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November 2021 Highlights SunNeverSetsOnMusic

November 2021 Highlights SunNeverSetsOnMusic

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Favourites|November2021

Gabriels - Love and Hate In A Different Time

Love and Hate In A Different Time (EP)

by Gabriels

Released 29 October 2021

Gabriels

*****

Gabriels is an LA based group fronted by former American Idol finalis (placed 5th, 2011) Jacob Lusk, a gospel singer and choir director and producers Ryan Hope and Ari Bazoulian. "Love and Hate in a Different Time", the band's debut, released in December 2020 but only now getting the attention it deserves (following enthusiastic endorsement by Sir Elton John), is a timeless-sounding R&B classic that the band describes as "about how we appear to be losing the ability to peacefully be together in a space and express ourselves. Together. We have always endured agendas of hate, hardship and war but we have in someway always found a way to be together and put aside our differences. However in recent times with the development of the technology / disinformation it appears this is tested".
The band describes the associated video as "a history of the complex relationship between the film camera and people dancing together. How we used to be able to get through things in the worst of times and has this development of technology been a good thing? Has it in fact caused us to lose this sensibility of being able to put differences to the side and just be together peacefully? The effort we would go to connect with each other / compared to now the super fast throw away instant feel these moments have become."

In a review of Gabriels' recent London show, the Spectator described the band as "Joyous perfection from a band that's sure to go far ... pitched perfectly at that place where adult meets euphoric".

The unique character of Gabriels' music is underpinned by the marriage of Lusk's extraordinary command of Gospel & R&B, with Hope and Bazoulian's expertise in soundtrack production (and a stunning cameo vocal by Ashley Sade on "Loyalty"). A short scan of the producers' Bandcamp reveals a ten year history of soundtracks, together and with other collaborators, as "appraiser".

Hopefully, a full LP will follow - Lusk and Co. have far too much talent to remain hidden away in obscurity any longer.

Source: Bandcamp

Ben Marc - Breathe Suite (EP)

Breathe Suite

by Ben Marc

Released 1 October 2021

Innovative Leisure

*****

Ben Marc realised music was going to be his life. He studied classical double bass at Trinity College London. He duly went on to work with artists, including  Macy Grey, Amy Winehouse, Dizzee Rascal, the Charles Mingus Big Band, Jimmy Cliff , Radiohead’s Johnny Greenwood, Ethio-jazz pioneer Mulatu Astatke, Afrofuturists Sun Ra Arkestra and grime legend Dizzee Rascal.

But Ben Marc has long blurred musical worlds and criss-crossed boundaries. On double and bass guitar, he flits between jazz, classical and electronic music, whether playing on Greenwood’s award-winning score for the film The Master or touring with Mulatu for over 10 years, as well as working with the likes of Matthew Herbert & Charles Mingus.

But as a producer and multi-instrumentalist at the leading edge of the UK jazz scene, Ben Marc is now stepping into the spotlight with his debut solo project that recalls the likes of spiritual jazz legends Alice Coltrane & Pharoah Sanders.

His first foray is tentative : Breathe Suite is an EP of just nineteen minutes and four pieces - Breathe Suites A and B and Breathe Improvs A and B. 

"Breathe Suite A" features a stirring arrangement of strings, keyboards and drums and lyrics that speak eloquently of the perpetual struggle of the oppressed: the song's chorus "I'll raise my voice / You raise your hand / I'll hold the truth / Until you understand" (and repetitive chanting of the word "Breathe") is delivered by a chorus of kids voices while the optimistic verses are sung by magnificent London vocalist MidnightRoba (see footnote): "One day we will breathe / Soon will come the time / Every life that's lived / Will be valued as their lives / Dismantling what has been ingrained 400 years"

"Breathe Suite B" features the same children's chorus, but otherwise spoken word content by London grime / triphop /  jazz artist Rarelyalways.

Footnote:

MidnightRoba's solo album "Golden Seams" was included in SunNeverSetsOnMusic's January 2021 playlist.

Source: Bandcamp

MidnightRoba - Golden Seams

Golden Seams

by Midnight Roba

Released 29 January 2021

Sonder

*****

MidnightRoba's solo debut album, Golden Seams, marks the return to music, after many years away from the scene, of the artist who made her reputation as the voice of UK trip-hop trio Attica Blues,

So-named for the seminal 1972 Archie Shep album) Attica Blues released two albums, the first on Mo Wax in '98, the second, Test, Don't Test in 2000 on Columbia.

Roba has also worked with King Britt on Moksha Black 09 and As It Should Be and with Ben Marc on his upcoming release "Breathe Suite".

Golden Seams is a collection of 9 original compositions by Roba, who contributes vocals, keyboards, drum programming and drums throughout the album, but is accompanied by various other artists on individual tracks including American jazz pianist Jason Moran on "Bitter Boy".

Mixing and production is credited to former Attica Blues member Tony Nwachukwa..

Opening track "Self Doubt" is a beautifully constructed blend of intertwined vocal and instrumental lines, in a song that describes self-doubt: "In the dark of night, you creep inside / Plant your seed inside my head / Cycling thoughts, they twist within my cells I can't free myself ... Overthinking I / Why can't I let it lie? / Why?"

The mellow mood continues with "Reminded" whose smooth, low-range vocals invoke Sade, Joan Armatrading or K.D. Lang, recalling  a past relationship and asks "How does it feel to you now?", and admitting "Although we didn't stand the test of time ... So grateful for all the love we shared ... Remembered, not with bitterness, but joy".

Close relationships also dominate the succeeding songs: "Don't Let This Change" ("Always you that comes to mind when I need insight"); "Shelter Within" (""Be my shelter from the storm / Hold me tight in your warmth") and "Safe With Me" ("Feel these arms around you close / Shield your heart / I won't let go").

The pace and focus of the set shifts to an entirely more urgent setting for "Bitter Boy", which is described as a song in two parts; a Mother's Plea and a Mother's Lament. Part I- a cry of the loss of innocence and the truths faced by parents of black children; the conversations that need to be had to protect them and the helplessness of not knowing if it will be enough.

The instrumental "If Time Heals" provides a gentle interlude release after the tension of "Bitter Boy" but when Roba;s vocals return for "Be Still" we find her at the top of her register singing "Be still, my beating heart / Pray you don't betray this cooled exterior".

Title track "Golden Seams" concludes Roba's triumphant return and speaks of "The rebuilding of a soul ... Don't be shy to show with pride / The mark of what you have repaired / Golden seams will trace the dreams".

If this song is a reference to her own return to performance, then dhr should indeed be proud, as golden seams are all that is in evidence.

serpentwithfeet - DEACON

DEACON

by serpentwithteeth

Released 26 March 2021

Secretly Canadian

****-

serpentwithfeet is amorphous and ever-evolving, shedding his skin for a new one with each life experience and musical project he’s released. But one thing remains constant – the power of his alluring voice. Trembling, piercing, and above all, provocative, Josiah Wise possesses a voice that can, at once, seduce, frighten, and bring you to tears. 

Wise is no stranger to shedding tears. His 2018 debut full-length release Soil saw the Baltimore-born singer undulate between despair, guilt, and desire-fueled paranoia. serpentwithfeet emerged from the drab depths of Soil an uncanny talent on the rise, but became misconstrued as yet another perpetually sad artist making contemporary R&B.

His bold declaration to seek light rather than darkness, peace over chaos, and desire over aversion, during a time most bleak, has now come into full fruition with his lavish new record, Deacon.

For just under 30 minutes, Deacon manifests this joy, not for hedonistic purposes, but as a reaction to the gloom and unhealthy sense of desire that consumed the heart of Soil. Song by song, Deacon sees Wise cast the demons and dark energy of his debut out into the ether while tapping into true pleasure and affection, all centered around the image of Black queer love. This is hyper-realized through pseudo-fictitious scenarios that are equal parts intimate and flirtatious.

This serpent is brandishing new skin, redefined and transformed, not by the will of others but by his own love-led volition.

Source: BeatsPerMInute

Jelly Cleaver - Forever Presence (EP)

Forever Presence (EP)

by Jelly Cleaver

Released 12 November 2021

Gearbox Records

*****

Forever Presence is the recorded debut of a new project by London-based guitarist, activist and producer Jelly Cleaver. Jelly has had an incendiary rise over the last year; she has received the Steve Reid Innovation Award (a partnership between the Steve Reid Foundation and PRS Foundation, that gives emerging artists that make outstanding music an opportunity to receive support in the form of a grant of up to £1,500 to help with creative goals and career development
mentoring from an experienced, successful working artist; previous winners include Nubya Garcia and Moses Boyd) is a Serious Take Five artist (an annual talent development programme for emerging jazz and improvising musicians/composers produced by Serious, and funded by the PRS Foundation, Help Musicians, Arts Council England, and Serious Trust), was nominated for an Ivors Composer Award (is the UK's foremost celebration of creative excellence in contemporary classical and jazz composition and sound arts; part of the Ivor Novello Awards programme), and has been called “the next artist to make an impact on the London Jazz Scene” by Tina Edwards (UK DJ, Broadcaster BBC 3, Journo).

Yet in the excitement and movement of this jazz scene, Forever Presence takes a different path, focusing on the neglected elements of ballads and beauty to allow other emotions to enter the music. It pays tribute to artists like Pharaoh Sanders, Alice Coltrane and Dhafer Youssef, as well as taking inspiration from Jelly's contemporaries such as Moor Mother and Angel Bat Dawid.

Weaving together spiritual jazz, blues, soul, and psychedelic rock and accompanied by rising stars of the UK jazz scene, Forever Presence explores in five tracks the narratives of loss, love and the universe.

Still sounding less like an album and more like a sampler or taste of big things to come, this EP heralds the imminent arrival of an innovative ne artist, further expanding and enhancing the vibrant London jazz scene.  

Personnel:

Jelly Cleaver - composition, production, guitar, vocals, synth, percussion
James Akers - saxophone
Lorenz Okello-Osengor - piano, rhodes, hammond organ
Katie Moberly - cello, electric bass
Hamish Nockles-Moore - double bass
Tash Keary - drums, percussion

Source: Bandcamp

Joseph Rabjohns, Lachlan R. Dale - Eclipsing -- Orbs

Eclipsing || Orbs

Joseph Rabjohns || Lachlan R. Dale

Released 26November 2021

Art As Catharsis

****-

Australian progressive guitarists Joseph Rabjohns (Kodiak Empire) and Lachlan R. Dale (Hashshashin) have teamed up for a split release of instrumental guitar compositions..

Joseph Rabjohns - Eclipsing

Joseph's solo work draws from neo-classical guitar, post-rock, folk and ambient music. Through his solo compositions, Joseph aims to tame his passion for complex music with the soothing nature of folk music, and a heavy emphasis on finger style guitar playing.

Lachlan R. Dale - Orbs

Over the years, Lachlan R. Dale has played in a range of Australian underground acts, from Adrift For Days (psychedelic fuzz}, Serious Beak (jazz-inflected metal),  Jxckxlz, (seething metallic hardcore) and more recently, Hashshashin (droning Eastern rock).

