Bheki Mseleku ‘Celebration’ Gatefold 180g 2LP Remastered Deluxe Edition (Matsuli Music) 5/5

1993 it was, I remember the year well. There was so much creativity around the UK with the music, the richness and birth of so much new music and artists were bubbling away; many of whom we are still fortunate to be listening to today. June 28 on a Monday evening to be precise. The name Bheki Mseleku had been thrown in to just about every conversation with his CD/Cassette releases ’Meditations’ and ‘Celebration’ on the shelves, not to mention appearing on Courtney Pine’s “The Holy Grail” beside Keith Waite, and he was performing not but a stone’s throw away from home. The British music magazines had already picked up on him as far back as 1987 with The Wire featuring him not only on the cover but an extensive story therein with yet another profile in 1994, whilst Melvyn Bragg was to feature Bheki on his ‘The South Bank Show’. There was even mention of Bheki being “frustrated” with record companies in Straight No Chaser magazine, offering subscribers a free copy of ‘Meditations’ and suggesting “his audience must have walked away with goosebumps” after visiting the Bath Festival. There was much love for Bheki on his arrival to England with hope of him signing to Talkin’ Load records after the Mercury Award ceremony. Yes, those with the ears to the ground knew all too well how proficient this man was. Bheki was finding himself on stage at venues like The Oval House, for whom he worked, 100 Club, Club 606, Bass Clef, The Orange, Ronnie Scott’s (Ronnie himself was to help promote the name was such his personal enthusiasm), Warwick Arts Centre, and so on. His collaborations with Chris McGregor, Louis Moholo, Ernest Mothle, Steve Argüelles, Marvin “Smitty” Smith, Pharaoh Sanders, Steve Williamson and Abbey Lincoln are widely noted and the gift from Alice Coltrane of her husband’s mouthpiece (which he was devastated in having stolen from home), used in the recording of ‘A Love Supreme’ is all anyone needs to read to acknowledge his standing, and respect by many, within the jazz community, then and now.

‘Celebration’ was Bheki’s first British recording (having worked in South Africa with bands like The Drive), on Nick Gold’s World Circuit label. Recorded during ’91 and ’92, it brought together Thebe Lipere, Courtney Pine, Michael Bowie, Jean Toussaint, Steve Williamson, 
Eddie Parker and Marvin “Smitty” Smith, “I’ve done a lot of records” Marvin said, “maybe 350 recordings in my career and I’m telling you there’s only really a handful that, personally for me, where I felt like there was a real spirit in the room, and that was one of them.” A truly wonderful band, and what was to be the album, has never been anything less than remarkable. Ten pieces all shining brightly, with the title track opening proceedings; a spiritual absorbance lifted by the warmth of South African heritage, saxophone, piano and subtly vocals by Bheki set the ground and attentive ears dismissing distractions. John Fordham was to recall Bheki saying “I feel if I evolve spiritually, the music will have more depth. Maybe even from one note, like Pharoah [Sanders] does.” A dedication to both Bud Powell and John Coltrane build the bigger picture with “Supreme Love’ slightly edging over the other nine tracks in preference. The beautiful ‘One For All – All For One’ piano work by Bheki is adorably South African in sound, and such a delight to hear time and time again. Each composition differs greatly to each other, the impact on its first release was a landmark moment and so timely this reissue, as the tenth anniversary of his death in September 2008 passes. His leaving this world lead Tiiseto Makube to call him the “Intergalactic Genius of Jazz”. To have a masterpiece pressed in this deluxe format comes as a statement to the longevity of his music, the overwhelming admiration for Bheki and the current lust for carefully reproduced albums, so grateful for the opportunity to hear this monumental album on vinyl, for it be be ‘regenerated’, and Mseleku’s legacy to once more attract new ears, becomes somewhat emotional. So much so that Nduduzo Makhathini, who has been carrying the Bheki torch alongside Eugene Skeef, with various concerts and a recent talk at Stellenbosch’s Fismer Hall, as partial fulfilment of the degree in Masters of Music, has written ‘Encountering Bheki Mseleku: A Biographical-Analytical Consideration of his Life and Music’. Afrika Mkhize arranged a big band tribute to Bheki Mseleku back in 2015, Sibusiso Mashiloane has delved into the repertoires of Bheki Mseleku this year alongside Andile Yenana and Moses Molelekwa during his performance at the Cape Town Jazz Festival and there has even been a Bheki Mseleku tribute band.

