Actor (theatre and cinema) and singer since the 1980s with a reputation of writing in-depth emotional songs, Marc Lavoine is a man of many talents, and his gruff voice and songwriting skills have proven a success with a niche audience in France. As a young singer making his was in the early 1980s, Lavoine scored a major hit with, ‘Elle a les yeux revolver'(‘She has revolver gun eyes’), and then hooked up with cult 1980s band singer, Catherine Ringer, for a duet on, ‘Qu’est-ce que tu es belle’ (‘How beautiful you are’). That romantic theme continued on a well received album from 1989, ‘Les amours du dimanche’ (‘Sunday loves’).
A recently acclaimed incursion into novel territory with his first book, ‘The man who lies’, which is a tribute to his father, became a best seller in 2016 and attracted a wider audience still. Not surprisingly for someone who has a theatrical background, poetic influences are not far from the surface and, ‘Elle est beau comme Rimbaud’, has a strong poetic quality, and for those with knowledge of French grammar, the title has been deliberately changed to the masculine adjective in order to rhyme with the poet’s name. If the voice is now well-worn, and may be an acquired taste to some as are the avowedly sentimental lyrics, then Lavoine at least compensates by deploying on occasion other, softer voices. In particular, that of his daughter is utilised here, and now a singer in her own right, Roman Lavoine, works well with her father as part of a harmony duo on the introspective lyrics to, ‘Le temps perdu’, Another duet is with a singer-songwriter familiar to these columns, Benjamin Biolay, and that duo, ‘Un chagrin n’arrive jamais seul (Alléluia)’ (A regret never happens on its own (Hallelujah)’, is the song that ends the album as a whole on an emotional high.
Now in his fifties, Marc Lavoine is enjoying a new lease of life in his professional career with acting roles in television series, and the thirty-two page CD-hardback book version is testimony to his love of both poetry, with Louis Aragon quoted, and photographic imagery.
Algerian chaâbi music simply refers to the popular music of the Maghreb and Machrek (North Africa plus Egypt, which share common musical roots), and it can be either rural or urban in character. This is very much a fusion of that genre with European classical strings, contemporary music and jazz improvisations. The leader of the group is Karim Maurice and the music was recorded in France, inspired by a chance encounter between musical director Amar Soulani and Maurice, who is best known as a jazz composer. A project was thus conceived to interpret the repertoire of the traditional songwriting talents of Sid Ahmed Belksier, with the support of a Lyon based string quartet, La Camerata. In North African musical culture, as with much of the Arabic and indeed even Persian (i.e. in Farsi) world, music and poetry tend to combine, with melodic love songs. Here, the world roots fusion encompasses three languages, Arabic, French and Spanish and composer Sid Ahmed is also the singer. typical of the album as a whole, ‘Alik Belana (‘Tale of lost love’) is a meditative, yet still uplifting number, with a Latin piano vamp (Latin music is very popular in the Maghreb. No less than Eddie Palmieri once toured there and Sephardic North African music sometimes combines elements of Latin piano). On the intro to, ‘Interlude’, there is a fine oud (quintessential North African percussion instrument, not dissimilar in function to the tabla in Indian classical, but with a distinctive sound nonetheless) solo, while, ‘Ya ladra’, is an impassioned plea to the parents of woman to ask for her hand in marriage. The subject matters revolves around matters of the heart and the accompanying music has a strong romantic and lyrical feel to it.
Beautifully packaged with a lavish inner sleeve, full lyrics and detailed discographical notes in Arabic, English and French, this is a worthy fusion of styles that works precisely because there is an understanding of and empathy with each of the respective cultures, and these blend together extremely well. Odradek, incidentally, is a US independent world roots label, and if this offering is anything to go by, then it would be well worth looking out for future releases.
