Seeds of Fulfillment ‘Seeds of Fulfillment’ LP (Tramp) 4/5

Andrew Venson, bass player, founded Seeds of Fulfillment (great spiritual jazz/psych name, that) out of Columbus, Ohio in early 1978. Known as Vince; having played with Arthur Conley and Peaches and Herb, he got together a bunch of local players to make it BIG TIME! On this album ‘his’ band consists of Vince, David Drazin (keys), Roger Myers (drums), Lee Savory (trumpet), Randy Mather (sax) with Jeanette Williams on vocals. This was their only album and they never played outside of Ohio.

Seeds of Fulfillment is typically an energetic, groove-laden fusion roughly in the style of Zawinul, The Crusaders, Hancock et al. It kicks off with “The Provider”, a Drazin-penned piece inspired, indeed, by Zawinul’s “Country Preacher”. It’s a midnight-struck, slow strut of a track with electric piano wash, spanking bass and two lovely-phrased solos by Mather and Savory which sing and stutter and complete the piece. Really like this.

“Egg Cartons” (named after the widely-available acoustic treatment material) is as Free as the Wind. It’s a joyous jam session with an energised funky soul, bossed by Myers busy drum work and Vince’s partying. Drazin cuts up in the background while horns deliver motif and solo, then it’s Drazin’s turn; the horns drop and the rhythm section kinda burns, before returning to the motif and end.

“In The Time of Need” is a perky, mood-lifting, early evening Martini of a track with smoothly chatty, well-balanced solos from Mather, Savory and Drazin. It all fits so well; each soloist responding kindly to the ever-giving Venson and Myers.

Jeanette Williams steps up to the mic on “Look Beyond Appearances” (Tibby Porter on gorgeous backings) and belts out a soulful vehicle that’s all about her and her unarguable powers.

Myers leads the way on the got-ants-in-my-pants “Namaste”. Dense, layered, playful patterns underpin and energise the rhythmic melodies that punch above. Mather and Savory’s soulful expressions again explore and resolve effortlessly while Drazin takes us in a southerly direction out of the States.

“Tight Squeeze” is as close to proper cool-cat jazz band as we get thus far, with its swinging bass, ganged horns and comping piano, it shows that the boys could easily have some of that too, if/when they fancy. Savory makes it happen and Drazin drops some big Tyner (and more) shapes. Works very nicely.

“Self-Fulfilling Prophecy” is a spirited finale that I’m sure I made happen just by wishing it so. All elements come together correctly in a piece that feels more serious, harder-fought and a bit less effortless than the rest of the album. This is no bad thing. The bass line is hooky; a sample-in-waiting. There’s something of a fantastical Maynard Ferguson’s Strata East about the track. This too is no bad thing. A hyped ending.

SOF is a charming trip into very late 70’s soulful jazz fusion+ and I feel a great warmth towards it and its people. Excellent, thoughtful, team-focused musicianship, delivered with feeling; where no one is a hero and everybody is having a good time, all of the time. It’s infectious and it makes you want to shake your groove thing, as Vince’s old mates would say.

Ian Ward

Yonathan Avishai ‘Joyous Solitudes’ CD (ECM) 4/5

Israeli born, but Paris resident pianist Yonathan Avishai is perhaps better known for his sideman duties in the UK and featured on the trumpeter Avishai Cohen’s 2016 ECM recording, ‘Into The Silence’. A follow-on tour that accompanied the release allowed a British audience to hear for the first time the pianist who, while restricted in his own avowedly minimalist soloing, nonetheless served as an effective musical director to the group. This debut solo album for ECM is not his first trio recording since, in 2015, he brought out ‘Modern Times Trio’. As a general observation, one could argue that Avishai the pianist is influenced by disparate genres, including Romantic classical composers and, from a jazz perspective, the music of Abdullah Ibrahim, and, moreover, loves tinkering around in between them, yet the end result is still a cohesive whole.

