Live dates have now firmed up for José James whose album No Beginning No End, is released in just under a fortnight on 21 January. Heavily trailed since October, the album may well see the jazz singer become much better known to wider audiences, but for now he will in all likelihood retain his jazz audience. No Beginining, No End (****) has an authentic retro jazzed-out soul sound, not Gregory Porter’s way, say, although both singers profess much love for the music of Nat King Cole yet come at the tradition from a different angle. Each has a very different voice, and James is more alert to the club scene, ‘club’ as in the old acid jazz rare groove sense, and with James it’s one ear to Bill Withers, one ear to Flying Lotus and all ears to John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman, but a touch of Gil Scott-Heron for the freestylin’ generation comes in to the picture as well.
The new album of originals opens in bedroom fashion with JJ’s lyrics on ‘It’s All Over Your Body’ with a band featuring famed ‘Wherever I Lay My Hat (That’s My Home)’ bassist Pino Palladino, some retro horns, Robert Glasper and Chris Daddy Dave. World-jazz singer Hindi Zahra guests memorably on the next track ‘Sword and Gun’, yet it’s ‘Trouble’ blessed with a monster groove that really impresses. The Van Morrison band’s Alistair White on trombone makes his presence felt on this JJ-penned song, written with Scott Jacoby, and ‘Vanguard’ following is also excellent, Glasper helming it on Rhodes with Daddy Dave and Pino Palladino, the latter who played very well live with Glasper at the Roundhouse in October and is an album co-producer. Emily King adds lovely subtle touches on the seductive ‘Come to my Door’, the fifth track, and she’s even better on the second of her two album tracks ‘Heaven on the Ground’, which is track six. ‘Do You Feel’ and ‘Make it Right’ passed me by a bit, but ‘Bird of Space’ didn’t, it’s a stayer, while final tracks ‘No Beginning No End’ and ‘Tomorrow’, the latter with Monk prizewinning pianist Kris Bowers an appealing harmonic presence. A record this good hardly ever comes along. It’s for jazz and the wider world. SG
Live dates are: XOYO, London (9 April); Sugar Club, Dublin (12 April); and Band on the Wall Manchester (13 April). The cover of No Beginning, No End, above
Extra dates (15/03 update): Wednesday 10 April, Wardrobe, Leeds; and 14 April at Hare & Hounds, Birmingham
Kairos 4tet enter the studio next month to record their first album since signing to Naim, the label that already has hit bands the Neil Cowley Trio and Get the Blessing on its books. Saxophonist Adam Waldmann, above right, dropped the news to his fans in a new year newsletter that the band would be holing up at Real World studios early next month. That’s the Wiltshire recording facility where the Neil Cowley Trio recorded their debut Displaced. While Kairos had a fairly quiet 2012, partly through an injury sustained by Waldmann that kept the band off the road, the quartet with Waldmann joined by Phronesis’ Jasper Høiby and Ivo Neame, plus Dice Factory’s Jon Scott, won the MOBO for best jazz act the previous year following the release of their acclaimed album Statement of Intent, did appear to play a high profile London Jazz Festival gig in Kings Place where they showcased their single ‘Song for the Open Road’ featuring soul legend Omar who joined the band onstage as part of the Jazz in the New Europe strand. Kairos first emerged in 2010 with their debut album Kairos Moment, although Neame did not come on board until Statement of Intent replacing Rob Barron. Emilia Mårtensson’s vocals added a certain something on the last record as well as on the band’s debut, and Kairos manage the difficult feat of combining a vocal presence with a post-jazz feel, allowing jagged frequently metrically advanced solo lines to mesh intuitively with the often languorous delivery of the UK-based Swedish singer yet retaining an improvising credibility at its core.
