Brownswood have the debut E.P. by Kokoroko coming early March. The eight-piece, led by trumpeter Sheila Maurice-Grey, backing that up with a European tour. Taking in Belgium, France, Germany, Holland, Italy and Switzerland. Adwa breaks down to just Eddie Hicks` high-hat keeping time. Then Oscar Jerome’s axe going into one. The grouped horns, of Maurice-Grey, Cassie Kinoshi, and Richie Seivewright, jumping off. Note upon note upon note upon note. Squealing. Free. The We Out Here stars cite West Africa as major influence – Abusey Junction`s gentle, sunset Afro recalling Reunion Island`s Electric Maloya – but Latin keys, care of Yohan Kebede, also punctuate the collective`s global stop-start rhythms. Mutale Chashi`s b-line anchoring the intricate six-string figures and lullaby-like harmonies of Ti-de.
There’s more modern Afrocentricity on Strut. Nubiyan Twist`s Jungle Run is a varied set of 21st Century Soul. Managing to merge a whole continent of African influences. Detroit Techno tones, and trippy electronics dancing a dramatic, cinematic Funk with kalimba, sanza, highlife, and Juju. Most of it rattling along, showing off its fancy footwork, in the manner of D`Angelo`s Spanish Joint. Pulling in Brazilian rhymes. The 12-piece switching tempos, tight, as if James Brown were in charge, from Boom Bap, to full flight. From post-Drum and Bass batteries, to slow-grinds, that burst into brass fireworks. Dextrous shuffles inspired by Afrobeat originator Tony Allen (who guests on the LP, as does Mulatu Astatke). A trumpet blows a Masekela Blues. A sax shucks, jives, heads out for stellar regions. There are echoes of Soul II Soul, in the stripped back grooves, and soundsystem Dub delay. The male and female vocal interplay, with a sometimes Prince-y edge. Man, these singers, Nick Richards and Nubiya Brandon, can sing. Before the massed horns leap in.
22a have Ruby Rushton`s long-player, Ironside, ready to roll, underlined by more tour dates (please see below). A teaser for which is the 7 of Eleven Grapes / One Mo` Dram. Tenderlonious` flute partnering Aidan Shepherd keys. Nick Walters` trumpet bustin` loose. Bringing down walls. Birdland Be-Bopping. Dropping to percussion. Shushing for calm. Then a high-hat hints, a kick clarifies, and its back moving at a clip. The rest of the family come crashing, carrying their swing. Catching you unawares. Wrapping you up in its gradually building delirious spin.
29th March / The Fiddlers / Bristol
4th April / Patterns / Brighton
5th April / XOYO / London
23rd April / Soup Kitchen / Manchester
24th April / Chameleio / Nottingham
25h April / Headrow House / Leeds
26th April / Jacaranda / Phase One / Liverpool
28th April / The Crescent / York
The 22a team reconfigures as part of The Paradox Ensemble, to assist Ruby Rushton trumpeter, Nick Walters, in his Awakening. A four tracker that draws inspiration from West Africa (again), philosophy – Greek and Hindu – and cricket. Tenderlonious on flute and saxophone. Aidan Shepherd on accordion. The group twelve-strong, plus Nick. 34268 is built on an Agbadja rhythm from Togo, and sounds like a Caribbean lilt, filtered through 80s Japanese Fusion. The accordion touches adding considerably to its Carioca-esque vibe. Brahman begins with wah-wah licks. Cymbals shimmering spiritually. The sax, Charlie Parker-like, stretching, then soaring. Flying. The piano shining. Harp, heart strings. Then the sticks cut the tempo, let that accordion sing. Flutes joining in. On Dear Old Thing those flutes shout like arguing birds. Making me think – as I walk my dog through the mountains of Japan – of pigeons fighting in Trafalgar Square (are you still allowed the feed the pigeons?). Walters` trumpet recounting the pleasures of London at dawn. How Julien Temple`s Absolute Beginners should have sounded. Igniting idealised, rose-tinted, memories. The smell of bakeries opening, coffee shops brewing, sandwich bars, fresh bagels, as I nostalgically weave my metropolitan way home, after a night out on dance floor tiles. The evening`s music still playing in my head. Thumbs banging air bass solos, following remembered runs, while standing at the bus stop. Collar turned up, hat pulled down, against the cold.
The joy of listening to this current wave of UK Jazz is not just in hearing everyone display their considerable talents individually, but amplified, even more so, in those moments when they come together. All different, at angles, but unified as a whole. Beautiful, synergistic, diversity. That`s the thing I`m getting. That’s the message.
Ruby Rushton – Eleven Grapes – 22a
Nick Walters & The Paradox Ensemble – Dear Old Thing – 22a
Kokoroko – Adwa – Brownswood
Nubiyan Twist – Tell It To Me – Strut