The music commences with a delicious reworking of Ellington’s ‘Mood Indigo’, and the stretching out of notes in the first part means that it is a full three minutes before the main theme is stated and this is indeed a fresh interpretation of what has now become a well-worn standard. However, Avishai is not simply content to deconstruct a single piece, but extends that motivation to an entire genre. A case in point is the thrilling ‘Tango’, which was initially inspired by hearing Argentine bandoneon player, Dino Saluzzi and Anja Lechner performing together on ‘Ojos Negros’. What comes across is how the piano itself is performed like a bandoneon before a piano riff leads in to an extended passage of soloing. There is nothing overtly flashy about Avishai’s style, but the simplicity of operation makes for a clever re-inventing of the tango all the same. This writer especially warmed to a truly uplifting piece, ‘Joy’, and here there is a quasi-nursery rhyme approach to the piano playing, with subtle embellishments just below the surface. The album ends on a high with the longest number at six and half minutes and a percussive one at that, ‘Les Pianos de Brazzaville’, complete with rolling drums and a melodious piano riff, and then a complete change of mood ensues with an interesting duet between piano and rim-drum riffs by drummer Donald Kontamanou, while double bassist Yoni Zelnick is that most empathetic of accompanists throughout. A memorable and enjoyable listening experience.

Tim Stenhouse

Read also:
Avishai Cohen ‘Cross My Palm With Silver’ (ECM) 3/5
Avishai Cohen ‘Into The Silence’ (ECM) 5/5 & 4/5
Omer Avital ‘Abutbul Music’ LP/CD (Jazz Village) 4/5

Envee ‘Time & Light’ 2LP (U Know Me) 4/5

‘Time & Light’ marks a highly anticipated return to the limelight for the Polish producer and musician Maciek “Envee” Goliński with his first solo project in seven years.

The Warsaw-based independent record label, U Know Me Records, has served as the long-term home for Envee for several years as it has for a slew of artists like the psychedelic electro-funk of P.Unity, the drum & bass electronica of producer Teielte and the multi-faceted pop of musical duo The KDMS – who all epitomise the label’s propensity for “new beats and electronic music”.

Envee has gone on to establish an incredible body of music since his debut album ‘Envee I Niewinni Czarodzieje’, released in 2003 through Kayax Productions. His first official release through U Know Me Records would follow in 2011 with the beats-heavy three track EP ‘Kali’ released on vinyl and digital formats – the digital version treats fans with an additional four tracks of remixes including mixes by Teielte and Galus so should definitely prove of interest.

Time in between solo releases bearing his own name have been mostly filled with currently just over thirty remixes for other artists, remixes for a wide range of talented artists over a host of prestigious record labels including the UK’s Wah Wah 45s (Honeyfeet, ‘Sinner’), Munich’s Jazz & Milk Recordings (Pinnawela, ‘You Can Dance’) and Jazzanova’s very own and much revered Sonar Kollektiv label (Pete Josef, ‘The Travelling Song’).

Described by Envee himself via his Bandcamp page as a project created without a clear focus, the finished version of ‘Time & Light’ is very much presented as a project with a very clear focus. Envee showcases his ability to not only interweave between genres but also skilfully sashay between eras with slices of 80s soul, 90s R&B and noughties hip-hop. There’s a strong hint of classic Prince in the production and guitar licks of ‘Nu Stompin Ground’, created with assistance from vocalist Bartek Królik; ‘Gry i Zabawy’ (featuring Muzykoterapia) is an exciting excursion into dub territory, and album highlight ‘Late Summer’ which features an excellent guest appearance from vocalist Ania Szarmach just yearns to be enjoyed under the golden rays of the summer sun.
The spirit of collaboration runs strong throughout ‘Time & Light’ with Envee embracing the opportunity to have fresh life breathed into his creations from a wave of artists, singers and rappers. Whether it be for projects like this, or through the vast amount of aforementioned remixes that Envee has available, collaboration is very much something of a motivational force that helps to bring his projects to fruition. With that in mind, we’ll look forward to see what Envee et al. cook up next time.

Imran Mirza

Tom Zé ‘Estudando o Samba’ LP (Mr Bongo) 5/5

One of the iconoclastic figures of the Brazilian music scene, this gem of a recording inspired no less than David Byrne to compile an anthology of Zé’s work on Luaka Bop back in the 1990s. Indeed Byrne came across this extremely rare 1976 original album (on the Continental label) while vinyl hunting in Brazil and the listener now has the luxurious option of listening in full to the recording, and that in vinyl format.

