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Floats my boat

January is over, long live February. These are the tunes that have been penetrating my ears over the past month:


Last Friday, Laura and I had the privilege of watching Empirical, joined by Jason Rebello and Jean Toussaint, play their interpretation the music of a ‘mad genius’ I’d never come across before, a certain Andrew Hill. Plenty more albums to purchase therefore! This lovely little number, Black Fire, is the from the 1964 album of the same name. This gig was part of a set of shows that Empirical will be curating at Kings Place, check it out.

Moving swiftly on, we have classical composer supreme Joseph Haydn. Annoyingly, I have only just given his Symphony No. 101, otherwise known as The Clock, the time of day it deserves, and boy what a piece of music it is. The last section of the movement, Finale: Vivace, is compellingly elegant; a calming but bustling adrenaline floods my system whenever I hear it.

I know absolutely nothing about Pete Josef, but he popped up on the speakers at a Sunday lunch I recently went to. It stuck with me, especially from 1.09 onward.


In my humble opinion, Takuya Kuroda’s latest album Zigzagger is very much hit and miss, but R.S.B.D is undeniably groovy. Listen to 0.43 to 1.03 to see what I mean.

And finally, I’ve always been incredibly fond of The Coral, who hasn’t really? A recent trip down memory lane has had me listening through their back catalogue again; what a body of music they have created. Careless Hands, a gem of tune, is from second album Magic and Medicine.



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.




Album purchased this week no. 2 – Sensible Shoes

Released in 2009 and nominated for the Mercury Prize the same year, Sensible Shoes by Led Bib forms my second, sweet album bought this week.

led bib

With current UK jazz circles populated by many outstanding groups, such as Troyka, Get The Blessing, Empirical and Polar Bear, Led Bib can rightly be counted as part of this thriving scene. The compositions that make up Sensible Shoes bound off into many directions, from all out free jazz, that sounds like Acoustic Ladyland on acid, to more delicate and melodic tunes. As always with this type of music, it is an album that merits many listens to gain an understanding of the ideas and motifs that make up each song, as well as an appreciation of the ability involved.

Sweet Chilli is a personal favourite of mine from the album – kick starting with a catchy, ascending saxophone riff that twists and turns between proficient drum fills, the tune settles on a measured bass line at 1.18 before building back up with brilliantly creative drum rolls from 2.20 onwards, turning into what could almost be described as a march at 3.07 and 4.08. The silent gaps at 1.09 and 5.00 are VERY cool (the second only punctuated by the deftest rim, skin and cymbal hits and the quiet harmonic pinch of a bass).


Live alive!

Last Wednesday, I had the pleasure of watching Empirical at the Purcell Room on Southbank, a performance which quite literally blew my mind. A phenomenally talented group snappily dressed, beautifully crafted music and a good rapport with the audience left me feeling that I had perhaps witnessed one of my favourite ever live performances.

The emotion one can experience if particularly struck by a performance of art is incomparable, especially in the context of music that is highly charged and energetic.

The Who Performing in Concert

Therefore, after last night’s gig, I have felt the need to share some personal favourites when it comes to live performance. Although unfortunately, most have been restricted to recordings and film rather than first hand.

The best blues lead guitar playing ever? Jimi Hendrix’s version of Red House at 1969’s Woodstock, for me, has to be very close. Though the festival slot was more renowned for Hendrix’s version of Star Spangled Banner and most of the band are completely lost in the mix, the feeling, speed, choice of note and shifting tone of Hendrix’s guitar playing is perfect. The licks at 1.20, 3.04 and 4.19 never fail to send a shiver down my spine.

It’s that man again. Punky’s Whips by Frank Zappa, this version taken from the Baby Snakes concert, will want to make you play drums, simple fact. One handed drumming while singing at 6.27? All in a day’s work for Terry Bozzio. With the band in its peak form, the enjoyment that Zappa’s music provides for other musicians is showcased here.

The only group out of this list I have had the privilege of seeing, Hot Club of Cowtown are no-nonsense hot swing jazz with boundless energy. Orange Blossom Special (the first track taken from this Later…With Jools Holland edition) perfectly encapsulates the irrepressible joy that this sort of music, and indeed the trio, brings.

Finally, we come to a video that must be deemed as a Youtube ‘classic’, in that when browsing drunkenly with friends, it is bound to come up. Performed for NBC, Hocus Pocus by Dutch band Focus revolves around that riff, but is comedic as well intensely impressive in the energy captured. Though the guitar work of Jan Akkerman is a sight to behold, it is mainly due to the efforts of pianist Thijs van Leer that sets this performance apart. With an incredible range in his voice and the ability to pull out a flute from nowhere (see 3.02), each break is more zany than the one before. A must watch video.

Nu-jazz: Empirical

Aaaaaah, jazz, how I love thee. There is not a situation or scenario in the world where jazz is unacceptable to put on. Apart from, perhaps, the murky morning mist of an all night rave. It might grate people somewhat at 5am after dancing like a mentalist to grimy house and electronica, but what do they know?

They probably don’t know too much about Empirical, who have just recently released their fourth album Tabula Rasa featuring the Benyounes String Quartet.


A subtle shift in direction after their previous three albums, Tabula Rasa is worth fishing the coins out of your pocket for the first three tracks alone, especially opener The Simple Light Shines Brightest. After the initial Basquiat Strings-esque intro, it loops into the sweetest drum beat I have heard this year. Play it through decent speakers with a nice sub woofer and you’ll see what I mean. From there on in, the track just gets better and better.

Unfortunately, I am unable to get my grubby mitts on a link to songs from the new album. However, a selection of live videos that demonstrate the talent that Empirical possess are posted below. I would highly recommend checking out their back catalogue, in particular their self titled debut album featuring Kit Downes on keys. For now though, enjoy In The Grill from third album Elements of Truth and Out But In from second album Out ‘n’ In.

Empirical are playing the Purcell Room at Southbank, London on the 16th October. Without a shadow of a doubt, I will be there. Get on it.