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Category Archives: Jazz

All encompassing and suitable for all moments.

Where has it been???!!!?!?!?!

In almost the same amount of time it has taken me to write a new blog post, Metallica have blessed us with their latest, alcohol withdrawal shakes and biker boots at the ready, album.

Now, don’t get me wrong, when I was a greasy lank haired fifteen year old (a continuing theme from my last post), all I listened to was Metallica. I ceremoniously scooped the crap out of my amp and struggled in vein to emulate the effeminate guitar wizard Kirk Hammett. I almost, almost (I can’t place enough emphasis on almost) bought a Kirk Hammett signature guitar; thank heavens I didn’t. For the few readers that aren’t acquainted with the intricacies of the guitar anatomy, Mr Hammett’s signature git fiddle is designed for one thing and one thing only: filthy, skin shaving heaviness. It looks menacing. It doesn’t provoke thoughtful or critical analysis. It just exists to destroy your ear drums, most probably when unplugged too. As I slowly came to appreciate the beauties of jazz, folk and early pop, trying to play such genres with a skull and cross bones emblazoned black behemoth would have been nigh on impossible. Plus it would have sounded like UTTER SHIT.

kirk-hammett

 

I have digressed somewhat. Out of respect for Hetfield & co. (bar Death Magnetic and 74% of St. Anger), I have listened to some of……ahem…….Hardwired to Self Destruct. To be fair, from what I’ve heard, they have returned to their Kill ‘Em All roots, albeit with an overly impressive slick production and more wrinkly skin. Kirk Hammett still belts out a nice bluesy Phrygian lick, so all can’t be wrong with the world.

Anyhow, what I really wanted to write about was all the great music I’ve had the pleasure of picking up recently! It was all a cunningly disguised plan to lure in die hard Metallica fans and treat them to the wonders of the musical world! What an evil schemer I am.

Let’s start with the all too infrequent tune producer Solange Knowles. Her new album, A Seat At The Table, is really quite something, a far cry from the modern Motown infused Sol-Angel and the Hadley St. Dreams. What a set of pipes! A clear Dirty Projectors influence rings through, but this track is incredibly beat driven in its own right, with trickles of piano accentuating the bass heavy moments perfectly.

Next up is young American guitar virtuoso Julian Lage, who I will have the joy of witnessing this Thursday as part of the EFG Jazz Festival. His latest album, Arclight, is quite possibly my favourite release of the year and his first with an electric guitar. Without wanting to sound like a pretentious know it all idiot, this guy has tone oozing out of his fingers. His note selection is beautiful. The pace and execution of his playing wraps itself around the song structure, rather than sound like gratuitous wanking or someone who is trying too hard to impress. It’s tuneful, restrained, and comforting.The case to modify your Telecaster has never been so strong, especially when you take in the passage from 1.28 to 2.00.

Now, we have the glory days of psychedelic tinged grunge encapsulated in The Wytches. Upon a first time visit to Resident Records, I heard this blaring out over the speakers; my interest was instantly pricked. Their second album is worth your time, believe me. They could be the bastard brother of Nine Black Alps.

And finally, old Charles Mingus never ceases to amaze me. How had I not heard this album? And this tune?! Well, I’ve heard it now, so I can bask in its glory forever. I doff my hat to you sir. It’s a catchy little number, yes!

And with that, I’ll retire into the night and wish my friend Jack the happiest of thirtieth birthdays.

Enjoy!

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Pick me ups

As the weather isn’t turning sunny side up until tomorrow, let’s have a few blazing tunes to perk up the weekend lunchtime.

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Raymond Scott is a bona fide genius. His jazz sweeps through you with supreme verve, the crackly warm tone of past production surely bringing a smile to your face.

Where did I first hear Raymond Scott? At the highly entertaining Perhaps Contraption’s recent gig at Rich Mix no less. Catch this fantastic London band when you can!

Vocal bliss is very much the driving force behind Amsterdam’s Floatmonki, but the underlying ‘polyrhythmic trip-jazz’ music is exceedingly fluent, seeking out those endorphins of yours. Long live Donna Van Dijck……..

