Friday, 31 January 2020

Soweto Kinch with the Blue Vanguard Trio - Gipsy Hill Hotel, 30th January, 2020

Queuing for the sold-out gig
Prof Kinch Lectures on Art of the Jazz Standard

Soweto Kinch visited Exeter last night, playing at the Blue Vanguard jazz club with the greatest house band this side of any saxophone – the Blue Vanguard Trio – and Kinch reminded us [as do so many others visiting this venue] that jazz standards can be caressed and ignited and made as dynamically relevant as anything from the past which is inherently good and enduring.

I do think Kinch makes The Art of the Jazz Standard one of the highest arts I have ever had the pleasure to see and hear. Covering a range including Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, Billy Strayhorn [Lush Life], and concluding on a sublime rendition of My Favourite Things that evoked Coltrane with SK’s own independent excellence, this was a special night of music.

A penultimate surprise was being treated to a freestyle Blue Vanguard rap Kinch ‘found’ in four words solicited from the audience: horn, gipsy, antidisestablishmentarianism [yeah, I know, there’s always a comedian…], and remember. Wonderful!

As ever, the BV Trio excelled: Craig Milverton with his mesmerising runs on the keyboard, and while Al Swainger and Coach York had fair share of the standout solos, it was their varying duets with Kinch that joined especially in the musical memorabilia from this night.

[pics by ND]

Monday, 20 January 2020

The Marcus King Band - Soul Insight, album review

Old School New

This is an eclectic debut, though rooted in bluesrock, jazz and occasional shredding, a glorious showcase for a guitarist and singer honed on the road by the time of this release, his talent as a player otherwise nurtured from a very early age.

There is less of the ‘soul’, ironically, compared with more recent that I have come across by now, especially his latest solo release. And there are distinct influences to this eclecticism [apart from generic and Rory riff rock as on opener Always, and the southern rock palette of Allman et al across so much - maybe some Delaney and Bonny?], for example with Santana/Carlos on Fraudulent Waffle showcasing King’s dexterity.

Cool jazz is in the instrumental Dave’s Apparition, and further in the following Everything horn and organ here – as elsewhere, important features, and there is fusion in the potent Booty Stank.

A favourite is the sultry blues of Opie with King in a great gritty vocal with sweet harmonising foils, and the subtle guitar playing, but also penultimate Keep Moving which has a wonderful blues-suave to the whole sound: Hammond on a fine swirl and the song to move once again into a Santana-esque layer of percussion, organ and guitar rolls over the bass and drum pulses, breaking to wah-wah and some stereo speaker shifts – old school. 

Sunday, 19 January 2020

Lips Music 24

The Marcus King Band - Carolina Confessions, album review

No Embarrassment, but Apologies

Soul and blues, elegant and scorching guitar, blistering vocal and emotive singing, a band full of horns and organ/keyboards and other sass and refinements. The Marcus Kind Band. Wonderful.

I am not embarrassed. I feel apologetic, but not mortified by any means. Why? [Well, you’d want to know what about first, surely, but I’m asking the questions]. Read my previous music post about King’s excellent solo album and my not having heard of him and/or with his band before.

For me, it is all down to the absolute excellence of the music out there. Yes, loads and loads of dross too. But whether it is the amount of good or bad, you can’t always get through it all. But what is superb will come around.

As I promised, I have searched more out, and Carolina Confessions is the first no doubt of some other exhilarating discoveries, so I’m the lucky one coming to this now. What a fine, fulsomely soul/blues/southern rock/ballad variations of aforementioned this is. I recommend also trawling through YouTube for the live showcases of fundamental talent - perhaps patronising to mention 'for someone so young' - but there you go, that’s another impressive factor. Check out especially Easy Eye Sound and Paste sessions.

One final observation, my observation in the previous review about the song Young Man’s Dream is as it stands – first impression – but I now know more of its introspection and honesty about a personal journeying, musical and otherwise. Knowing something about this song informs knowing more about the beautiful title track song on this album – how the leaving and touring and learning is personally profound, especially in the honest reflection of the author. There is another lineage in this song [and whole album], from Blood Sweat & Tears, the guitar out of Chicago, and Redding.

