Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1101

Welcome To B&S



THE SNOWBOY COLUMN Imelda May Empirical Dennis Rollins JTQ: NEW WORLD Winton Marsalis: He And She Gareth William Power Trio: Shock! The Blue Note 7: Mosaic Brotherly: Spin Down (Brotherly) Lauren Dalrymple: Copasetic (SoFF) Northern Star People: View from The Pocket M-Swift: Evening Sun Natalie Williams presents: Soul Family Volume One Zoe Rahman

Judging by the ants in my kitchen, Spring is here! The festivals are being booked and hopefully (assuming I’m told) I’ll be giving you a good list of great ones to attend. It’s a strange one really, but what with the credit-crunch and the world-wide recession, for some reason I haven’t been busier, band-wise, since the mid-90’s (and believe me, last year was awful). Perhaps people just want to get out and see some live entertainment? They’re certainly not buying CD’s! May I tell you some alarming facts? Ten years ago in the UK there were 10,000 places to buy new-release CD’s and Vinyl but by early 2008 there were only 1,200. How bad is that? It get’s worse: Now, in the UK, there are only 300 CD shops left (not including supermarkets, of course). More alarming facts: last year 90% of all downloads were illegal. Want some more? OK: last year (in one year) it was estimated that 50 Billion files were shared, yes BILLION. That is why my industry is suffering. Please think about it before you download or file-share. It’s crippling us.

Imelda May sells out her tour

An artist that I have recently been raving about, the stunning Imelda May, has just finished a 28 date UK tour and I caught her at the totally sold-out ‘Ko Ko’ in Camden. For those of us of a certain age you will know the venue as Camden Palace (or if you’re REALLY old you will remember it as ‘The Music Machine’). To a heaving and wild crowd of 1,600 she came on stage in this eye-popping rubber dress and gave us a power-packed performance for an hour and a half. She looked like the star that she already IS and the band were fantastic too. Everyone a virtuoso. OK, her music style of R&B, Rockabilly and Jazz won’t appeal to you all but it ‘s just so damn refreshing at the moment and with James Hunter and Big Boy Bloater crossing over into other scenes too, it has to be a great thing. If you want to try your luck, there has been the odd ticket cropping up here and there!

Empirical performs their ‘Tribute to Eric Dolpy’

Empirical expertly incorporates elements of classical, African and Cuban musical forms into its original, sophisticated, fresh-sounding jazz. Empirical makes a point of not centring itself around a specific front line or leader; it is very much a complete band, each member contributing equally, adding their own facets to the overall sound

Thursday April 2nd
Blackfriars Theatre and Arts Centre, Spain Lane, Boston, Lincolnshire

Friday April 3rd
Alnwick Playhouse, Bondgate Without, Alnwick Northumberland

Tuesday May 5th
Alexanders, Rufus Street, Chester, Cheshire[i]

Friday May 8th
Wakefield Sports Club, Eastmoor Road, Wakefield, West Yorkshire

Saturday May 16th
Newbury Spring Festival, Corn Exchange, Berkshire

Saturday May 23rd
Taylor John's House, Coal Vaults, Canal Basin, Coventry, West Midlands

Monday May 25th
Bath International Music Fest - opening for Branford Marsalis (plus afternoon tribute to Cannonball Adderley set)

Dennis Rollins - Live dates...
For award-winning British jazz trombonist

Saturday March 28th
National Centre for Early Music, York - Dennis Rollins' Velocity Trio

Saturday April 25th
Boyes Celebrity Concert, Scarborough Spa Grand Hall - Dennis Rollins' Badbone & Co

Sunday April 5th
New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich - Dennis Rollins' Badbone & Co

Monday May 4th
Speigeltent, Brighton Fringe - Dennis Rollins' Badbone &Co

Wednesday May 20th
Civic Theatre, Doncaster - Maceo Parker featuring Dennis Rollins

Thursday, Friday May 21st & 22nd
Jazz Cafe, London - Maceo Parker featuring Dennis Rollins

Saturday May 23rd
Bath International Music Fest - Maceo Parker featuring Dennis Rollins

Sunday May 24th
Coventry Jazz Festival - Maceo Parker featuring Dennis Rollins

Monday May 25th
Lighthouse Theatre, Poole - Maceo Parker featuring Dennis Rollins

Wednesday May 27th
Manchester Bridgewater Hall - Maceo Parker featuring Dennis Rollins

Saturday June 13th
Dinton Jazz Festival, Wiltshire - Dennis Rollins' Velocity Trio

Friday the 26th of June
Plymouth Jazz Event - Dennis Rollins' Badbone & Co

Sunday June 28th
Lichfield Real Ale Festival - Dennis Rollins' Velocity Trio

CD Reviews

JTQ (The James Taylor Quartet) – New World (Real Self)

I’m not going to mess about here. Straight off the bat, this is JTQ’s best album in 10 years or more. Although it’s as Funkily diverse as usual, covering all eras, there is here, in reality, a new sound. This time the album features an interesting blend of Trumpet and Flute and (I hope it doesn’t sound a cliché me saying this) the Trumpet certainly does conjure up the atmosphere of vintage mid-70’s Donald Byrd. Also, making a difference, this CD has James playing Piano and Fender Rhodes alongside the familiar Hammond Organ creating all kinds of moods and textures.

