Alex Hutton Trio ‘Legentis’ (F-ire) 4/5

British pianist and trio leader Alex Hutton offers an all original set of compositions that impresses with its focus on folk-based themes and a nice mixture of classical and folk influences alongside jazz and even rock elements. A gorgeous folk-jazz ambience is created on ‘Clouds’ with, on the surface, an apparent simplicity to the playing belying a more sophisticated approach and especially strong melodies. In particular the bass work fromYuri and Goloubev and drumming from Asaf Sirkin, the latter recently heard on the latrst Gwilym Simcock release, display a great deal of sensitivity. Leader Hutton reveals a genuine passion for Scandinavian music on ‘A Norsk tale’, with Grieg’s ‘Lyrical pieces’ immediately springing to mind and further classical tones emerge on ‘The legend is script’ with the delicate use of French horn and flute. The all too brief ‘Hymn II’ even features the cor anglais and is an intiguing blend of classical and folk. In terms of pianistic influences, Brad Mehldau and Keith Jarrett and possibly classical maestro Emil Gilels have all weaved their spell on Alex Hutton and it has done him a power of good. Guest vocals from Heidi Vogel and a rockier beat on the wordless vocalese piece ‘J.J.’. One of the more original pianists to have emerged in recent times with a clear idea of where he is working towards. A promising future beckons.

Tim Stenhouse

Oricle ‘ Every New Day’ (F-ire) 4/5

Composer and guitarist Jonny Phillips is the brains behind this intruiging octet that attacks the Latin repertoire from a decidely left-field perspective. Thus on ‘Mountain flower’, a Brazilan flavoured piece (though from a folkloric baiao rhythm rather than the usual bossa nova take and all the better for it) the craggy tenor solo from Idris Rahman combined with Latin vamps from pianist Nick Ramm comes off a treat. Elsewhere ‘Levante’ hints strongly at Spain with a fine flamenco guitar solo and this is a truly wonderful way to start the album on a high while Venezuelan rhythms surface on ‘La sonrisa picara’ (’The mischievous smile’) which has a most unusual signature tune and is augmented by another flamenco-inspired guitar. More conventional, but still infectious is the 3/4 time paced samba ‘Temba’ with effective use of Brazilian percussion, fine vamping from Ramm and some soulful saxophone licks courtesy of Ingrid Laubrock. To indicate how wide ranging this collective really are South African gospel hues are revealed on ‘Sherpa song’ with the music of Abdullah Ibrahim being conjured up as a result. Overall a nice summation of a variety of Latin music styles which could accordingly be developed in more depth on future releases. The only minor gripe this writer has with the CD is the actual cover which does not sufficiently indicate the Latin flavours on offer inside and verges on the gaudy. Otherwise a fascinating take on Latin music and one that is deserving of wider attention. Tim Stenhouse

Various ‘Lack of Afro: one way remixes and rarities’ (Freestyle) 2CD 4/5

Summertime grooves galore on this dancefloor-imbued compilation from Lack of Afro founder aka remixer extraordinaire Adam Gibbons. The tracks work best on the Latin fusion flavours on ‘Polonio’ by Los Manolos v Lack of Afro where Latin and reggae drum and guitar patterns combine effortlessly while go-go style percussion is in evidence on the reworking of the Ray Camacho and the Tear Drops’ ‘Si se puede’. More classical Brazilian rhythms are to be found on ‘Bossa for bebo’ by Flow Dynamics where, if there is a Brazilian undercurrent to the vocals, then the keyboards are straight out of the Joao Donato piano repertoire. Pan Latin flavours emerge on ‘Borken samba’. However, Afro and nu-soul influences are apparent elsewhere as on Mr Confuse’s ‘Lookout weekend’ for the former where Afro-Beat meets Santana head on while ‘Idle time’ by the New Mastersounds could be the template for an Erykah Badu instrumental. Expect around two hours of musical métissage mayhem. When warmer temperatures return to our shores, make sure this is on your summer listening schedule. Tim Stenhouse

Hilton Felton ‘The best of Hilton Felton’ (Jazzman) CD/LP/Digital (3/5)

Keyboardist Hilton Felton comes across as an equivalent of Jackie Mittoo for the jazz world, yet was sufficiently well respected to have performed with Grant Green. This collaboration immediately springs to mind when one hears the eight and a quarter minute jazzy groover that is ‘Spreading fever’. With its use of rhythm guitar, hammond organ and heavy percussion, it recalls in style Green’s epic rendition of the James Brown classic ‘Ain’t it funky now’. There is no questioning whatsover about the calibre of the musicianship on this release with delicious guitar licks on the nine minute ‘Bee bop boogie’ which, far from being be-bop jazz infused, is rather a Latin-tinged ditty with Felton playing on what sounds like a fender rhodes. However, only five tracks are present on this anthology which totals less than forty minutes. Given the extensive discographical details in the expansive and excellent sleeve notes, one needs to ask why these othewise fine tracks were not coupled with others (or at the very least one of Felton’s albums). As it stands, this is only a partial overview of the musician and a far more comprehensive selection of material is urgently required. In terms of content alone, the release merits a 4, but only receives a 3 because of the paucity of time for what purports to be a ‘Best of’ collection, but in reality only covers a tiny fraction of the keyboardist’s output.

