Portico Quartet - IslaReal World Records
The Portico Quartet is an ensemble based in east London. “Isla” is the follow up the critically acclaimed debut “Knee Deep in the North Sea” that dropped in 2007. Once again the quartet has conceived an album that is rich in rhythmic compositions and melodic overtones. Jack Wyllie’s saxophone playing serves as a catalyst for the groups harmonic stylings and his phrasings create beautiful soundscapes throughout the disc. What makes their sound unique is their makeshift metal percussion instrument known as the Hang. The instrument has a slight steel pan tone that can be hard to describe but the sound it creates is very satisfying. The disc starts out strong with “Paper Scissors Stone”, a sublime selection that finds Jack Wyllie on Soprano creating emotionally provocative phrases that intertwine seamlessly with Milo Fitzpatrick’s double bass playing. “Line” is another gem that displays drummer Duncan Bellamy superb use of the cymbals. He also creates plenty of space for Jack Wyllie and percussionist Nick Mulvey to improvise and bring a gorgeous composition to life. Other highlights include “Life Mask” and the title track “Isla”. Overall this is a wonderful record by four musicians whose chemistry belies the fact they’ve only started performing together since 2005. This isn’t a bunch of guys intent on soloing and trying to out perform each other. This is a unified statement by an impressive group that is merely scratching the surface of their talent. This is certainly one of the impressive recordings of the year. Don’t miss it!
Reg Dancy, 10/09
Portico Quartet - Knee Deep In The North SeaReal World Records
This latest from Portico Quartet is actually their very first full length release from 2007. “Knee Deep In The North Sea” is the record that put these guys on the map and for good reason. There is a great level of musicianship here and their compositions are colorful and engaging. Then of course there is the hang instrument, performed by Nick Mulvey that distinguishes the group because of its steel pan like tone. There are many tracks to savor as the entire disc is enjoyable. “News From Verona” is warm and mellow thanks in part Jack Wyllie’s phrasing on sax that blends nicely with the tone of the hang drum. Duncan Bellamy’s gentle brushes on the cymbals convert the drums into a percussion. “Zavodovski Island” is a spirited tune blends spectacular moments from Wyllie as well as Milo Fitzpatrick on bass. “Steps In The Wrong Direction” starts out soft and sublime then changes tempo and carries the tune to greater heights. A live session of this song is also featured here. There are other live recordings that are equally enjoyable. “All The Pieces Matter” is from the Madia Vale session and “Knee Deep In The North Sea” from the Copenhagen sessions. This was already a wonderful record when it was first released. Now with a little fine tuning and reproduction polishing, a great record just became better.
Reg Dancy, 03/11
Positive Flow - FlowlinesTokyo Dawn
Jesse Reuben Wilson, the man behind Positive Flow returns with his first full length release since 2006. We hope there isn’t another six year gap in between albums because “Flowlines” is packed with superb recordings by an array of talented artists like Colonel Red, Omar, Andre Espeut and many more. “Flowlines” starts out impressively with “Children Of The Sun”, a mid-tempo soulful electronica blessed by the angelic vocals of Heidi Vogel. The disc picks up the tempo with “My Prediction”, filled with thick grooves and the unmistakable vocals of Omar. “In The Garden of Your Life” is another laid back soulful beauty sung by Vanessa Freeman. Jesse does a superb job with string arrangements on the aforementioned tracks and throughout the entire disc that adds an emotive element to his compositions. In addition to the vocal contributions there are some funky instrumentals such as “Phaedra’s Flight” and the celestial “Capoeira”. You know you have a great record when you can find a new favorite every time you play it. Simply put this is futuristic soul music of the highest order and one of the best records of the year.
Reg Dancy, 01/13
Positive Flow - PositivityNative Source
When writing reviews sometimes I will listen to an album two or three times to try and find the words to describe my thoughts and come up with new ideas of how to say an album is worth buying. I've had "Positivity" for a few weeks now and even though I love this to bits, I've really struggled putting pen to paper. Positive Flow is the brain child of Jesse Reuben Wilson and features lovely vocals from Donna Gardier and Zena Edwards. Soul shines through at the heart of all the productions whether the beats are broken, 4/4 or the more traditional smooth sound. A 12" sampler was released with four corkers and don't be thinking they were the best tracks because there's another seven to blow you away.
