an inspired turn.
Comprising the trio for ‘In The Heat’ is drummer Nathan Ellman-Bell (Jake Leckie, Sebastien Ammann’s Color Wheel) and bassist Matthias Pichler (Manu Delago, Lorenz Raab Quartet) – both revered improvisers in their own right and both afforded with the creative space for this album to inspire new ideas and concepts.
Over the course of the album’s seven tracks, the trio performs beautifully together creating a musical environment that’s comfortable and a natural fit. ‘My Moments Subtle’ serves as the perfect introduction to the trio but also to the musicians as individual players; ‘Pen in Hand’ increases the pace with Pichler’s bass providing a real sense of urgency throughout (a real standout!) before the album’s centrepiece ‘Brain Phone Wired’. At just under fifteen minutes long, ‘Brain Phone Wired’ is glorious in its presentation as the musicians confidently explore the space around them, being playful at the right times while still delivering on their overall focus. It’s really an incredible performance to behold, particularly when experiencing it for the first time.
Apparently, the concepts for this album were created by Warren in his apartment from song titles that stemmed from the cut-up lines of a poem. I’d love to hear what the end-results of another apartment and another poem would bring, perhaps Whirlwind year #11 can make that happen?
Grex is the Oakland-based duo of Rei Scampavia on synths/vocals and guitarist Karl Evangelista also vocals. “Everything You Said Was Wrong” is the latest of five proper albums which span over a decade and probably the last if we accept the hints in the sleeve notes. Their stripped-down, sparse, musical style could be defined as art-rock with No Wave attitude but also contains experimental and free jazz elements which may tantalise a UKVibe reader’s more left-field taste buds!
The album kicks off with a claustrophobically constraining 4 note double bass loop on “KD (Kevin Durant)” propelling Evangelista’s venomous vocals and weaving gnarly lead guitar lines. Guitar power chords crash over the rat-a-tat drum machine with Scampavia’s mellower melodic voice on “The Other Mouses”, more guitar heroics follow from deranged rifferama to kaleidoscopic pyrotechnics. “Beepocalypse” turns the heat down a little before the stripped-down drum loops and humming electronic bass of “Blood”. This is reminiscent of Suicide (another duo) but also informed by hip hop. By comparison, “Margot Tenenbaum” is a conventional mid-paced rock/hip hop crossover with rapping verses and singing choruses. The first side closes with the melancholic jazz guitar balladry of “Walking Ayler in Tarzana”.
Side 2 and “Criminal” is angry and noisy. Post-rock and hip hop strands bristle with rage. The atonal distortion hints at industrial metal particularly in the guitar solo squalls, screaming guitar and feedback. “Moon Baby” is slow-paced electronic pop with a melodic voice. Disjointed guitar/synth duet introduces “Jin’s Run”, an abstract soundscape of tones and noises which builds into crashing percussion, sustained guitar lead lines and fairground-ride synths. “Feather Chaser” is brief but sorrowful electronic pop balladry with early 80s pop leanings. “Ikki”, the simple melody line, becomes beautiful sprightly clean soloing over free form percussion.
“Criminal” contains the line “I do what the fuck I want” and although taken out of context of the track, this, for me, encapsulates the Grex’s attitude on this record. Sometimes exciting and sometimes frustrating but nearly always engaging, the differing styles and moods juxtapose and occasionally clash, even on the same track! The result is the album maybe feels a little uneven and some of the songs (or parts of them!) can be a little cloying. However, the album is well worth checking out for the plus points; Fred Frith student, Karl Evangelista’s guitar playing, which is excellent whether improvised solo or sonic sculptures and the guitar/synth instrumental extensions which take these tracks into exhilarating and unexpected areas.
Lost Ships is a stunningly exquisite collaboration between Albanian/Swiss singer Elina Duni and English guitarist Rob Luft. Making their collaborative debut, they are joined by British multi-instrumentalist Fred Thomas – contributing here on piano and percussion, and Swiss flugelhornist Matthieu Michel. Something of an unexpected delight, the duo’s programme of songs of love and exile has been gathering momentum since 2017 when the singer and guitarist first began making music together during a series of workshops in Lausanne. Recorded earlier this year at Studios la Buissonne in the South of France, the album benefits from the high production values we have come to expect from ECM. Yet perhaps just as important, if not more so, is the way this recording brings to life an energy, an emotive passion, in such a compelling way.