The album is so diverse that I’m surprised it works so well, but it does. This particular album is extremely Jazzy but has the familiar trademark JTQ Funk, it has songs written in odd time signatures, a jazz bossa and even features a couple of hard-as-nails, late-70’s sounding Jazz Funk Fusion winners which will surely challenge the most fleet of foot in the right clubs. Two Funk tracks feature the singer, London networker-supreme and club-runner Corinna Greyson, and she does a fantastic job.

Perhaps this CD will teach a few (or a lot) of the new breed of Funk bands a valuable lesson in making a consistent album. And if proof be needed, here is evidence that, with all these new pretenders out there snapping at his heels, he’s still the daddy!

Joyce, Nana Vasconcelos & Mauricia Maestro – Visions Of Dawn (Far Out)

It never ceases to amaze me how much unreleased music is in the vaults of the world waiting to be unearthed. This was made in Paris in the 1970’s by composer, vocalist and guitarist Joyce, ground-breaking percussionist Vasconcelos and bassist Maestro – all Brazillians of course. Some people argue that if music is unreleased then it may be because of it was not up to standard. Not the case (and certainly not here). I’m glad that this has been given to us because it’s a thing of beauty with wonderful and classic compositions, great performances and the warmth of friendship running throughout.

Wynton Marsalis – He And She (Blue Note)

Wynton’s fifth album is about the relationship between man and woman. Not a love story but a life story of the evanescence of life and the elusiveness of romance. Punctuated throughout with dynamic poetry (I think by Marsalis – I have no information) the songs have the simple titles of ‘Sassy’, ‘First Kiss’, ‘Girls’ etc leaving the music to fill in the picture. Musically, it’s all very beautifully crafted and performed in a ‘preservationist’ way by Walter Blanding - tenor & soprano saxophones, Dan Nimmer – piano, Carlos Henriquez – bass and Ali Jackson – drums (and of course the great Marsalis). There’s nothing contemporary here, or intended to be, just great classic Jazz.

Gareth William Power Trio – Shock! (Linn)

Right, where do I start? Firstly (such is the big sound) that I had to double-check this was a trio performance. Welsh keyboard wizard Williams is aided and abetted by two of his closest friends and two of the UK’s most accomplished jazz musicians – Laurence Cottle on Bass and Ian Thomas on Drums, and they work incredibly well together with some astounding performances. It’s a CD of odd time signatures, swinging grooves, Funk, influences of Indian Ragas and Welsh Choirs and it all works so well. Williams mainly performs throughout on (what sounds like) a Fender Rhodes switching occasionally to Piano, as he does when he absolutely burns through Coltrane’s ‘Giant Steps’; a test of mettle for any Jazz musician. I love the humour in the titles too, such as ‘Evans The Piano’ and ‘Keeping Up with The Jones’s’ (well I got it any way!). Yes, a very fulfilling album.

Brazilian Groove Band (BGB) – Anatomy Of Groove (Far Out)

Recorded in New York1999, this is a cross between Prestige-style late 60’s Funk Jazz (I will NOT call it Acid Jazz!) and Brazilian music. Put together by Saxophonist Leo Gandlemen it features Funk Jazz legends Reuben Wilson and Grant Green Jr. and some fantastic Brazilian musicians (of which I have no details).

On paper this should be a hot affair but I’m afraid it sounds a little smooth and modern and not really that Funky to be honest. Don’t get me wrong, it would be a great home-listen but for such a line-up I would have hoped for more. The playing is great all the way through but just don’t expect to be hurling yourself around the dancefloor to it.

The Blue Note 7 – Mosaic (Blue Note)

I don’t understand why this CD has had the lukewarm reception that it has. As ‘A Celebration Of Blue Note Records’ it IS just that, and emphatically so! The stellar line-up of Peter Bernstein, Bill Charlap, Ravi Coltrane, Lewis Nash, Nicholas Payton, Peter Washington and Steve Wilson shines throughout. Rightly kicking off with their reading of Blakey’s classic Ceder Walton-penned ‘Mosaic’, they work their way through the Blue Note catalogue going steadily through the different parameters of Modern and Contemporary Jazz offering up astounding performances. A wholly satisfying listen.