Saturday, 18 January 2020

Lips Music 23

Marcus King - El Dorado, album review

Cinnamon Soul

Apparently a gunslinger in his self-named band – I’ll have to check this out – the soul and occasional folk-esque slant of this album would seem to show King on a different/personal musical trajectory. Indeed, opener Young Man’s Dream is very much in the Neil Young folk vein [assuming there is no pun intended in title] with King singing in a near falsetto, and is a pretty start. Second The Well is literally a stomper and one of the relatively heavier numbers on the album, King in grittier voice, guitar here and throughout evident as solo playing but target-practice rather than slung.

Wildflowers & Wine is the first of a night-time caress of blue-eyed soul numbers, with follower One Day She’s Here a 70s pop-soul ballad with plucked and other light orchestral strings – retro-wonderful. Beautiful Stranger continues on the sweet soulful pathway, here some country pedal steel smoothing it out further; Break invokes 80s soul harmonies and more pronounced orchestrations [this really is pretty music], and Say You Will funks things up for the other era it draws from.

It’s all more than damn good. The final two numbers hammer this home – penultimate Love Song rouses with a sweet soul chorus, and closer No Pain returns again to Neil Young, there in the pulsed rhythm, the little guitar breaks, and a hint of cinnamon in the soul’s roll.

This is going to be one of the best of 2020.

Friday, 17 January 2020

Lips Music 22

Bill Fay - Countless Branches, album review

Graceful Simplicity

The album cover is obviously metaphor/symbolic, but it is also near-neighbour emblematic [yes, there isn't much I will need to say about the lovely music] in as much as the peacefulness of the setting and the solo artist at piano, alfresco, represents a kind of peacefulness and singularity.

These are personal songs, introspection and reflections on a life lived, informed by the simple piano playing as unadorned, though there are additionals and especially cello runs that add a grandeur, perhaps a little too much at times, but nothing seriously intrusive, and Fay's vocal which is absolutely clear and centre has an obvious gentleness which adds to the overall sense of calm in the sweet melodies.

Back to the cover: the many branches suggest branching out or expansion or similar but that does seem to work at odds with the familiarity of a 'Fay' sound represented here across two discs. The buck/elk and fox looking away might encourage more analysis, but I think they are just there, and the storks/cormorants [I don't know] do not appear to be gathering for attack, coming as they do from the dusk side of the image with its crescent moon.

The fact the tree image is based on the song Countless Branches disrupts my narrative with its more reliable one, the opening lyric telling us Fay is sitting beneath this 'family tree', and is a rumination on being blessed among other feelings - this song embracing a solo piano and solo cello combo with graceful simplicity. The following song One Life reflects again on family and that oneness/wholeness.

Having just been interrupted in my writing by a Jehovah's Witness at my door - who got short shrift from me, as I am not in the mood - I would stress there is nothing preachy in the messages in Fay's lyrics - just an honesty that is warmed by the evident reflections in songs that have brewed their living over 20 to 40 years.

Sunday, 12 January 2020

Sofie Reed - Simplicity Chased Trouble Away, album review


Stomp-box, Slide, Sass, Sweden, Synonym for harmonica – the alliterative trick broke down eventually, but the Sustained [that was the last one] blues of this 2012 album is excellent, a simple but perfectly singular focus on Sofie Reed as fine vocalist and guitarist and harp player, this occasionally supported with a gospel-esque chorus as on Open.

Second track Leaving this Morning is particularly punchy with the harp bursts and electric guitar plucks, that vocal chorus in a call/response mode on the song title. Slide and perhaps a more folk-based slant is conveyed in the third which is the album's title track. Human Every Day is swathed in a sweet layering of background vocal accompaniment. A blissful slow slide is matched to a shimmering hummed gospel chorus on Peace Loving You – this is beautiful in its solemnity. 

Yes, there were more Ss, but that's writing.

You can listen to and get here.