Born in Tirana, Albania, Elina Duni made her first steps on the stage as a singer aged five. In 1992 she settled in Geneva, where she started studying classical piano and subsequently discovered jazz. Her studies in Bern led to the formation of her quartet, lasting over ten years. The band’s interweaving of Balkan folk songs and improvising on albums including two ECM releases was widely praised. Londoner Rob Luft, also drawing on a large range of influences, began playing with the National Youth Jazz Orchestra, home to a very long list of aspiring musicians over the years, before going on to study at the Royal Academy of Music. His skills as a composer, improviser and arranger can be heard on his two albums recorded and released on Edition Records. Duni and Luft are co-authors of several pieces on Lost Ships, including the title track, “Numb”, “Brighton”, “Flying Kites”, “Lux” and “Empty Streets”. Material for the album is also drawn from many idioms and locations: “This is an album about contemporary issues facing us all”, Duni and Luft explain. “There are songs that touch upon past influences, with the sound of Albania and Mediterranean folklore ever-present. We wanted to explore other musical roots too; timeless jazz ballads, French chanson, American Folk Song…” Alluding to in song texts and in choice of sources, the migration crisis is a central issue to many of the tunes sung here, yet there is also a warm romanticism that comes across in many of the pieces performed.
The significant contribution of Matthieu Michel and Fred Thomas cannot be underestimated on this session. The duo offers sympathetic and intuitive support to Duni and Luft, their own voices blending quite beautifully with the lead duo to create a thoughtful, engrossing atmosphere that highlights a sense of togetherness and understanding, crucial to the delicacy and meaning of the tunes being performed. The album’s opening tune “Bella Ci Dormi” is a perfect example of how well these musicians work together. Thomas’ piano combines wonderfully with Luft’s guitar, with Duni’s voice raising the hairs on the back of my neck. A simply stunning piece of music. Tunes like “Brighton” reflect the gorgeous nature of the music, with Michel’s flugelhorn picking up the melody and adding a soft, alluring atmosphere, matched by Luft’s sensitive, yet inventive guitar playing. The new combine seamlessly with the old, with a gentle, emotive freshness blowing sumptuously through tunes like “I’m a fool to want you”, “The Wayfaring Stranger” and “Hier Encore”. Tune after tune of gracious and glorious musical storytelling. Whilst the pairing of Duni and Luft may initially seem an unlikely one, this has to be one of the most inspired musical unions in ECM’s recent history.
Being familiar with Rob Luft’s stellar music through Edition Records, I was eager to hear him in a different setting. He doesn’t disappoint. His skills on this album are clear to hear, offering an understated, thoughtful and resoundingly beautiful backdrop for Duni’s glorious vocals. And it is ultimately, Duni’s mesmerising voice that draws the listener in, as she takes us with her on a journey through these tunes. It’s almost as if she’s holding our hands, letting us touch the music she gives us through her stunning voice. She allows us to be a part of the stories she sings, bringing a feeling of genuine warmth and sincerity. And there really aren’t many singers who can achieve that.
‘As We Stand’ marks the debut album from the multi-talented Tori Handsley released through Cadillac Records.
A revered harpist, pianist, composer and improviser… ‘multi-talented’ as an umbrella term may lack a certain pizzazz when attempting to translate all of the, frankly, exceptional talents that Handsley brings to the table. A frequent live performer (prior to 2020, that is!) and boasting an extensive list of in-studio and live collaborations including Binker & Moses, Shabaka Hutchings, Jake Long and Kairos 4tet.
Handsley’s first foray into centre stage came in the form of the self-titled EP by the Tori Handsley Trio featuring Harry Pope on drums and Kisha Mullov-Abbado on double bass. Looking back on the four-track EP now, it’s exciting to see, what has now become, early incarnations of songs that would go on to form some key moments of the album some six years later including ‘Setting Into The Sun’, ‘What’s In A Tune’ and ‘Kestrel’ (the latter of which presents Chantelle Nandi on lead vocals).