Tim Stenhouse

Owen Marshall ‘The naked truth’ (Jazzman) CD/LP + 7″/download (4/5)

Among unrecognised jazz musicians, multi-instrumentalist Owen Marshall is a name that will not be found in any authoritative jazz guide and yet, like many musicians of his kind, his aesthetic contribution to music far outweighs any commercial considerations. Part of the Jazzman ‘Holy Grail’ series, with a bonus brace of 45s for vinyl purchasers (both contained on the CD), Marshall comes across as an in-between of the spiritual early-mid 1970s sounds of Pharoah Sanders with hints of Sun Ra and, perhaps, more frequently Alice Coltrane on keyboards. Underpinning the majority of album tracks is a driving, percussive rhythm section. Owen Marshall doubles up on electric piano and flute on ‘Planet funk’ which is more subtle than its title would at first suggest and features laid back fender bass playing and a delicate electric piano solo from Ernest Slaughter. Both Alice and John Coltrane are evoked on separate pieces with the former’s echoey electric piano surely influencing Marshall on ‘Nana’s sleeping’ while the bassline to ‘Casa del soul’ sounds distinctly like that of Coltrane’s ‘Love supreme’. On the two bonus cuts Marshall sounds as though he is playing baritone saxophone on ‘Grunt-uh-uh-uh’ and this has a funkier feel to the rest while he peforms on flute on ‘Evolove’. Since no discography is provided in the brief notes, either as sideman or leader, one can only presume that this recording was not preceded by any others. Owen Marshall earned his living primarily as both a live performer, having played with the likes of Jimmy Garrison and McCoy Tyner, trumpeter Ted Curson and tenorist Jimmy Heath among others, and as a composer. In this latter role he composed two pieces on the debut Blue Note album for Lee Morgan as well as other pieces for Jackie McLean, Max Roach and Horace Silver. One day greater light will be shed on his collaborations with the aforementioned artists. For the time being this excellent re-issue of an extremely rare and limited original vinyl will suffice. A one-off musician with a clear vision of his craft. Tim Stenhouse

Madredeus ‘Essência’ (Eter/Sony) 4/5

Portugese folk, but not fado, is normally seldom heard outside the Iberian peninsular, but in the case of Madredeus they have become internationally recognised, thanks in no small part to their participation in the Wim Wenders’ 1990s film and cinematic homage to the capital ‘Trip to Lisbon’. Now some fifteen years later and the line-up has changed substantially with only of the two founding members remaining and a new lead singer in Beatriz Nunes. However, the distinctive sound is immediately identifiable and the fusion of classical and Portugese folkloric sounds just as intoxicating as it ever did. Possibly the strongest piece and one that will serve to promote the album as a whole is the driving ‘Palpitiçao’ with heightened tension create by the clever use of guitar and collective strings, and in particular the inventive trombone sound effect on cello. Nunes possesses an almost angelic sounding voice and uses this to the full on the opener ‘Ao longe o mar’ and her delicate vocals are showcased to perfection on ‘O Paraiso’. The mournful ‘Amanha’ with extended string passages is beautifully performed by the instrumentalists. For a change of mood ‘A estrada da Montanha’, with a guitar-led intro and use of organ is a mid-tempo number that is an absolute winner and more of this style from Madredeus would be most welcome. If one had to make once criticism of the album, then it would probably be that there is an imbalance between the quieter paced numbers and the uptempo ones, but long-time fans will doubtless not be concerned by such trivia. For those new to the group, a fine introduction to a formation that sounds as committed as ever. Exquisitely crafted and refined music. Tim Stenhouse

Laurinda Almeida-Bud Shank Quartet ‘Brazilliance vol 1 +2’ (Poll Winners Records) 5/5