They’ve shed two key members, and lost their more alternative style of writing, but White Denim can still pump out a fun time, bluesy psychedelic tune when needed. Catch them at the Roundhouse in October.

Have a lovely Saturday whatever you do!

Everything eventually moves south

As I approach the ripe old age of thirty years on this planet, tiny molecules of doubt have started to fester in my psyche. They jostle around, largely ignored, but slowly come to the fore with each day that passes; the fear that I have begun my descent into middle age-dom, my musical tastes irreversibly damaged.

I suspect most young people hold this fear, the unknown date of when your brain becomes chemically unbalanced and you decide that tucking your t-shirt into your jeans is not only better looking, but wholly practical. The day that you decide you should wear hiking boots for every social occasion, rather than just when climbing a mountain. The day when you’d rather listen to the Archers than Gilles Peterson. In my case, deciding that early Rolo Tomassi is just a little bit over the top (what was I thinking in my younger days, my word!) and wouldn’t I rather listen to some placating Joe Bonnamassa?

Two events have recently spiked my self awareness of decrepitude. First off, I had the enjoyable experience of seeing my friend’s band, Mt. Wolf, play a set of their highly polished, superlunary music at Oslo this week. It was very much a ‘cool’ event, having appeared in Time Out as one of the week’s must see gigs. Now, I’m not saying I even belonged there in the first place (though I can’t remember a time when my street credit was this unbelievably high), but it did make me wonder at what point would I no longer fit into the crowd of fashionable youths.

The second event was the purchase of Theo Croker’s latest album, Escape Velocity. Upon sampling the sounds of Croker’s new release, I instantly had the uneasy feeling of whether this was on the cusp of funky lounge jazz………even writing ‘funky lounge jazz’ has just sent an unpleasant shiver down my spine. The kind of music that you inoffensively tap your foot to, enjoying the sensation of nothing breaking any boundaries.

Having listened to the album for an entire week, I have come to the conclusion that this is the right side of generic; a happy mover with a subtle gritty production. It sits back in the groove with interesting and brain imprinting melodies, encompassing electronica and world music, not fading into flavourless mush that I imagine horrible jazz funk would.

Not every track is a winner (It’s Gonna Be Alright is irksome) and some insipid elements creep in, but tunes Transcend (0.32-1.04), This Could Be (1.04-1.35), In Orbit (1.35-2.05), The Right Time (2.35-3.11) and Love From The Sun (6.00-6.30) really are bloody excellent. Unfortunately, I could only source the above album sampler, but I would recommend with no hesitations buying this album for a proper play through.

Perhaps no one will agree with my view of this album and I really have descended into my forties far too early. Perhaps ignorance is bliss.

Enjoy!

So much choice, so little time

Seeing as you’re lucky enough to be reading this, I’ll let you in on my trade secrets behind sourcing music.

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So, which sophisticated and elaborate method do I reveal first?  Let’s see now…..there’s the old trawling through magazines technique. We have the tried and tested method of scouring record label websites. A stone cold favourite – clicking on the ‘Related’ section of the iTunes store. Has anyone heard of Songkick?

As you can see, highly original and groundbreaking stuff which, in all honesty, has served me well. However, it has come to my attention that I have potentially been going about my leisurely business like a prime chump. Lo and behold, Bandcamp Discover has opened up a whole new world to me.

You pick a genre, then a sub genre, and off you go into an overwhelming selection of signed bands, unsigned artists, amateur groups, bedroom virtuosi, one man/woman crusades, and so forth. And the price of this? With the age of ‘pay what your mood dictates at that exact point in time, dependent on weather, respect for the industry and general moral upbringing’ truly upon us, you can get away with paying two pennies for an album of certified goodness.

Let’s take ART the Band, hailing from Toronto. Though they require you to fork out a bit more than the 67p you accumulated over six years in your long forgotten 0.3% savings account, it’s still a bit of a steal for some furiously fun music. Snippet tracks Connor Made Housecake and Dinosaur Factor sit opposite each other, dragging you between a comfortable rut of a groove and technical aptitude. Tokyo Sexwale is exactly what its name implies.