As indicated above, while the time in between projects has been lengthy it has certainly been productive and now – six years later – we see Handsley ready to present a project befitting her multitude of talents.
The dream team that comprise Handsley’s trio for ‘As We Stand’ include the profoundly versatile bassist Ruth Goller whose work across a variety of collectives and ensembles including Vula Viel, Warmer Than Blood and Kamao Quintet, amongst several others, makes her a valuable contributor to this project. And on drums is one of the artists most associated with the UK’s current jazz explosion – a key contributor to projects from Zara McFarlane, Nubya Garcia, Joe Armon-Jones and a revered solo artist in his own right, Moses Boyd. The project further benefits from the inclusion of vocalist Sahra Gure who excels on her vocal contributions for the album as she has for her own ‘Love Me With Me’ EP.
Over the course of the ten tracks on ‘As We Stand’, Handsley masterfully creates a soundscape as innovative as it is bold. While there are songs that feature the harp within lush arrangements and compositions that accentuate everything beautiful about the harp as an instrument, there are songs that seem to relish subverting the aforementioned expectations, particularly evident on a song like the album closer, ‘What’s In A Tune’. A really fantastic song that charges through at a joyously fervent pace – it’s become a track indicative of Handsley’s rewrite-the-rulebook approach to playing and composing.
There’s something almost strategic about ‘What’s In A Tune’ as the album closer – with many of the songs throughout touching on themes of environmental issues that impact us on a global scale, closing with a number depicting such urgency reflects much of Handsley’s over-arching message of our need to act immediately or risk facing the consequences. ‘Out of Sight, Out of Mind’ – which features a sublime contribution from Sahra Gure – is another strong album highlight and one that focuses on the increasing levels of neglect for the oceans namely through the dangers attached to the rise of plastic waste.
While much will rightfully be made about Handsley’s standout performance with the harp, her skill with the instrument that first captured her musical passions – the piano – really warrants special mention, as well as the album, really does boast some excellent playing throughout. Hopefully, a follow-up to ‘As We Stand’ won’t come after a further six years but even if it does, there’s this wonderful album to keep us company until then.
Onipa or ‘human’ in the Akan language of Ghana are a four-piece outfit, they’re UK based with a sound that is distinctly Afro-futurist. This is thanks in no small part to the influence of lead vocalist KOG or Kweku of Ghana, Kweku Sackey a Ghanaian born percussionist and vocalist now based in Sheffield. KOG also leads his own band, KOG and the Zongo Brigade, a fusion of Afrobeat, soul, funk, reggae and rock. A similarly eclectic mix can be found on this debut release by Onipa. KOG’s main collaborator on the album is the guitarist and producer of Nubiyan Twist Tom Excell. On drums is Finn Booth who also works with Nubiyan Twist. On synth bass is Dwayne Kalvington aka Wonky Logic who describes his craft as ‘soulful electronics and futurist crunk’. Onipa are also joined by a roster of Ghanaian musicians on many tracks including singer Wiyaala.
The album’s title We No Be Machine is a defiant cry and could perhaps be a 21st-century Afro-futurist retort to Kraftwerk’s restrained 1978 masterpiece The Man-Machine. At any rate We No Be Machine seems a prescient conceptual statement regarding the ability of technology to simultaneously connect and isolate humanity. It’s brought into sharp focus this year as many of us sit in safe seclusion behind our screens, the psychological fallout and cost to the human soul yet to be calculated. The record was released back in March so has only become more relevant as 2020 has unfolded. The band explain ‘we use technology but it will never use us, our music is live and about deep human connection’.
The title track, ‘We No Be Machine’ begins with a narration which sets the scene for the album’s concept, an apparent anxiety and ambivalence concerning humanity’s relationship with technology. The voice, not completely intelligible and distorted by the vocoder, says ‘we were masters of technology, now we’re slaves to machines’. At this point electronics are combined with an emphatic and soulful chorus ‘we’re not a machine’. KOG’s rap follows in a similar vein ‘I see your control, mind, body, you want to take my soul’ followed by ‘turn off your TV, turn off your screen’. The tune ends more optimistically as the narrator states ‘people got the power’.