We have been waiting for this album for what seems like such a long time. I stumbled over this group accidentally whilst trawling through YouTube some years ago, since then my love affair has grown along with the group’s sound. If this album doesn’t feature in people’s top tens at the end of the year then there will be no justice. It is without doubt the perfect album in every way from the stunning vocals and creative writing of Kam Franklin, a voice of immense power and ability to tell a story, and musicianship of the highest quality, with strings courtesy of Daphne Johnson on Cello, JD Karpicks on Viola, Shelli Mathews and Tony Sanville on Violin, Jon Durban on Trumpet and Michael Razo on Trombone, whilst one of my faves, the Wurlitzer, is masterfully played by Patrick Kelly, who also plays piano and Rhodes to boot. Add to that, Tito Martinez on Flute, an instrument we don’t hear enough of in soul circles, and we have one tight formation.
So what’s got me going then? In 1995, Frankie Knuckles provided us with what I believe to be his finest moment on the album “Welcome To The Real World”, with ‘You’re My Number One’ a moody synth heavy opus with torturous vocals from Adeva well, I got to tell you that “After the Storm” is straight out of that mould. An explosive mellow bass heavy monster with tinkling piano throughout trying to out do a vast vocal from Kam Franklin, and if that wasn’t enough, it features additional vocals from Lyle Divinsky who had a fabulous album out in 2015 which contains two wonderful moments in ‘Fallin’ and ‘The Way’ – do check it out. The rest of the album provides some fine moments, the mid tempo dancer, ‘Mammas’, should be gracing the 1210s everywhere and modern soul clubs should be banging this out, a floor filler without doubt, throw your head back, let your legs do the rest and wallow in some wonderful vocals and with trombone and trumpet blasting its way into your head, running keys and that thumping bass the sound suggests a cast of thousands, wonderful.
It should be noted at this juncture that Kam Franklyn wrote the lyrics for the bulk of this album, a very talented lady this. Musically the album kicks off the fine choppy 2 stepper, ‘I Think I Love You’, which has a very familiar feel about and it doesn’t take long to sink into your head and then straight into ‘Do Whatever’, which is a very classy head nodding stepper, once the chorus hits you it’s there, then in comes a Rag Time Trumpet, just so right. Another full-on dancer destined for serious reaction is ‘What You Said’, with heavy percussion, muted backing singers, guitar, bass, trombone – a true top sound for sure. There are two interludes on here now normally I would write them off but I can’t, they work perfectly and definitely have a place, in particular ‘A Word From Our Mammas’, which is exactly that, inspirational. Having now had the CD for some time, and anticipating the arrival of Vinyl, with digital out there too, you have little excuse in acquiring.
Here is a group that is best known for its work supporting others, most notably backing Elvis Presley, both at the beginning of his career, on his early 45s, and later on in the late 1960s when the Jordanaires provided harmony vocals on, ‘Heartbreak hotel’, The Jordanaires were a white gospel group with country influences who were founded back in the 1940s in Springfield, Missouri, and they became an integral part of what came to be known as the Nashville sound, backing countless singers from Johnny Cash through to Billy Swan. This re-issue combines two of their own albums, ‘Heavenly Spirit’ and ‘To God Be The Glory’, with a third recording that features Tennessee Ernie Ford. Stylistically, the sound is country-gospel, with re-arrangements of some the classic traditional gospel repertoire. Just like white country singers were listening across the tracks to black blues singers (and vice versa), so white gospel groups naturally ploughed the fertile terrain of African-American gospel. The recordings here date between 1958 and 1961, and songs such as, ‘Joshua Fit De Battle Of Jericho’ and a Thomas Dorsey composition, ‘Search Me Lord’, were the pick of the interpretations on the first album. That formula is pretty much repeated throughout, with, ‘Amazing Grace’ and, the evergreen, ‘Will he Circle Be Unbroken’, highlights of the second album. Possibly, the joint billing of Tennessee Ernie Ford on the third recording makes for a more diverse listening experience, though the religious lyrics keep on a coming, with, ‘Wondrous Love’ and ‘Where Could I Go’, the pick of the bunch. Interestingly, the original group were all brothers from the Mathers family, but two of these left in 1948 to become fully ordained ministers and were replaced by Bob Hubbard and Cully Holt. An additional pianist, Bob Money, was introduced, eventually replaced by Gordon Stoker, That formation is contained within and stayed together for many decades until the passing of ageing members finally caught up with the Jordanaires. By 1982, there had been several changes to the group membership and the Jordanaires were formally dissolved in 2013 after the death of Gordon Stoker, However, their music and influence will remain forever and they are, thankfully, permanent residents in the rock and roll hall of fame.
