Cecilia Stalin - Straight It UpFirefly
Most of you will remember Cecilia from Koop's excellent "Baby" and "Waltz for Koop" but judging by this album, those two tracks are only the tip of the iceberg. Cecilia is based in Stockholm but has also lived in New York and in both cities she has quickly become a regular at the legendary jazzclubs. Here is proof yet again that Scandinavians are leading the way with 21st century jazz. With a total of nine tracks this is a wonderful journey through the acoustic jazz productions and Celcillia's expressive vocals and lyrics. "Straight It Up" has been compared to some of the true greats of our scene and I cannot disagree. In fact it is so good that it would not look out of place on the excellent Ricky Tick Records, and fans should take note.
Simon Harrison, 03/06
Ceilidh Minogue - Ceilidh MinogueGreentrax Recordings
Well we would have included this one for the name alone but Ceilidh Minogue has deservedly developed over the last eight years to become one of Scotland's most popular ceilidh bands. This is ceilidh with a new twist provided by Gregor Lowrey (accordion) Gavin Marwick (fiddle) Bob Turner (piano) and Al Morrow as the core of the band joined by Duncan Findlay (guitar) Roy Percy (bass) John Burgess (sax) Steven Hawkes (trumpet) and Angus Wares (guitar/mandolin). Really good.
Graham Radley, 12/06
Chico Mann - Manifest Tone Vol.1Kindred Spirits
Chici Mann is the new project by Antibalas' guitarist, Marquitos Garcia. It'll be of no surprise for people who have heard Antibalas to hear that Garcia has stayed with what he knows best- afrobeat- but has added more experimental sounds, with the use of a childhood Casio keyboard and 80's drum beats. This might sound like a mish mash of ideas but it makes the whole project a little more interesting to listen to and it's good to see people pushing this forward, rather than trying to copy the greats like Fela and Allen. Highlights for me have been "Soul Freedom" and "Who You Runnin' From". Simply Kindred Spirits never put a foot wrong.
Simon Harrison, 01/07
Children Of Zeus - Travel LightFirst Word
Tyler Daley and Konny Kon, better known as Children Of Zeus have been in the game for two decades. Daley appeared under the moniker Hoodman and Kon appearing in a number of groups as a DJ, beatmaker and MC. They first met in 2005 and soon after released three critically acclaimed singles and an EP on First Word records. Their impressive full length debut features an array of talented artists emerging from the burgeoning soul scene in Manchester. "Travel Light" is drenched in laidback rhodes driven hip hop soul and the results are deeply satisfying. Daley's smooth tenor vocals are a complement to Kon's hard hitting rhymnes. On "The Story So Far" Konny and Mc Mstr1 trade bars over a soulful hip hop inspired neck snapping drum beat. "The Heart Beat" is mellowed out 70s soul well suited for Daley's vocals and Kon's poignant verses. Up and coming vocalist LayFullStop lays down blissful vocals on "Fear Of A Flat Planet" and "Hard Work" is dub style lovers rock. Each of these thirteen tracks pack a punch and will be worthy of repeated listens. This is a very strong debut and certainly of the best lps of the year.
Reg Dancy, 09/18
Chip Wickham - Blue to RedLovemonk
Flautist and Saxophonist Chip Wickham explores the celestial realms of the universe with his latest release "Blue To Red". Wickham's spiritual path through Indian and Middle Eastern culture has been paved by legends like Alice Coltrane and Yusef Lateef. In addition his recent collaborations with Matthew Halsall has also molded his musical journey. The disc kicks off the ethereal title track, augmented by the heavenly harp of Gondwana Orchestra's Amanda Whiting. "Route One" features Dan Goldman's dazzling Rhodes melodies, which are an effective foil for Wickham's flute phrasings and Whiting's harp. Goldman's blissful keys sets the tone on the tranquil "Cosmos". The rhythm section of drummer Jon Scott, bassist Simon Houghton, Whitng and Goldman are splendid throughout. Wickham's flute rises to the occasion and provides the listener on a glorious ride through six engaging compositions. This is another spiritual jazz triumph that you shouldn't miss.