Simon Harrison, 10/06
Potatohead People - Nick and Astro's Guide To The GalaxyBastard Jazz
Nick Wisdom and astrological, the Vancouver duo better known as Potatohead People have built an impressive resume over the years based on their brand of mid-tempo electro funk. "Nick and Astro's Guide to The Galaxy" is their full length debut after an assortment of EPs over the years. "Quest For Love" embodies their signature sound with a laid back groove and a swaying chorus. "Do My Thing" reflects their J Dilla influence with a neck snapping drum snare beat. Illa J, brother of the late great aforementioned producer jumps on this track and two others as well. "No Sleep Til MTL" is an 80s flavored boogie tune with jazzy trumpet phrasings. These guys have nailed the art of beats and rhythms and this engaging release is evidence of that.
Reg Dancy, 05/18
Povo - We Are PovoRaw Fusion Records
Povo have been releasing quality singles on Raw Fusion for years and it's great to finally hear their debut album. Approximately half the album is instrumental and the other half features quality vocals from Trine-Lise Vaering, Mark Linn and Ed Jones. There is the depth that you'd expect from the likes of Five Corners Quintet and Nicola Conte, where beautiful songs, modal rhythms and nu-jazz styles are all featured here. Vinyl junkies may have to swallow their pride though because the cd contains a few extra tracks including a lovely Nicola Conte remix of 'You Are'.
Simon Harrison, 06/05
Profusion - Where Do I Begin?First Word
Kieron Ifill, aka K15 and Emerson make up the duo known as Profusion. K15 has rapidly established himself as a premiere producer with an ear for future soul beats and cosmic synths. Emerson velvet vocals has landed him on a number of tasty projects from labels like BBE to Toyko Dawn and others. Although they've collaborated for years they've finally stepped forward with their debut lp. On the title track "Where Do I Begin" Emerson's golden vocals glide over warm n spacey chords and a mid-tempo beat. "Golden" has elements of drum n bass complimenting warm synths. "Flying" is filled with heartfelt lyrics and soothing synths. This lp is brimming with warm vibes and representive of the quality of British soul emerging in 2017.
Reg Dancy, 07/17
Push - Retrospective 1987-2004Pushband
When the acid jazz movement emerged during the late eighties you had groups like The Brand New Heavies and the Young Disciples, among others leading the way. While those groups have either been on hiatus or simply disbanded there is one group that is still carrying the torch and that is the collective known as Push. Their latest record is filled with rhythmic soul and tasty grooves that only a cohesive band can deliver. Their disc starts out on an energetic note with the organ grinding horn blaring “Stomp”, an instrumental crowd mover rounded out by a tight rhythm section. “It’s Over” a mid-tempo tune with mellow Rhodes is a nice cool down track to recharge before from burning up the dance floor. “Lay It On The Line”, perhaps the strongest tune here is another scorcher aided by sparkling electric guitars riffs and the unmistakable vocals of Seal. While there aren’t any tracks that will do knock you off your feet but “Retrospective” is a solid recording throughout from a band that knows how to lay down a groove.
Reg Dancy, 09/11
Putumayo Kids - Animal PlaygroundPutumayo World Music
Subtitled 'Playful tracks from around the world' we start with 'Animal Crackers' from the aptly named Wee Hairy Beasties (featuring the Mekon's Jon Langford). Some tracks like The Be Good Tanya's 'The Littlest Birds' are more familiar than others while Quartetto Cetra deliver an Italian version of 'Old Macdonald' and kids themselves join in on Les P'tits Loups du Jazz and 'L'Otorhinoceros'. Be warned if you listen to this with your kids you might find you keep singing 'no more monkeys jumping on the bed' for the rest of the day! Good fun.
Graham Radley, 06/07