After the remarkable success of Matthew Halsall's 'Into Forever' with his Gondwana Orchestra at the end of 2015, it is with much anticipation that we welcome back Mammal Hands. Part of Gondwana is saxophonist Jordan Smart, here, accompanied by brother Nick's heartfelt and lyrical piano playing and the urgent complexity of Jesse Barrett's drums. As a forerunner to the second album 'Floa', Matthew's Gondwana label have released this piece. Taking off on Nick's ostinato, soaring through waltz-time on the wings of Jordan's soprano sax, Jesse's drums and accompanying tablas enter with elements of Drum and Bass in the speed of syncopation. As a pre-cursor to 'Floa', head back to debut 'Animalia' and 'Inuit Party' for another reference to this trio as they take their melting pot of Jazz to the next level. Out on 27th May.
Werkha-City Shuffle EP
Just a few years after making his mark on the Cool Kid Music label, Werkha continues to enjoy good times on Brighton's Tru Thoughts with this collection of remixes from last summer's 'Colours of a Red Brick Raft' album.
The third offshoot syncopates from start to finish. Beginning with the title, it features the in-demand Bryony Jarman-Pinto (Werkha's vocalist of choice whose recent appearances include guesting on album-of-2015, Matthew Halsall's 'Into Forever'). Harmonies ride over swinging jazz guitar riffs, bass-synths, hi-hats and claps, '...as we go by...'.
Tom Blip's, Finger-snapping, head-nodding loop of 'Falling Through the Wall' hopscotches joyfully over a filtered vocal. 'The Invincible' gets a fractured, restless remix: cold moodiness pushing it into Bass territory: DVA provides the Hi Emotions Remix accompanied by Alex Rita's unique soul voice. Instrumental 'Revolution Blue' follows the lead of its predecessors leaving Glenn Rudd to take us out with a recipe for a mature four-to-the-floor version of 'City Shuffle', containing all the right ingredients for late-night dancefloors. Out now.
Anthony Joseph-Caribbean Roots
Trinidadian wordsmith, storyteller and groundbreaker, Mr Joseph continues to fill the chasm left by Gil Scott-Heron under the watch of Paris' Heavenly Sweetness label. On the back of another fruitful collaboration with Italy's Mop Mop project, here lie 11 tracks of consummate musicianship and vehicles for Anthony's spoken word.
The uplifting melody on 'Brother Davis' gives room to sax and guitar to embellish while 'Drum Song' heads into a Free Jazz, Funk territory, led by respected Barbadian saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings before heading into an 'I Want You'-like 'Small Holding' on an album-high. The percussive title track is a monlogue on heritage supported once again by Hutchings' meandering lines to a stirring climax. Just a snapshot of some of the highlights on a near-flawless set.
Five months into the year, the deep, liberated songwriting on this and Melanie De Biasio's 'Blackened Cities' (reviewed above) lead the way.
Melanie De Biasio-Blackened Cities
With artistic approbation coming later in her career, all-the-while honing her craft, 'No Deal' her second, arrived, fully formed and rightly regarded as one of the collections of 2014. Seven tracks included a stunning interpretation of Nina Simone's 'I'm Gonna Leave You'.
'Blackened Cities' is an extraordinary, 24' opus, highlighted by Melanie's effortless and moving vocal and the tireless, shuffling drums of Dre Pallemaerts. Building slowly, '...Cities' arrives with voice and minimal piano. The piece takes off, buoyed on the back of a 'gut feeling' in the words of De Biasio. Waxing and waning but never off-putting, inspired by a post-industrial landscape, this is music for the senses.
Released on 20th May on Play it Again Sam, the label that received Mercury Prize accolades with Roisin Murphy's 'Hairless Toys' last year.
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Mop Mop-Lunar Love
'Catholic', in its non-religious sense, may be one of the better words to describe Italian Andrea Benini's approach to his Mop Mop project. This 12-track suite welcomes back British/Trinidadian Anthony Joseph: poet and spoken-word master, Parisian vocalist Wayne Snow and a crack quintet, including drummer Benini himself. The hang drum and marimba are prominent players in this, a fifth LP, opening with a reflective vignette involving Christoph Matenaers and Max Castlunger's steel drum on 'Alfa'. 'Adhara' follows on for a Mulatu Astatke, Ethiopian-style trip. Mssrs Joseph and Benini combine again on 'Spaceship: Earth' opening suite #2 for a slice of minimalism, followed by the Reggae-leaning 'Lunar Love' pushing a laid-back melody, led by saloon-bar piano and Moog synth. 'Habibi' rides a stubborn groove under an unrestricted vibraphone before the 'Close Encounters' chapter begins with the collection's highlight, 10' of 'Plato'; comfortably allowing the Balafon, rhythm section and piano to converse. Evidence in abundance that a 'Best of 2016' appearance would be reasonable. Out soon on Agogo Records.
Al Green-Simply Beautiful (Maribou State edit)
Following international acceptance via their Ninja Tune debut LP, 'Portraits' last year Maribou State continue to ride the crest of popularity. As renowned for their DJ sets (check the recent BBC Essential mix), the duo have been behind the mixing desk for the likes of Lana Del Rey and now turn to the Reverend's 1972 ballad for a minimal electronic makeover. Transforming this into a piece aimed at the early-evening dancefloor and Balaeric sunsets, this could have the same impact that Psychemagik made with Fleetwood Mac's 'Everywhere' a few years ago.
Neil Cowley Trio-Grace
Former winner of BBC Jazz and Jazz FM awards with his trio Evan Jenkins (drums) and Richard Sadler (bass), it is a beautiful piano sonata that brings Neil Cowley back to the table. A forerunner for album number 6, 'Spacebound Apes', Neil's resonant grand piano adds intensity to such a profound composition. The emotional, reflective side to one of Britain's most important and forward-looking Jazz artists of the last 10 years. The LP is due for a September release.
Appreciate? Try the James Taylor Quartet's 'Dark August'.
Diesler-Gold in Rio/Vice Squad
Jonathan Radford began his recording career on Brighton's Tru Thoughts Records and produced Nu-Jazz era Soul gems like 'A Little Something' (which subsequently became the name of his record label) to the sublime, percussive, horn-led 'Deepest Cuba' along the way. Diversions via Freestyle Records on the journey bring Burnley native Radford up to date with this two-track release. Big Soulful beats accompanied by underlying batucada rhythms play with a repetitive moody synth loop on 'Gold in Rio' for what could be a big summer hit for the more mature dancefloor. 'Vice Squad' fulfils the package on a warm, Nu-Jazz instrumental: Rhodes piano and guitar touches; congas and four/four beats at 118bpm. Available now on Bandcamp (link).
Nubiyan Twist-Siren Song (EP)
Joy exudes from the very first notes of this new EP. Nubiyan Twist return with their second outing amid much support for their debut. 'Siren Song' finds this 12-piece outfit winding in and out of powerful Afrobeat, Ska and Soul with complete ease.
The blistering rhythm and horn sections get the freedom to express themselves with a virtuoso piano excursion, on the extended workout of 'Him Himself' which would feel at home on one of the Kuti scion's albums. 'Crocodile' is bass and horn-led, nasty Herbie Hancock Funk. Nubiya Brandon's heartfelt vocals fit comfortably with the eclectic stylings on offer - whether singing or through spoken word. This is especially evident on the beautiful EP highlight 'Work House Mode', heading into Robert Glasper territory with its accompanying grand piano. Nubiyan Twist fill a niche of Nigerian-flavoured music, of which currently only Canada's Souljazz Orchestra inhabit. Out on Wormfood on 6th May.