For Orbs, he draws inspiration from Persian and Indian classical music, sifting them through a filter of ambience, minimalism and drone. He cites drone-metal titan Dylan Carson (of Earth), Pandit Nikhil Banerjee and Ali Ghamsari as having informed his style. Others might pick-up hints of Year Of No Light’s blackened post-metal, the deep ambience of Rafael Anton Irisarri, or the meditative sonic explorations of High Aura’d.  The resulting songs flow with gentleness, yet still maintain a snarl of distortion – Lachlan’s interests in heavier music stirring in the undercurrent.

Source: Bandcamp

Bremer, McCoy - Natten

Natten

by Bremer/McCoy

Released 29 October 2021

Sony. Luaka Bop

****-

Copenhagen based jazz/ambient artists Bremer/McCoy have produced a rest-full new album "Natten", (which is Danish for “The Night") drawing inspiration, they say, from the end of the day "that regenerative time under the constellations when our lives look different".

“When it works for me,” says pianist Morten McCoy, “it’s pure meditation, pure prayer. Pure gratitude for simply being, without all kinds of jibber-jabber filling my thoughts.” A sentiment that tells you everything about the feeling and nothing about the sound.

McCoy and the bassist Jonathan Bremer started making music together back in 2012 when they were still in school. At first the Danish duo played dub. It’s hard to imagine that that’s how they started when you listen to the ethereal sounds they make now, but the influence becomes clearer when you see them live: they insist on traveling with their own sound system.

That might seem like a lot of effort for a quiet Danish duo, but for Bremer/McCoy, making music is all about what happens in the room. That’s why they go through the trouble of carrying their own equipment, and it’s why they record analog. When they write music, they aim for direct transmission - idea straight to composition.

“We felt a greater freedom this time around because we now have a much deeper understanding and grounding in what we’re doing,” says Bremer. “This allows us to venture further out than ever before, because we know that things typically fall into place.”

This is the pattern: Feeling grounded and then using that solid foundation to launch to greater heights. “It’s certainly our most cosmic album,” says McCoy. “But in order to space out, you have to know where you’re coming from. So the album ranges from tracks where you can hear everything that’s going on, to tracks that take us further out.”

There’s a hint in what Bremer and McCoy say of how they hope you will experience their music. As a key to something. A key to life, or possibly a key to appreciating new sounds. This is the feeling Bremer/McCoy’s music transmits that you won’t be able to shake. They’re trying to tell you something; you’ll hear it if you listen.

Morten McCoy is a pianist, composer, arranger, teacher and vinyl-DJ. McCoy (b. 1992) started his musical journey by digging deep into the Jamaican music-culture both as a musician, composer, concert-organizer and DJ. Since then he has been digging into both east- and West-African music as well as modern western sounds. As a record-producer he has among other things been working hard on mastering the art of recording music analogue. In 2017 he worked as a co-composer on the award-winning soundtrack for the Danish movie “Underverden”. That year he was also nominated by the association of Danish Music Critics as  “Musician of the Year” and “Composer of the Year” together with Jonathan Bremer in 2017. He curates Livity Music – a subdivision of Raske Plader.

Jonathan Bremer, musician, songwriter, label director and producer, has been in the spotlight of the Danish jazz scene since 2010 when he was hired by the newly reopened legendary jazz club Montmartre as the house bass player. He has toured with Niels Lan Doky in Europe and Asia, and in that context he has played with people like Gino Vannelli, David Sanborn and many others. He founded Unity Rec. in 2016, releasing analogue recorded jazz-music, including Danish string-quartet Halvcirkel self titled debut-LP, in 2017.

Source: Bremmer/McCoy

Adam Baldych Quintet | Paulo Frescu - Poetry.

Poetry

by Adam Baldych Quintet | Paulo Frescu

Released 29 October 2021

Music + Vision

****-

After more than a year without live performance, Adam Bałdych can’t wait to return to the stage (in November 2021). His world of improvisation is shaped by the personal contact he has with his audience: “People’s reactions, the way they draw deep into this music, how they listen – it always changes my music.”

It was during this period of isolation that Bałdych’s first son was born last July, creating new possibilities for communication and imagination. “It was a good thing that it happened in the pandemic, because I really slowed down. I could spend this time with him, I wasn’t in a rush,” Bałdych says. “I felt that these very light, full colours and happiness were around me all the time, and I wanted to express that in the music I wrote, because my music is always an expression of what I can see around me.”
Bałdych’s new album, Poetry, is a celebration of communication. “After the pandemic year, I was really missing people, so I tried to make music where I could invite the listener into my world, to feel connected. There are so many magical things that I want to see, and to share in the language of music.”

Poetry sees Bałdych move away from the virtuosic solo playing of his previous records, blending his own sound with that of his new ensemble.

Bałdych’s Quintet – with Marek Konarski on tenor saxophone, Krzysztof Dys on piano, Michał Barański on double bass and Dawid Fortuna on drums – is joined by trumpeter Paolo Fresu on five of the tracks of the album.

“We recorded the album in a studio, hidden away in a quiet village in the south of Poland where I felt that we’d have a space to be together and celebrate creating art together,” says Bałdych. “We spent the time eating, talking and playing music. And it was really special, especially after the last year. We wanted to express the happiness of being together.”

This shared happiness forms the foundation of each track. Poetry is an album driven by feeling, from the flowing piano line of I Remember to the euphoric, ensemble-led final track Open Sky. Bałdych’s focus on personal connections inspired the album’s name: “Poetry is everything that is between the words – you have to find it for yourself. And different people will find something different, because it’s an echo of who you are,” he says. “After years of being so expressive on the violin I really understood that sometimes you need to find a place, in the cascades of sound, where the silence speaks more than any words.”

Poetry, Bałdych tells me, is not an album of separate tracks, but a cycle of poems that flow into each other. The hypnotising pizzicato violin line that opens the very first track, Heart Beats, is echoed in the ninth track, Birds – this time with percussive reinforcement by Dys and Fortuna. “Every track brings something different,” Bałdych points out. “It’s only when you see the whole piece you can understand the whole picture. The tracks on the album represent the picture of my world today.”

The new album is also a celebration of Bałdych’s close relationship with his record label – the violinist was signed by ACT ten years ago, the morning after his late night show at JazzFest Berlin in 2011. “It’s so important to be able to have a dialogue, not only with the new artists that you invite for projects, but with the label itself. I always try to say what’s important to me and to put energy into that. That’s how we can do it for 10 years and still feel like we can achieve new things.”

“This album is very much connected to the first album I recorded with ACT – I also had a trumpeter and a saxophonist on the very first one. I’ve tried to celebrate these 10 years by getting back to the emotions I had recording the first one.”

After six albums with ACT, all with different ensembles, Bałdych won’t let himself be constrained by any one genre. His latest classical composition, Concerto Galante for improvising renaissance violin and orchestra, was premiered by the Stuttgarter KammerOrchester in July. “When I think about my music at the moment I feel like a violinist, an improviser and a composer. I really let myself just leave the music, just play, just compose, just make the album and then understand what’s happened, and what this music represents in my life.”

Source: LondonJazzNews

Laraaji - Moon Piano

Moon Piano

by Laraaji

Released 9 October 2021

All Saints Records

****-

A companion volume to the 2020 Sun Piano album, this LP was recorded at the same session, in a Brooklyn Church. Whereas the former record lent itself to the more uplifting side of Laraaji’s keyboard improvisations, Moon Piano explores the more introspective and minimal pieces captured by Jeff Zeigler (Kurt Vile, The War On Drugs, Mary Lattimore) and edited by Christian Havins (Dallas Acid).

Laraaji describes this set of tracks as “Contemplative sound painting, embracing quiet tranquil unfolding of nurturing reflection”. In a recent interview with Aquarium Drunkard, Laraaji described the improvisatory process of making both piano albums: “I’d sit down, touch the piano and through free association, also blending it with my prepared mental state, I was able to tune in and affirm my highest sense of presence. The piano became an instrument for the imagination to suggest higher or finer worlds, to suggest a joy, euphoria, bliss, also to suggest silence, minimalism, relaxation, and contemplation. So, all of that music was spontaneous but with those influences shaping and guiding it along the way.”

Whilst Moon Piano almost shades into melancholy with a contrasting nighttime vibe to Sun Piano’s daytime joyfulness, certain themes from the first record reoccur - side two’s “Pentatonic Smile” is a longer edit on the central riff underpinning the former album’s “Temple Of New Light”.
credits

A note on the recording. Whilst Laraaji was playing, different community groups would pass through to use the church’s facilities, and a number of distinctive city sounds would sometimes penetrate the walls of the church, from police car sirens to the noise of schoolchildren. There are no overdubs, and Laraaji’s spontaneous performance is captured vérité style, with minimum application of artificial techniques to clean up what was captured on the microphones. Please note therefore that whilst chair scrapes, door slams and the breathing of the pianist are all audible, the full dynamic range and authentic spirit of the session are captured on this record. Some of the longer pieces have been edited into shorter sections thanks to careful attention and skilful work by Christian Havins of the band Dallas Acid, who have both collaborated with Laraaji previously and released their own album on All Saints Records.

Source: Bandcamp

Gretchen Parlato - Flor

Flor

by Gretchen Parlato

Released 5 March 2021

Edition Records

****-

“There is a story to tell, now.”

Gretchen Parlato has returned, not only to the recording industry but to herself, with her new Brazilian-inspired project, Flor. Portuguese for “flower”, Flor is the artistic embodiment of the GRAMMY®-nominated singer’s deep dive into motherhood over the last six years, a metamorphic interval of space that allowed Parlato to discover the fullness of her essence through a new lens.

In this season of epiphany, Parlato reaps her most personal harvest yet, which she refers to as, “a blossoming, an opening, an offering, a return.”

A gorgeous synthesis of original material, American popular music, European classical music, and Brazilian standards, Flor exemplifies the many ways in which motherhood has reconnected Parlato to her own inner child, revisiting the enchantment of falling in love with music for the first time, particularly the various Brazilian genres she became enamored with as a young teenager. “This is music that I’ve always wanted to honor,” says Parlato. “What I’m trying to find isn’t outside of myself. It’s not out of reach, it’s actually that internal revealing of what already exists.”

Source: Bandcamp

Mon Laferte - 1940 Carmen

1940 Carmen

by Mon Laferte

Released 29 October 2021

UMG Mexico

*****

Since releasing Desechable, her 2011 debut album, Chilean singer/songwriter Mon Laferte has created an ever-evolving pattern across popular music. She has traversed the worlds of pop, Rock en Español, indie rock, cumbia, ranchera, mambo, salsa, psych, and bolero. 1940 Carmen follows her Latin Grammy-nominated Seis by a mere five months (which was reviewed in SunNeverSetsOnMusic's May 2021 playlist). Written and recorded in Los Angeles from March to July 2021, the ten-song set is titled after the address of the Airbnb where Laferte was staying while she wrote and cut the album, half of it in English.

Laferte plays all of the music here along with her band's musical director Sebastian Aracena.

The songs seemingly journal her four-month stay in L.A. during which time her goal was to become pregnant. While 1940 Carmen is mostly uptempo and optimistic, it nonetheless reflects Laferte's particular gifts as a songwriter capable of juxtaposing conflicting, even contradictory emotions and psychological states as well as imbuing physical landscapes and personal interactions, no matter how brief and/or casual, with profound implications.

