Vibration Black Finger ‘Can You See What I’m Trying To Say’ LP (Jazzman) 5/5

At last, Vibration Black Finger vibrates its dark digit once more. After too long away from the LP format, Lascelle Gordon is back. If you don’t know, Gordon, and VBF, is the epitome of ‘deep’. Look up ‘heavy’ in a muso-indulgent dictionary and you’ll see something like “of great musical and emotional density; thick, deep or substantial e.g. ‘VBF’s music is heavy'”. The very definition. And, now, after 3 years of work, and using recordings from as far back as the 1995 and 2000 vintages(!), he’s back to deliver more of that trademark heavy by the way of “Can You See What I’m Trying To Say?”.

New Life Trio’s ‘Empty Streets’ (how apposite) is the album’s bewitching theme song; an immediate introduction to the overarching mood of this unified soundtrack. It aches with tender yearning and dry desolation. Vocalist Ebony Rose is glorious; godforsaken but defiantly calm in the face of an otherworldly sonic wash of dereliction.

The soundtrack continues through the eastern found-music, waterside buzz of ‘Adrianna’ and the relentless, 10 minute plus, beats-infused, urgent space-bleepery, hip sax breaks/multi-voiced swells and final digital breakdown that is “Acting For Liberation Pt 1”.

The brief but liberating, revitalising piano breaks of (Diana) “Gutkind’s Dream” and “Law of the Universe” (featuring Gordon’s niece’s) lead into the arresting, Marion Brown-introduced “Can You See What I’m Trying To Say?”. It’s a rolling mix of exploratory percussion and digital burps that’s caressed into an introspective, not-quite-comfortable space by a vocal/flute massage and empathic sax meanderings.

“Acting For Liberation Pt 2” picks up where Pt 1 left off. This time an engrossing, statement-making, Maggie Nicholls vocal dynamic offers stimulating relief from the Pt 1 relentlessness: “Centred and strong in a journey in song. Trusting my own sense of right and wrong.”

The piano intro to “Persia and Cornelius” makes the heart swell. It continues and flows, the focus of a touching intimacy where, with windows open and soothing summer breeze wafting, fellow musical mates nonchalantly contribute supportive punctuation.

“The Glory” sonically and ideologically nods to a utopian neo-soul Britain of decades previous. Gloriously sensual and optimistic. “Soul Fire” starts with a piano and violin-enabled spiritual awakening, a compassionate meeting of me and something greater than me. It shifts into a flute and strings-voile-muffled academic discussion about some, probably, questionable behavioural ‘conversion’ treatments consisting of electroshock aversion and hormonal rebalancing. It creates an abrupt, audio vérité pause where peaceful, spiritual indulgence is met with real-world human-led brut; maybe scientific, maybe not, maybe political.

Album closer, “Only In A Dream”, is initially a reflective, portentous Gordon soundscape spiritedly traversed by an impeccable jazz vocal. Then, unexpectedly, riffing piano chords, a tidy, busy beat and a Ken Kambayashi bassline kick in; focusing message and intent, seemingly accelerating to a playful, uplifting, communal, future-facing declaration.

This album is special. Lascelle Gordon’s (first) masterpiece. It talks to me in the way Shepp’s “Attica Blues” does. Less in-your-face and more meandering, of course, but its seamless soundtrack-ness, heightened socio-political awareness and deep spirituality is palpable throughout, as is its undeniable beauty. I feel connected to it and have, as I do with all great and meaningful music, appropriated its meaning and assimilated it in me. We are now one.

‘As always I’ve made a conscious move towards making deep, heavy music’ Gordon says, ‘Music without meaning seems pointless.’ I, for one, can definitely see what he’s trying to say.

Ian Ward