What the composer-singer and multi-instrumentalist set out to do was to take the traditional samba form and deconstruct it in the most subtle of manners. The result is a magnificent post-Tropicália trip through the samba tradition and this is definitely one case where listening to an album in its entirety is essential to gaining a better understanding of the musical mind and intentions of the author. Typical of the diversity of approach is the simple melody of ‘(Você Inventa) Ui!’, with two guitars operating from either speaker channel, one of which sounds like a classic cavaquinho (a small high-pitched guitar that is an essential musical ingredient of the samba tradition), and the gentle vocals of Tom are augmented by a female chorus. All that in the first part of the song, before the second part transforms into a more traditional samba complete with bass drum, percussion and acoustic guitar. Arguably, the most impressive piece is ‘Toc’, with a regulated guitar riff and, intriguingly, the sampled brass of what comes across as a big band orchestra; a technique which was way ahead of its time. The build up is fascinating in that it effortlessly combines melody with a dose of experimental sampling incorporated and somehow Tom Zé manages to pull it off. Quite sublime!

Indeed, throughout the album, the music retains a beautiful folkloric quality, and a lightness of touch that makes the experimental side eminently manageable for the casual listener and it does not take anything away from the strong lyricism of the music. In the more laid back samba-cançao tradition, the ballad, ‘Só’, demonstrates what a fine singer Zé can be, and there is gorgeous melancholia to the layered strings and brass of ‘Mâe (Mâe Solteira)’ and yet in essence this is still a samba-cançao (a predominantly song form of samba). The sound of what appears to be a saw is incorporated into the mid-tempo groove of ‘Tô’, while on ‘Vai (Menina Amenhâ de Manhâ)’, the leader’s own vocals are overdubbed to great effect which come across as not dissimilar to those of Caetano Veloso. Again simplicity is the name of the game. An interest in Afro-Brazilian bloc music surfaces on ‘Mâ’, with collective chants and guitar.

This re-issue has been a long time in coming, but should count as one of the world roots events of the year. More of this talented and so utterly distinctive artist, please! Of note is that when the David Byrne inspired compilation came out, Tom Zé was wandering into obscurity, even working at a petrol station. The new found interest spurred him on to taken a renewed interest in music and he has gone from strength to strength ever since.

Tim Stenhouse

Gulaza ‘Ya Mehija’ CD (1018333 Records DK) 4/5

After their appearance at the prestigious 2018 WOMEX Festival which took place in the Gran Canaries last October, Gulaza strikes again with a more profound second album, ‘Ya Mehija’, which abound in colourful sounds from distant lands.

The album is addictive, the melodies rich in textures and we never get bored of listening to their singer, Igal Mizrahi’s voice. He has utter control of it, being simultaneously extremely masculine and dramatic and yet offering us a remarkable sensuality. His rendition of the songs are highly evocative and very poetic.

Gulaza digs its repertoire from traditional Jewish Yemenite women’s songs of love, mystery and longing for freedom.

Departing from the previous black cover of the first album and choosing to go with a bold fuchsia colour, Gulaza’s message is clear behind that striking choice of colour. Just as the lotus flower can blossom above muddy waters, the women from Gulaza’s songs can be released and rise, revealing their joy, compassion and splendor.

The album opens up with ‘Ya Mehija’, a traditional song from the Yemenite diwan, and which immediately introduces the listeners to Ben Aylon’s beautiful djeli n’goni playing.

Ben Aylon, a border-breaking percussionist who played in the past with Doudou N’diaye Rose and is currently performing with Yossi Fine, is not new to Gulaza, as he appeared on the band’s first album, toured the world with them and finally produced this last album. Passionate about West African music, he brings in the n’goni, a multi-faceted instrument, which offers a very primal and raw element to the melodies, throwing listeners into an introspective intensity which touches their senses deeply.

‘Wirhibi’ opens at a meditative pace but soon reveals a repetitive instrumental beat that pulls you in.

Whilst the tight combination of instruments leads the melody up and down, Igal’s singing weaves in and out with a refreshing simplicity that makes the tune stays with you. Gulaza’s album is so expressive that it transcends any language barrier. The listeners are touched by the melodies and the singing, regardless of their understanding of the lyrics.

‘Ya Atishi’ and ‘Zabibi’ are both a clever mesh of African beats and Arabic sensibilities. Both tunes have faster tempos in which the vocals provide a catchy narration.