Over the past 25 years of listening to Bheki Mseleku’s music, reading and researching, I cannot recall a year where these ears have not been engaged in ‘Celebration’. I am encouraged to hear new musicians embracing the sound and the wider public embracing the music, now on vinyl, for it rarely gets any better than this.

Steve Williams

Various ‘So Much, So Quickly: British Modern Jazz Pianists 1948-62’ 2CD (Acrobat Music) 4/5

With the current so-called ‘British jazz explosion’ capturing wider media attention. it is instructive to take a deep breath, detach oneself from the hype and revisit some of the great British jazz exploits of the past in order to determine whether a new generation duly match up. This anthology of modern jazz pianist is fixed in time between the arrival of the be-bop phenomenon in the UK after WWII and the beginning of the 1960s. While, this writer would question the cut off mark of 1962 (it could, however, be justified if a volume two were in preparation, but as it stands, there was a good deal of fine British jazz piano post-1962 so why not go through to 1969 or beyond?), there is no doubting the quality of the musicianship and some lesser known pianist alongside those internationally renowned is just one of the charms of this extremely well packaged and informative compilation. The anthology notes are right to insist upon the influence that the be-bop revolution in the United States exerted on young British jazz musicians and this was most certainly reflected in British jazz pianists falling for the stylistic charms of a Monk, Garner, or Garland.

Two early modernists made their careers predominantly in the US, but nonetheless started in the UK. These are the London born and blind pianist George Shearing and Ralph Sharon, the latter of whom would later find fame as the close accompanist and collaborator of singer Tony Bennett. Indeed, Sharon latter features on a rare Esquire recording from 1948, with a young Ronnie Scott in attendance on, ‘Idabop’, while Shearing performs a soothing, ‘The man from Mintons’, from the same year on Decca. Given the age of the earliest sides, this anthology offers unbeatable value, grouping together music that is near impossible to find unless you have a jazz loving grandparent. A real discovery to these ears is Eddie Thompson whose 1956 trio offering, ‘Moveable’, is a sheer delight, and it is of note that Thompson, strongly influenced by Red Garland, was blind from birth. Another new name to this scribe is Alan Branscombe who dabbles in Latin Americana (an exotic detour from the dreary reality of life in 1950s Britain, which still endured rationing for several years after the end of hostilities) on the mid-tempo, Autumn in Cuba’, interpreted as a hard-bop piece with Tubby Hayes and Tony Crombie just two of the accompanists. A third Brit who would seek fame and fortune across the pond during the 1950s was Victor Feldman, who distinguished himself on vibes also, and he joins the Ronnie Scott quartet in 1954 on, ‘Fools rushin’.

The second CD is quite short (both weigh in at just over one hundred minutes, plenty of space to showcase more of the excellent pianists) at just over fifty minutes, like the first, but has some stellar names in their early prime. Dudley Moore was a virtuoso pianist and, ‘I get a kick out of you’ (1962), receives a brisk reading, with driving bass line. Gordon Beck was that most supportive of pianists and never received his due (see the previous anthology review on him) and, as part of the Tubby Hayes quartet, performs on a 1962, ‘In the night’, with Hayes a delight on soprano saxophone, while Beck is distinguished and elegant on piano. Blues influences permeate the efforts of John Burch who performs alongside tenor saxophonist, Don Rendell in the leader’s new quintet and together they excel on, ‘Manumission’ (1961), with altoist Graham Bond in attendance. Harry South made his name as a big band leader (recording with, among others, Georgie Fame), but was a gifted pianist in his own right and is heard in lesser known trio format on, ‘All the things you are’ (1960). A fine standard rendition from a virtually unknown pianist comes from Norman Stenfalt whose refined interpretation of Ellington’s, ‘Drop me off in Harlem, was later covered by, of all musicians, Sun Ra. Other names worthy of your attention include Pat Smythe who was a regular pianist with the Joe Harriott quintet, Colin Purbrook and Bill Le Sage.

It is important to give credit to compiler Simon Spillett whose attention to detail and supplementary graphical illustrations with black and white photos of the protagonists and individual biographies in the twenty-eight page booklet is exemplary. This is a clear illustration of how jazz should be afforded the same degree of reverence that western classical music devotees have long taken for granted.