The first side of the album alternates between brief narrative links and more extended electronics fused with Afrobeat rhythms. The song ‘Material Microdots’ describes how ‘they have turned us into robots to show off in their coded war, human souls carefully programmed with electronic umbilical cords’. Later some of the tracks have a much more traditional and acoustic Afro feel, ‘Free Up’ is a command to free up your mind with a beautiful undulating percussive wave which seems to roll through the whole thing. ‘Onipa’ features the soulful vocals of Wiyaala and some prominent guitar, fusing a bluesy feel with hypnotic trance-like grooves. After this the album ranges further afield in themes and moods before the final track ‘The Promised Land’ featuring Jally Kebba Suso gets back to the main theme, asking ‘where is the promised land?’ There’s a reassuring believability and calmness to Jally Kebba Suso’s delivery and a sense of spiritual renewal as he offers a pathway to keeping the faith.
With its impressive scope, energy and eclecticism Onipa have created a seamless sound which blends electronic and acoustic rhythms to create something with a very human soul.
There’s a certain expectation when your father is Itiberê Zwarg, (the Brazilian bassist for the living legend that is Hermeto Pascoal) – and the self-same living legend also happens to be your godfather. There are standards to live up to, decades of musical tradition to follow, levels of musicianship to master and the ponderous weight of expectations… all falling upon your shoulders.
Good job those shoulders belong to Mariana Zwarg then. Mariana is a flautist, saxophonist, composer, arranger and now bandleader and this album grew out of a 2016 Spanish commission for Mariana to assemble and direct an entire concert dedicated to the music of Hermeto Pascoal, utilising a multinational ensemble from Brazil, Denmark, Finland, France and Germany.
After the Initial tour for the commission, this new group were so enthused with their collective experience that they decided to keep playing together and also to write their own music in Pascoal’s so-called ‘Universal Music’ style. They successfully wrote and toured this musical package for four years throughout Europe and Brazil.
“Nascentes” is their and Zwarg’s debut album and her first solo project, even though she’s had a career spanning 18 years already. It was recorded between Rio de Janeiro and Berlin at the tail-end of 2019, just before the first cases of Covid-19 were reported. It’s co-mixed by her father Itiberê (who Mariana often plays with, so they are used to each other’s musical thoughts).
There are 10 tracks on “Nascentes” (which roughly translates as births, beginnings or springs – as in fresh water bubbling up from the ground), eight composed by Mariana, one by Itiberê and one by Hermeto Pascoal.
Naturally, there is a very obvious musical debt to Pascoal and Zwarg senior – who are both special guests on the album – and Zwarg has said that the whole album is a musical ‘thank you’ for having them in her life. But it’s also very much Zwarg junior’s album. Either way, you’re amongst family with Nascentes.
The name of the album only came about on the very last day of recording in Brazil, when Mariana came across an old poem by her mother, which spoke of births and beginnings and she realised this CD was her own birth, especially as a composer and bandleader. The poem itself also features in the track “Lucas e Lena”.
Zwarg was not originally planning to be a musician, since up until she was 21 she was following a trajectory in psychology; but at 21 she devoted herself to flute and to music. Well, let’s face it, most of us turn to music first to help with our psychological problems so you could argue she’s performing the same mission of helping us to live our lives productively, but through music instead of words.
There is no ‘singing’ as such on this album, that is to say, no sung lyrics, but the vocals are an absolutely integral part of the sound in that classic Brazilian jazz scat singing style so familiar to anyone who has listened to Brazilian music over the last half-century or so where the voice is used like another instrument.
This is utilised to fabulous effect by the Danish vocalist Mette Nadja, who is a real find, effortlessly flying her vocal chords around the sinuous tunes with absolute surety of touch, perfect timing and confidence that almost hides the suppleness of Mette’s voice and the complexity of the gymnastics required. The proximity of tone and timing between Mariana’s sax and Mette’s voice at times is just unreal.
