BBC Music Magazine

December round-up


It’s unusual for young jazz artists to make their mark with a debut album as leader. They usually develop by working through the ranks. But drummer Lorraine Baker ’s first album with her own quartet, Eden, is an absolute knockout. Inspired by the innovative improvised jazz of sticksman Ed Blackwell, Baker creates an airily expansive sound for her soloists, the masterful pianist Liam Noble, along with young gun tenorist Binker Golding. She’s ever present, urging the ensemble forward on Charlie ★aden’s serpentine ‘Chairman

Mao’ or pulling the focus on Ornette Coleman’s ‘Blues Connotatio­n’ as the solo spools from Golding’s horn; meanwhile Baker’s lithe, rolling toms add drama to Don Cherry’s signature tune ‘Mopti’. (Spark 006 ★★★★★)

★aving worked with legends like Miles Davis and Charles Mingus, guitarist John Scofield could reasonably be called an elder statesman of jazz. In fact, he’s sounding younger and less stately than ever – grungy even. For Combo 66 Sco’s brought in pianist/keys player Gerald Clayton, drummer

Bill Stewart and bassist Vicente Archer to update the supper club concept. All the ingredient­s are in place for a mostly deep fried programme of original pieces: reverberat­ing guitar solos over a bed of suitably greasy grooves. Notable palate cleansers include the sharp, boppy ‘Icons At The Fair’ which stands out for Sco’s tightly punctuated phrasing, interspers­ed with a stuttering solo passage from Clayton and Willa Jean with its easy rolling theme, against which the leader hurls his trademark country chords. (Decca 678 0218 ★★★★)

The vibraphone is something of a rarity on today’s jazz scene.

It’s odd because the instrument’s combinatio­n of melodic and percussive possibilit­ies should make it a swinging shoo-in. US vibist Stefon ★arris makes the most of both those assets on his third album, Sonic Creed,a radio friendly fusion of classic modern jazz with silky R’N’B and funk. The tightly arranged pieces for ★arris’s Blackout quartet plus guests include a choppy take on ★orace Silver’s ‘Cape Verdean Blues’, the leader trading choruses with Casey Benjamin’s alto sax. On the more experiment­al reading of Abbey Lincoln’s ‘Throw It Away’, ★arris exploits the vibes’ silvery timbre to make a shimmering soundscape. (Motema MTM0238 ★★★★)

Veterans of the fusion scene, La-based Yellowjack­ets have nearly 30 albums under their belts with a line-up that has altered across the years, new arrivals bringing a change of emphasis each time. For Raising Our Voice, the first album in five years, Portuguese singer Luciana Souza is the catalyst for a different dynamic, bringing fresh harmonies and percussive vocalese to complement veterans pianist Russell Ferrante and saxist

Bob Mintzer’s polished improvisat­ions. ‘Everyone Else Is Taken’ has a gratifying­ly fiddly bass part from Dane Alderson set against Ferrante’s intricate two-handed keyboard chatter. (Mack Avenue MAC1137 ★★★★★)

It’s hard to know where to start with Jan Felix May’s debut, Red Messiah: at times it tests credulity. From the self-inflating cover art to the manic drama of the tunes and their clunky lyrics, the music verges on a Europop jazz parody. May, who’s a decent pianist, actually doubles down on the clichés by inserting squealing synth effects. And yet… the mad arrangemen­ts are all so skilfully, precisely executed by the ensemble it’s a strangely compelling work. (N77056 ★★★★)

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