Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1101

Welcome To B&S





Seasons greetings! So, the last column of the year and what a dull year for Jazz it’s been too! It’s strange, but it’s been my busiest year in at least 15 years but in complete opposite to that, the festivals have not been doing great business in the UK; and those that have have gone for the usual lowest-common denominator line-ups. Major labels are pushing the most sterile of Jazz, and I just can’t get excited over overrated artists such as Melody Gardot et al, and as for the dreaded David Sanborn album? What is the world coming to. Let’s leave it at that! They also don’t know what to repackage next, as all the average reissues show.

On a positive note, it’s been great to see The Band On The Wall re-open in Manchester. This classic venue for Jazz, Blues and World music has been refurbished and features a dazzling programme booked by Jazz-champion and Jazz FM DJ Mike Chadwick. Ronnie Scott’s programme is the best I’ve ever seen it in 30 years after a bit of a lull. On the club-front it’s been amazing to see a huge countrywide revival in the Jazz Funk scene of the late-1970’s and a big return of Jazz Dance. It was good timing then that my book From Jazz Funk And Fusion To Acid Jazz also came out this year (see advert at bottom of this site), documenting 25 years of our British scene from 1970 to 1995. I’ve been freshly-cleansed with the exciting new Funk label from Ohio – Colemine Records. I immediately interviewed the owner Terry Cole to get straight on it. A Blues And Soul exclusive , I’ll have you know! I’ve been excited by all the nights springing up playing Funk, Northern, Ska, Rockabilly, R&B and Jump Blues all in one room and long may it continue. On that subject, I can tell you that I’ve just been playing percussion on a new album for a huge pop star that has hired Imelda May’s amazing backing band too because he’s looking for that Eddie Cochran/Gene Vincent/Buddy Holly sound. I can’t reveal who yet, but believe me, you’ll find out soon enough! The rise of Imelda, James Hunter and Big Boy Bloater into other markets this year has been staggering and long may it continue.

Despite what I’ve said about the new-releases this year, there have been some absolute gems, and so here are my...

Top 15 this 2009

Milano Jazz Dance Combo – Milano Jazz Dance Combo (Record Kicks)
Stefon Harris and Blackout present Urbanus (Concorde)
Omar Puente – From There To Here (Creative People)
Colonel Red – Sweet Liberation (Ruff Language)
Laura Vane And The Vipertones - [Self titiled] (Social Beats)
Michael – Purpose Built (Whirlwind)
JTQ (The James Taylor Quartet) – New World (Real Self)
Brotherly – Spin Down (Brotherly)
Northern Star People – View from The Pocket (ASC)
M-Swift – Evening Sun (Knife Edge)
Zoe Rahman – Live (Manushi)
M-Swift Presents 24 Carat (Jazzmin)
Azymuth – Butterfly (Far Out)
Imelda May – Love Tattoo (Universal)
Skeletons – Smile (Tru Thoughts)

Vintage At Goodwood

One festival which will be massive next year is called Vintage At Goodwood. It’s promoted by Lord March and Wayne Hemingway MBE and will be a celebration of British music, fashion, culture and lifestyle from the 1940’s to the 80’s, but will feature current bands playing sets of music that inspired them. It has an estimated attendance of 36,000 a day making it the second largest festival to Glastonbury and although, yes there will be a lot of Pop and Rock, it has a very Black-music heavy music policy. I’m very lucky and fortunate to have been booked to curate the 2,000 capacity 40’s area called The Torch and can assure you that if it’s period Jazz you’re after then this will be paradise. I can exclusively reveal that I have booked the huge orchestra’s - James Langton and his Solid Senders, Pete Longs Gillespiana, The John Miller Orchestra, Ray Gelato, Mike Sanchez, Laura B and the Moonlighters and The Swing Commanders plus burlesque, comedy and special performances that I’m not allowed to announce yet! It runs from August the 13th – 15th and tickets go on sale January the 16th 2010. It’s going to be absolutely amazing.

Last Reviews of the year

Ray Gaskins – A Night In The Life (Expansion)

I didn’t know but this has been out a while. I haven’t seen it reviewed here so…….. Although a solo artist, Ray of course has been seen for many years now as Saxophonist and keyboard player with Jazz Funk legend Roy Ayers. This CD (his third I believe) is killer. Generally, the tempos are quite mid in that modern Funky Fusion style with some beautiful ballads to boot. Although not that often, Ray features his vocals on a few tracks, which is a shame we don’t hear more as his voice is quite simply world-class. Of course, as expected, his playing is at once both soulful and jazzy but the album is just so consistent it’s difficult to pinpoint highlights.

