Home' Rhythms Magazine : 2017 Sept-Oct Contents 16 Rhythms
myriad moons have passed since jazz’s heyday, when
it basked in the imprimatur of popular music. yet the
genre continues to regenerate with a penchant for re-
invention and shape shifting that outstrips the hydra,
that multi-headed beast of Greek mythology.
These days the tentacles spread wider than ever, a
phenomenon only truly appreciated by this columnist
after unleashing Planet Jazz* on the airwaves of his local
community radio station (Cairns FM 89.1).
Programming/presenting a weekly two-hour program that
encompasses the peripheries of jazz’s impressively wide
spectrum has resulted in exposure to some terrific new
music that I might not otherwise have heard – tracks and
albums that I feel duty-bound to bring to the attention of
you, dear Rhythms reader.
There can be no more apposite place to start than in New
Orleans, the spiritual home of jazz. The Preservation Hall
Jazz Band’s So it is (available through Sony) and Hot 8
Brass Band’s On The Spot (Tru Thoughts label) redefine
what “Nawlins” music means in 2017 while tapping into the
Crescent City’s unparalleled multi-cultural heritage and
‘La Malanga’, the heady highlight of PHJB’s latest set,
radiates the influence of an epiphanic trip the band made to
Cuba in 2015. As MD Ben Jaffe observed: “A gigantic light
bulb went off and we realised that New Orleans music is not
just a thing by itself; it’s part of something much bigger.”
The sparks similarly fly in all directions from the Hot 8
Brass Band’s latest and greatest album, which captures the
vibe and verve of a Nawlins parade as sizzling front-line
trumpets, trombones and saxophone lock horns over the
thunderous sustain of deep-throat sousaphone, the thump
of bass drum beats and rattle of snare. ‘St James Infirmary’
provides a sanctuary from some souped-up 21st century
funk. An imaginatively arranged rendition of the city’s most
famous funeral ballad that utilises every second of its eight-
minute duration is highlighted by the playing of old school
clarinettist Michael White, whose cascading high-end runs
and solos counter the resident singer’s rasping Satchmo-
Reinvention also hallmarks other recent cover versions
of renowned songs. ‘Faction’ from the self-titled Charlie
watts Meets The Danish Radio Big Band (Impulse/Verve),
for example, is a jazzed-out reading of a Stones’ mega-hit.
It would be fascinating to know what the Glimmer Twins
make of their indefatigable drummer’s makeover.
A re-titled and innovatively revamped rendition of Sting’s
‘Englishman In New York’ pops up on Somi’s album Petite
Afrique (Sony). In ‘Alien’, the Ugandan-Rwandan-American
singer alludes to her ancestry while paying homage to
her Manhattan neighbourhood, one of the Meccas of
the African diaspora in the US. Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Drifting’
and the title song, Paul Simon’s ‘She Moves On’, receive
similarly impressive jazzification from South Korean-raised
Paris-based chanteuse Youn Sun Nah, assisted by guitarist
extraordinaire Marc Ribot, on her new album for the
German ACT label.
Spaniard Lara Bello, who has called New York home for
the past eight years, utilises the talent of West African
guitarist Lionel Loueke in the silky Sikame (Biophilia
Records). Co-composer Carles Benavent supports her in ‘De
Perdidos al Rio’, a sublime combination of Brazilian bossa
nova and Andalucian flamenco. Elsewhere on the album,
Bello is consummately backed by reeds whiz Jorge Pardo,
Benavent’s amigo from their days in the late guitar maestro
Paco de Lucia’s band.
Loueke is justifiably accorded equal billing on an excellent
new Australian jazz album that also draws on other genres.
While The vampires Meet Lionel Loueke (Earshift Music) is
illuminated with cultured and simpatico guitar work (and
wordless vocals) from the Berklee-via-Benin guitarist and
Angelique Kidjo sideman, the Sydney quartet provides
sterling support on a selection of well-crafted originals.
Another Sydney band, Mister OTT, expand their sonic
palette to incorporate psychedelic guitars, reverb-drenched
horns, intergalactic keys and a crunchy drum-and-bass
combo on new album Single Shot (Art As Catharsis label).
The influence of Ethiojazz and Mulatu Astatke permeates
the thrilling title track.
* Audio streams of ‘Planet Jazz’ programs, containing all of
the aforementioned tracks, can be heard at:
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