Though a 180-degree turn from the Mexican regional music employed on Seis, 1940 Carmen is every bit its equal in creativity, emotional depth, and execution.

Source: AllMusic

Veronica Swift - This Bitter Earth

This Bitter Earth

by Veronica Swift

Released 19 March 2021

Mack Avenue Records

****-

Borrowing music from Broadway (Oliver!, South Pacific, Bye Bye Birdie), alt-rock (The Dresden Dolls' "Sing!"), the great American Songbook, ("Getting To Know You"), R&B, and beyond, it takes an artist of sure and rising stature to curate one hell of a coherent protest album. Veronica Swift is that artist and, most declaratively, This Bitter Earth is that album.

Since there is not a standard of any bearing that Swift doesn't defy and stamp as her very own, it comes as no surprise that she can take "Trust In Me" from Disney's The Jungle Book, the poppy effluence and innocence of the Crystal's '62 single "He Hit Me (And It Felt Like a Kiss)" and Lionel Bart's torcher "As Long As He Needs Me" and braid them into a unsettling vision of the emotional upheaval too many women in too many abusive relationships experience on a daily - no, hourly - basis.

Swift is twenty-seven and at the top of her game; This Bitter Earth spotlights all of her precocious, vanguard strengths and daring interpretative acknowledgement of the music past, present and future. Her skilfully active arrangements, ("He Hit Me" is going to kick your ass plain and simple) and her deep intuition of the unbridled energy of music as one pure whole, not a filing cabinet of categories, weave a compelling libretto of dark, larger truths we try to ignore but dare not. Can not.

Beating at the core of this early 2021 candidate for best-of is pianist Emmet Cohen, (hot off his own Mack Avenue debut Future Stride), bassist Yasushi Nakamura and drummer Bryan Carter who complement, challenge, and freestyle Swift to heights few peers (Cecile McLorin Salvant, Cyrille Aimee, Jazzmeia Horn) readily and routinely access. 

David Frishberg's light hearted "The Sports Page" finds Swift taking fake news avatars by the balls and twisting while the trio, Cohen especially, punches away. "How Lovely to Be a Woman" may exhibit a comedic exuberance with a pop-martial bounce but Swift makes it a not-so-sly swipe at a sexism that virally persists from one supposedly enlightened generation to the next.

From South Pacific, the darkly intentioned "You've Got To Be Carefully Taught" mirrors our sad, xenophobic headlines a bit too precisely for comfort.

That said, This Bitter Earth - centered on Swift's tradition-grounded, yet air-borne, vocal athleticism (her scatting alone provides an engine of smiles despite all the deeper leanings) and wildfire performances from all involved - crackles like a live wire from the title opener to its urgent closer "Sing!." Thirteen tracks demand you stop and listen, be it for the beat, the swing, the voice, the music, the message. Whatever. You're gonna listen. Just try not to.

Source: All About Jazz

Adele - 30

30

by Adele

Released 19 November 2021

Columbia

****-

In "30", Adele's much-anticipated fourth album , the UK diva shares a set of a deeply personal reflections, focusing on her divorce, and her state of mind balancing her career and motherhood. 

The set of twelve new songs is presented in a lush musical environment conjured by masterful UK producer Inflo (SAULT, Cleo Sol, Michael Kiwanuka, Little Simz and others) and co-writing credits for all songs are shared with male collaborators experienced in soundtrack, jazz, hip hop  and pop.

Opening track "Strangers By Nature" seems to pre-emptively resolve the album's primary themes "Now that all the dust has settled ' I rebutt all my rebuttals / No-one knows what it's like to be us"- presumably referring to Adele's unease with fame as the source the unease she expresses throughout the remainder of the recording. This interpretation is reinforced with "Easy On Me": "Go easy on me, I was still a child / Didn't get the chance to / Feel the world around me" "Easy On Me". 

In the confessional "My Little Love", the artist addresses the child, apologising for her absence and failures. The inclusion of recordings of the intimate conversations with the child and tearful recordings of feelings, however well intentioned seem exploitative.

Channelling Natalie Cole's "This Will Be (An Everlasting Love)" the following song, "Cry Your Heart Out" changes the tempo but still manages  to convey the artist's self-imposed turmoil. "Oh My God", propelled by jaunty percussion and handclapping, similarly masks downcast lyrics with upbeat rhythms.

The Oasis-like acoustic-guitars of the opening of "Can I Get It" abruptly pull the session out of its soulful mood, with a mid -sixties pop-rock tune, complete with whistling interludes. Co-written by Max Martin (whose previous collaborators include Brittany Speers, NSYNC, Backstreet Boys, Bon Jovi, kelly Clarkson, Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, Weeknd, others) this track is a likely chart-topper-in-waiting.

The album's mood returns to soulful territory with the opening piano chords of "I Drink Wine", a song that would sit comfortably on any given Elton John album. For the most part, the song successfully deals with the stress within Adele's relationship but the inclusion of a spoken-word section for the final minute of the song is another unnecessary artifact.

"All Night Parking" and "Woman Like Me" find Adel in full Amy Winehouse mode: the first, a simple, soulful love song; the second, a bitter complaint to a former partner, above all for his complacency, laziness and inconsistency. 

The first half of "Hold On" is a simple voice & piano song in which Adele expresses her vulnerability and encourages herself: "let pain be patient (love will come soon)". The song builds progressively and eventually Adele's powerful vocal range of her earlier records is allowed to soar to great heights before fading away, as if to remind herself of those simpler times.

"To Be Loved" follows a similar trajectory: once again we find her encouraging herself to overcome her fears. This song seems to always be on the verge of transforming itself into an "I Will Always Love You" but never resolves itself, except to rise ceaselessly in intensity and conclude exhausted, far away in Adele's upper register.

The album concludes with the extravagant big ballad "Love Is A Game". Here Adel mines Philadelphia soul's brass and girl-group vocal harmony precedents to wonderful effect, but expresses her exhaustion with relationships and all that goes with them: “Love is a game for fools to play / And I ain’t fooling / What a cruel thing / To self-inflict that pain.” It's a soaring, anthemic conclusion to the album, even if not quite reaching the startling vocal heights of previous mega-hits like 25's "Hello".

"30" is another musically compelling album from Adele in which she broadens her musical horizons in collaboration with some of the most creative and influential writers and producers in the business. The album's lyrical content reveals the enormous personal toll that Adele's rise to superstardom imposed, as she grew up in public, from the 19 year old debutant to the adult First Lady of popular music.

"30" has broadened her musical options and opens her to more progressive material for her next ... "32?", "33?", "35?".

Radiohead - KID A MNESIA

KID A MNESIA

by Radiohead

Released 29 October 2021

XL Recordings

*****

Rising to prominence with the guitar-laden sophomore album "The Bends" (1995) and its ubiquitous single "Creep", Oxford-based Radiohead reinvented themselves for the follow-up, OK Computer (1997), a prescient depiction of 21st century alienation, which was soon regarded as one of the greatest albums of all time. 

This stratospheric rise precipitated burnout, withdrawal and writer's block among band members and when they regrouped in January 1999 to record again, singer and creative force Thom Yorke was under the influence of electronic music by artists such as Boards of Canada and Aphex Twin. Similarly, multi-instrumentalist Jonny Greenwood had gravitated towards modular synths, avant-garde jazz and film soundtracks while guitarist Ed O'Brien was experimenting with loop pedals, sustain and other electronic instruments.

This restless creativity and a determination  to break new musical ground challenged other band members and producer Nigel Goodrich alike, and (perhaps as a result of a brotherly bond established as Oxford schoolboys) the group skirted a break-up and embraced the new influences. The bands new music amplified the more abstract aspects of OK Computer so that a taut experimentalism now become the band's primary coda. 

Having completed over 20 songs in the sessions, Radiohead considered a double album, but felt the material was too dense. Instead, half the songs were kept for the next album, Amnesiac, to be released the following year.

Kid A was released 2 October 2000 - a startling new sound for a mainstream "rock" band; a release considered by many to be as consequential as Dylan's conversion to electric (Rolling Stone) or Bowie's Berlin period (Billboard), but criticised by others for its electronic elements, by comparison with Eno, Pink Floyd and others.

Amnesiac, released 30 May 2001, was at the time regarded by most critics as inferior to Kid-A, an outcome that now appears to have been influenced by the fact that it was with-held. 

Now, 21 years later, the two albums have been reissued together as "Kid A Mnesia" along with a third disc of previously unreleased material from the recording sessions (titled "Kid Amnesiae") and a cassette of B-Sides (titled "Cassette Two (Some B-Sides)"). An interactive experience with music and artwork from the albums, titled "Kid A Mnesia Exhibition", is scheduled for release in November for Playstation5, MacOS and Windows10.

Unsurprisingly (given the strength of the original two discs) these supplementary materials do not add to or even enlighten the legacy of the original.

However, even though Kid A appeared frequently in many critics top 10 lists for albums of the 21st century (but rarely, Amnesiac) this reissue reminds us of how well the latter stands up by comparison.

Listening to the albums again now, the then-startling innovativeness of Kid A  is matched by Amnesiac's iconic songs including "Just Like Spinning Plates", "Pyramid Song" and "Morning Bell".

Throughout the intervening years, Radiohead has continued to release innovative and absorbing work - "Hail To The Thief" (2003), "In Rainbows" (2007), "The King Of Limbs" (2011), "A Moon Shaped Pool" (2016) - all to critical and commercial acclaim. As we struggle hopefully to overcome the scourge of pandemic and contemplate the increasingly dire climate warnings from the IPCC, reality seems to have already matched, if not overtaken Radiohead's vision which, at the turn of the century, was considered by many as alarmist or even paranoid .

As it is now more than 5 years since their last studio release, the longest break in their career, it is intriguing to consider the music they might they next produce, to soundtrack our blundering global trajectory - and when?

patricia Barber - Higher

Higher

by Patricia Barber

Original release ( 8 tracks) 12 Nov 2019

Re-released (12 tracks) 20 January 2021

Impex Records

****-

Patricia Barber is more than the sum of her talents. As a composer, she peels back the craft of song to expose its barest textures, cultivating each like a tree that, while holding its own shape above ground, makes apparent the roots below it. As a singer, she understands not only that we perform our voices but also that our voices perform us. Whether crooning through the Great American Songbook, as on Nightclub (Blue Note, 2000), or rowing through intensely original waters, as on the Ovid-inspired Mythologies (Blue Note, 2006), she shapes words and meanings as one and the same. As a lyricist, she inhales the ingredients of life and exhales the perfume of lessons learned.

