The Lewis Express ‘Clap Your Hands’ LP/CD (ATA) 4/5

Merely a year after the debut record from The Lewis Express, the Leeds collective return with their sophomore effort, ‘Clap Your Hands’, released through ATA Records.

Comprising something of an ATA Records supergroup, The Lewis Express is made up of frequent musicians and collaborators all with a firm hand within ATA’s catalogue of stunning music including contributors to projects by The Sorcerers, The Magnificent Tape Band, Abstract Orchestra and Tony Burkill along with many other leading names within contemporary soul music. The quartet consists of pianist George Cooper (Lack of Afro, Junior Oliver and Frootful), drummer Sam Hobbs (Matthew Bourne, Amon Tobin), bassist Neil Innes (Eddie Roberts, Lack of Afro) and percussion by Pete Williams (Salerosa).

Paying homage to the great jazz pianist Ramsey Lewis, The Lewis Express aim to capture that style of 1950s/60s soul and jazz through a live recording, just as Lewis’s classics were also created. While last year’s record served as a strong introduction to the group with a more versatile sound, as the title suggests ‘Clap Your Hands’ is a decidedly more up-tempo affair than their self-titled predecessor. And while tracks like ‘Theme From “The Watcher”‘ and ‘Last Man in The Chain Gang’ were moodier in their approach, but still excellent, the follow-up looks to place attention firmly on the dance floors as encapsulated in the opening title track. ‘Stomp Your Feet’, ‘Tico Tico’ and ‘Out From The Rock’ masterfully carry the party along but the Latin-tinged ‘Dança De Duas Mãos’ is the absolute scene stealer here.

It would be fair to say that Leeds-based ATA Records is a label that celebrates soul and jazz music of a bygone era – projects by The Lewis Express, saxophonist Tony Burkill’s ‘Work Money Death’ and The Magnificent Tape Band’s ‘The Subtle Art of Distraction’ all openly tip their hats to the influences they proudly wear on their sleeves. Conversely, ‘Dilla’ and ‘Madvillain, Volumes 1 and 2’, from the breakout success of the Abstract Orchestra, are incredibly progressive hip-hop inspired projects that still allow ATA to facilitate the label’s penchant for analogue recording equipment and techniques.

When discussing the making of ATA’s The Mandatory Eight, ‘Soul Fanfare #3’, ATA Records bassist and producer Neil Innes described the label’s aesthetic when it comes to making music that really characterizes the love and passion for music that the label has and nicely frames their intentions for each project: “Today’s technology, with the ability to endlessly edit, tweak, cut and paste has removed those honest human moments from the table. Is there the same intense commitment to a recording if you know that you can just fix it after? And where do you draw the line of what you fix? Modern production has become like Photoshop for the music industry. I prefer Polaroids.”

Imran Mirza

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The Lewis Express ‘The Lewis Express’ LP/CD (ATA) 3/5