‘Bint Al Amrani’ is a gentle and serene tune, which sounds like a sung poem. With its hypnotic ngoni, soothing and echoing vocals and shimmering guitar, it is full of fragrance.

‘Ya Habib’ is one of the tunes I like the most on the album. Igal Mizrahi’s breathy voice is like a balm and Ben’s ngoni is very beautiful; its warmth infuses the song with a relaxed gentleness.

‘Waskini (Salam Yalbint)’ already appeared on the previous album and remains one of my favourite songs by Gulaza. I am invariably deeply stirred by Igal’s passionate rendition. This time, the band made it into a much faster version, equally enjoyable, and which shows how versatile they can be. The guitar on it is deft and embellishes the melody, taking it along fast, silky lines.

‘Zur Menati (Rock of my Existence)’ simply had to be the closing song on the album. It is extremely beautiful, sounds almost like an incantation and my favourite song on the album. A ‘piyut’ (Jewish liturgical poem) written by 17th century Yemenite poet, Shalom Shabazi, it has been interpreted by countless singers but Gulaza’s version is definitely the one I prefer. Igal Mizrahi’s voice is pure nectar; it oozes seduction as he sings this ode to the Divine. The cello’s pulsating beats inject the poem with warmth and create an intimacy that compliments Igal Mizrachi’s contemplative vocals.

‘Ya Mehija’ is a beautiful album which will keep you hooked and wanting to listen to it again and again.

Actually, with Gulaza, you cannot remain a casual listener — the arrangements and vocals are simply too captivating. Everything runs smoothly; nothing on the album feels forced. You’ll be so mesmerized by the whole experience, you’ll definitely wish Gulaza was well on their way to a third album.

Nathalie Freson

¿Que Vola? ‘¿Que Vola?’ LP/CD (Nø Førmat) 4/5

Changó, a central figure in Cuban Santería, is the Orisha (God) who, along with fire, lightning and thunder, rules over drums and dancing. It is this combination of things that the self-titled debut album from French-Cuban jazz outfit ¿Que Vola? calls upon. The group is the brainchild of Fidel Fourneyron, a French jazz musician who fell in love with the deep spiritual sound of Cuba. With this release, ¿Que Vola?, a group comprised of three Cuban percussionists and a French jazz septet, seeks to reimagine the sound of the sacred music of Cuba, combining it with the poetry of Jazz. Here, the brass leads the prayer.

¿Que Vola? takes the listener on a journey into ceremony opening up with ‘Kabiosile (Saludo a Changó)’, a humble dedication to the God of fire and dance. The fast-paced drums mingle with the slow entry of the horns allowing the listener to ease their way into what is coming, a reminder of the collective connection to self, to spirit, and to sound. From there the album takes off leading the listener ever deeper into the sacred. Songs like ‘Nganga’ and ‘Fruta Bomba’ invite listeners into the ritual space, offering up the dance as the preferred method of divine communication. We are reminded that reverence is not boring. It is harmony. It is heartbeats. It is sacred but it is also simple.

Throughout the album, the brass and the batá coexist harmoniously. The sacredness of the drums exists supported by the jazz horns, allowing them to become one with the listener’s own heartbeat. And then the drum provides the room for the “voice” of the horns to speak, clear and direct. Both exist together; one is not treated as more important than the other. Each element gets its moment and nothing ever feels out of place. The brass is bright and the drums are pounding. With the experience ¿Que Vola? has created for the listener, it’s as if these two sounds were always meant to be together.

The experiment at the core of ¿Que Vola? leads the listener down a very important path. Songs like ‘Calle Luz’ and the album’s closer ‘Resistir’ open up the power of Afro-Cuban prayer to a new audience while also allowing people to reconnect with their own roots. When music experiments like this, it allows the listener to create new connections within themselves, to explore possibilities they may never have considered. It creates the space to explore and ease the confines of identity and history. The journey that ¿Que Vola? takes listeners on will stay with them long after they’ve turned the music off. As they drink their morning coffee, drive through town or sit at their desks, they will find themselves humming to the beat of ‘Iyesa’ and be reminded of the power in ritual and connection.