Although Higher chronicles an extroverted leap of intuition, it's as much a courageous dive inward, plumbing deeper-than-ever emotional reserves by blending whimsy and seriousness into an organic whole. Its centerpiece is "Angels, Birds, and I...," an eight-part art song cycle that polishes multiple facets of a modern soul trying to maintain her nonstick coating in an abrasive world. "I feel very much that this album is a manifestation of my hard-won harmonic evolution," Barber says. The result of six years' labor, these sonic dioramas sound at once out of time and utterly relevant: "Art song is its own world. Even though you have these improvisational envelopes, it's distinct from jazz. The harmonies are much vaster and difficult to put into words. One moment it all sounds new to us, and another it sounds familiar. This album is my own particular way of mixing those two things."
"Muse" provides a gloriously subtle introduction to that very dichotomy. Here our narrative guide struggles to marry inspiration with realization as she imagines a stage where another sings in her place. Through images of dressing and undressing, of love both real and imaginary, Barber's unflinching vocals thread every needle as if poised to make one last defining stitch. Storytelling doesn't even begin to describe the fullness at play as she delineates for us a path on which few other feet have made impressions. It's a thread that continues to run through "Surrender" and "Pallid Angel," both of which wrap sacred shades around secular bodies in pursuit of mutual trust. 

All the more fitting then that the content of these songs should revolve around its perennial themes: "Angels, Birds, and I..." is an homage to music and singers. It's about love for music, and love as music.

"The Opera Song" glistens. This multilingual tale of allusions takes musical terms as reflections of one whose heart longs to belt out an aria for all to hear, but whose commitment to the status quo threatens to overtake that spark of individuality. Nowhere has Barber's deft balance of the Apollonian and the Dionysian been so present.

"High Summer Season" parlays further climatic shifts into view. Accompanied only by guitar, Barber embodies every fluttering wing as if it were hers alone. Even more so in "The Albatross Song."

What at first appears to be the monologue of a wife seeking fulfillment in a more familiar, less distant lover turns into a playful commentary on modern ennui.

Said fulfillment blossoms in "Voyager," a somewhat surreal evocation of singing as a springboard for extraterrestrial journeying. As in the closing title song, it ends above the clouds, riding thermals of personal histories, closer to the edges of dreams.

Through it all, bassist Patrick Mulcahy, drummer Jon Deitemyer, guitarist Neal Alger and saxophonist Jim Gailloreto document every emotional turn of phrase with nothing short of archival assurance.

"These musicians have been working with me for a long time," says Barber. "I was lucky in not needing to travel far to find the best people for this project. Because they're basically playing chamber music, they had to approach it differently. They were vital to its development."

Vital, too, is Barber's pianism as it winds through a smattering of standards to round out the album.

Her rendition of Dave Brubeck's "In Your Own Sweet Way" is a highlight, and stands firm alongside a savvily arranged "Secret Love."

The encore, as it were, comes to us by way of lyric soprano Katherine Werbiansky, whose take on "The Opera Song" gives us another side of the story. By the end of all this, we have encountered songs that change both within their own skins and between them, each a life in miniature waiting to nourish itself on the food of our attention.

Source: All About Jazz

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - B-Sides & Rarities (Part II)

B-Sides & Rarities (Part II)

by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds

Released 12 November 2021

Transgressive Records

****-

It's a sad fact that the B-side, for the most part, has gone the way of the dodo. For decades it was a way for groups to let loose, get experimental or capture a fruitful period whilst giving fans a glimpse at material not meant to bother the charts. From 'The Masterplan' capturing Noel Gallagher's mid-90s golden streak to Suede's 'Sci-Fi Lullabies' bettering most of their studio albums, the B-side set has been a way for enthusiasts to truly sink their teeth into an artist. Following on from 2005’s stellar first collection - a favourite of Cave himself - Part II sees 27 rare and unreleased tracks from 2006-2020 bundled together for the first time. It's a metamorphic treat, capturing Nick Cave and Warren Ellis' ascent into the spectral plane.

While Part I captures the Bad Seeds rise from the chaotic ashes of The Birthday Party to become first-rate balladeers with a dirty streak, Part II channels the group’s evolution into more experimental and mature waters. With the majority of the songs being recorded around the ‘Push The Sky Away’ to ‘Ghosteen’ era, many of the numbers are sparse beauties, highlighting Ellis’ haunting synth work and Cave’s surreal, almost stream-of-consciousness lyrics. They’re songs of loss and love, of regret and memories and despite their often skeletal nature, heartbreakingly beautiful.

For those who prefer the swagger of old, the second half of this set may not get your pulse racing, but for those who adored this year’s ‘Carnage’ from the inseparable duo, there’s plenty to enjoy. Still, with this being a Bad Seeds - and not a solo release - there’s still some Grade A storytelling fare to be found. 'Avalance' is a forlorn masterpiece led by Cave's twinkling piano as he sings of the forgotten, deformed, and outcast. A gem that stands proudly with his finest work. 'Animal X' sees the band marry the menace of old with a new sense of experimentation, perfectly capturing the Seeds metamorphosis into the studio outfit we've seen these past three albums.

Later on, 'First Girl In Amber' sees the band sonically atomize to such a level of spooky freeform that it wouldn't be out of place on Radiohead's 'Amnesiac.' Most staggering of all when considering this innovative change in direction is, despite being the least commercial material of The Bad Seeds career, the outfit and Cave are bigger than ever. Once the critically admired darlings of old goths and literature students, The Bad Seeds now headline festivals and pack out stadiums. This strange period for the group, one filled with grief and the dismantlement of their sound, has seen them connect with more people than ever. Cave's raw honesty and relentless desire to connect with his audience have made him a beloved figure, like Tom Waits in a high collared suit.

 'B-Sides & Rarities (Part II)' sees The Bad Seeds at their most daring, most direct, and most enchanting. It's a must-own for fans and well worth exploring for those who like their songwriting to seep out of the parameters.

Source: Clash Music

Cyrille Aimee, Adonis Rose, New Orleans Jazz Orchestra - Petit Fleur

Petit Fleur

by Cyrille Aimee, Adonis Rose, New Orleans Jazz Orchestra

Released 24 September 2021

Storyville Records

*****

Petite Fleur is essentially a meditation on the ties that bind Crescent City art to French culture. Teaming up for 10 songs that cross styles and oceans while exploring that particular connection, the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra and French vocalist Cyrille Aimée make a perfect match, united in the act of storytelling.

Opening with a seductively swaying take on the title track—which, not coincidentally, NOLA native Sidney Bechet wrote during his time in France—Aimée and the ensemble get right to the heart of the matter. Then they float through the Michel Legrand-composed “What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?,” turn the Django Reinhardt-associated “Si Tu Savais” steamy, nod to Fats Domino’s style during “I Don’t Hurt Anymore,” and offer ballroom savoir faire with “In the Land of Beginning Again.”

Well-chosen wonders continue to emerge on the second half of the set—a stargazing look at “Crazy He Calls Me,” swinging stroll through “On a Clear Day (You Can See Forever),” R&B-inflected take on Jelly Roll Morton’s “Get the Bucket,” and up-tempo run through “Undecided”—and the program reaches its end on a brassy and boisterous performance of Aimée’s “Down.”

With sharp execution of smart arrangements, a string of impressive soloists (saxophonists Ricardo Pascal and Ed Petersen, trumpeters Ashlin Parker and John Michael Bradford, trombonist Terrance Taplin), and a can’t-miss frontwoman selling the songs, everything lands just as it should.

Petite Fleur speaks to Artistic Director and drummer Adonis Rose’s sure-handed helming of the NOJO, the entire band roster’s contributions in part(s) and sum, Aimée’s well-documented gifts, and a shared vision that brings them all together.

Source: Jazz Times

Damon Albarn - The Nearer the Fountain, More Pure the Stream Flows

The Nearer the Fountain, More Pure the Stream Flows

by Damon Albarn

Released 12 November 2021

Transgressive Records

****-

Following Blur, the band's creative engine has pursued a career of many paths: his participation in the Gorillaz project; "side-project" supergroups The Good The Bad and The Queen (with Paul Simonon, Simon Tong and Tony Allen) and Rocket Juice and The Moon (with Tony Allen and Fea); collaborations with with Michael Nyman, The Strokes, Nathan Haines, Massive Attack, Bobby Womack, De La Soul and various Film, Soundtrack, and Theatrical projects involving Kronos Quartet and others. 

Post-Blr his musical choices are always creatively-driven with seemingly little need for commercial success. 

So when it comes to understanding "The Nearer the Fountain, More Pure the Stream Flows", Albarn's own Bandcamp entry may provide some insight into his approach tis time out.
"The view from the living room of Damon Albarn’s home near Reykjavik is striking. Beyond the black-sand beaches and North Atlantic water, Esja, a volcanic mountain range, cuts across the skyline. Around it, the Icelandic weather regularly puts on a show. “It’s always extreme there,” Albarn tells. “It doesn’t exist in a meteorological platitude.” Toward the end of 2019, Albarn gathered an orchestral ensemble to sit at his window and chart the landscape, wildlife, and climate in music. Three sessions were recorded before the pandemic stalled the project.

Relocating to his UK home in Devon, Albarn found he just couldn’t let those musical improvisations lie dormant until lockdown loosened. “They were such a strong thing,” he says. “It’s like a potion—I kept taking the cork top off to sip for a minute, maybe just smell it. At one point, I was like, ‘I’m just going to drink this now and use it to do something.’ So, I did like Asterix, and I made The Nearer the Fountain, More Pure the Stream Flows.”

Assisted by longtime collaborators Mike Smith and Simon Tong, Albarn transformed the music into his second solo album—11 unhurried reflections on loss and fragility. “The fragility is the humans’ place within nature,” he says. “And the loss is the transferral of everything. Nothing’s lost. The thing changes, it doesn’t actually disappear—it just has a different state or form.”

With its vivid sense of place and transformation, the record recalls two of Albarn’s recent projects: Gorillaz’s Meanwhile EP and The Good, the Bad & the Queen’s Merrie Land.

“The older you get, depending on your circumstance, the more acutely you feel these things,” he says. “I’m making music for young people at a rather advanced age for someone making music for young people. People of my own age, it’s kind of, ‘Yeah, well, that’s how I feel as well.’ Whereas for younger people, it’s like, ‘Well, that’s a strong flavor,’ but it’s not a bad thing.” 

Source: Bandcamp

Courtney Barnett - Things Take Time, Take Time

Things Take Time, Take Time

by Courtney Barnett

Released 12 November 2021

Milk! Records

****-

Courtney Barnett’s 2015 debut, Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit, was the sound of a young artist with the melodic chops of a power-pop whiz, the storytelling skills of a good novelist, and the wit of a highbrow sitcom writer. Barnett could’ve built a career coasting on cleverness, but she’s also an empath who’s genuinely interested in finding her place in a brutal world; her second album, the equally great Tell Me How You Really Feel, had a self-questioning rocker about her modest stardom and a searing song about trying to be patient with creepy fans.

Her brilliant third album, Things Take Time, Take Time, is her most reserved and thoughtful yet, full of everyday observation and wry wisdom — it grows slowly, but pay attention and you’ll grow with it. 
She opens with “Rae Street,” processing the world out her window in Melbourne, Australia; over deliberate guitar strumming, she connects images of people muddling through life (noisy neighbors, parents teaching a kid to ride a bike) to bigger concerns (“light a candle for the suffering”), landing on a joking assessment of her own ambiguous place in all this: “Hope and prayers, though well-meaning, they don’t mean a thing/Unless we see some change/I think I’ll change my sheets today,” she deadpans. 
As the album title suggests, the repetition of life feels real in these songs. “Turning Green” appreciates the change in the seasons; on “If I Don’t Hear From You Tonight,” she sings about reading the Bible (“from left to write”). On “Write a List of Things to Look Forward To,” her list includes a letter from a friend, and waiting for the day when they can hang out and “watch the world burn.” 