Tim Stenhouse

Ernesto Cervini’s Turboprop ‘Abundance’ (Anzic) 4/5

The first question that came to my mind was why name your band after a turbine engine? This release from the master percussionist features his regular group of Joel Frahm on tenor saxophone, Tara Davidson on alto and soprano saxophones and flute, William Carn on trombone, Adrean Farrugia at the piano and Dan Loomis on bass. The album builds on the success of the group’s first outing, the JUNO nominated ‘Rev’. It includes three jazz standards in the collection together with original material from within the band.

The album gets its title from the gratitude that the leader feels “for the abundance of good that there is in the world” and which he is “privileged to experience every day”. ‘Abundance’ describes the purpose and feeling behind the Canadian drummer’s latest production. This is a collective effort from all involved. The opening track, ‘The Queen’, is a multifaceted piece of writing from Davidson and is full of interest, the leader’s drums ensuring the momentum of the piece. In marked contrast, the next piece is Tadd Dameron’s classic ‘Tadd’s Delight’, and is truly a delight from start to finish. Just as I thought things couldn’t get any better, along comes an intriguing arrangement of ‘My Shining Hour’. This is almost a call and response between the frontline and the rhythm section, with fragments of the tune surfacing momentarily and tantalizingly. A three-minute tour de force. After such high jinks the following track is a real gear change and is a wonderful showcase for Carn on the Charlie Chaplin tune ‘Smile’. ‘Abundance Overture’ opens with the leader showing his prowess behind the drums and he is soon joined by flute, tenor and trombone for a very engaging theme statement. Thereafter, the bassist digs deep to set up a wonderful groove. ‘The Ten Thousand Things’ opens with a magnificent bass feature, before the bassist once more sets up a hypnotic rhythm over which the frontline works its magic. This is somehow both powerful and yet intensely delicate musicianship. The feel changes again mid-way through when the pianist produces a pensive, brooding solo, eventually building in intensity until the frontline return for a turbocharged outing. Delicate brushwork from the leader introduces ‘Gramps’ before the frontline join him and we are soon treated to a thoughtfully introspective alto saxophone feature on this wonderful ballad. ‘Song for Cito’ is another fine tune with more great work from the trombonist and is a lovely way to bring the album to a close.

This is a powerfully melodic album. I particularly enjoyed the unusual voicings given to the frontline throughout. I can hear echoes of Ellington, Basie and others in the writing for this stellar ensemble. After listening to the music offered here, I now know why Cervini chose to call his group after the venerable turbine engine.

Alan Musson

June Christy ‘Four Classic Albums’ 2CD (Avid Jazz) 4/5

Jazz singer June Christy belonged to the 1950s ‘cool school’ and came of age during a period when vocal jazz was reaching its popular zenith. Her early influences included Anita O’Day and inevitable comparisons will be made with Peggy lee. However, by the mid-1950s when Christy was already thirty and had a fully matured voice, the singer had worked with the big band orchestra of Stan Kenton and for four years running had topped the Downbeat jazz magazine poll as ‘best singer in the big band category’. A first 10″ solo album surfaced in 1954, re-issued a year later in the new 12″ LP format. However, on this 2-CD set, the story begins in 1955 with the seminal, ‘Something cool’, with fine renditions of the Great American Songbook such as, ‘Softly as in a morning sunrise’, ‘It could happen to you’, and, ‘Midnight sun’. Orchestrations were expertly arranged and conducted by Pete Rugolo. That partnership continued successfully on, ‘The Misty Miss Christy’ from 1956, which is arguably the most consistent of the four recordings, following the same formula as its predecessor with another winning selection of standards including, ‘That’s all’, ‘For all we know’, and, ‘A lovely way to spend an evening’. The cream of West coast musicians were on board with Shelly Manne on drums, Pete Condoli and Maynard Ferguson on trumpet, Bud Shank on alto saxophone, and Laurinda Almeida on guitar. Naturally, commercial success demanded a repeat of the previous albums, but, ‘Gone for the day’ (1957), was more pedestrian, though it still had its moments as with, ‘(love’s got me in a) lazy mood’. In some ways, a better example of Christy’s craft would have been the 1960 album, ‘Cool school’, which fits in naturally with the rest. A final album showcased is, ‘Ballads for night people’ (1959), which, viewed from the vantage of sixty or more years, seems like a blatant attempt to market June Christy as a Julie London wannabee, given the success enjoyed by the latter, though it is equally true to say that June Christy epitomized the ‘late night’ sound that appealed to a wider audience beyond strictly jazz fans. A fine rendition of Gershwin’s, ‘My ship’, is a highlight and it is a pity that Christy never cut an entire album dedicated to that composer. On the more uptempo material, Christy impresses on, Bewitched, bothered and bewildered’, a number that Ella Fitzgerald, among others, similarly covered.