Molly Gallegos

Behn Gillece ‘Parallel Universe’ CD (Posi-Tone) 4/5

The fourth-album on Posi-Tone from New York vibist Behn Gillece is an impressively and consistently strong straight-ahead modern jazz record.
Gillece’s compositional skills are to the fore, all the tunes are originals and it’s easy to hear his influences here. Definitely Bobby Hutcherson, especially on the slightly freer tunes ‘Eviscerate’ and ‘Downpour’ which took me back to about 1963 and the classic records with Jackie McClean.
The Blue Note influence is there throughout, ‘Break the Ice’, ‘Parallel Universe’ and the blistering ‘Alice’s Journey’ offer a modern take on the Messengers with Rudy Royston taking on the Blakey role allowing the rest of the band space to drop some fiercely inventive solos.
‘Smoke Screen’ is straight out funky, it seems simple with drums and vibes laying down the groove before Art Hirahara’s very slinky fender solo draws you in and suddenly It’s 1974 and Dave Pike is in the room.
Gillece won a Downbeat Rising Star award in 2018 and I think it’s as much for his skills as a writer as it is as a performer. ‘Bossa for R.M’ and ‘Ready for Tomorrow’ are both gorgeous gentle Bossa Novas and ‘Shadow of the Flame’ is a tough and swinging piece of slightly Latin Jazz.
‘Candle in the Dark’ is the closest we get to a ballad, it’s a brooding, impressionistic piece featuring fine solos from Gillece and Hirahara. ‘Evening Glow’ is a beautifully crafted, slow building modal waltz which highlights the technical abilities of a fantastic band all playing in harmony to bring out the best in each other. The rhythm section is perfect here not least David Wong. His delicate and sensitive bass solo makes this tune a real highlight of the album.
There is nothing truly innovative here, this band is not pushing the boundaries and exploring the future of jazz, However, they are wonderfully gifted musicians, playing beautifully written, richly textured and extremely memorable tunes and for those reasons they really deserved to be heard.

Nick Schlittner

Ronald Mesquita ‘Brésil 72’ LP/CD (Mr Bongo) 5/5

A long-term favourite album among Brazilian music fans that was re-issued on the French Barclay label which it originally surfaced on in 1972, this is best known for the opening song ‘Balança Pema’, which is a hard-hitting samba tune with joint male and female lead vocals. It has become a household dancefloor winner and has been covered by other singers and sampled by hip-hop DJ Madlib. However, as good as this number is, the album as a whole contains several superb cuts and in a multitude of styles. In essence, drummer and leader Mesquita has taken the 1960s Sergio Mendes vocal sound and given it a harder edge. Thus collective vocal harmonies combine with a meaty dose of assorted percussion instruments, Fender Rhodes and reeds included. That makes for a compelling ensemble and the track listing of songs draws from some of the key Brazilian songwriters of the era which include Antonio Carlos Jobim, Jorge Ben, Gilberto Gil and Edu Lobo.

Ronald Mesquita himself was no novice in that he earned his living as a session drummer with Luis Carlos Vinha and the latter’s group, Bossa Três. Sample the sophistication of Jobim’s ‘Agua de Março’, which Jobim and Elis Regina made into a major pop duet hit and compare that with the subtle flute-led ‘Papagayo’, with wordless chorus and gently crafted Fender Rhodes. A personal favourite is the uptempo ‘Quatro de Decembro’, which is notable for the distinctive use of cuica drum, and where the male lead and chorus lead into a thrilling finale. The only pity is that although Marily Tavares is present, the fine singing is not name checked which she/they fully deserve to be. Those sublime joint harmonies work wonderfully together on, ‘Tarde em Itapôa’, which Vinicius de Moraes and Toquinho duetted on to great effect, while the mid-tempo spiritual jazz infused, ‘Cançao do Saltema de Tostão’, is a hidden gem that should not be underestimated. Now available in both vinyl and CD formats, this is one album you cannot do without.