Barnett’s gently revealed guitar playing is all soft late-night jangle, à la Yo La Tengo and the Velvet Underground — from the hypnotically undulating “Before You Gotta Go” to the watery swirls of “Here’s the Thing.” Her musical partner is ace drummer Stella Mozgawa, creating beats that match and enhance Barnett’s every restrained nuance.

Obviously, this album is touched by the downtime of Covid, but its sense of wonder and worry, bored longing and faint hope, is utterly eternal. So is its sense of humor, always one of Barnett’s most effective weapons against torpor and dread. Sure, the daily grind can get weird, capitalism enslaves us, the world burns. But as she tells a friend on “Take It Day by Day,” the record’s quickest, catchiest song, “Don’t stick that knife in the toaster/Baby, life is like a roller coaster.” It’s a ride she takes at her own sweet pace

Source: Rolling Stone

The War On Drugs - I Don't Live Here Anymore

I Don't Live Here Anymore

by The War On Drugs

Released 29 October 2021

Atlantic

****-

The War On Drugs' 2014 breakout album Lost In The Dream and their follow-up 2017 release A Deeper Understanding have been critical and commercial successes. Presumably working on the basis that if your last record made the US Top 10, won a Grammy and elevated your band to stadium-level success, then there isn’t a lot of point ripping up the blueprint and starting again, Adam Granduciel refines rather than reimagines on his fifth album as The War on Drugs.

I Don’t Live Here Anymore once again feels gloriously expansive, a series of meticulously crafted soundtracks for cruising down never-ending highways, as if the everyman euphoria of Springsteen were underpinned by the motorik propulsion of Neu!.

The 1980s soft-rock and synthpop influences seem more pronounced this time around, however, variously summoning the spirits of Simple Minds, Bryan Adams, Bruce Hornsby and Kim Carnes, without ever sounding derivative. The effect, especially on Harmonia’s Dream and the title track, can be mesmerising.

Despite its three-year, seven-studio gestation, the album feels warmer, more organic, more personal than A Deeper Understanding, with some of the existential worry that had previously characterised Granduciel’s lyrics toned down and replaced with suggestions of hope and redemption. And it does feel genuinely surprising when, amid the array of abstract nouns, he drops the line “Like when we went to see Bob Dylan we danced to Desolation Row”.

All in all, it’s a rich, absorbing work that rewards immersive listening.

Source: The Guardian

Robert Plant & Alison Krauss - Raise The Roof

Raise The Roof

by Robert Plant & Alison Krauss

Released 19 November 2021

Rounder / Concord

*****

It hardly seems credible that fourteen years have passed sine Alison Krauss and Robert Plant last collaborated on their classic album "Raising Sand" (2007), but they pick up the threads so seamlessly for "Raise The Roof", their new alum together, that it could easily be passed off as Disc 2.  This is even more remarkable considering that, in a 2010 interview with USA Today, Plant indicated that the follow-up sessions (in 2009) were unsuccessful. Under the expert production of T-Bone Burnett, the pair have chosen more than a dozen relatively unknown songs to cover, and one original "High and Lonesome" for good measure.

The covers include opening track, Calexico's "Quattro (World Drifts In)" - a perfect blend of the pair's signature vocal harmonies, advancing drums and slide guitars.

The second choice is "The Price Of Love"and they deliver a slowed-down version that is closer to the Everly Brothers' 1965 original than Bryan Ferry's 1976 cover, but holds its own against each.

Then follow covers of Anne Briggs & Bert Jansch's  1967 song "Go Your Way". This is the first of two Jansch songs on the album.

Betty Harris' 1968 soul classic "Trouble With My Lover" is unremarkable compared to the original but Plant's youthful-sounding vocals work well for their interpretation Bobby Moore & The Rhythm Aces' "Searching for My Love" (1968).

Randy Weeks' "Can't Let Go", which was first released by Lucinda Williams in 1998 and is the first of a pair of her songs on the album is treated like an Elvis Presley single from the mid sixties.

The second of the Bert Jansch songs,"It Don't Bother Me" (1965) is a showcase for Krauss' vocals. Then follow covers of Ola Belle Reed's "You Led Me to The Wrong" (1978); Geeshie Wiley's "Last Kind Word Blues" (1930); Merle Haggard & Dean Holloway's "Going Where The Lonely Go" (1982), Pops Staples' "Somebody Was Watching Over Me" (written 1999); Hank Williams' "My Heart Would Know" (1951) and Lucinda Williams' "You Can't Rule Me" (2020). 

The Plant/Burnett original "High and Lonesome" stands out  the most energetic, musically and vocally, with Plant's vocals rising to levels that would have passed muster in Led Zeppelin. Ironically, Krauss is entirely absent on this track.

Overall, this is an entertaining album and it is a treat to hear Plant and Krauss together again. They don't deviate from the pattern established in Raising Sand, but when the results are this fine, why should they?

The pair's deep knowledge of the  American Music songbook reaches depths that are inaccessible to most of their peers, let alone those of us on the outside. They are to be commended for most of the selections and their unique interpretations, which are derived from a perfect blend of their talents. It is a pleasure to listen to them perform in this way once again.

Emily Scott Robinson - American Siren

American Siren

by Emily Scott Robinson

Released 29 October 2021

Oh Boy Records

*****
Like an alluring invitation to weary souls everywhere, Emily Scott Robinson’s new album, American Siren, calls upon the lost and lonely amidst a national breakdown. The 10-track collection is her first release as part of John Prine’s infamous imprint, Oh Boy Records. Seductive in its sparseness, the artist’s third effort leaves necessary space for her sharp-witted songwriting to shine.

Robinson has stood proudly at the helm of her music career since her 2016 debut, Magnolia Queen.

Having come into her authentic artistry with great poise, American Siren presents an expressive vocalist and intuitive instrumentalist. But, the stories told between these tracks remind her ever-growing audience that Robinson is first, and foremost, a storyteller. 

Written almost entirely in isolation while the COVID-19 pandemic stormed outside her window, American Siren is a hand-crafted collection of songs that, together, chronicle the collective experience of a vast nation facing unprecedented polarity. Universal sentiments reside within these seemingly unique perspectives, attempting to bridge the gaping divide that veils the commonality between us. 

Source: American Songwriter

Various Brownswood Artists - Future Bubblers 5.0

Future Bubblers 5.0

by Various Artists

Released 5 November 2021

Brownswood

****-

The Future Bubblers compilation is the showcase release of the young talent mentoring programme that is part of Gilles Peterson’s network. Supported by Arts Council England, the ongoing talent discovery and artist development scheme focuses on developing unsigned talent and building audiences for new left-field music.

With support from PRS Foundation as Talent Development Partners, the professional recording, manufacturing and physical release of Future Bubblers 5.0 is made possible. Unlike any other initiatives within music, the compilation acts as a springboard for the musician’s careers with the cooperative model providing direct revenue to the artists by a share of the profits resulting in a sustainable income to work from.

Previous Future Bubblers include artists such as Yazmin Lacey, Skinny Pelembe, MC Snowy, Forest Law and Kayla Painter (to name a few), many of whom have featured regularly in SunNeverSetsOnMusic's monthly playlists.

This year's 9 track compilation is a musically diverse collection of tracks, fusing genres that span across Electronic, Alt-R&B, Alt-Hip-Hop, Spoken Word, Neo-Soul, Jazz and beyond.

Opening the project, Magoya showcases their hyperactive energy on ‘The Most Beautiful Lie’, exploring his electronic meets Folk soundscape. Demonstrating his sonic aesthetic, Mark Cake combines layered saxophone compositions on ‘Hoon’. Up next, Singer/Songwriter Ella Knight highlights her diverse vocal range in the emotive track ‘It Don’t Matter’ whilst NeOne The Wonderer’s Rap-infused, introspective ‘Nose Dive’ is dedicated to exploring the challenges of normality. Nottingham-based Conrad Ellis delivers an Electronic-meets-Funk vibe on ‘Make It Last’ before Damos Room create a dubby soundstorm on ‘Soft Bodied’. Switching things up, Shakira Allenyne’s reflective ‘Floating Soul’ is led by her atmospheric vocals followed by Birmingham songstress Madi Saskia’s soulful, affection-filled ‘Fast Or Slow’. Rounding off the compilation nicely is Griz-O and JSSO Project’s epic ‘Tabou’ Remix which perfectly combines elements of electronic and rap.

Spanning just under 40 minutes, Future Bubblers 5.0 is an extremely impressive assemblage of talent who have all delivered top-shelf singles. Released both digitally and on vinyl, the compilation embodies the spirit of the musicians as well as the team behind Future Bubblers.

 

Source: Bandcamp

Curtis Harding - If Words Were Flowers

If Words Were Flowers

by Curtis Harding

Released 5 November 2021

Atlantic

****-

Curtis Harding makes music that exists in both past and present. He's proudly informed by vintage soul and R&B sounds of the 1960s and '70s while showing love and respect for contemporary hip-hop and possessing a mindset that's tuned into the world in 2021. Harding's first two albums, 2014's Soul Power and 2017's Face Your Fear, were outstanding works that confirmed he was as talented as anyone in the retro-soul community, with the addition of a visionary outlook and songwriting skills that set him apart from his peers. Harding's third LP, 2021's If Words Were Flowers, finds him going from strength to strength, with a set of tunes that deliver an emotional impact while finding him continuing to stretch his musical boundaries. The rich bass, echo-laden guitars, and layers of percussion are familiar from his previous releases, and Harding and producer Sam Cohen have added lush string and horn arrangements and massed vocals on several numbers that boost the atmospherics, reinforce the psychedelic undertow of the melodies, and give the music a feeling of thematic unity that adds to the effectiveness of the material, individually and as a suite. Much of If Words Were Flowers was written and recorded during a time of unrest and uncertainty in the United States, and without calling out specific political and social themes by name, it plays very much as a product of its time, with Harding using love as a metaphor to discuss human understanding and compassion as well as its absence (especially on the cool but impassioned "Where Is the Love"). The arrangements often nod to the conscious funk and soul anthems of the late '60s and early '70s, both in their taught grooves and the mingled moods of hope and confusion. And Harding continues to impress as a vocalist, delivering strong, authoritative, and perceptive performances on all eleven tracks. Harding drew the title If Words Were Flowers from the old saying that you should give flowers to those who matter in your life while they're around, not after they're gone, and this music is a gift to a world in need of some loving care; it's never sappy but offers a message of spiritual succor to those who need it, and it's a great, rewarding listening.

Source: AllMusic

Ausecuma Beats - Musso

Musso

by Ausecuma Beats

Released 5 November 2021

Music In Exile

*****

When you mix Guinea, Mali, Senegal, Cuba and Australia, you find yourself with many cultures. We represent Africa, sure, but also we represent diversity. That is the essence of Ausecuma Beats. We want to come together, to bring all people together to share the knowledge of what we have learnt.