Tim Stenhouse

Atmosfear ‘En Trance’ LP/CD (Mr Bongo) 5/5

Forget Shakatak and even, to a lesser degree Level 42 (Mark King is a brilliant bass player and the group recorded some memorable sides on 12″ and LP, before a career in pop beckoned). Jazz-Funk at the beginning of the 1980s was on the cutting edge with groups such as Freeez and Incognito in their infancy, while Light of the World (and offshoot Beggar and Co) searched for new outlets with new romantic groups such as Spandau Ballet. Other groups such as Central Line and Hi Tension pandered more to the danceable side of funk, but one group that stuck to their independent principles was Atmosfear, who scored a left-field disco hit in the US and UK with ‘Dancing In Outer Space’, yet in their own way were highly experimental in the field of dance music. This outstanding re-issue is long overdue and captures a distinctive moment in time. Who were Atmosfear and why were they not more visible an entity? A key member was Lester J. Batchelor who performed both on bass and various keyboards. Vocalist Tony Antonio doubled up on guitar, while Stewart Cawthorne operated on saxophone.

To this writer’s knowledge, this album was their first and only full length recording, and is supplemented here by the marvellous nine minute plus US disco 12″ version of, ‘Dancing In Outer Space’ along with ‘Xtra Special’ in its full length version. However, the album showcased what a truly versatile band Atmosfear could be and a fine illustration of that is in ‘Duende’, with Spanish castanet and handclaps as percussion, with clipped rhythm guitar and overdubbed horns. Atmosfear liked to incorporate world roots elements into their compositions and on ‘Extract’, the sound steel drums is creatively replicated on synths, with the bass line a layered synth, while the subtlest of Fender Rhodes operate on top. Indeed, the keyboard dominates equally on the lovely, ‘Interplay’, which is a fine demonstration of the group’s musicianship, and yet still be able to create a danceable groove that remains undiminished through time. A prime contender for album winner is ‘Motivation’, with hi-hat cymbal and drum bass intro, before the melodic bass (or is that a synth?) and clipped guitar motif take over the show. Giving this a close run for the top spot is, ‘Invasion’, with a gradual layered build up of sound via the combined use of Fender and synthesizers, and with vocoder-channeled vocals which reinforce their image of being fascinated by time and space. Little wonder that their music was championed by, among others, underground disco DJ David Mancuso. The nearest the group met then contemporary rock innovations was on, ‘Funk The Rock’, with heavy funk-tinged bass and a glorious array of keyboard wizardry, and those vocals that could only have emanated from the UK. An Atmosfear revival is urgently required, with a recent live performance in London, could the rest of the world just possibly see who the group are? That is part of the endearing mystery of a group who deviated from formulaic dance music and created their very own niche.