This superb package groups together two original World Pacific LPs from 1954 and 1958 respectively and effectively chronicles what was the formative period of Brazilian samba-based rhythms and jazz music fusion for what would eventually become known as bossa nova. In fact the sounds contained herein pre-date the bossa era and as such provide an invaluable insight into composers before the likes of Jobim and Bonfa.These include the great Brazilian songsmith Ary Barroso, pianist-composer Radamés Gnattali and major exponents of the north-eastern Brazilian roots music, Luis Gonzaga and Pixinguinha. All have their songs showcased here. The initial project started when Brazilian guitarist Almeida and bassist Harry Babasin performed as a duo on the Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood and the latter had the idea of adding drums and a horn. The drummer in question just happened to be Roy Harte who was co-founder of Pacific Jazz records and the rest is history. Laurinda Almeida provides the majority of original compositions on offer and they are more akin to Brazilian folk music (that includes choros and changing beat patterns which adds to the interest) with the strong presence of one Almeida’s major influences, classical guitarist Andrés Segovia. Key tracks include Gnattali’s pernnnial ‘Atabaque’, Barosso’s ‘Terra séca’ and a lovely take on the American songbook standard ‘Speak low’. A change in personnel in the rhythm section is present on the second album with Gary Peacock on bass and Chuck Flores on drums replacing the previous incumbents. Both Almeida and Shank were more confident in their writing talents and consequently it was a mainly original list of numbers with Rodgers and Hart’s ‘Little girl blue’ and ‘I didn’t know what time it was’ only two of the three standards covered. Of the originals, ‘Nocturno’ and ‘Mood Antigua’ impress above all. Extremely generous timing and excellent, lengthy and incisive interviews with Bud Shank from 2008 and original review comments from the legendary Down Beat review. The only minor criticism one can make is why was the vol. 2 original cover (aka ‘Holiday in Brazil’) not placed on the front CD sleeve, so evocative is it of Brazilian folklore. This is merely to quibble with what is an unbeatable value release that plays as cool as the very best Brazilian jazz, but has a slightly different feel from bossa nova and yet is no less enticing for that.

Tim Stenhouse

Art Pepper ‘Meets the Rhythm Section’ (Poll Winners Records) 4/5

One of altoist Art Pepper’s most loved and respected albums, ‘Meets the Rhythm Section’, an encounter with no less than the then recently dissolved Miles Davis rhythm section, this superlative recording is paired with a lesser known item that dates from a year previous in 1956 with some of the top Hollywood musicians. The former is the stronger of the two releases and features a classic selection of the American songbook, some relatively recent for the time at least jazz standards and one original composition in ‘Straight life’ that would virtually become a signature tune for Pepper and be the title of his warts and all autobiography, one of the most candid accounts by any musician all genres included. Needless to say the msuical accompaniment from the likes of Red Garland on piano, Paul Chambers on bass (who also co-wrote with Pepper ‘Waltz me blues’) and drummer Philly Joe Jones is a dream to behold and Pepper positively revels in the company. Thus a terrific ‘Tin tin deo’, a lilting ‘You’d be so nice to come home to’ and a seductive ‘The man I love’ are just three highlights of an outstanding set. For the second album, Pepper was under the leadership of pianist Marty Piach and his quartet featuring Pepper offers an excellent if altogether briefer in terms of soloing album. Mainly standards are covered, though Paich contributes three pieces including Sidewinder’ (not be confused with the later commercial classic from Lee Morgan) with ‘All the things you are’ and ‘You and the night and the music’ the picks of the bunch. No extras or alternate takes on the first album, but original sleeve notes and Down Beat reviews are included.

Tim Stenhouse

Count Basie ‘In London’ (Poll Winners Records) 4/5

The evocative cover with Basie surrounded on either side by Cockney pearly kings in splendid regalia is somewhat misleading; the original album was actually recorded in Sweden with two concerts in Gothenburg from September 1956.This is neatly coupled with the fine bonus of a radio broadcast from New York from two months later with a virtually identical line-up of the full Basie orchestra that includes Frank Foster on reeds, Freddie Green on guitar, Thad Jones on trumpet and Joe Williams on vocals. The latter excels on ‘Alright, okay, you win’ while the band swing effortlessly through a carefully selected set of largely Basie band composed classics such as ‘Shiny stockings’, ‘One o’clock jump’ and ‘Jumpin’ at the woodside’ along the odd standard. Three numbers are reprised on the radio concert with ‘Basie land’ and ‘Cherry point’ new additions. Extended new notes as well as the original comments and handily Gramophone and Down Beat reviews rightfully place the recording in its proper historical context.

Tim Stenhouse

Lester Young and Harry ‘Sweets’ Edison ‘Going For Myself’ (Poll Winners Records) 4/5

This release, a Verve Original LP from 1958, is noteworthy as it was lester Young’s last studio recording and therefore is an important historical document, especially since he is surrounded here by a crack formation. An all-star line-up features Oscar Peterson on piano, Herb Ellis on guitar, Ray Brown on bass and Louis Bellson on drums. On five of the numbers (including three alternate takes) Lou Stein alterantes with Oscar Peterson and drummer Mickey Sheen for Louis Bellson. The two separate sessions date from July 1957 and February 1958 and are essentially a classy selections of standards with three originals, two co-written by Young and Peterson and Edison. What is striking in these sessions is that Lester Young’s tenor sound is as warm as ever with outstanding interpretations of the Juan Tizol number ‘Perdido’, the Gershwin brothers’ ‘Love is here to stay’ while the original ‘Flic’ (French for ‘Cop’) is a fine piece. The Hollywood and New York recording settings does not contrast unduly and the two formations compliment one another. At just under seventy-six minutes this represents excellent value for money and needless to say the music itself is timeless. Original sleeve notes and Down Beat review.

Tim Stenhouse