Wednesday 9 January update: Naim Jazz label boss Simon Drake says: “Adam and I have wanted to work together for a long time, and I am delighted that everything is falling into place for Naim Jazz Records to release Kairos 4tet’s third album. Kairos are a supremely talented group, who inhabit their own space at the forefront of new British jazz. They work extremely hard and I hope we can help them build on their audience in the UK and beyond. They certainly deserve it!" SG
Kairos 4tet top. Photo: Paul Medley
ACT **** RECOMMENDED
Fast and quick thinking with an energy that propels his music beyond the typical bebop threshold into another sphere entirely, a micro world of possibilities and rarely heard sounds merging with the more familiar, alto saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa is on exquisite form here. With the microtonally inclined David Fiuczynski a clever foil, chunky no-nonsense bass from François Moutin and thundering attack from drummer Dan Weiss, Gamak is full-on with the ornamentation of south Indian music a titular factor, but also a reinvented bebop spirit, hints at the delta blues and heavy rock. The clever bit is the microtonal or south Indian-sounding harmony Fiuczynski does much to provide, sometimes Fuze can be like the late Pete Cosey, at other times he’s just bluesy or wigs out detuned like a mutant tincan, so this is never going to be a trip to the bebop museum interesting though that may well be on a quiet afternoon. Yet the core of the Mahanthappa band style, particularly its roots in Charlie Parker’s music, are there like invisible ink. ‘Waiting is Forbidden’ is first and best for me, but every track has its merits, with the circling-in on ‘Ballad for Troubled Times’ a great build to a sad song that has the ache and forboding of a certain ugly sense of unease, while ‘The Majesty of the Blues’ rocks out. The album is also beautifully recorded by Mike Marciano. Stephen Graham
Released on 14 January
Rudresh Mahanthappa above
Fifty years ago next month three musicians released an album that five months earlier they had got together to record. They weren’t just any musicians. But together they hadn’t recorded before, and would never do so again. A half a century on following the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the post-credit crunch world where the banks have lost their once invincible air of respectability, big business still rules the money jungle. The album using those two words, and a new meditation on our western economy as a failed way to live, is marked next month with the release of Money Jungle: Provocative in Blue by Terri Lyne Carrington. On the cover of the original artwork of the LP of Money Jungle the biggest point size of the lettering for the musicians is accorded to Duke Ellington, then as now a talismanic figure whose music reached musicians and non-musicians alike the world over. Four days before the Money Jungle sessions it was business as usual for Duke, and with his orchestra he was in a New York studio recording tracks such as ‘Monk’s Dream’, ‘Do Nothin’ Till You Hear For Me (Concerto for Cootie’), and ‘The Lonely Ones’.
The seventeenth of September 1962 was different though, and with the maverick Mingus and bebop pioneer Roach rather than the gathered ranks of the orchestra this was a pared down piano trio album, like no other in Ellington’s vast discography before or since. Why so? Well, first of all because of the power of the personalities you don’t think of it as a piano trio album which is weird. In recent years Vijay Iyer in some ways has showed the modern way to look at this album with, not a trio take although that would be interesting, but just him playing ‘Fleurette Africaine’ in a California studio that later appeared on his album, Solo.
Money Jungle isn’t about instrumentation, it’s about people and ideas. The songs are mainly by Ellington yet the politics are a communality of all three players’ expressed in different ways but essentially the same in the context of the civil rights movement.
Side one opens with ‘Money Jungle’ and then there’s the beautiful ‘Fleurette Africaine (African Flower)’, ‘Very Special’, and ‘Warm Valley’, with side two ‘Wig Wise’, ‘Caravan’, not Ellington’s tune but Juan Tizol’s, and finally ‘Solitude’. CD-era listeners will know the album differently and so perceptions have been altered by time as formats change. So the order of the songs were changed and unreleased songs ‘A Little Max (Parfait)’, ‘REM Blues’, ‘Switch Blade’, and ‘Backward Country Boy Blues’ were now heard for the first time.
Enter Terri Lyne Carrington fresh from the drummer’s Grammy winning success with her vocals-based album The Mosaic Project, and with the extra tracks in mind Provocative in Blue has kept these to the fore so ‘Backward Country Boy Blues’ is the third track with a Lizz Wright vocal, and the other unreleased 1963 tracks are also there plus originally released songs, though not ‘Warm Valley’, ‘Caravan’ and ‘Solitude’, as Carrington’s own tunes ‘Grass Roots’ and ‘No Boxes (Nor Words)’ plus pianist Gerald Clayton’s ‘Cut Off’ take their place.
Carrington says she first heard Money Jungle as a CD version in the new millennium and felt “something mysterious about it,” explaining further. “There was an energy that moved through the tracks. There was this tension that you could hear, and yet they fit together like a hand in a glove.”
Her rearranging of the album has many dimensions. It’s layered with a big cast and is very political. We look to jazz people to say it as it is, no nonsense, and that’s what TLC and her musicians do here. To rolling solo drums a voice at the beginning says: “People are basically vehicles to just create money, which must create more money to keep the whole thing from falling apart, which is what’s happening. There is no profit under the current paradigm in saving lives, putting balance on this planet, having justice and peace or anything else. You have to create problems to create profit”, at which Christian McBride kicks in with the loose strung sound of Mingus you recognise from the title track of Money Jungle. The track ends with a collage of voices including that of Dr Martin Luther King speaking in December 1963 and President Barack Obama.
