Music Reviews

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Avatar / Gonzalo Rubalcaba

Gonzalo Rubalcaba - Avatar

Blue Note Records

Since emerging as a teenage prodigy in his native Cuba during the 1980s, Gonzalo Rubalcaba has, once settled in the United States, released a series of critically acclaimed albums in a variety of formats including solo, trio, quartet and quintet. One of his best, 'Supernova' from 2001 comprised an all-Cuban rhythm section and a wonderful reworking of the old chestnut 'El Manisero'. For his latest offering, 'Avatar' Rubalcaba again teams up with a Cuban compatriot in composer and saxophonist Yosvany Terry, but this time with a contemporary American feel and little or no Cuban influence. If anything this harks back to the abstract sounds of Steve Coleman's M-Base collective from the mid-1980s. Thus a groove-oriented feel pervades proceedings with use of electronic keyboards. The quintet are at their best on the more reflective pieces such as 'Preludo Corto no. 2' and Horace Silver's 'Peace'. However, contemporary post-bop listeners will find much to enjoy in the more uptempo numbers. Not necessarily the ideal surroundings in which to showcase Rubalcaba's pianistic virtuosity, but an accomplished set nonetheless and one that cements his already excellent reputation.

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Tim Stenhouse, 04/08

Through The Green Fuse / Grand Union

Grand Union - Through The Green Fuse

People Tree Records

What's more of a challenge - to be given an album you enjoy to review or to be logical and constructive about something you are not that all too sure about? For most, music is good music to somebody, if only the creator of the music. Let's therefore try to be constructive about an album I love, about a band that when playing live are exciting and maybe even about a band that shines above many in this year's bombardment of quality releases as, dare I say it, the year end is neigh.
The jazz critic: 'Morning Brings The Light' comes at you like some unearthed Gilles Peterson discovery. Flute and vocals with amazing rhythm, with complex yet almost basic ideas associated with labels like MPS and Impulse. How have they managed to create this familiarity in today's age of technology? Perhaps, no, simply the best piece of jazz for me this year.
A world music perspective: 'I Remember My Life like A Story' blasts you with Balkan violin madness, gypsy almost but somewhere before you reach Tango.and for 'John Riley' an invoking Irish love song only to clear the way for 'One Bright Day', a folk up-tempo groove with sparks of almost Senegalese undertones. Clever and enjoyable.
So why all the excitement? The band stepped on stage to the words "welcome to a night of folk music".. And that is where the balance of the album sits you - smack in the middle of some outstanding jazz orientated folk. 'Jane Jane' is an impressive composition, so too 'Wonderful World', aired on the aforementioned Mr. Peterson's Worldwide programme. Add to that the fact that our very own Sammy Goulbourn's The Other Side show has featured several offerings from the album too should be a clear guide to its standing.
This studio album is a must and I implore the reader to see the band perform live for they are truly a strong part of our ever changing movement with all things jazz in this country.

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Steve Williams, 11/06

The Bridge / Grandmaster Flash

Grandmaster Flash - The Bridge

BBE

One day there will be a hip-hop hall of fame to showcase the achievements of the past thirty years. When that day comes and you walk through those doors, the first sight in your tour should be a mural of Grandmaster Flash. His status as one of hip-hop’s pioneers is undeniable. “The Bridge” is his first studio release in nearly twenty years and contains an assortment of rappers to bless the tracks. There are some moments that are quite enjoyable such as the opening track “Shine all day” feat. Q-tip. “Bounce back” which features Busta Rhymes provides some heat. “What if” is also a solid track that features KRS-One who still remains relevant after all these years. However there are some cuts that sound dated, as though they were recorded years ago like “Here comes my DJ” and “Those Chix”.  Overall, it's good to have Flash back in the studio and “The Bridge” is a solid comeback. Let's hope that he doesn't wait another twenty to deliver another album.

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Reg Dancy, 03/09

The Mage / Greg Foat

Greg Foat - The Mage

Athens Of The North

"The Mage", pianist Greg Foat's ninth album is his first for the Edinburgh based label Athens Of The North. Foat's deft hand at composing and arrangements are in top form here as he weaves folk soundscapes with free jazz rhythms. "Of My Hands" is an atmospheric tune with soaring harmonies that features Trinidadian singer Kathy Garcia who originally recorded it forty years earlier. "The Magic Radish" starts out with a brooding bass line, hypnotic percussion and features Duncan Lamont on Tenor. Other notable contributors are veteran tenor Art Themen, guitarist Ray Russell, Malcolm Catto and the rising drummer Moses Boyd. Foat skillfully bridges the gap between the past and the present while solidifying his stature as a superb pianist and composer.

