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Tess Hirst – HERstory [Jazz Re:freshed]

Tess Hirst first came to my attention during her collaboration with Bassist Daniel Casimir. Their joint album “These Days” showcased her ethereal vocals and songwriting. In addition, she was accompanied by some of London’s premiere musicians who are at the forefront of UK club culture. Hirst’s solo debut “HERstory” picks up where that album left off. The disc kicks off with the simmering “This Is Her”. Hirst’s emotive vocals intertwine seamlessly with the Tomorrow’s Warriors string section. The finale “Magic” is a tribute to their ability to rise to any challenge. This high energy tune is spearheaded by Richard Spaven’s propulsive drumming and Casimir’s driving bass rhythms. Pianist Sarah Tandy completes the band and their cohesion is notable. London based label Jazz re:freshed continues to be the place for superb Jazz recordings. This marvelous lp is no exception.


Stro Elliot – La Villa [Def Pressé]

DJ/Producer Stro Elliot is the latest Def Pressé member to dive into the vaults of the London based KPM/EMI record library. You may be familiar with Stro’s hip-hop samples through his affiliation with the Roots. The KPM libary spans seventy years of music across a myriad of genres. The arrangement between KPM and Def Presse was a benefit to fellow labelmate Damu the Fudgemunk and his recent projects. Based on this release Elliot came away with some hidden gems with a seventies soul vibe. Specifically they would feel right at home in a James Brown catalog. The opening track “Monday’s Generation” is a prime example. The drum kit snare lays down the beat while the uplifting flute and guitar rhythms round things out into form. “Bamboo” is a mid-tempo hypnotic boom bap tune. The Asian cinematic soundscapes would easily fit into a Wu Tang recording. It must have been a daunting task for Elliot to narrow down his selections. That being said the ten tracks he came up with certainly have hit the mark.


VA – Reference Point [BBE Music]

Mark GV Taylor and George Arthur are the curators for Reference Point. Since 201
2 Reference Point has hosted events that have attracted listeners and musicians
world wide. The twelve track lp features a global menu of glorious music old and new. “Palavras” erupts with warm Samba vibes courtesy of Caixa Cubo. “We Don’t Have To Talk About It” is classic rock with a touch of mellow jazz from the NYC based band Bell Helium. “A Place In Space” is a laid back seventies boogie tune from Joe Thomas. “Factory Rhythms” is sublime modal jazz from the JR Quintet. Once again BBE delivers with another marvelous compilation certainly worth checking. A great combination of reuniting with familiar tunes as well as an introduction to something new.


Menagerie – The Shores Of Infinity [Freestyle Records]

The fourth installment from Menagerie and the third lp released on Freestyle records. The group led by Lance Ferguson expands beyond the spiritual jazz recordings of the previous releases. “The Shores Of Infinity” features more groove oriented compositions yet they contain plenty of potency to keep you locked in for the ride. Evidence of that lies in the title track, a breezy funk number that’s airy, free and laced with warm electric piano chords. “Kingdom” is a fusion banger filled with bubbling percussion and vocal harmonies. Top that off with engaging soloing from trumpeter Ross Irwin. “Danieda’s Dance” is reminiscent of the deeper compostions the band has become known for. The nine minute track is punctuated by flurries of tenor riffs from Phil Noy and majestic piano flurries. This is another marvelous recording from Ferguson that you shouldn’t miss.


Scrimshire – Paroxysm [Albert’s Favourites]

“Paroxysm”, the latest from Adam Scrimshire was inspired mainly by the inhumane treatment of refugees and migrants by the government. There are a couple of tunes related to the pandemic but the mistreatment of migrants was too much to ignore. Fortunately Scrimshire’s emotive compositions provide a voice for all of us who are outraged while serving as a welcoming tonic. The haunting soundscapes of “Eyes Wide Shut” provide plenty of space for Faye Houston’s soothing vocals to glide over Scrimshire’s piano rhythms. “Your Invitation is A Lie” erupts with Idris Rahman’s powerful flurries on tenor topped off by spirited drumming. “Flames” is another highlight. Tamar Osborn’s clarinet provides warmth and the arrangement is elegant and luminous. “Paroxysm” is a splendid representation of the moods we’re experiencing right now. Whether it’s joy, pain or indifference you can be certain that Scrimshire can channel it into something beautiful. This album is evidence of that.