On the second track there’s a link to jazz royalty with the voice of Clark Terry, one of Miles Davis’ early mentors in the rap at the beginning of ‘Fleurette Africain’, as spelt here, before Clayton against a luxuriantly laidback Carrington rhythm and a lovely bigger ensemble arrangement that still retains the intimacy of a small band and conjures that mystery Carrington has referred to in her original reaction to the album. The core band is Carrington with McBride and the piano and Rhodes of Gerald Clayton, but the cast is expanded as the album progresses; as a feminist statement track 11 is also significant with new singer/songwriter Shea Rose’s contribution extolling womanhood.
Uniting the past half century with the present at just under the five-minute mark the album goes almost silent, and no less a figure than Herbie Hancock, as “the voice" of Duke Ellington, says: “If jazz means anything at all, which is questionable, it means the same thing it meant to musicians 50 years ago: freedom of expression. I can’t help feeling that the music has outgrown the word jazz. The greatest danger to civilisation is that we don’t appreciate enough our natural heritage. Musicians of the past have influenced all musicians of the future. I think jazz will be listened to by the same people who listen to it now: those who like creative things, whether they understand them or not. If it is accepted as an art the popularity of it doesn’t matter. When you get into popularity then you’re talking about money, not music.”
After the original Money Jungle sessions, two days later Ellington played solo for a TV broadcast, and it was ‘Fleurette Africaine’ he played that day. A week later he was recording with John Coltrane for Impulse.
Money Jungle: Provocative in Blue (Concord) is released on 25 February. The cover of 1963 album Money Jungle, top. Terri Lyne Carrington, above
Jazz singer Tammy Weis and pianist Tom Cawley have co-written the first song on the new Erin Boheme album What A Life. Produced by Michael Bublé the album features the star crooner’s band, with Wisconsin-born Boheme (above) duetting with the Bublé-sounding Spencer Day on the excellent ‘I’d Love To Be Your Last.’ Weis, a British Canadian singer who has become an integral part of the sophisticated UK mainstream jazz vocals scene with her highly rated jazz club appearances and recordings, together with Cawley better known for his work with Curios and Peter Gabriel, have written ‘Everyone But Me’ driven by a kind of modified rumba feel, think the feel of Caro Emerald’s ‘A Night Like This.’
It’s a snappy opening to a record that seems guaranteed to receive commercial radio airplay. Bublé fans will head straight for ‘I’d Love to Be Your Last’ which has the potential to be a huge hit with its crossover country sound.
Less alt.country than Lady Antebellum there’s a kind of zeitgeisty 1970s vibe coming through as well on the album from around fifth track ‘The Last Time’ written by David Foster who also penned the Diana Krall performed song ‘I’ll Make It Up As I Go’ featured on Robert De Niro-starring film The Score. ‘Do I Do’ has got instant impact and mainstream soul fans might very well take to Boheme’s superb self-penned and jazzy ‘One More Try’.
Originally signed to Concord at just 17, a protégée of the distinguished jazz pianist and arranger Mike Melvoin who helped Boheme in the early part of her career Michael Bublé also warmed quickly to Boheme’s voice and her putatively Carly Simon-inspired sound. His touring band has worked with the singer on the sessions for the album, with pianist Alan Chang, guitarist Dino Meneghin, bassist Craig Polasko and drummer Rob Perkins appearing plus strings. Boheme says that Weis and Cawley’s song ‘Everyone But Me’ “was the story of my life”, and other songs on the album include a cover of Coldplay’s ‘In My Place’ and Boheme’s ‘What A Life’.”
Released on 5 February in the US. Erin Boheme pictured top. Tammy Weis above right. UPDATE: UK release, 25 March
Slipped out sooner than you think, the debut of tenor-of-our-time Chris Potter on ECM is fast approaching with a 28 January release. I haven’t heard it yet but going by Potter’s last few superlative appearances in the UK with his own band at Ronnie Scott’s during the Jazzwise to the Power of 15 week and previously with McCoy Tyner, and the fact that this is a special “new label" event The Sirens will for these reasons be anticipated as one of the first major saxophone statements of the year.
Inspired by Homeric legend, the Chicago-born Potter, who celebrated his 42nd birthday just this week on New Year’s Day, is on his habitual tenor and soprano saxophones plus bass clarinet, joined by past and present Potter band pianists the sophisticated avant gardist Craig Taborn, and upcoming Cuban David Virelles on prepared piano, celeste, and harmonium. (Virelles also appears on Tomasz Stanko’s double album Wislawa set for a February release). Potter also brings in Brad Mehldau trio and Fly bassist Larry Grenadier, and happening Charles Lloyd drummer Eric Harland. Tracks are: ‘Wine Dark Sea’, ‘Wayfinder’, ‘Dawn (With Her Rosy Fingers’), ‘The Sirens’, ‘Penelope’, ‘Kalypso’, ‘Nausikaa’, and ‘Stranger at the Gate’. SG
The Sirens cover top and Chris Potter above