Tim Stenhouse

J.P. Bimeni and The Black Belts ‘Free Me’ LP/CD/DIG (Tucxone) 5/5

Well well well, you had better be prepared for this, musically it’s like listening to an Otis Redding or Arthur Conley album, horns galore which include a sax, heavy bass, dominant percussion and the kind of vocal that will have you shaking your head, as black and soulful as it can get, this lot really are on fire, with ten tracks and not a dud anywhere. J.P. Bimeni is a native of Burundi who is now London-based having had to flee his birth place due to the troubles in the early ’90s, in which he was actually targeted by the authorities, where by 1993 a full-blown civil war was happening. It didn’t help with his father being a high-ranking military official and his mother who was a descendant of the royal family. There can’t be too many people with a story like that, soul folk are looking for a figure-head, Charles Bradley and Sharon Jones have sadly passed. St. Paul and The Broken Bones look like they have moved well away from their roots, Lee Fields needs some company, well J.P. Bimeni is set to give him a run for his money. The sound is created by Spanish funk outfit, The Black Belts, which consist of the following; Rodrigo Diaz on drums, Pablo Cano Fernandez on bass, Fernando Vasco on guitar, Alex Lerraga plays keys, Riccardo Martinez plays a mighty trumpet, Rafael Diaz blows a mean sax, and the special guests include Eduardo Martinez on guitar and Lucas Dupla on keyboards. I’m also convinced I can hear an Organ on here too! With the ‘Roaring Lion of Africa’, J.P. Bimeni, singing as only a black man can, he’s in pain, he’s emotional and he’s telling us. My introduction to him was the majestic single, ‘I Miss You’, five minutes plus of the deepest weeping and wailing you can encounter as a new release in 2018, mournful horns open and then we’re off, it’s a tale of broken love, “Now that you’re gone, time seems so long. I did my way alone, day by day, until now in someway your still here, some part of you is gone, it’s killing me, I can’t go on”. You get the drift now. The album contains all tempos but staying with the deeper cuts for a minute, he’s at it again on ‘Pain Is The Name Of The Game’, oozing passion and grits. So what’s going to make you dance? Well get your ears and feet around the funky crossover, ‘Honesty Is A Luxury’, which starts off slowly with fat horns and then morphs into a choppy funker. The slightly faster, ‘Same Man’, might just be the one to set the dance-floors alight, it’s certainly got repeated plays here, however, I think ‘Madelaine’ might just be the standout dancer for me, full of melody and an instant chorus – quite superb. The rest of the album maintains the very high standard throughout. Undoubtedly the album of the year and there will have to be some serious soul to top this one. The musical director was Eduardo Martinez whilst song writing credits go to Marc Ibarz and the whole project was mixed and mastered by Tucxone. At the time of writing, we are unsure what formats this will be released on, but hopeful of vinyl to challenge the not-so-chic physical CD market. Street date: 26th October 2018. Pre orders will be forthcoming so for now keep a watchful eye on the Tucxone website.

Brian Goucher

Paul Simon ‘In The Blue Light’ LP/CD (Sony) 4/5

In the twilight of a glittering career, Paul Simon has regularly delved into the roots of America (gospel, blues, folk) and in fact other world roots traditions (Brazil, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, South Africa), so it really should come as little surprise that he devotes at least part of an album to the jazz tradition. That said, the true raison d’être of this new recording is to revisit some of his earlier and lesser known compositions and to give them a new interpretation, and in this goal, Simon succeeds with his usual aplomb. The whole Wynton Marsalis band are on hand on the traditional New Orleans jazz influenced, ‘Pigs, Sheep and Wolves’, and Simon’s voice allied with a jazz background accompaniment works surprisingly well. A straight ahead jazz ballad is competently tackled on ‘How The Heart Approaches What It Yearns’, with Marsalis this time on muted Harmon along with tasteful quartet. Old school blues is the order of the day on ‘One Man’s Ceiling is Another Man’s Floor’, with blues and gospel inflections in evidence, and the fine instrumental accompaniment takes a leaf out of the Mavis Staples band of recent years, which means an earthy sound. On hand to adapt to any musical voice required are veteran studio musicians of the calibre of drummer Steve Gadd and Jack DeJohnette the latter on select pieces, while guitarist Bill Frisell is that most sensitive of accompanists to a lead vocalist, and similarly, bassist John Patitucci has performed with many a jazz vocalist. In fact, it is the melodic guitar of Frisell that opens up ‘Love’, with the effective use of space and inventive percussion.

As a singer who both individually and collectively with Art Garfunkel contributed some of the most enjoyable and profoundly meaningful music of the latter half of the twentieth century. Paul McCartney has cut a jazz-oriented album, while Dylan has paid homage to Frank Sinatra, and Van Morrison has regularly dipped into the blues (part of his musical DNA) and, most recently, jazz traditions (a fine duet album with Hammond organist Joey De Francesco). With the notable exception of Dylan whose knowledge of the American blues and folk traditions is nothing less than encyclopaedic, Paul Simon may just be the most wide-ranging exponent of the American musical tradition there is and this fine album merely re-emphasises why.

Tim Stenhouse

Jeff “Siege” Siegel Quartet ‘London Live’ CD/DIG (ARC) 4/5

Here’s a powerhouse of a quartet to be sure. Siegel leads from the drums with Erica Lindsay on tenor saxophone, Francesca Tanksley at the piano and Uli Langthaler on bass.
This is the groups fourth album and their second live offering. Recorded at London’s famed Pizza Express Jazz Club on the closing night of their fourth European tour back in 2010, the repertoire consists of six original compositions from within the band together with John Coltrane’s ‘Peace on Earth’ and a spiritual ‘I Want Jesus to Walk with Me.’