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Reg Dancy, 06/19

Girl and Robot with Flowers / Greg Foat Group

Greg Foat Group - Girl and Robot with Flowers

Jazzman

With their second lp, The Greg Foat group display their musical horizons by playing a number of styles; composing modal jazz compositions as well as cosmic jazz inspired funk.  Although there are twelve tracks “Girl and Robot with Flowers” features six alternate takes of the title track with each piece taking on a life of it’s own.  Part 1 is an atmospheric jazz piece that features Rob Mach on Sax.  The band stretches out on Part 3 & 4; the former is a scorching funk tune with bassist Phil Achille laying down a hearty groove. Before you know it Part 3 eases into Part 4, changing tempo and shifting into mellow funk with spacey soundscapes.  Some of the best moments occur on the two featured ballads.  “For a Breath I Tarry” is a warm ethereal tune highlighted by Rob Mach’s melodic soloing  while “Blues for Lila” is a warm emotive tune that features Greg in a trio setting.  The Greg Foat Group eliminate any thoughts of a sophomore slump with another impressive lp and another golden nugget from Jazzman records.

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Reg Dancy, 03/13

Lights From The Inside / Gregor Treshor

Gregor Treshor - Lights From The Inside

Break New Soil Recordings

Frankfurt’s own Gregor Treshor has been at the forefront of the techno scene ever since his 2005 hit “Still EP”. Based on his latest release, “Lights From The Inside” the thirty year old DJ appears poised to build on that success.  Treshor’s thirteen track release features tunes that are more groove influenced than his previous release but the results are more than satisfying. Among the highlights is the title track, led by a hypnotizing yet gorgeous melody. “Black To Zero” stands out in part due to its wicked bass line and “Echelon”, complete with warped out chords will be a definite crowd pleaser for rave audiences. With quality production and well written tracks, “Lights From The Inside” will no doubt please his fans and solidify Gregor’s status as a first rate techno DJ/producer.

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Reg Dancy, 05/11

Dream Come True / Gregory Charles Royal

Gregory Charles Royal - Dream Come True

Celeste

Originally released in 1979 jazz trombonist Gregory Charles Royal’s super rare ‘Dream Come True‘ finally gets a reissue. The in-demand up-tempo waltz ‘Dancer’ did make an appearance over ten years ago on the dubious looking compilation ‘A Good Example Of What It Is’ on Higher Learning Records but it’s great to have it again on a quality pressing. The said track is nothing short of exquisite and definitely the standout here, but not to be overlooked is the funky title track and the melancholy ‘For You’ on which Gregory provides some fragile vocals.

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Andy Allen, 09/08

A Life of Consummate Ease / Gripper

Gripper - A Life of Consummate Ease

ATIC Records

‘A Life of Consummate Ease’ comes to us on ATIC Records, the label set up by Andy Turner (better known as Aim) upon leaving Grand Central, and the influence of both Aim and the wider Grand Central stable is heard throughout Gripper’s music. This is to say that there is a plethora of styles and sounds at work on this album and you never quite know what’s coming next. ‘The Interpreter’, for example, is a frantic trumpet blast of Latin Jazz, whilst ‘Zombie’ is a bouncing, Trackmode-esque slab of synth-house and ‘Backwater Prophet’ takes up Rae & Christian’s instrumental Hip-Hop mantle. Amazingly, though, the quality is consistent right across the board and so it is this impressive variety that is the making of this album. For me, the high point is the return of Niko, another Grand Central stalwart, putting in a powerful performance when providing vocals on ‘The Daddy’.

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Tom Breslin, 10/08

Eternal Development / Grooveman Spot a.k.a. DJ Kou-G

Grooveman Spot a.k.a. DJ Kou-G - Eternal Development

Jazzy Sport

The formula: a hearty helping of expertly crafted beats - one-part classic Hip Hop, one part Broken Beat - with a sprinkling of highly talented vocalists. How could the man go wrong? Well, he doesn't! Japan's Grooveman Spot is on top of his game here, layering squelching synths and soulful keys over crisp, snapping beats that vary in tempo and form, but never in quality. Some are head-nodding instrumentals, some are full-on fodder for a discerning dance floor ('Rude Fantastic'), and others are graced by star turns from the likes of Count Bass D, Grap Luva, O.C., Jack Davey and Capital A. Of particular note, is the Dilla-esque 'Turn It Up' featuring M.E.D. and 'My Mind', which introduces - to me at least - skilled Japanese rappers, Hunger, Raythought and U-Zipplain. Overall result: an album that I can't recommend highly enough!

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Tom Breslin, 04/07

Food For Your Latin Soul / Grupo X

Grupo X - Food For Your Latin Soul

Loft Recordings

It's been around five years since Grupo X broke through with their debut album "X-Posure" and it's great to have them back, even though they've never really been away, with an extensive live schedule. "Food For Your Latin Soul" continues where they left off, with a mix of Salsa, Bugalu, Latin, Brasilia and Jazz. All eleven songs have been written by bandleader Jonny Enright and Jimmy Le Messurier, and once again on lead vocals we have Lisa Millett, who's caused quite a stir on the house scene, but the six tracks she features on here are much better suited to her vocals. Five years is a long time in the music industry but it's been well worth the wait.

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Simon Harrison, 03/06

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