Reg Dancy, 07/20
Chip Wickham - La SombraLove Monk
You may be familiar with Flutist and Saxophonist Chip Wickham from from his funk and soul projects. Among his various affiliations are The Fire Eaters, a group he formed with guitarist Eddie Roberts from The New Mastersounds. From there he went on to play in the Craig Charles Fantasy Funk band. Ultimately his journey would lead him towards the world of Jazz and a collaboration with trumpeter Matthew Halsall. He would proceed to perform on Halsall's debut "Sending My Love". Wickham and Halsall formed a friendship which led to collaborations with Nat Birchall Go Go Penguin and others. "La Sombra", his debut is comprised of seven lush compositions inspired by his years of residency in Madrid. The title track opens the disc on a lovely note, a gentle ballad with a haunting piano intro. Wickham caresses the notes tenderly while drummer Antonio Pax subtle jabs on vibes is equally satisfying. "Red Planet" and "The Detour" are rousing pieces. Each are ignited by Pianist Gabri Casanova and fueled by bassist David Salvador providing the perfect canvas for Wickham's rich phrasings. Wickham's bandmates are assembled from Madrid's vibrant Jazz scene share his vision and passion. It's quite possible you'll get swept away by this superb recording.
Reg Dancy, 01/17
Chip Wickham - Shamal WindLovemonk
With "Shamal Wind" flutist/saxophonist Chip Wickham draws inspiration from Arabian influences. Specifically Doha, a land rooted in ancient cultures and a destination for him to recover from throat Cancer. A new perspective on life inspires him to release five albums within the next five years. For now let's just enjoy this engaging record. Recorded in Madrid, Wickham's band is comprised of musicians from Spain as well as the UK who were part of the soul jazz circuit he helped cultivate from years past. On the sublime title "Shamal Wind", Wickham's warm touch receives harmonic support from Ton Risco on vibes. "Snake Eyes" is a explosive tune that showcases Wickham's fluttering expressive flute and Phil Wilkinson's prowess on keys. Matthew Halsall jumps aboard and combines warm melodies on the splendid modal ballad "The Mirage". Wickham is following the lineage of Spiritual jazz multi-instrumentalists like Yusef Lateef and Sahib Shihab. It's a blessing that he's restored his health and contributing superb compositions once again.
Reg Dancy, 06/18
Chiwoniso - Rebel WomanCumbancha
Terrific line up including Louis Mhlanga and Sam Matuare for this excellent CD from Zimbabwe's Chiwoniso her first internationally released album in over ten years, A strong supporter of human rights and social justice she uses her soulful voice to enrich the mbira driven melodies with songs that evolve from traditional to contemporary. Superb.
Graham Radley, 09/08
Choklate - ChoklateKajmere Sound Recordings
2006 has been quite a year for debut albums and here's another from the home of the Rebirth. This is a fine selection of soul, but some people keep referring to it as R&B and Choklate is way past that (-sorry, the word R&B sends me running for miles). Some of you may have heard the single "Waitin" which features the awesome Chali 2na from Jurassic 5, who has one of those voices that I love, and here works a treat with Choklate's vocals. There is also the lovely "Getting Is Good" and the rare groove influenced "Bigger Than You", and my personal favourite "Heavy". You'd be very silly not to check this out.
Simon Harrison, 07/06
Chris Wood - Albion - An AnthologyNavigator Records
Excellent two CD collection from Chris and features material from a wide range of sources, there’s material from his solo albums as well as work with Andy Cutting, The Two Duos, Jean-François Vrod, Martin Carthy & Roger Wilson, Karen Tweed, English Acoustic Collective and my own favourite the Imagined Village, the duet with Eliza Carthy is simply spot on. Excellent.
Graham Radley, 08/09