We all see the hard work that lies ahead in the future. It’s not easy, and we all have different ways of thinking. But there is also something we all share, and that is humanity, and family. We have to teach our children, to help them on their journey.

This album can be defined by the song Tombo. It’s about giving respect to your teacher. All the knowledge we bring to this album has come from someone who in their turn gave it to us. If you like the music, you hear it, you dance, great! But remember, someone created this, they gave it to us, and now Ausecuma Beats are giving it to you. So we dedicate this album to our teachers.

The name of this album is Musso; it means woman. We want to dedicate this album to those who gave us life. It doesn’t matter how strong we are, how tough we are, or how lucky we are in the chances we have been given. There is always someone who is worrying about us; there is no-one who can be thinking about us more than our own mother. So this album especially is dedicated to the women in our lives, and is sending respect to all women around the world.
 

.

Source: Bandcamp

Buffalo Nichols - Buffalo Nichols

Buffalo Nichols

by Buffalo Nichols

Released 15 October 2021

Fat Possum

****-

The thorny, restless travelers' existence, ready material for the blues, threads Buffalo Nichols' self-titled debut. From his current base in Austin, the Houston-born musician's introductory LP follows an upbringing in Milwaukee and time abroad.

Billed as Fat Possum's first solo blues signing in some 20 years, Nichols' thick, weathered voice carries the title. Eight songs amble wide in a subtle referendum on the form. 

Especially refreshing in this city, the player lets his modern blues simmer and smoke, avoiding pyrotechnic blister.

Somber and guarded, opener "Lost & Lonesome" pins the simple tools behind most of the album – evocative acoustic guitar, barely there percussion, and Nichols' wisely pleading voice. It sounds just right weighing the heaviness of heaven and hell ("Living Hell") and suffering ("Sick Bed Blues").

With "Another Man," the artist deploys his age-old storytelling method on modern police violence. He also addresses the music's constraints: "Maybe I'm just angry and my words may be cliche/ It's hard to write a song while folks get murdered every day."

Alongside roots cuts, Nichols tries on violin-supported singer-songwriter stylings and retro rock friendly for Black Pumas fans. The last two tracks add electric guitar in a half-decided aesthetic swerve, restrained to compromise with the preceding materials' unvarnished appeal. Each song with forward energy, Nichols' first solo outlook presents many potential roads.

Source: Austin Chronicle

Eris Drew - Quivering in Time

Quivering In Time

by Eris Drew

Released 30 October 2021

T4T LUV NRG

*****

Each time the ‘Think’ break is reused – that six second ‘Yeah!’ and the ‘Woo!’ – it gets a little more powerful. James Brown and his bandmates could have no idea that an improvised moment of ecstasy during a jam would become so ubiquitous. Each new appearance adds to the cultural lineage, melding with the listener’s own personal memories from the times we’ve heard it blasting out of club speakers. When Eris Drew drops the ‘Think’ break on ‘Ride Free’ from her debut album Quivering in Time, she pulls the past into the present moment, with all the sweaty physicality of a great dance record.

Quivering in Time is a joyous house release from an artist who’s already earned veteran status as a DJ. Eris Drew sets use the same approach of pulling the past into the present, with nineties D&B drum breaks, ’70s dub reggae, early techno hits and unearthed house gems all mixed playfully. Her new record is as inspired by those classic sounds, while taking a warmer and more reflective approach to dance catharsis. Written after a move to rural New Hampshire with her partner and fellow T4T LUV NRG label head Octo Octa, the album uses the comfort of its home-recorded approach to its advantage. 

Like her live sets, the record is built on giddy loops and infectious sampling. The momentum of ‘Loving Clav’ is unstoppable across its nearly seven minutes, live drums and breakbeats bouncing off against an earworm organ melody. ‘Pick ‘em Up’ is another highlight, with Drew finding new ways to elevate the energy with constant switch-ups and a freeform approach to production. There’s a liveness to each record scratch and sample flip that makes the album play like a particularly finessed DJ mix.  

Quivering in Time is the kind of dance album that feels instantly familiar, and Drew is content to just keep the good vibes going rather than surprising us. That occasionally leads to a feeling of repetition across its runtime, but the grooves are felt regardless. Drew’s true skill and showmanship lies in her ability to make familiar moments like the ‘Think’ break feel as fresh and uplifting as the first moment you heard it.

Source: Loud And Quiet

Johnathan Blake - Homeward Bound

Homeward Bound

by Johnathan Blake and Pentad

Released 29 October 2021

Blue Note

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Jonathan Blake, one of the most respected and sought-after jazz drummers on the scene, carved a path through the contemporary jazz with some powerful albums released under his name (notably,  The Eleventh Hour; Trion) as well as fruitful collaborations with Tom Harrell, Kenny Barron and Dave Holland, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Jaleel Shaw and Maria Schneider.

For Homeward Bound, the fourth entry in his personal discography and his debut on the Blue Note Records, he convenes a freshly formed quintet, Pentad, which features prodigious musicians such as saxophonist Immanuel Wilkins, vibist Joel Ross, bassist Dezron Douglas and pianist David Virelles.

A one-minute drum intro prepares the terrain for the title track, a beautiful theme that Blake composed for saxophonist Jimmy Greene's daughter, Ana Grace, whose life was taken at the age of six during the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting in 2012. Marvelously expressed with odd meter signature, the piece is illuminated by a slick harmonic progression and radiant melodic insight. It also encapsulates mesmerizing improvisation from Ross and Wilkins, who alternate bars with a focused sense of direction, and then Virelles, who scrumptiously blurs the picture with impeccable note choices. Blake also shines, becoming lyrically busy over a vamp marked by contrapuntal adorn. 

Boasting a silky synth-soaked texture, “Rivers & Parks” has everyone swinging and grooving, but it’s Wilkins who leaps out, exploring outside boundaries and heating his vocabulary with fervid figures. His mesmeric improvised flights also come into view during the extroverted reworking (in six) of Joe Jackson’s 1982 electropop hit “Steppin’ Out”. Virelles, who enters the stage alone on this one, provides wonderful comping throughout while bass and drums embrace this delicious state of ecstasy. 

The two other tunes that didn’t come from the pen of Blake are “Shakin’ the Biscuits”, a bouncy, funkified, bopish frolic written by Douglas that will put you in a great mood, and “Abiyoyo”, a traditional South African children’s song in sextuple meter whose lullabyish melody runs in circles.

Blake’s “LLL”, a dedication to the late drummer Lawrence 'Lo' Leathers, is a stirring post-bop number that gives Ross plenty of time to showcase his progressive mallet prowess.

The elegant drumming of Blake permeates the album. His accomplishment here is not just a direct result of an accumulated experience throughout the years, but also the refined taste that shows up in everything he does.

Source: Jazztrail

Makaya McCraven - Deciphering The Message

Deciphering The Message

by Makaya McCraven

Released 26 March 2021

Blue Note

*****.

Look at the sources credited on Makaya McCraven’s Deciphering the Message - Hank Mobley, Kenny Dorham, Horace Silver, Art Blakey - and you could be excused for anticipating another younger Blue Note artist paying tribute to his predecessors at the label.

But that’s not what McCraven (who prefers to be called a “beat scientist” rather than a drummer or producer) is doing here, at least not exclusively. As he’s done before in other ways, McCraven is excavating willfully, cherry-picking pieces from the past and reassembling them into new wholes with aid from other forward-thinking adventurers.

“A Slice of the Top,” which leads the program, lays out the concept convincingly. The spoken intro you hear is Pee Wee Marquette preparing us for “something special,” lifted directly from Blakey’s 1954 landmark LP A Night at Birdland Vol. 1. What follows isn’t Blakey, though; rather it’s McCraven’s drums and bass, married to music made by Lee Morgan, McCoy Tyner and others long before McCraven was born, grafted from a 1966 Mobley album. The crisp, contemporary production and beats recast the vintage recording - its vibe is classic Blue Note, but its sound is 2021.

McCraven’s reworking of Dorham’s “Sunset” tweaks the idea further: The base track, which appeared on the trumpeter’s 1961 Whistle Stop, hangs onto the contributions of original cast members Dorham, Mobley, Kenny Drew, Philly Joe Jones, and Paul Chambers. But to that, McCraven adds new guitar parts from Jeff Parker, vibraphone from Joel Ross, and more. A dub-like section mid-song, and the leader’s own twisty rhythms, transform the original into a considerably altered beast.

There are 13 such experiments in all here—from a trippy “Autumn in New York” that originated on a Kenny Burrell title to Clifford Brown as you’ve never imagined him - each an impressively reconfigured pastiche.

Source: Jazz Times

Tony Allen, Hugh Makesela - Rejoice (2021)

Rejoice (2021)

by Tony Allen, Hugh Makesela

Released 19 November 2021

Wourld Circuit

*****

I‘Rejoice’ is the classic collaboration between Tony Allen, the legendary drummer and co-founder of Afrobeat, and Hugh Masekela, the master trumpet player of South African jazz.

The record, released to great acclaim in March 2020, became the first posthumous release from Masekela, and the last release from Allen, who sadly passed away a month later.

For this Special Edition, World Circuit have gone back to the original 2010 mixes and added previously unheard parts from the 2019 sessions to create 8 reimagined bonus mixes. The CD and LP releases also feature a booklet with sleeve notes and photos.
Having first met in the 70s thanks to their respective close associations with Fela Kuti, the two world-renowned musicians talked for decades about making an album together. When, in 2010, their touring schedules coincided in the UK, the moment presented itself and producer Nick Gold took the opportunity to record their encounter. The unfinished sessions, consisting of all original compositions by the pair, lay in archive until after Masekela passed away in 2018. With renewed resolution, Tony Allen and Nick Gold, with the blessing and participation of Hugh Masekela’s estate, unearthed the original tapes and finished recording the album in summer 2019 at the same London studio where the original sessions had taken place.
‘Rejoice’ can be seen as the long overdue confluence of two mighty African musical rivers – a union of two free-flowing souls for whom borders, whether physical or stylistic, are things to pass through or ignore completely. According to Allen, the album deals in “a kind of South African-Nigerian swing-jazz stew”, with its roots firmly in Afrobeat. Allen and Masekela are accompanied on the record by a new generation of well-respected jazz musicians including Tom Herbert (Acoustic Ladyland / The Invisible), Joe Armon-Jones (Ezra Collective), Mutale Chashi (Kokoroko) and Steve Williamson.

Source: Isra Box

El Michels Affair - The Abominable EP

The Abominable EP

by El Michels Affair

Released 26 November 2021

Big Crown Records

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"The Abominable EP" is a follow up to El Michels Affair's massively successful full length Yeti Season (March 2021) and Ekundayo Inversions the re-working of Liam Bailey's 2020 album Ekundayo.

The new EP. features a collection of unreleased tracks, alternate takes, and instrumentals from the Yeti Season recording sessions.

Blending the group's signature cinematic soul sound with in­fluences from Turkish Funk and the grittiest of Bollywood soundtracks, the EP is an instant classic. Influential music tastemeker web magazine The Fader called it “a carnival of dusty funk and soul”.