One of the unsung heroes (and there are many other worthy candidates) of modern blues music, John Brim was born in 1932 in Kentucky, but in truth his musical education began for real when he eventually moved to Chicago. In fact, Brim moved first to Indianapolis in 1941, before finally reaching the Windy City in 1945. This was part of a more general trend of a major migration of African-Americans from the southern states to the north, and, luckily for John, he arrived in Chicago just as the blues scene was exploding and, consequently, there was ample demand for blues musicians. Brim was heavily influenced by listening to 78s of his favourite bluesmen, and these included Tampa Red and Big Bill Bronzy. This collection brings together hard to find 45s from some of the key independent labels, Checker (a Chess offshoot), Fortune and Random. However, where this selection scores highly is in unearthing some previously unreleased songs, eight in total, and that alone makes this is a must have for devotees of modern blues music. Of course, John Brim is best known for one song in particular and that is the somewhat suggestive in tone, ‘Ice Cream Man’. Such was the controversy around the lyrics that the song, originally recorded in 1953, did not see the light of day commercially until 1969, when cultural mores had progressed somewhat and were more relaxed, and the hippie generation lapped it up. Another fine example of Brim’s craft is a song cut for Chess, ‘I Would Hate To See You’, from 1965, but it is important to stress that Brim did not record all of his music in the Windy City. Proof of this is given by some of the A and B sides featured here from Detroit in 1950 and St Louis in 1952. Given the paucity of information on any 45, Jasmine are to be commended for going that bit further and providing extra information, including some vital clues as to who the sidemen were. They included some of the very greatest musicians, from pianists of the calibre of Big Maceo, Sunny Boy Slim and Roosevelt Sykes, to other venerable artists such as Jimmy Reed, harmonica legend Little Walter and Robert Lockwood Jr. John. Only one song is missing from this collection that would have made a worth inclusion and that is, ‘Be Careful’. Otherwise, an impeccable choice of songs. Brim would later re-record, ‘Ice Cream Man’, a perennial favourite among blues lovers, after a prolonged absence from the studio. He passed away in 2003, aged seventy-nine.
One of the most talented of all French musicians and regarded by those in the know as having the same cult status that none other than David Bowie enjoyed in the UK (and not the only parallel between the two musicians), Michel Polnareff is a singularly creative and driven artist who has a panoramic vision of the world of music, and is not afraid to use external influences. They include those of the theatre and Polnareff possesses a seemingly encyclopedic knowledge of the evolution of pop music, from its very beginnings which he weaves into his musical lexicon. Stylistically, he began in the psychedelic rock innovations of the late 1960s, then moved into melodic pop in the early 1970s cutting three classic and cult studio albums (recently re-issued on vinyl), sometimes with a classical feel in the use of piano and guitar. Subsequently, Michel Polnareff sought exile in California where he soaked up yet more influences from blues and gospel to early rock and roll, then branched into film soundtracks (already begun in France) which have both the sophistication of a jazz arranger, and the layered textures of a classical composer/conductor. Polnareff then flirted briefly with disco, penning a stunning instrumental (one of several instrumentals showcased on this collection), straddled the early to mid-1980s synth-influenced music with aplomb, before retreating to a brief period of retirement during part of the 1990s. He then made a big splash in French music circles, with his ‘ ZE return’ to the concert scene in 2007 that was much feted in France and did not disappoint.