The band were afforded the luxury of having spent two weeks working together on tour before having the opportunity to lay down their music for posterity. This clearly shows in the tightness with which they play. Siegel is a veteran of the New York jazz scene with a career dating back to the early 1980s. Over the years he has performed and/or recorded with Ron Carter, Kenny Burrell, Benny Golson, Frank Foster, Sheila Jordan and Helen Merrill and the shadow of Coltrane towers over the quartet and it’s interesting to hear the saxophonist debt to the great man, even vividly capturing his spiritualism in her own playing. In fact, it would be all too easy to align this quartet’s music with that of the classic Coltrane quartet of Tyner, Garrison and Elvin Jones, but to do so would be missing the point. Coltrane is merely point of departure for this contemporary quartet.

As this is the drummer’s band I guess he can be allowed the indulgence of a drum solo to open the first track ‘Meet me at the Station’. Frequent tempo changes and a powerful saxophone feature make this a compelling opener. The aforementioned ‘Peace on Earth’ is a lesser-known Coltrane theme coming from the saxophonist’s 1966 period. There is a further nod to Coltrane on ‘Crescent Sound’, written by the drummer and inspired by the drumming of Elvin Jones on Coltrane’s ‘Crescent’. Following the drum feature the intensity builds further with contributions from saxophone and piano. ‘M Song’ brings a change of feeling with the trio alone showing their more introspective side and what a lovely feature for Tanksley bringing to mind the late, great John Taylor at times. By now you probably won’t find it too difficult to ascertain the inspiration for ‘Art’s Message’, a nod to Mr Blakey and his esteemed Jazz Messengers.

This is a set of exciting, powerful and intense music, infused by the spirit of Coltrane but not a slave to it. Each of the musicians have their own individual voices. In particular, the saxophonist has a wonderfully full and centred tone and I particularly enjoy that wide vibrato, reminiscent of Dexter Gordon at times. There is a feeling of controlled intensity throughout the album and this is true even in the less frenetic tunes. This is an album that will repay repeated listening to uncover the hidden jewels just below the surface.

Alan Musson

Wojtek Mazolewski Quintet ‎’Polka’ Deluxe 2LP/CD (Whirlwind Recordings) 5/5

‘Polka’ was originally released in 2014 on Polish jazz label Agora SA on CD but with a differing track list and a year later on vinyl on Mystic Production, a predominantly non-jazz based record label also from Poland, but only containing 9 tracks. But here we have progressive UK label Whirlwind issue a 13-track ‘Worldwide Deluxe Edition’ in all formats including a double vinyl version, but bizarrely with side D containing no audio but a record label etching! This quartet includes trumpeter Oskar Torok, pianist Joanna Duda, tenor saxophonist Marek Pospieszalski and drummers Qba Janicki and Michat Bryndal, all being steered by bandleader Mazolewski, the esteemed upright bassist of numerous previous Polish releases.

Taking inspiration from years of playing around the world, the quartet utilise various places and cities as inspiration throughout the album with the set beginning with ‘Roma’, an introspective drum-less track that centres around piano and trumpet. ‘Grochów’ (a district of Warsaw) is a more ensemble centred piece which immediately grabs your attention via its fluid groove based rhythm and melodic lines and later memorable trumpet and tenor sax solos. The infectious ‘Punk-T Gdańsk’ possesses a more frantic quality and would definitely be a live highlight, as would DJ friendly ‘Sunday’.

‘London’ is in two parts, the bubbling part 1 which then leads into the grinding 7/4 time signature rhythm of part 2, although, with a combined running length of just over 5 and half minutes, a joint composition could have been manifested. ‘Bangkok’ has more subtle and contemplative outlook, being guided by pianist Joanna Duda, while the horn section of trumpet and tenor saxophone generally meander around the piano with further light embellishments of cymbal percussion and an additional expressive trumpet solo during the last third.

Examining ‘Berlin’, one cannot ignore the club and Techno references here. Although by no means an electronic piece of music, the rhythmical trance-like groove is an obvious ode to the city and its renowned nightlife. ‘Paris’ is a more gentle affair and possibly a word one wouldn’t think of regarding the French capital, but this is no lacklustre number as it maintains a thought-provoking sensibility throughout. The now classic Art Ensemble of Chicago’s ‘Theme De Yoyo’ (1970) receives a slightly less frantic reboot on the closing track, which was previously released on a 12” in 2017 on UK-based label Tranquillity.