 

Mr. Moods, of Laval, Quebec, plants their music firmly in the ‘name your price’ section, so this literally is a steal. Bringing to mind Bonobo, Mr. Scruff and Clifford Gilberto, Jazz Reinvented conjures a soothingly dirty charm using its crackly electronica jazz.

 

Enjoy!

Early year splurge

Well well well, thus far, 2016 has been a good start for additions to the music library. Albums released in the latter part of last year that have inexplicably escaped my attention to recent offspring from bop heavy joy bringers. If I may, I’d like to share those that have recently tantalized my aural senses.

empirical old street

Released in the past couple of days, it is safe to say that Empirical’s Connection is an album that I have been longing to hear since their week long residency at Foyles Bookshop on Charing Cross Road last year. This coming week, the group will be performing out of a pop up jazz lounge in Old Street Underground Station (details above), no doubt confusing the bleary eyed rat race participants with an 8am show. Empirical are everything that is right about jazz: graceful fluidity, unconstrained imagination and volume in warmth. Connection is no different, veering from haunting to filthy swing in an instance. God I love this band; be sure to catch any one of their multiple free performances this week!

A different form of intelligence, Field Music have returned with an album chock full of what they do best: edgy funk with sweet melodies, laced with clever touches and subtle layers of instrumentation. I could not imagine Commontime being out of place for any occasion.

Little known Oakland outfit Feed Me Jack released their latest EP, Ultra Ego, earlier this year. It represents a band honing their already identifiable sound, fine tuning their music by clearly illuminating the basis of each song amidst the variety of directions they pull you in. Put Audio Pono on and ease back, you’ll need to have reclined when you reach 1.22.

 

Released late last year, Astronautilus is Get The Blessing’s fifth studio offering. And with this track, Monkfish, they hark back to their oh so glorious roots. I challenge you to not feel engaged with this snappy number.

 

And finally, I’m going to be a bit bloody naughty and post my own band Corybantic’s muzakical deliberations. We released a mini EP this year and………..I make no further comment. It’s there if you’re interested.

 

Enjoy!

 

Windy mcbindy

Ah Chicago, you have thrown up something great yet again. Aside from Maps & Atlases, and Billy O’Neal, we now have Monobody.

monobody

It’s nimble, tricksy, and bloody infectious. Peppered with little funk melodies, jazz interludes, and what could be Jazz From Hell outtakes; we have a winner.

Enjoy!

Keys keys keys

If there’s one thing I should be doing right now, it’s learning the piano. Not taking out the washing, not religiously checking my fantasy football team’s performance, not thinking I should probably get on with the traditional Sunday activity of ironing one’s trousers in preparation for work. I should be learning how to play that magnificent instrument.

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Unfortunately, two problems stand staunchly in my way: firstly, I don’t own one of the bloody things. Secondly, I’m inherently lazy. So, instead, I will celebrate the music that it creates. I may be covering trodden ground from previous blogs in some cases, but what’s the harm in that? Additionally, I’m going for a shot to the arm rather than poignancy.

Over the year of 2015, I have embarked on an absolute Prokofiev binge, purchasing his catalogue in healthy doses. One piece that particularly sings to me is this, the shortened Vivace piece of the fourth piano concerto in B flat. It is completely masterful, never taking a moment’s breath as it flutters through your ears; I can but exhale in deep satisfaction once it has finished.

Picking a single Neil Cowley tune is a hugely unfair task, but the mammoth We Are Here To Make Plastic neatly sums up his outrageously versatile playing style. Just ensure you make it to 2.44.

Ah, Erroll Garner. You absolute beast. Live jazz piano that will bring you out in goosebumps.

It’d be rude not to tip the hat to a wee bit of ragtime, and this Alexander Peskanov version of Scott Joplin’s classic Maple Leaf Rag is a joy to behold.

As is Morton Gunnar Larson’s turbo charged version of Jelly Roll Morton’s Finger Breaker.

Well, I could go on, and I will with those Japanese tinklers mouse on the keys. Plateau is nothing short of a roller coaster.

My favourite piano piece of all time? As stated in a previous blog, Polonaise in A flat major, op. 53 ‘Heroic’ by Frédéric Chopin, played by Vladimir Horowitz. Majestically wondrous and awe-inspiring, I don’t believe it will ever bore me.

Enjoy!