Those 1960s sides are handily supplemented by a variety of EPs and 45s that were not necessarily on the original albums, but his artistic claim to fame began in earnest with the cult collectors item, ‘Polnareffs’, from 1971, the start of a quartet of live and studio albums beginning with the start of his surname. In the mid-late 1970s, Brazilian singer-songwriter, Gilberto Gil, recorded a trio of albums starting with, ‘Re’. By then, his trademark white sunglasses (part style icon, part necessity because of damage caused to his sensitive eyes) and curly white hair distinguished him from just about everyone else in French music. David Bowie would use a similar device, namely the persona of Ziggy Stardust, on a series of critically acclaimed albums. There is no evidence whatsoever that either singer was copying the other, but the comparison between their evolution and musical chameleon status is an interesting one and worthy of note.
The 1971 album, ‘Polnareffs’, contained some truly innovative music with quirky titles, such as, ‘Qui a tué grand maman’ (‘Who killed grandma?’), ‘Né dans un ice cream’ (‘Born in an ice cream’), ‘On ira tous au paradis’ (‘We will all go to heaven), plus catchy instrumental tracks (Polnaraff would invariably record instrumental versions of his 45s) of the calibre of, ‘Voyages’ and, ‘Mais encore’. This writer detects a strong Brazilian influence on a sublime track, ‘La mouche’ (‘The fly’), which has sparse brass accompaniment and could easily have been written and performed by either Jorge Ben, or Gilberto Gil at the time. In fact, the box set is crammed with small gems that are just waiting to be discovered across the Channel.
Michel Polnareff courted controversy during the Pompidou presidency by putting out a provocative concert poster that exposed his nude buttocks and that scandalised certain parts of the establishment of French society at the time, much in the way Serge Gainsbourg liked to provoke outrage with his lascivious, ‘Décadanse’, single from the same era. Needless to say, the aforementioned poster attracted maximum publicity and ensured full houses for his concerts. The androgynous look espoused by Polnareff led to accusations by some (which proved to be totally unfounded) that he was gay. Polnareff responded in typical fashion with a song, ‘Je suis un homère’. He followed this album up with an equally strong recording in, ‘Polnarévolution’ (1972), that has one of his most beautiful songs in, Le bal des Laze’, while. ‘Love me please love me’, was a clear illustration that Polnareff was listening intently to music from the English-speaking world. His mastery of early blues and jazz was demonstrated on, ‘Boogie woogie’, and in concert, Polnareff would regularly feature a reinterpretation of either an early rock and roll number, or a blues. A live album, ‘Polnarêves’, was just one of a series of live performances that resume his work from a given period, but always added something new into the mix. Completing the quartet of early 1970s albums is, ‘Polnarêve’ (1974 and distinguishable from its predecessor as the studio version minus the ‘s’ on the end of the title), which contained yet more instant classics in, ‘I love you because’, ‘La fille qui rêve de moi’, and, ‘L’homme qui pleuvait des larmes’ (‘The man who cried tears’). This album also contained one of his most beautiful ballads in the pared down acoustic, ‘Rosy’.
By the mid-1970s, Michel Polnareff was becoming disillusioned with life in France and this became a full-scale divorce from his native land over a tax dispute which later was proven to be another accusation without foundation. Was the French establishment at the time out to discredit and marginalised Polnareff, perhaps? The musician left to start a new life in California, adapting to a new musical environment with a classy film soundtrack, ‘Lipstick’, that just happened to coincide with the ascension of the disco phenomenon. While never an integral part of that, Polnareff nevertheless composed and recorded the memorable title track that hit big in the discothèques and, indeed, many American and British music fans of the period knew him primarily as a dance music composer. His disgust with officialdom in his native country was expressed with due passion in a single (1977), ‘Lettre à France’, that became a hit 45. Throughout the decade, Polnareff toured extensively and, fortunately some of these concerts were recorded for posterity. Of genuine historical interest are the two 1967 performances at the Olympia in Paris and the Palais de beaulieu in Lausanne, Switzerland. The singer would return frequently to his favoured Parisian abode of l’Olympia in 1972 (he filled the concert hall for just over a fortnight on consecutive nights), and an extremely rare concert in Tokyo was an illustration that Polnareff was intent on conquering new markets and not resting on his laurels with merely a francophone audience. Further live recordings, spanning two CDs from a 1975 Brussels performance and a live television studio performance from 1982 kept Polnareff’s name alive even when his albums might dry up. Of particular note is his excellent 1995 live concert at the Roxy in Los Angeles. This was the very same venue where rock and even jazz musicians (Donald Byrd in his jazz fusion prime) would seek to perform. It does not appear to be the case that Michel Polnareff performed live in the UK, though a tiny public lapped up those early 1970s albums and singles.