In fact, the whole band just groove as one, it feels like one mind, simultaneously expressing itself on a mass of instruments. Most of the tracks are quite lively and carry you along with them with very little problem (in fact with “Bandas e bandeiras” you’d probably just make sure your seat-belt is fastened!), with the fourth and sixth tracks (“Acalanto” and “Lucas e Lena”) being the only two to take it easy.
The opening track, “Pra ele”, is Mariana’s homage to her father, Itiberê. I’m not sure, but I imagine Itiberê is also the bass soloist on “Entre os Girassóis” and I think Hermeto’s accordion can be heard there also after the bass solo (it’s such a joyous feeling when it kicks in) and also on the track “Samba de Avedøre”. I’ve also got a feeling it’s Pascoal’s vocals on “Na Carioca” and on the track “Viva Hermeto” making some musical ‘bubbling’ noises with his lips as you would to a little baby to distract them!
Besides Mariana Zwarg on flute and saxes and Mette Nadja on vocals as noted already, the sextet comprises Sá Reston (Brazil) on bass, Pierre Chastel (France) on drums, Sami Kontola (Finland) on percussion and Johannes von Ballestrem (Germany) on piano. The musicianship, of course, is impeccable and everyone on this album is very much each other’s equal, it’s a real ensemble.
“Nascentes” is also equally ‘jazz’ and ‘Brazilian’, if you get me, and will absolutely appeal to both camps. To sum up, it isn’t totally rewriting Brazilian music or jazz, or even Brazilian jazz, but it does what it does supremely well. It’s a little gem of quality musicianship, writing and arranging.
Mariana and the band are very eager to start touring this album live, but until global Covid-19 restrictions ease up, you’ll just have to savour the album instead. (www.marianazwargsexteto.com).
You can hear some of the tracks from “Nascentes” on my monthly radio shows WorldBeatUK and The Overflow Show (both on BrumRadio.com and on Mixcloud.com) alongside loads of fabulous new releases in world music and jazz, soul, fusion, etc from around the planet.
PS: if you are interested in Latin American/jazz artists it’s also worth checking out the Argentine jazz vocalist, Victoria Zotalis (with her new group, Origami and their album 2020 album “Semimundos”) (or any of her varied back catalogue), as well as the Argentine double bassist and his band the Juan Fracchi Quintet with his 2020 album “Tango Tsunami”. All good stuff.
On the Brazilian side also check out the São Paulo-based Italian singer Mafalda Minnozzi and her 2020 album “Sensorial: Portraits in Bossa and Jazz”. Also, one step removed but still very much worth checking out is the 2019 album by young Brazilian singer, Flavia K, entitled “Janelas Imprevisíveis” which has a more contemporary soulful treatment, but still lushly Brazilian!
NB: if you are planning on purchasing any of these albums, please consider buying them direct from the artists themselves where possible (go to their own websites for details), rather than via large global third-person options (I’m sure one of the richest men in the world doesn’t need any more of your money! The artists however absolutely do!) – and certainly not by streaming, since this only rips off the artists. Even musicians have to eat!
Still under contract at the time of this recording, Pharaoh Sanders joined pianist-composer Ed Kelly under the ‘Friend’ tag for this one-time collaboration that has, over the years, become another one of those under the radar collectable pieces. Previously reissued on CD format in Japan back in 2015, the ‘Ed Kelly & Friend’ album sees its first vinyl pressing since its original release on the Californian based Theresa label in 1979, courtesy of the Pure Pleasure imprint.
The quartet featured Pharaoh Sanders, pianist Ed Kelly, drummer Eddie Marshall and Peter Barshay on double bass. For many, the stand out track from the album will be ‘Got To Have Freedom‘, featuring Pharaoh Sanders unmistakable tone and delivery. The accommodation for Ed Kelly’s swing and nuanced sound brings a more warm and reflective swing than the ‘Journey To The One’ album version that many listeners will know.
The opening track, ‘Pippin’, is another highlight from the album and an easy-paced soul-jazz summer groove with some great work by the quartet. It featured on the amazing 2003 compilation ‘Journey To The Dawn’, which also included Ed Kelly’s ‘Samba’ and other Theresa label favourites.