Wheel Up – We Are The Magic [Tru Thoughts Recordings]

Danny Wheeler aka Wheel Up returns with his sophomore lp “We Are The Magic”. The West London based producer is one of the new torch bearers of the broken beat sound. This album however, is much more than that. The opening track “Infinity” will win you over with warm ethereal vibes. It’s co-produced by Harry Bryson aka Abacus, who brings a touch of drum n bass flavor that he’s known for. The tempo is scaled back a bit but the strings and the wicked bass will take you back to the early days of 4hero. Wheeler has also enlisted an array of superb vocalists that give the tunes wings. On “More Life” Wheeler creates an intimate mood tailor made for the angelic vocals of Victoria Port to draw you into her world of song. Port, one half of the duo Anushka also shines on the title track as well. “Singularity” featuring Steelo will certainly fill a dance floor. It has all the ingredients, a strong groove, infectious drumming, electronics and tasty vocals. Whether he’s dj’ing or producing, Wheeler has his finger on the pulse of club culture. This is another superb release that packs plenty of heat.


Jsphynx – Reflex [Sekito Records]

Johnny Woodham, aka Jsphynx is a talented trumpeter and composer. He’s cut his teeth playing alongside premiere musicians such as Ashley Henry, Jordan Rakei, Barney Artist among others. During lockdown Woodham started laying down the ground work for this album and also looped in some of his friends. Bassist Rudi Creswick and dynamic drummer Richard Spaven are at the center of London’s vibrant jazz scene. Released on Sekito, the label started by Pianist/producer Alfa Mist “Reflex” blends a touch of jazz and broken beats resulting in an engaging session highlighted by superb performances. The title tracks gets the disc to a rousing start. Spaven’s pulsating drumming sets the tone for Woodham’s melodic flourishes. “King Cobra” is another burner ignited by Alfa Mist on keys and hard driving frenetic pace courtesy of Spaven. The palette of Woodham along with trombonist Liam Shorthall and Michael Underwood on sax merge and create a variety of harmonic ecstasy. “Reflex” showcases an array of London’s up and coming musicians. Based on this release it would be wise to keep an eye out for upcoming releases from t
his label.


Kai Meara – Statik [XVI Records]

London based beatmaker Kai Meara’s latest project “Statik” hits you like a warm Summer breeze. The twelve track disc starts and ends with warm and mellow beats and hypnotic chords. Like all good beat tapes it instantly puts you constant head nod mode and you willingly go along for the ride. The disc begins with “Self is Gone”, a hazy jazz infused mellow soul burner. “Madbass” seduces you with sizzling fender rhodes and wicked basslines. Maxing out at around twenty minutes, each track hits the mark and sets the mood while quickly moving onto the next track. Meara’s previous releases all have mellow textures but “Statik” packs more soulful grooves. All of them are a pleasant listen and this one is no exception.


VA – They’re Energized [CoOp Presents]

Co-op Presents is the home of Bruk and broken beat and seemingly the ideal place to showcase the rediculous wealth of talent from Austrailia. “They’re Energized” is a fourteen track compilation that frankly is too hot handle. With Allysha Joy spearheading this project you already know it’s in the right hands. Joy’s catalog continues to grow with an array of superb recordings, including her recent solo project which she also produced. In addition she’s part of a communinity of musicians ready to blow up on the big stage. Among the highlights are “Fly” a thounderous track from premier bassist/composer Horatio Luna. “Prophecy” by vocalist, DJ/Producer Squidgenini simmers with a gorgeous melody that serves as the perfect appetizer to the other high energy compositions on tap here. “Walk Away” features brooding beats and a hypnotic groove from SilentJay and heavenly vocals from Lori. Joy, of appears on several tracks here in different collaborations. “Rewind” finds Joy alongside multi-instrumentalist and New Zealand native Lance Ferguson aka Lanu. “Listen” is burning broken beat body shaking music. There’s enough infectious gems here to fill two lps. Simply put you’ll be hard pressed to find a better compilation this year.


Dego – Love Was Never Your Goal [2000 Black]

Dego has become one of the most prolific prodcuers of the last twenty years. With his 2000black imprint he has consistently delivered a number of broken beat, soul and funk gems. Fresh off his 2021 release “The Negative Positive” he shows no sign of complacency with his latest, “Love Was Never Your Goal”. The nine track release features familiar contributors Kaidi Tathum, Matt Lord and Mr Mensah. In addition, fellow labelmate Samii adds warm and sultry vocals. “Start Again” features dazzling synths and Tathum on keys. Samii’s vocals are featured here also and throughout the disc. “Catch The Sun” is another highlight aligned with a laid back groove There’s four instrumental tracks here but “Warp 7” is the one for me. It features tasty guitar licks and keys from Matt Lord that elevates the funky groove. All in all it’s another strong release from Dego that you shouldn’t miss.


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