Skeletons – Smile (Tru Thoughts)

This is a CD of a non-existent band or artist. It is an incredible project where Nostalgia 77’s Ben Lamdin makes a collage of lots of different sessions he’s produced with some performances appearing on tracks that they never played on originaly. Lamdin gives us an authentic Afro Beat/Afro Funk groove on each track throughout and, I must say, every song sounds like a strong composition in it’s own right. The textures are immense and the playing astounding. Without doubt one of the best and most exciting CD’s of the year.

Omar Puente – From There To Here (Creative People)

We have been very fortunate to have had genius Cuban Violinist/composer Omar Puente resident in the UK for many years. He has graced many bands with his wealth of knowledge and experience and for the last few years he has been featured heavily in Courtney Pine’s band. Courtney has produced Omar’s debut album here and it is everything that I hoped that it would be. It contains the Jazz and Afro Cuban styles in equal measures with a little Funk thrown in for good measure (it is actually quite a history lesson in the many various Cuban rhythms) with a great, even balance of styles and tempos throughout. The compositions are rich and mature and as it should be, Omar gets to shine throughout.

Geoff Gascoyne – Pop Bop (Jazzizit)

What an interesting album. Jazz Bassist Geoff Gascoyne does an album of Jazz covers of well-chosen pop songs of the past 40 years by artists as diverse as Earth, Wind and Fire, Cat Stevens, Gladys Knight and Rufus Wainwright. With featured musicians such as Jim Mullen, Graeme Blevins, Sebastiaan De Krom and Trudy Kerr, the band really make the songs their own. There’s no novelty to this, every song works in their own right done in this way and it’s a complete joy frankly.

The Nigel Price Organ Trio – Live (Jazzizit)

I first encountered Nigel when I played percussion in The James Taylor Quartet and he was on guitar. He blew me away then and he does now. For that authentic Wes Mongomery ‘Prestige’ and ‘Blue Note’ Soul Jazz style he plays it as easily as breathing. This CD features his trio live and very well recorded it is too and the band easily steam through classics, evergreens and originals. If this is your style of Jazz then you cannot be without this perfect example of the genre.

Colonel Red – Sweet Liberation (Ruff Language)

No one was more distressed than me when the hub of the UK Broken Beat scene, the record distributor ‘Goya’, went under taking the scene with it. The artists have scattered in different directions still making incredible innovative contemporary Black music and here we have the male voice of that scene with his second CD. Amazing it is too. Colonel Red is already currently featuring heavily on Jazz-based dancefloors at the moment with his feature on the Milano Jazz Dance Combo CD on the furious paced Jazz Samba ‘Much More’ and so this release is timely. With the exception of the title track and perhaps ‘The Flow’ and ‘Shine On’ (if you have a VERY adventurous dancefloor) it is more of a listening album. The textures ebb and flow, washing over you in great swathes, underpinned with low-slung angular R&B grooves. It’s a very cerebral album with great intelligent lyrics and a unique vocal delivery as only Red can give you. Essential listening.

Laura Vane And The Vipertones - [Self Titled] (Social Beats)

The long-awaited album is finally here. This is not simply yet another one of the current production-line of Funk bands, it sounds vintage with Northern Soul and 60’s Funk influences but is very contemporary. In a way I don’t see why this album and artist couldn’t (with the right breaks) be up there with Imelda May, Paloma Faith et al and other vintage based acts of the moment as the CD is equally as strong in production and song writing. Let’s see!

Michael Janisch – Purpose Built (Whirlwind)

This solo album by bassist Michael Janisch is a hard album to review because I have no reference points to give you. It almost does the impossible by being unique. It’s not inaccessible so don’t let me mislead you, quite the contrary, each track is beautifully written, unique and completely contemporary in it’s own right. Janisch’s bass playing is (as expected) outstanding throughout and always to the fore and is backed by quite a who’s who on the modern Jazz scene. This is a very satisfying CD and I urge you to purchase it. One of the best albums of the year.

Merry Christmas and a happy New Year


Please feel free to contact SNOWBOY at B&S with any Jazz news that you feel would benefit others - Thank you.

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