The box set is creatively designed like a rectangular hardback book, with CDs that pop out and a slick and slim booklet that offers an historical guide to his recordings. Plenty of colourful photographs of the artist, with inner notes on some of the key musicians that have accompanied him. Two small caveats that completists may have already spotted. His non-hit song, ‘Jojo’ is missing, due to a copyright issue, which is a pity since it merits inclusion. However, so much has been included in such a bumper festival of Polnareff’s music that is either impossible to find (live Japanese recordings), or else has been unissued, that one can hardly quibble with the quantity of music, and more importantly, it is the consistently high quality of that same music that showcases this immensely gifted musician who was equally adept on guitar, or piano. His ‘return’ to the concert scene in 2007 was much feted in France and did not disappoint. Polnareff’s continued ability to be a musical chameleon and constantly evolve while retaining his integrity, and still appealing to a large public is what makes him the great musician that he is. For those with an intermediate level knowledge of French, a Belgian television documentary that can be found on You Tube, is essential viewing and entitled, ‘Quand l’écran s’allume’.
This is in fact a collaborative project with the Institut Français in Nigeria which played a key role in the projects. The underlying idea was to redefine the legacy of Fela Ransome Kuti for a different and younger audience, and one accustomed to a culture of dance remixes and re-edits. The versions of classic Fela compositions here are significantly reduced in length, but has a touch of authenticity added with both sons Femi and Seun Kuti participating. It is something of a hit and miss affair when listened to as a whole and is probably of greatest interest to DJ’s who may wish to cherry pick from the songs, whereas casual listeners may wish to experience it in multiple and reduced listening sessions.
The music works best when the emphasis is firmly on the horns and beats, as with ‘Beast Of No Nation’, with the vocals of Seun Kuti offering a fresh perspective on matters. Likewise, the 1970’s retro feel and disco beat to ‘Opposite People’, with Femi Kuti in attendance works a treat. Other vocalists have their own distinctive take such as Noraa, who deploys the kind of vocal gymnastics on ‘Zombie’, that a young Bobby McFerrin might have relished. Where the music becomes more predictable and a tad repetitive to these ears, however, is when handclaps and beat box predominate, with repeated vocal chants that take the place of acoustic instrumentation, and this is where something of the very essence of Fela is sadly lost in translation. All is not lost, though, and the pared down acoustic sound and female vocals of Nneka impress on ‘Look And Laugh’. A previous legacy project by Leeroy focused more generally on West African music remixes, ‘African Trip’, and there has even been a nod to Indian soundtracks on ‘Bollywood Trip’, so there is some previous awareness of how dance music and world roots traditions can blend harmoniously.
Whenever Tamuz Nissim sings, you’re immediately transported to a magical place. No matter what she sings, she is just so charming, you cannot but become enamoured with her lush voice, and her as a person.
With her third album, ‘Echo of a Heartbeat’, she once again delights us with her scatting and vocalese. The album includes covers as well as two original songs (‘My World’ and ‘Echo of a Heartbeat’), all of which she puts her own spin on it. She is joined by virtuoso and her long-time partner Giorgos Nazos on guitar, bassist Harvie S who needs no introduction, Tony Jefferson on drums and pianist extraordinaire James Weidman, who performed with the no less Abbey Lincoln.