Brotherly – Spin Down (Brotherly)

Two years ago this incredible barrier-breaking group gave us their debut album which showed that, really, West-London derived ‘Broken Beat’ really WAS Jazz Fusion in another guise. It really was what Herbie Hancock and other such mavericks should have been experimenting with as it was their music that was the root of ‘Broken’, but it passed under their radar. Luckily for us ‘Brotherly’ were there to show exactly what COULD be done with it and took us on a journey of analogue synths, odd-time signatures, soaring vocals (courtesy of Anna Stubbs) and great compositions. In truth it WASN’T a Broken Beat album but showed what could be down with the genre. Refusing to be labeled as ‘Broken Beat’ they have given us a brand new single in a down-tempo vain. It’s almost an updated vision of the ‘Rare Groove’ sound to my ears. It’s very funky and catchy (and a little twisted!). I just hope that soul weekender crowd and R&B and Rare Groove fans don’t miss this because it could potentially well be a modern day classic.

Lauren Dalrymple – Copasetic (SoFF)

Like most people, I came across Lauren as a featured vocalist with pianist Alex Wilson. She has a very gutsy and soulful voice and has chosen the songs well here. The CD consists, mainly, of her own compositions and are very strong indeed. It’s not an album that’s breaking any barriers (I’m sure she will admit) but infact a nicely balanced, relaxed CD for her fans and newly-converted and stands as a great example of what she does.

‘Copasetic’ was a nonsense word invented by Jazz vocalist and pianist Slim Gaillard meaning ‘Everything’s Alright!’, and I can see why this title was chosen.

Northern Star People – View from The Pocket (ASC)

After (rightly) raving about ‘Brotherly’ earlier I’m treated, yet again, to another musical treat of equal importance.

‘Northern Star People’ consists of Mika Myllari on Trumpet and Jonathan Gee on Keyboards and they have delivered an astonishing work. This is Jazz Fusion for the 21st century with staggeringly complex drum and sound programming featuring very Eddie Henderson ‘Kudu’-period style trumpet and very angular analogue-sounding keyboards. The fact that there is so much going on in the production doesn’t detract, infact it adds to the ‘wow factor’. Although sounding a little home-recorded, it is spectacular, and the attention to detail has been painstaking. This was not made over a couple of days. Their individual performances are just right throughout, and the music itself is remarkably cliché-free – which is a hell of an achievement in this day and age. Do not miss this!

M-Swift – Evening Sun (Knife Edge)

A Japanese import, and well worth searching out. This Anglo-Japanese group is led by producer/ song writer and musician Shouhei Matsushita and they give us 14 tracks of astounding Jazz Funk and Soulful Disco House. I’m sure that Shouhei would be the first to tell you how much ‘Incognito’ has influenced him, and just like ‘Reel People’ too, Bluey should be proud that he has innovated an instantly recognizable style that has influenced other bands such as M-Swift and Reel People. This is a solid, instantly familiar album with absolutely NO weak tracks at all. There is vintage Jazz Funk and Soulful House in equal measures and very classy performances from all concerned. Again, another one that you cannot afford to miss.

Natalie Williams presents Soul Family Volume One (East Side)

Natalie presents her ‘Soul Family’ nights once a month at Ronnie Scotts. She’s an incredible singer and she showcases British Soul talent, and I hear that it’s packed solid each time. I was expecting this CD and thought it was going to be a solo album by her but instead it’s a compilation of artists that sing at her session. It is an amazing line up featuring already known artists such as Brotherly, Tawiah (who I had the pleasure of working with when we both played with Mark Ronson), Nate James, Conner Reeves and the list goes on……. I have to say that there is some incredible stuff here for the dancefloor and anyone from the Soul scene would need their head looked at if they didn’t purchase this. It’s just too good to be passed by. My only disappointment is that Natalie is not actually singing on it. Come on Madam, let’s have a solo album please!

Zoe Rahman – Live (Manushi)

I don’t have any details other than this was recorded live at Pizza Express in Soho, London. You would never know it because the recording is staggering. Musically, it’s not an easy ride. She studied piano under Abdullah Ibrahim and Joanne Breckeen so as you can imagine, the music is very tense and angular but uplifting and occasionally majestic too. The CD had me sitting on the edge of my seat throughout with the trio (augmented by brother Idris Rahman on Clarinet) playing ‘as one’ and it is a thing of beauty. If you like a nice pleasant Jazz trio to casually tap your toe to then this isn’t for you. This takes some listening to and is very challenging, but in these days of horrendous ‘jazz-lite’ Smooth Jazz it’s great to see music of integrity still being made.

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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