STR4TA / Aspects / Brownswood Recordings

STR4TA is a project forged in the friendship between Gilles Peterson and Jean-Paul “Bluey” Maunick – two long-standing legends of the UK jazz scene. The opening, title, track, Aspects, kicks off the album with a statement of intent. Synths swirling around a racing conga charge, but really it`s all about that jazz-funk, Brit-funk, bass-line, and the drum sound – half-inched as it is from Atmosfear`s classic warehouse party jam, Dancing In Outer Space. Sonically speaking this a trip down memory lane. The only thing giving away that it was made yesterday – and not 30 years ago – is that it packs such a powerful production punch. Souping up the sounds of Light Of The World, Incognito, and Freeez – bands that Bluey had more than a hand in back in the day. Retracing the pair’s steps through the musical legacy of London Town

Despite being made by a couple of old fogeys the energy of the record is irresistible. It sings of youth. For me personally, that means white socked, suburban, wide boys in wine bars from Sutton and Epsom, Bromley and Streatham. The Stoned Crow, Croydon`s Scamps, Dartford`s Flicks, and “disco pubs” on The Old Kent Road. Fashions that took in Farah slacks, leather hunting jackets, and suede-trimmed Gabicci. Leg warmers, and woven Italian shoes. Wedge haircuts and the odd Burberry / Aquascutum deer-stalker for the extravagant extrovert. Diamond Pringle sweaters, Lyle & Scott roll-necks, and Lacoste. Saturday caddies knocking off golf shop stock. When the coolest kids in school carried copies of LPs by Jeff Lorber and Pig Bag. Soul London soul patrols and The Brixton Frontline. Multi-racial gangs of working class teens. Not looking for trouble, but finding it anyway. Sus laws and the resulting “race” riots. Doing a very British Hustle. Flexing a funk shuffle to imported, shrink-wrapped 12s, either bought, or taxed from outside, Bluebird Records. Music that blasted from boom-boxes tuned to pirates like Invicta. A sound tamed and taken into Top Of The Pops charts by acts like Haircut 100 and the post-Blitz Club Spandau Ballet – once they’d been re-educated by Steve Lewis, the Le Beat Route DJ. For me, this was all just a breath away from electro, and breaking out the lino. 

Keys are electric. Guitar chords, clipped. Basses are thunder thumbed. Vocals are close harmonies, and Brazilian rhyme-influenced scat. Rhythms latino, timbales tumbling. Sublime, serene, solos are soaked in delay. Massed horn fanfares, brass constructions, boogie and pump out positivity. Getting themselves together. Movin` on!

This lyric, lifted from After The Rain, feels kinda rich, ironic, in amongst all the nostalgia,

“Don’t let the past play on your mind, you’ve got to leave all that behind”

but maybe this `80s celebration is also some sort of closure for those singers, and players, and dancers who’ve survived. Steppers Crusade is a Level 42-like opus. A super samba for star children and the star senior citizens – who were there first time round. 

This record literally brought the blue skies here. Bandcamp pre-orders of the vinyl are back up. Hoorah! 

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