With a vague resemblance to Barry White, pianist Ed Kelly adds a welcome soul-jazz dimension to the popular jazz standard ‘Sweet Georgia Brown’ and his percussive edge on the uptempo ‘Newborn’ Lends a perfect platform for Pharaoh Sanders improvisation and accent.
The album stands up alongside many of the renowned albums from the Theresa record label catalogue and its a welcome first-time reissue on vinyl.
Earlier this year I reviewed the riveting, vital jazz hip-hop mixtape that was Błoto’s “Erozje”.
Błoto are a subset of the larger format, Wrocław based, “reconstruction from deconstruction” jazz improv sextet that is EABS (Electro-Acoustic Beat Sessions). EABS “pursues the tradition of the Polish school of jazz, while escaping various sound patterns, presenting a carefree and completely original approach to genres and established musical standards”. This philosophy was evident in Błoto and not at all alien to Saturn’s most famous son, Sun Ra. So the idea of EABS developing a ‘Polish Space Program’ is both creatively and logistically sound while appearing to be metaphysically well funded too.
Last year, after 3 decades of waiting, the archive recording of the Sun Ra Arkestra’s first landing in Poland was released to the public – it influenced not only an EABS honourary concert but also the recording of a session of de and reconstructed Sun Ra material that formed this album, “Discipline of Sun Ra”.
“It’s after the end of the world, don’t you know that yet?”
“Brainville” anchors on its original riff but brings the aesthetic forward by 60 odd years. Spiritually enlightened and freely expressed, Maricn Rik (drums) and Paweł Stachowiak (bass) keep it wide open to allow Olaf Węgier (tenor sax) and Jakub Kurek (trumpet) to harmoniously explore the cosmos. It’s an ultimately mollifying experience. “Interstellar Low Ways” continues with the feels, its comforting, sensual space-warbles rests a compassionate hand upon our aching selves, stroking away our anxiety and assuring us things will get better.
“The Lady with the Golden Stockings (The Golden Lady)” is a bit nervier, influenced by London nu-jazz, and maybe 90s crossover attempts, as lo-fi juke beats, drums and synths circle around a relentless, tight horn motif. “Discipline 27” highlights the plight of those poor out-of-tune-with-the-universe souls that have no music that can coordinate with their spirit. It projects ever forwards with taught beats and a tenterhooks dropped bassline as Wegier and Kurek, in turn, hint at both the vastness and urgency of their plight.
“Neo-Project #2” is deceptively laid back at first before Węgier reaches out with a series of revolving, orbital motifs and Kurek pings and sputters before an eventual return to a slightly less at ease version of where we came in. The oh so smooth “Trying to Put the Blame on Me” has Marek Pędziwiatr (piano) caressing, schmoozing, night-sky twinkling his way across a subservient, rim-tapping beat and horns that gently pump and sway, showing us a better (milkier) way.
“UFO” is an upbeat exit; a joyful noise; an infinitely glossy, early 80s space funk with punchy bass and slick synths that support the truth that “Somewhere else on the other side of nowhere, there’s another place in space, beyond what you know as time, where the Gods of mythology dwell…These gods dwell in their mythocracy, as opposed to your theocracy, and your democracy, and your monocracy. They dwell in their mythocracy, a magic world. These Gods can even offer you immortality.”
This album is much more contained than I expected. I thought it would be pretty out there and more self-indulgent than it is. I’m pleasantly surprised and very grateful. It has a wisdom and a titular discipline that shows respect for its heritage and our future. It’s uplifting, warming and occasionally beautiful. It’s an exercise in shining light on our collective darkness, an escape from the limiting focus of our limited view. And it leaves me hoping that the Polish Space Program can continue to receive the metaphysical funding it needs to continue its cosmic explorations – for the good of all jazzmankind.
‘Transe de Papier’ marks the new album from the French musical collective Lo’Jo.