The EP starts off with the unreleased gem “Messy Grass” whose synth intro, peppered with distant yeti cries, gives way to a tremendous backing track that Tamer Pinarbasi’s Qanun dances over.

On “Cham Cham” El Michael’s Affair invites Piya Malik to the microphone again to share her styled storytelling vocals over the instrumental track from Yeti Season’s “Perfect Harmony”.

Where some of the tunes on the EP have vocals added, some of them have them removed letting the band take center stage: “Poison Song”, “Uncut Gem”, “Smoked”, and “Progress” are all instrumental here giving them a wholly different energy than the vocal versions.

The EP is released with two different covers, each one has two paintings from different Ghanaian mobile cinema artists commissioned through Chicago’s Deadly Prey Gallery and are interpretations of the original album artwork. One version is paintings by Stoger and Heavy J, who also contributed cover paintings to the Return To The 37th Chamber album. The other version of the cover is two paintings by Teshie and Farkira.

Source: Bandcamp

Lilli Lewis - Americana

Americana

by Lilli Lewis

Released 29 October 2021

Louisiana Red Hot Records

Elysium House Records

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Lilli Lewis’ new album, “Americana,” feels like it’s been a long time coming.

Really, the New Orleans pianist and singer started working on her new album in early 2020, soon after the pandemic-forced timeouts started, and her last record, The Lilli Lewis Project’s “We Belong,” came out in summer 2019. It’s not the drastic gap some bands put between their releases — plus Lewis released a prelude EP, “My American Heart,” early this year — but so much has happened in the last 18 months that Lewis is ready for “Americana” to officially greet the world.

“Up until October, I was in pain. I was like, ‘Please can the record just come out?!,’” Lewis says with a laugh. “But it feels like this is actually the right time for [‘Americana’] to come out. So many things have happened even since the EP came out.”
This year has seen many more Black musicians take up space in Americana, Lewis says. There have been giant new records from Allison Russell, Amythyst Kiah and Yola. Queen Esther released “Gild the Black Lily” and Rhiannon Giddens collaborated with Italian multi-instrumentalist Francesco Turrisi for her new record “They’re Calling Me Home.” Even Austin-based psych-soul band Black Pumas, Lewis says, started showing up in articles about Americana.

“There is a lot of really potent work coming from Black artists that Americana claimed this year,” she says, “which is kinda cool because the reason I named my record ‘Americana’ is because Americana was not claiming artists like that. It’s coming out at a time when there’s a deeper context for why it felt necessary.”

Lewis has worked throughout her career for Black equity within Americana. Black music traditions are the foundations of country and folk genres, but Black musicians have historically been blocked out of the industry and the genre became dominated by white people.

The vice president and head of A&R for Louisiana Red Hot Records, Lewis last year was asked to take part in several industry discussions about equity within Americana. She sat on a panel for the Thriving Roots conference, which was covered by Rolling Stone and American Songwriter, met with label executives and organized a showcase for the Country Soul Songbook Summit. Lewis also was invited to perform as part of The Kennedy Center’s “New Orleans Voices on Social Justice” concert, with Sha’Condria “iCon” Sibley and trumpeter Ashlin Parker.

The visibility of more Black artists in Americana — including musicians like New Orleans country trio Chapel Hart and Shreveport’s Willie Jones — has been encouraging, Lewis says. Though, she adds, there’s still a long way to go, especially in Black representation in business positions in the industry, such as label executives and studio owners.

The title of her new album goes further: “The record is named as much for the narratives that got lost and left out in Americana as it is for the music styles that get left out,” Lewis says. “Every single track, I felt like I’m trying to reveal a story that I felt was left out.”
When the pandemic started and Lewis and her band couldn’t perform, the singer-songwriter decided to revisit a few songs she felt didn’t quite fit with The Lilli Lewis Project or that she hadn’t been able to record for various reasons. At the core were the songs “If It Were You” and the powerful country ballad and album closer “My American Heart.”
Along with new music, the New Orleans singer-songwriter and pianist has been focused on equity for Black musicians in Americana

She found more “left behind” songs, she says, and began seeing a pattern. “I thought all of these songs were really beautiful, so I recorded them together as a gift to myself, but I noticed that this is just me walking through the world,” Lewis says. “Every story on there was based on something that was happening or somebody I knew.”

Lewis co-produced “Americana” with Mark Bingham and recorded the album at a number of spaces, including Bingham’s studio in Henderson, Marigny Studios and Artisound in town and Studio 55 in Ponchatoula. Among the musicians who play on the record are singer-songwriter Gina Forsyth, cellist Rick Nelson, Seattle blues musician Lady A, Wade Hymel, Bryan Webre, Mikayla Braun and Kirkland Middleton.

“Americana” spans a range of styles, from slow country to rhythm and blues and funk, which not only displays Lewis’ personal influences but also the styles’ interconnectedness. The album is packed with storytelling and Lewis has a lot to say with a gorgeous, often soaring voice.

Lewis hopes the stories “Americana” tells “might be felt in a quiet heartfelt space,” she says. “Let’s get real simple with each other because it’s hard for all of us … I hope that it tenderizes people. If they’re able to receive it, that it will leave them tender.”

Source: New Orleans Gambit

Melanie Charles - Y'all Don't (Really) Care About Black Women

Y'all Don't (Really) Care About Black Women

by Melanie Charles

Released 12 November 2021

Louisiana Red Hot Records

Impulse! Records / Verve

****-

Melanie Charles has been a favourite of mine since the release of her independently-released project The Girl with the Green Shoes. There was something truly hypnotic about her vocal tone and her ability to paint picturesque soundscapes with her voice and surrounding instrumentation.

Since the release of that project she has worked with the likes of Wynton Marsalis, SZA, Mach-Hommy, Gorillaz and The Roots and has grown into one of the most exciting vocalists in the world at the moment.

Y’all Don’t (Really) Care About Black Women is an exciting new project, one which sees her reimagine classics from the Verve Records catalogue. It is a rich body of work that combines modern jazz compositions, with groovy beats and beautiful arrangements, combined with Melanie Charles’ powerful voice. It is a truly collaborative project, and one which celebrates the power of community, and of course the power and soul of Black women. A large part of the album was recorded in 2020, a year defined by the pandemic and racial injustices. Breonna Taylor’s death in particular had a major impact on Melanie Charles’ creative process. As she says, Black women have been undervalued, uncared for, unprotected and neglected, therefore she chose songs from Black Women that have paid the way for her artistry over the years. From the reimagining of the soulful and incredibly powerful Billie Holiday original “God Bless The Child” to the bass and beat-heavy reinterpretation of the Marlena Shaw original “Woman Of The Ghetto”, the compositions are truly breathtaking. Heavy drumming, angelic vocals and groovy basslines are are all features throughout this incredible album, but it’s Melanie Charles’ angelic, effortless and absolutely stunning voice throughout that makes this such a beautiful and emotive listening experience.

Melanie Charles, with the help of her band including Dezron Douglas on bass, Tony Garnier on bass, Marcus Gilmore on drums and Rogerst Charles on saxophones and flute, has been able to craft a memorable auditory experience. It’s a smooth and soulful listen, but with a heavy, heartfelt energy brought by thumping drums and incredible basslines throughout. Y’all Don’t (Really) Care About Black Women is a truly hypnotic and mesmeric body of work that captures the allure of Melanie Charles’ artistry in the most potent and beautiful way imaginable.

Source: In Search Of Media

Bruno Mars, Anderson .Paak, Silk Sonic  - An Evening With Silk Sonic

Silk Sonic

by Bruno Mars, Anderson .Paak, Silk Sonic

Released 12 November 2021

Aftermath / Atlantic

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For a group whose members’ solo albums often seem like the work of one perfectionist mastermind, Silk Sonic are an impeccably in-sync alliance. Ever since Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak first announced their collaboration with March’s ‘Leave The Door Open’ – a sumptuous single that features the former’s best vocal performance to date – it was clear that this was a team of two retro-obsessed musicians revelling in a deep admiration for one another.

Here was a song that showed off the pair’s intuitive chemistry with playful humour (“If you’re hungry, girl, I got fillets”), studied musicianship and a shared crate-digger mindset. Its ascendant bridge, formed from a collection of rich chord changes which meld into each other, is far from subtle in its references, but that’s part of the fun. A combination of soft piano lines, swooning strings and a glockenspiel revive the sound of seminal Philadelphia soul groups such as The Delfonics and The O’Jays, who brought symphonic arrangements to the mainstream in the early 1970s.

But Mars and .Paak’s deliberate approach to pastiche is consistently validated by their extreme attention to detail, meaning that their debut album, ‘An Evening With Silk Sonic’, is far from a two-man recreation of a specific era. The record’s nine rich and colourful tracks delight in all-out pop hooks, lush harmonies and conversational verses that occasionally – but knowingly – lean towards musical theatre. Yet every element feels intentionally placed: in a recent Rolling Stone interview, the duo bragged about how “dozens” of versions of this album got scrapped simply because a minor production note wasn’t right – proving that they take their craft more seriously than most.

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It all started with a pact. When .Paak opened for Mars on the European leg of his ‘24K Magic’ tour in spring 2017, the pair found themselves experimenting and jamming in the studio after just a week. They soon agreed that they would make a collaborative record together, but refused to place a timeline on it in the hope that, over time, they would be able to alchemise a full-length album from this organic approach. When the tour ended, the artists carried on with their respective lives until they reconnected in early 2020 after Mars listened back to the demos they made on the road three years prior. It was time to turn half-promises into a fully-realised passion project.

‘An Evening With Silk Sonic’ is an album that’s been made with extraordinary care, one that seeks to avoid nostalgic trappings while still aiming for timelessness. Glitzy opener ‘Silk Sonic Intro’ introduces us to the record’s guest host, legendary Parliament-Funkadelic member and funk overlord Bootsy Collins (or “Bootzilla himself” as he puts it over a blast of horns). He reappears on the majority of the songs across the record, and even imparts some hard-won emotional wisdom to Mars and .Paak at the start of candid power ballad ‘Put On A Smile’. “Take it from your Uncle Bootsy,” he whispers. “Ain’t no shame beggin’ in the rain / Tell her how you really feel.”

The swaggering ‘Fly As Me’ picks up where Mars’ last solo effort, 2016’s ‘24K Magic’, left off: a characteristically funky celebration of proud extravagance and wealth. Atop wiggly slap bass, .Paak half-raps a whole host of increasingly ridiculous flexes, extending an invitation to head “downtown where they treat me like the mayor” where he can freely encourage lovers to “sprinkle some truffle on your mashed potatoes”. This tongue-in-cheek boasting is a fine display of the unshakable confidence that defines much of this record, filled as it is with lashings of personality, style and finesse.

Some of the pair’s punchlines are direct and funny, while others are immensely sharp. They’re fully self-aware, but still know exactly when to deploy their in-jokes. Mars, for instance, wants to “moonwalk to the money like I’m Mike Jack” on the riotous, rock-leaning ‘777’. ‘Smokin’ Out The Window’, meanwhile, sees .Paak reminisce about a former flame. “Just the other night she was gripping on me tight, screaming ‘Hercules!’” he croons, drawing out the melody over a weighty bassline. And his response to the break-up he’s singing about? “Not to be dramatic, but I wanna die.” Fair enough.