‘Polka’ proudly fuses established jazz traditions with more contemporary themes and ideas throughout its duration. Containing all original material, the album will appease the traditional jazz fan but also be heralded by the modern jazz listener. The writing, performances and ideas are exceptionally crafted, but possibly many of the pieces are rather short with 7 of the 13 works under 4 minutes – but this is not necessary always a negative. Leader Wojtek Mazolewski is never the centre of attention here and is especially considerate in allowing other members of the group to lead and direct the project. Other than a bass intro on ‘London (Part 1)’, there isn’t not a single bass solo on the entire album.

And it must be noted that without the interest from Whirlwind this album may have not reached an audience outside of those taking an active interest in the Polish jazz movement. Releases like ‘Polka’ still highlight the difficulty that both artists and music fans have in connecting to music outside of the more established music circles and territories, even during this more globally and culturally aware epoch. So this obviously begs the eternal question, what else is out there?

Damian Wilkes

Various ‘From The Archive Vol. 2 compiled by Volcov’ 2LP/CD (BBE Music) 5/5

Compilations can serve a myriad of purposes, but in the case of DJ Volcov and this specific selection, his personal mission is to assemble and duly showcase recent releases (within the last decade and a few choice selections from further back in time) that simply get lost in the plethora of new releases. As a direct consequence of the sheer vastness of what is released, DJs and writers and listeners can easily miss out on absolute musical gems that, in some cases, are just as good as the rarest of recordings that may cost a small fortune. What is surprising is that even respected singers and producers can lose out in the never-ending new release schedule that rapidly reaches saturation point at certain time of the year, and that includes Ron Trent whose stunning ‘Ori Spice’ is a major revelation to this writer, yet seemingly fell between the cracks and never received its due. The instrumental number has a 1980s production and the combination of Lonnie Liston Smith influenced keyboards and violin is truly inspired. Why is the album from which this outstanding piece that stems from the album, ‘Cinematic Travels’, not better known? Dance music in the 1980s and 1990s led to a number of gifted female vocalist being discovered (Lisa Fischer is one such name who provided vocals for Prince among others) and Cindy Mizelle recorded backing vocals for the very best including Chaka Khan and Whitney Houston. As a solo and group singer, her voice has only got better and she with the group Honey Sweet, she adds a thoroughly modern twist on Nina Simone’s ‘I Put A Spell On You’, with Fender Rhodes and percussion. Carleen Anderson is a household name, so why did her most recent album fall largely by the wayside? From that terrific recording, this compilation opens up with the supremely laid back jazzy hues, complete with electric piano and vibes, of, ‘All That Glitters’. Another album that richly deserves to be heard by the many and not the few.

However, Volcov still finds the time and space to focus on some lesser known jazz items and one of the finest pieces on the entire compilation is Harry Whitaker’s (a key collaborator with Roy Ayers in the 1970s and a deeply creative soul whose own talents have been criminally neglected by the musical establishment) sublime, ‘The After Life Pt.2′, where classic 1970s jazz meets contemporary sounds, and Whitaker himself operates on acoustic piano with beautifully arranged orchestrations and a female vocalist to die for. Why has no-one re-issued the album from which this number originates? An anthology of Harry Whitaker’s career to date is urgently needed and would be a major event. Secondly, a stunning example of Tony Williams, the propelling drummer in Miles Davis’ mid-1960s quintet, from 1980, in an edited version of ‘Lawra’, which is a small gem of a tune and Williams’ in acoustic trio format is a precursor to some of his later work in the 1990s on Blue Note. A third jazz-inflected number pays homage to the jazz-fusion era in Herbie Hancock’s canon of work and Ian O’Brien’s cover of ‘Spiralling Prism’, from a 1980 album that this scribe purchased while resident in Narbonne, south west France, just a year later. Quentin Kane and Simon Sheldon are new names to this writer, but their 2016 recorded, ‘The Blue Room’, with T.K.Blue on vocals actually has a heavy 1980s undercurrent with the Fender Rhodes intro, and could well be the equivalent of Atmosfear for 2018. Rounding off matters, contemporary soul from the D’Angelo sphere of influence, in, ‘Turn It Around’, by Ruth Koléva. A terrific compilation that encapsulates precisely what any kind of retrospective should do; open up the mind of the listener to new artists and musical perspectives.

Tim Stenhouse