Founded in 1982 in Angers, France, by singer and keyboardist Denis Péan and violinist Richard Bourreau, the two have remained the core of Lo’Jo since the group’s inception. Over the course of Lo’Jo’s musical journey, their commitment to exploration – and in many ways discovery of how their music fits in and subsequently adapts to the world around them – has taken them to all corners of the world, having spent time and chalked up performances in Europe, North America, Australia, New Zealand, Korea, Vietnam, Georgia, Mali, Algeria, the Sahara, Turkey, Egypt and the Indian Ocean.
Much like the band have been accustomed to having adopted something of a nomadic lifestyle, so too has their music. Lo’Jo have become synonymous for their all-encompassing approach to their music and appreciation for a host of musical styles. Effortlessly incorporating elements of folk, jazz, Mediterranean and Balkan styles into their ever-evolving vision, their charm which has seen them endure for so many years, rests in their honest and sincere approach to music-making. Their seeming disinterest in striving for a greater level of notoriety, only striving to continually discover is nothing short of endearing.
‘Transe de Papier’ once again benefits from having long-term Lo’Jo producer and collaborator Justin Adams behind the boards. With his initial collaboration with Lo’Jo dating back to Sin Acabar (1996), Adams’s revered status as a guitarist and producer has seen his own music – whether released under his own name or released as part of the tireless variety of group projects and collaborations he has been associated with since the late 1980s – fuse together varying elements of Arabic and African styles into his compositions. Again, boundary-less concoctions that would no doubt have cemented an almost immediate union between the two.
‘Transe de Papier’ benefits from the inclusion of another incredibly revered – dare I say ‘iconic’ – presence in the form of drummer Tony Allen. For an album that boasts minimal drumming, opting to rely more on the percussive elements throughout, Allen’s appearances on album tracks ‘Jeudi D’octobre’ and ‘La Rue Passe’ make for cherished inclusions notwithstanding the fact that it was only earlier this year that the world lost what many believe to be the greatest drummer of all time.
Sisters Nadia and Yamina Nid el Mourid make for an invaluable contribution throughout the album – whether they are tasked with lead vocals or providing backing to Denis Péan, the magic that they bring to songs like the haunting ‘Sépale’ and the transcendent ‘Minuscule’ couldn’t be overstated.
Seventeen albums over 38 years is in of itself an outstanding achievement but the fact that, even after all this time, Lo’Jo still deliver to the standard presented on ‘Transe de Papier’ is inspirational.
Eighth (musical) World Wonder Thor Partridge, aka Thornato, dropped a gem on us on November 6th with his sophomore album “Escape Plan”. Since his debut, Bennu, the New York-based producer has been hard at work turning the inspiration in his surroundings into sound system bangers. The abundance of inspiration is evident in “Escape Plan” which has everything from Dancehall and psychedelic Cumbia to pure club beats. The disparate layers of “Escape Plan” mirror Partridge’s many musical influences. A classically trained pianist, Partridge refers to himself as a “sound-hoarder” who finds much excitement in the sonic landscape of the streets of his home, New York.
With this album, Partridge has created the soundtrack to your actual escape. After what has seemed like an endless string of months, who couldn’t use a little fresh air, some room to breathe. In many places, actual travel still isn’t entirely safe but you can pop Thornato in your car stereo and just drive. The album comes out of Partridge’s own desire to find expansion and escape the city. It is a delicate balance between the organic and the electronic, the fresh breath you’re looking for to recenter your city life. The flute of “Out Here” evokes the feeling of wind on open plains while the beat of the song makes you want to drive right into it with the top down. “Dracula” is one of those songs that makes you want to press on the gas so watch for sirens.
In “Escape Plan” Partridge teams up with a formidable cast of special guests like Sotomayor, Zongo Abongo and El Buho to point the way to multiple exit signs. You can choose the above-mentioned car escape of “Dracula” and “Out Here” if that suits your fancy. You can lose yourself in the tropical heat of Paulina Sotomayor’s “La Niña Grande” while you imagine yourself sweating on a dancefloor. Or you can float away on the smooth sensual sounds of “Ya Hawa” and “Mes Couleurs”. Whichever route you choose you can be sure you’ve chosen the right one. Just make sure as you plan your escape, that you invest in a better sound system.