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Crucially, Mars and .Paak know when to reel it all in. As well as genuine laugh-out-loud moments there are gorgeously subtle flourishes throughout, like the fluttering intake of breath that swirls around the mix on ‘After Last Night’ or the crisp, pristine blasts of percussion that uplift the roller rink jam ‘Skate’.

On ‘An Evening With Silk Sonic’, the magic is in the way that the music moves: the songs are radiant and full of joy, formed from the synergy of two relentlessly creative minds. The album glows with appreciation for the simple but irreplaceable power of working alongside someone you trust and respect like no other — and it sounds as effortless and rewarding as an old friendship.

Source: NME

Nicholas Payton - Smoke Sessions

Smoke Sessions

by Nicholas Peyton

Released 29 October 2021

Smoke Sessions Music

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For a young Nicholas Payton, Miles Davis’ 1966 album ‘Four’ & More, captured live two years earlier at Lincoln Center’s Philharmonic Hall, provided a template for what music could – and should – be. Now long established as one of the most renowned musicians and composers on the scene, Payton has convened two of the legendary musicians who played with Davis on that album, bassist Ron Carter and special guest saxophonist George Coleman, to craft some exemplary sounds of his own.

With Smoke Sessions, set for release on October 29, 2021 via the label of the same name, Payton finally realizes his long-cherished dream of leading a session with Ron Carter on bass. To reignite the chemistry of the album he’d fallen in love with decades before, he also invited George Coleman to contribute to a pair of tunes. (A third contributor to ‘Four’ & More, pianist Herbie Hancock, is represented by the composition “Toys,” but Payton fills the keyboard chair on the date as well as playing trumpet). Rounding out the quartet is the esteemed drummer Karriem Riggins, a longtime collaborator of Payton’s who helps ensure that the music bridges generations as well as styles.

“Miles Davis’ ‘Four’ & More was the album that really inspired me to take up music seriously,” Payton explains. “Ever since then, Ron Carter has been an idol and a favorite musician of mine. As long as I’ve been leading bands I’ve patterned my choice of bassists by the metric of how much Ron they have in their playing. When I’ve looked for pianists in my band over the years, it’s often predicated on how much Herbie they have in their sound. So this album is really a dream come true for me.”

Far from a tribute or a look back, however, Smoke Sessions is a wholly contemporary new album that vibrantly captures Payton’s open-eared blend of swing, funk, soul and hip-hop influences with Riggins’ expansive fluidity behind the kit and Carter’s renowned, rock solid majesty on the bass. Payton seizes the opportunity to engage with that recognizable voice in multiple forms, taking both the Miles and Herbie roles as trumpeter, pianist and keyboardist via the multi-instrumentalism that has become a thrilling trademark of his approach.

While Payton has crossed paths with Carter on a number of occasions over the years, he’d never been able to persuade the famously exacting bassist to appear on one of his own dates before now. “He finally started giving me the time of day,” Payton says with a laugh. “Once I had his interest I hurried up and locked it in before he changed his mind.”

Whatever the delay, Carter spoke highly of the bandleader in the wake of recording Smoke Sessions. “I was quite pleased and had fun playing with him as a piano player as well as a trumpet player,” the bassist said. “Listen to him play trumpet. He’s listening to my response to what he does — if the trumpet players of today want to try to put him in a place, he should be up there because he listens to what the bass player contributes to his solo.”

The album opens in high-spirited fashion, with the elastic groove of Payton’s aptly named “Hangin’ and a Jivin’” before Coleman makes his first of two appearances on the sultry “Big George.” “I feel like George didn’t get as much credit as he deserved for being a part of Miles’s experimentations in alternate changes and chord progressions,” Payton says. “That’s why the songs on the album with George tend to be basically four-bar vamps – those four-bar turnarounds and what they would do with them were so influential in changing the landscape of how musicians play chord changes. It was important to me to get into that stuff that they did back in the 60s. George being there was like the cherry on top.”

Those concepts are explicitly referenced in the title of “Turn-a-Ron,” Coleman’s second guest spot, which gives the two masters plenty of space to interact with one another. The bassist is also paid homage on “Levin’s Lope,” which references his middle name while repurposing the bassline of “Cyborg Swing,” from Payton’s Quarantined with Nick album. “The sound of how I hear bass in an ensemble comes basically from Ron Carter and Ray Brown, so a lot of the music that I write is tailor made for what Ron does. I didn’t have to make any alterations to accommodate him because I write with his sound in mind anyway.”

The two-part “Lullaby for a Lamppost,” dedicated to New Orleans music legend Danny Barker, takes its structure from a New Orleans funeral procession – slow and dirge-like at first, then celebratory as the body is laid to rest. “Danny Barker gave me my first regular gig at this club on Bourbon Street in New Orleans called the Famous Door,” Payton recalls. “The tune is my homage to him, to his mentorship and the dedication he had to educating the youth in New Orleans.”

“Q for Quincy Jones,” originally recorded on Payton’s 2015 Letters album, pays tribute to another wide-ranging musical icon whose production skills, Payton remarks, “have been part of the fabric of the sound of music in the 20th century from Dinah Washington to George Benson to Michael Jackson.” The composer adapted “Gold Dust Black Magic” from his orchestral work of the same name, premiered earlier this year by the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra.

The remaining two pieces are drawn from the songbooks of two of Payton’s most formative keyboard influences: Hancock’s aforementioned “Toys,” originally recorded on 1968’s Speak Like a Child with Carter on bass; and Keith Jarrett’s achingly beautiful “No Lonely Nights.”

The recording of Smoke Sessions, Payton concludes, was “like a pinch-myself moment… I used to pretend I was playing with [these musicians] when I was a child, and now it’s happening. I literally felt like I was walking on air. To have someone I’ve listened to on record and admired from afar actually be a part of something that I created was just beyond my wildest imagination. I remained in a dream state for a couple of months afterwards.”

Source: Birdland Records

Irreversible Entanglements - Open The Gates

Open The Gates

by Irreversible Entanglements

Released 12 November 2021

International Anthem

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Open the Gates is Irreversible Entanglements’ third full-length album. It was recorded on January 5th, 2021, at Rittenhouse Soundworks in Philadelphia, and it was released on International Anthem on November 12, 2021. Irreversible Entanglements is Camae Ayewa (aka the “Moor mother”) on vocals, Luke Stewart on bass, Aquiles Navarro on trumpet, Keir Neuringer on saxophone, and Tcheser Holmes on drums.

Irreversible Entanglements
Open The Gates
(International Anthem)
Open the Gates really stands out. You listen to it, and you quickly think, “Wow.” You get to the second track and understand that the album is special and strong, the kind of album that will make it to the yearly selections.

Maybe you can clearly remember Irreversible Entanglements’ first two albums, their self-titled debut, and Who Sent You?, since their label, International Anthem, releases so few albums but always maintains very high quality, you know you are not wasting time giving all their releases a try.

And maybe you didn’t think they were as good as Open the Gates. So, you go back to those two records and play them again to pinpoint what Irreversible Entanglements is doing better or differently that made their third release nail it so much better than the previous two, but painfully, you realize that the music was already there. The energy, strength, and passion were there. The only thing that was missing was you. You needed four years to grow, to accept, and to let go. Thanks to Jaimie Branch, Irreversible Entanglements, and Angel Bat Dawid, you have now grown to fully appreciate Open the Gates. You were late, but you are here now.

Source: Best Of Jazz

Owiny Sigoma Band - The Lost Tapes

The Lost Tapes

by Owiny Sigoma Band

Released 29 October 2021

Brownswood

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Brownswood Recordings are happy to present the final installment of the critically acclaimed collaborative project, Owiny Sigoma Band.“The project has always been a massive experiment,” notes Louis Hackett, the bassist and one fifth of the ever-fascinating Owiny Sigoma Band, whose fourth studio album ‘The Lost Tapes’ is to be released on Brownswood Recordings six years since their last full record. A coming together of traditional East African musical philosophies and a more electronically-inclined London sensibility, this record is rooted in an intricate percussive framework which yields a progressively cut sound, cohesively brought together via an impressive musical chemistry.
Founded in 2009, the Owiny Sigoma Band began during a cultural exchange project in Kenya entitled The Art of Protest. Producer Jesse Hackett, his brother Louis and school friend Tom Skinner were introduced to local musicians Joseph Nyamungu and Charles Owoko. Whilst both of them were singers, Nyamungu specialised in playing the Nyatiti, a stringed lute popular amongst the Luo people in western Kenya, whilst Owoko would play the Nydounge drum.
The record is split into two halves; the A-side having been recorded in Uganda, whilst the B-side was completed in Kenya. Although most of the project was recorded in 2019, this album is of a significant sentimental value since bandmember Charles Owoko very sadly passed away in 2015, shortly after they released their last record. The latter half of the project entails a number of recordings that Charles completed towards the end of his life – music that both Jesse and Louis Hackett describe as “stirring but special” - both a reminder and celebration of the pivotal role Owoko played in the band’s growth.
The Lost Tapes harbours a sophisticated set of sounds that seem to coalesce so seamlessly. For the Hacketts, the exploratory sound has had to grow naturally over the last decade in a way that has felt comfortable for both Owoko and Nyumungu. Louis explains, “They saw the results of our experimentation and came over to Europe to tour. As they saw the project form, more of a trust grew and that enabled us to expand on the experimental elements. They really encouraged us to sing which pushed us and created something slightly unusual.”
For Jesse, “There was never any agenda. It was always an open dialogue whereby things would be suggested and we would then all explore those ideas.” It was this openness that catered for the unique alignment of the rootsy, local east African sound and the slightly pop-inclined western vocals and electronics which created something noticeably unusual. The band’s growth has resulted in a timelessly sounding, fresh new project. This record oscillates between slowed-down sonic meditations that evoke an introspective sensibility, and up-tempo, groove-inclined bubblers that demand patience from the listener. The role of the drum is a fundamental one; particularly the coming together of Tom Skinner’s free-flowing patterns alongside the darker textures of Owoko’s drums. However, the variety of strings and vocals integrating throughout this project forges a poignant, emotive harmony that sculpts the sound, offering the record an extra dimension of depth.
The band have demonstrated their ever-expanding musical experimentation through incorporating two new instruments into this record too. Ugandan musician Lawrence Okelo offers an extra sonic spectacle through playing the Amadinda xylophone as well as the Adungu, an arched harp which varies between seven and ten strings, made from hollowed-out wood. It is this use of strings and delicate vocal arrangements which creates a balance against the harder sonic colours of the drums. The importance of the oral art-form is fundamental to the project’s existence since music has transcended language in allowing the band to establish their sound and identity. As well as the cultural dichotomy, the intergenerational element has added to the uniqueness of the Owiny Sigoma Band’s sound and The Lost Tapes is emblematic of how far they have come. It has taken a decade of working together, building a trust and experimenting with their disparate approaches to create a record as exceptional as this. It is a timeless piece of music that accentuates the importance of different cultures collaborating with sincerity and quality; an apt illustration of how to push culture forward with conflicting yet curious attitudes.

Source: Bandcamp