Right from the first track, Jim Croce’s memorable ‘Time in a Bottle’, listeners are thrown into C-jazz. We can so easily imagine a smoky atmosphere where Tamuz Nissim would stand on stage and fill the space with her sultry voice. James Weidman offers us a lively solo before Tamuz ends the tune with some scatting, which is part of her uniqueness. She carries it through to the next track, in the upbeat ‘Fried Bananas’ and she is so good at it, you wonder why songs would ever need lyrics at all.
The mainly instrumental and original ‘My World’ offers a brilliant repartee between the piano and the other instruments and James Weidman shows us how easy it is for him to adapt to any style. Tamuz’s voice is so smooth and possesses that bewitching quality jazz divas are blessed with.
‘Just Squeeze Me’ is another instrumental take on the famous jazz standard. The bass’ low growl is simply a perfect fit and introduction to Tamuz Nissim’s scat and teasing vocals. ‘In the Melody’s Shade’ is a cool and smooth tune that includes a short velvety solo from the bass, while on ‘Groovin’ High’, one of Gillespie’s best-known hits, listeners are treated to more scatting and more bass display. The tune itself is particularly playful and Tamuz’s voice is coquettish. She has a real knack for tailoring her voice to the melodies.
On the title track, ‘Echo of a Heartbeat’, Nazos performs a solo guitar which is as trance-like as the beats of a heart. We can really perceive his sensitivity on this track and it is a bit of a pity we don’t hear more of him on the album. ‘Smile’, Chaplin’s final song from Modern Times, has to be my favourite track on the album. I so much enjoy Tamuz Nissim’s soft vocals, the warm guitar, the tempo and the song’s lyrics of hope.
There is musical empathy throughout the album. Tamuz exudes radiance; she is a profoundly talented singer who demonstrates a very expressive vocal palette. All in all, ‘Echo of a Heartbeat’ is an enchanting album which will put a smile on your face from the first listen.
If the ongoing series has thrown up some terrific and long-lost albums by individual musicians that have now finally been made available on CD, then this homing in on a given instrument equally affords the listener the opportunity to hear some of the greatest jazz bassists surrounded by crème de la crème accompanists. Once again, this include both famous albums and some far more obscure ones that, in all probability, have never been reissued previously in any format.
For the latter, ‘Leroy Walks!’, by Leroy Vinegar is one of those stunning west coast albums from the 1950’s that nonetheless has transcended both time and sub-genre to be regarded as an all-time classic. Originally released on Contemporary in 1957, the sextet album is full of lyrical mid-paced numbers such as, ‘On The Sunny Side Of The Street’, and that relaxed feel is repeated on the piano and vibes plus bass on, ‘I’ll Walk Alone’ and, the collective reeds that operate so effectively on, ‘Walk on’. Leroy Vinegar was best known as a sideman, but this outstanding example of him as a leader should be in the possession of every modern jazz fan and simply has not dated. The inclusion of tenorist Teddy Edwards, at a much later date to be the favoured saxophonist of Tom Waits on his 1970s albums.
Dating from around the same period, ‘Soulnik’, by Doug Watkins is notable in that Watkins only recorded two sessions as a leader and was at the time a member of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers (1955/1956). This quintet album features a then young Yusef Lateef and that is a major attraction on numbers such as, ‘Confessin” and ‘André’s Bag’, which are in the hard bop idiom. Sadly, Doug Watkins would die in 1962 and the world of jazz was deprived of any further recordings by a major practitioner of the art.
An extremely hard to find original album on vinyl is by one of the greatest ever exponents of the bass in Paul Chambers. His 1960 Vee-Jay recording, ‘First Bassman’, is very much in that late 1950s hard bop vein with Yusef Lateef on tenor saxophone, Tommy Turrentine on trumpet, Curtis Fuller on trombone, Wynton Kelly on piano and Lex Humphries on drums. Indeed, but for the recording sound, this could easily have been one of the classic Blue Note albums of the period. Chambers was in his prime here and still an integral member of the classic Miles Davis quintet that recorded, ‘Kind Of Blue’. The use of collective horns features prominently throughout and a stand out track is, ‘Melody’, with a fiery trumpet solo by Turrentine, another musician who is seldom heard in anything other than a sideman role.