Tim Stenhouse

Chucho Valdés ‘Jazz Bata 2’ CD (Mack Avenue) 4/5

Co-founder of Cuban super Grupo Irakere (‘Irakere’ being the Yoruba term for ‘forest’), but from the 1990s now a solo artist leader, Chucho Valdés delivers volume two of a project that goes way back in time to the early days of the 1970s. This time round the leader forms part of a quartet, with jazz violinist Regina Carter an additional guest on two numbers. The music varies in tempo and spontaneity, but is devoted to Afro-Cuban jazz, and that means the repeated use of Afro-Cuban percussion such as the bata drum and assorted instrumentation. If the first two pieces are somewhat freer in style, with an experimental piano improvisation on the opener, ‘Obatalá’, by the second number, ‘Son XXI’, that early improvisatory feel morphs into a piano riff and once the musicians hit a lyrical groove, they remain there for the remainder. For those note already ware, Valdés is part of a musical dynasty with his late father Bebo a fine pianist in his own right, and son Chucho pays homage to the former on, ‘100 años de Bebo’, which is performed here as a refined danzón with guest Carter performing as classical accompanist, before a piano vamp suddenly kicks in, and that is all the pretext that the violinist needs to start improvising herself in the manner of the Cuban Alfredo da la Fé. The quartet comprises double bassist Yelsy Heredia, percussionist Yaroldy Abreu Robles and the bata drum plus vocal accompaniment of Dreiser Durruthy Bombalé. For fans of a more straight ahead Latin jazz feel, ‘Chucho’s mood’, comes across as the kind of piece that the late Rubén Gonzalez could have concocted and there is some deft quoting of Duke Ellington’s, ‘Take the ‘A’ train’, towards the end. However, the pace lessens considerably on the gentle, ‘Luces’, and on the blues-inflected, ‘Ochún”, which has a deeply soulful undercurrent, and the chorus bears a strong resemblance to Billy Taylor’s opus, ‘I wish I knew how it would feel to be free’.

Tim Stenhouse

Read also: Chucho Valdés and Afro-Cuban Messengers ‘Border-Free’ CD (Jazz Village) 4/5

Chris Dawkins ‘Hero’s Journey’ (Released) 4/5

Although a new name to us here at UK Vibe HQ, musician, composer and producer Chris Dawkins has previously had a diverse and successful career as a session and touring musician including working with the likes of Adrian Sherwood, David Holmes and Nightmares on Wax, with this being his debut album on the confusing named Released record label from the UK. Broadly speaking, this is a jazz album that takes various nuances and influences from other genres, namely soul, hip hop and electronica but all with jazz as the overseer.

The album’s first full track after the introduction ‘#onelove’ is the most vocal lead but the vocals are virtually chant like in their sensibility creating a post-club soundscape experience. ‘Want To Get Something Off My Chest’, which is probably the jazziest number also includes touches of Afro beat and high strings parts for a very original piece that took this writer a few plays to fully absorb. ‘Signs’ with female vocalist Jorgie moves into neo soul territory with its lush chords and pads and sultry vocals and is very reminiscent of Moonchild, with Jorgie definitely a name to check in the future.

‘Get It Right’
increases the tempo of the set and uses a 1970s breakbeat (‘Yellow Sunshine’) to underpin the rhythm track while the repeated vocal phrase presents a hypnotic quality. ‘Do It Slow’
again uses some trademark hip hop references with its ‘70s breakbeat drum samples and MPC style chops as does ‘Nightingale’s Secret’
with its boom bap framework, and ‘Atmos Funk’
also further utilises hip hop drum programming and editing but here, layers of keys and synths replace the audio samples from vinyl.

‘Rootsman In Space’ is much more spiritual than the actual title suggests and is another deep downtempo affair and features the eternally consistent and criminally underrated Jimi Tenor. Textures are the focus here, with its loose Rhodes piano, guitar, light percussion and memorable bass line with supplementary synth runs added. ‘New Reign’ moves away from the more 1990s hip hop influence and into a contemporary electric styling and title track ‘Hero’s Journey’ embraces an almost ambient characteristic and maybe the reason why the album cover doesn’t scream ‘jazz’ with its new age yoga playlist design.

‘Hero’s Journey’ sees Chris Dawkins emerge and evolve as a solo artist in his own right with this being a fantastic introduction from the Bradford/Leeds based musician. There is definitely room to grow and develop but for a debut this is a positive start. Possibly the use of additional musicians would provide a different perspective and could be something to examine in the future as would the use of more key changes and more complex arrangements – but I’m being overly critical for a debut as this is still very strong.

Damian Wilkes