I first saw Resolution 88 live in October 2012 at the excellent Jazz Meet sessions, which at the time were based at Floripa, a Brazilian bar in Shoreditch, London. I vaguely knew their keyboard player and frontman, Tom O’Grady, through the Brownswood online music forum and was aware of his passion for the music of Herbie Hancock. The prospect of an evening of Jazz Funk, plus some of the best caipirinhas in London, was enough for me to break my usual Sunday lethargy and give Tom and his band a listen. It was an excellent night. Had they just covered classics from the Jazz Funk canon then I dare say I would have been happy enough, but to my total surprise they had the confidence to strike out with their own tunes. That was 4 years ago; through regular gigging Resolution 88 have made steady progress, building a fanbase and playing at established landmarks on the UK Jazz scene like Ronnie Scott’s and Pizza Express Soho as well as younger upstarts like The Love Supreme and London Jazz Festivals.
Their first album, eponymously titled, was released in 2014. The group is now signed to Splash Blue, the label fronted by Jean-Paul “Bluey” Maunick. This feels like a good fit as they inhabit a similar space musically to Incognito. There have been a couple of changes in the line-up since their debut with Alex Hitchcock replacing George Crowley on saxophones and Ric Elsworth taking over from Afrika Green on drums, but the vibe of the group is pretty much the same, which is not too surprising as Tom remains at the band’s creative centre.
Comparisons to the likes of Headhunters-era Herbie Hancock, The Crusaders, the Mizell Brothers, Azymuth and others of that ilk are inevitable and entirely valid, connections made easier by the limited number of contemporary alternatives. That said I think it is too reductive to categorise Resolution 88 simply as a revival band. What emerges from “After Glow” is a distinctive sound, Jazz-Funk with discreet post-modern undertones. The album has an easy charm from beginning to end; it’s full of funky, upbeat grooves and rich, exuberant melodies. It’s colourful, refreshing, varied in tone and texture. That cosmic sound of keyboards/synthesisers, which would have sounded futuristic in the ‘70s, still has an otherworldly, open quality to it, together with an almost limitless scope for invention. Harmony and interplay between keys and saxophone is a strong feature, good examples being “Banana Skin Central” and the brazilian fusion of “Raios do Sol”.
My favourite track on the album is “Phantom of the Oberheim” which builds and builds around a punchy bass clarinet, before shooting off, like exploding stars, into some future world; energised by gutsy drumming and wonderfully expansive play on the Rhodes. It’s a tune to put a smile on your face, to get the pulse racing faster.
Those modern elements I referred to come through primarily in the drumming, which seems a little more prominent in the mix than on my old Jazz Funk LP’s, especially on “Homing In” with it’s broken beat rhythm; or sections of synth play on “Raios do Sol”, which almost enter house territory.
Overall “Afterglow” demonstrates increasing confidence, scope and creative vision, which bodes well for the band’s future. The band are rounding off the year with a gig at La Raza in Cambridge on 23 November, but if you can’t catch this keep an eye out for them in 2017.
Andy Hazell rating 4/5
Every now and then there comes an artist/band with an album that ticks all the boxes – This is where Resolution 88 step in.
Their second studio album on the heels of the critically acclaimed ‘Resolution 88’, which delivered the excellent homage to the West London sounds with “Broken Beat”, which gave Maestro (also an influence on the band) Kaidi Tatham freedom to flex his mixing muscles on a limited edition 12″ of the same name and definitely a gem worth hunting down. “Afterglow” is rooted in the Jazz-Funk of Lonnie Liston Smith, Herbie Hancock, Eddie Russ, Jeff Lorber Fusion, Weather Report and the ilk. But it’s much more than just a homage, or even an imitation, it’s far too superior in its own right to be that. It’s a retelling of Jazz fusion with a fresh and modern perspective, for a modern audience who have experienced music with different sonics and with the passing of time the genre which has been reinvented and brought into the now yet confidently wink at the past and a brave nod to the future.
The LP boasts 12 exceptional stand-alone cuts, from “Taking off”, a winding fender laced Funk groove, to “Three Four Or More”, one for the slap bass heads courtesy of bassist Tiago Coimbra – a movie score in the making, which would make Lalo Schifrin proud. Then there is “Banana Skin Central”, straight out of Harlem 1975 and the homage to the sound of the Headhunters is right there, with some mellow grooves in there too. The album is relentless in proving that Tom O’Grady (Fender Rhodes and CEO of the group) is totally in control of what they are doing and where they are taking us, with one of my favourites – and it is no easy task – “Phantom Of the Oberheim”, a menacing Jazz-Funker with some slick rolling drumming from Ric Ellsworth – it really gives the sternomastoids a working out, if not the feet! Oh! then there’s another Liquid Fusion anthem…In the delightful form of “Raios Do Sol”, which touches everywhere from Rio De Janeiro to L.A and Jazz clubs around the planet.
It Really is a sterling album, which can not get enough praise from me plus getting universal props from seminal Jazz Funk band Incognito’s very own Bluey and Co., as is Eddie Pillar, calling it “The Best thing he has heard in ages!”. Craig Charles, Snowboy and the ilk all have shown love and support respectively. The album is sensibly pieced together with talented and passionate musicians, who obviously love Funk, Jazz, Hip Hop and Broken, but confident enough to give their own take on the said genres without any hints of being formulaic.
It will be interesting to see if any mixes follow the album from maybe Afronaught, IG Culture, Daz I Kue or even Kaidi again, I for one can hope…let’s wait and see.
Resolution 88’s “Afterglow” is the must-have Jazz Funk album and certainly one of the great moments of 2016!… even after the sun has set at the end of the year, the luminary quality of the “Afterglow” will certainly be felt for a long time to come.
Bruce Q rating 5/5