Arguably, the most challenging of the four albums contained within, though now sounding very much a part of the progressive side of modern jazz history is ‘Where?’ by Ron Carter dating from 1961, where Carter alternates between bass and cello with a second bassist in George Duvivier. At this point in time, Ron Carter was still some three years off becoming a part of the new Miles Davis mid-1960s quintet, but had already performed with the likes of Jaki Byard and Chico Hamilton. This was in fact Carter’s debut album as a leader, and reflected his eclectic musical tastes that ranged from modern jazz through to western classical. A stellar cast included multi-reedist Eric Dolphy and pianist Mal Waldron, both of whom had previously recorded with John Coltrane and this well versed in music that was taking on board new orbits. Unquestionably the music here has a much freer and more improvised feel than on the other albums, with Dolphy sounding imperious on bass clarinet, flute and alto saxophone. Both Carter and Duvivier come together on the aptly titled, ‘Bass Duet’, while the title track has more of a classical feel, with Waldron stretching out. A real highlight is the interpretation of ‘Softly As In A Morning Sunrise’ with a cello motif of the main theme as the intro, and then leading into the alto saxophone of Dolphy who is in surprisingly relaxed mode on this mid-tempo reading. An uplifting take on, ‘Yes Indeed!’ rounds off a memorable album and one that to this day sounds quite unlike any other.
As with Avid pairings exceedingly good value timing, impeccable repackaging of covers, and all this quality at a budget price. An ideal way to widen your knowledge of jazz history without breaking the bank in the process.
As the British jazz scene witnesses a new influx of talent, the name of multi-keyboardist Joe Armon-Jones should not be overlooked. He has featured recently on the excellent overview of the London jazz scene, ‘We out here’, and this new mini album comprising six tracks is an ideal introduction to his craft. Once again, some of the premier young Turks are on board to make this an enjoyable musical journey and these include drummer Moses Boyd, trumpeter Dylan Jones, guitarist Oscar Jerome, members of the Ezra Collective, and not forgetting the talented tenor saxophonist, Nubya Garcia. On selected numbers, various guest vocalists are present including Ella May and Asheber, to name but two.
The delicate use of keyboards by the leader is a feature throughout and a likely candidate for song to reach a wider audience, and one, moreover, that is incredibly soulful in approach is, ‘Almost Went Too Far’, which comes across as though it might have been a long-lost Stevie Wonder composition from his creative period in the early-mid 1970s. Collective vocals and minor chords on Fender Rhodes make this a definite album highlight and possibly the song most likely to garner airplay. However, as with several of the other musicians on the scene at present, Joe Armor-Jones has soaked up multiple musical influences that include reggae dub, dance music as well as jazz, and this is perfectly illustrated on the driving instrumental number, ‘Mollison Dub’, which is notable for the sparseness of the bass line, the lovely dub sound effects, and this time the leader on wurlitzer, all creating a spaced out atmosphere. Guitarist Jerome takes the limelight on ‘London’s Face’, with a memorable and repetitive riff, and this writer warmed to the subtle use of muted brass in the background. As for the title track, vocalist Asheber has a jazz-inflected voice which works well in tandem with the instrumentation that has an early house feel in the inventive drums underneath and the heavy bass line on top. It is Armor-Jones himself who is the focus of attention on ‘Ragify’, with excellent brass support and the vocals of Big Sharer. The album ends on a melodic high with the moody vignette, ‘Outro (Fornow)’, a clear indication that there is a good deal more to come from this talented musician. Attention should be paid also to the digipak sleeve which, as it unfolds, reveals in the form of a graphic illustration, some of the key albums that have informed Joe Armor-Jones’ musical thinking and development. A fine debut.