Ian Carr’s Nucleus Roots – Be With – By Cal Gibson

Super review by Cal Gibson, of The Secret Soul Society and Scruffy Soul Recordings.

First things first: the remastering of Ian Carr’s 1973 masterpiece, Roots, sounds absolutely wonderful: clarity, warmth, precision – everything rings righteous, clear and true. It`s a really vibrant headphones excursion. If you were told that this was recorded last week you’d be happy with that. Every track zings with organic soul jazz goodness. 

The album itself is fantastically engaging and something of a beat digger’s holy grail. Sampled by some of MPC’s finest – Madlib, Lootpack, Quasimoto et. al. – it’s a powerfully focused melange of jazz, funk, soul, and rock, that touches on all those bases and more. It’s a cohort of expert jazzers stretching out, having fun, sounding way, way ahead of the groove. 1973 is almost half a century away after all. Mind blowing if you think about it.

The title cut leads from the off: a lazy, hazy romp fastened down by fantastic drum work and some lovely guitar licks from Jocelyn Pitchen, that are subtle yet super-funky. Carr’s trumpet rides freely over nine minutes plus of perfectly-pitched riffs. The Miles Davis influences plain to hear, but beefed up and ready to rumble. It`s a superb opener.

The sweet soul-jazz stylings of Images is a huge personal favourite: all childhood yearning and slinky Rhodes runs, with Joy Yates’s vocals providing the perfect finishing touch to a fantastically sinuous bassline shimmy – the old happy/sad dichotomy brilliantly captured by musicians totally on top of their game. No better tune for the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness: also check the flute-work – it`s spellbinding stuff.

Caliban turns on the burners: Clive Thacker’s drums hustling, tied telepathically to the bass, percussion fills thrown in, Carr’s trumpet firing powerfully from the ramparts – muscular, acid-fried, wigged-out bacchanalia: not for the faint-hearted. Imagine this coming out of a speaker stack just before the sun rises: you can run but you can’t hide. Killer.

Southern Roots & Celebration rounds the album off with a seriously deep dive into Rhodes-infested waters. Two minutes of spacious key work lays the foundations, before bass and guitar sidle sweetly in. Evoking an endless summer vibe, golden moments encoded by Carr’s lissom trumpet. Somewhere both Miles Davis and John McLaughlin are smiling – space-jazz nirvana has been reached.

There are undoubtedly hundreds and hundreds of reissues all vying for your custom and your cash, but my bet is that there will not be a better one in 2021 than this. Essential doesn’t begin to cover it. Hats off to Be With Records and of course Ian Carr and his funkified musical associates. Almost fifty years old it maybe, but Roots is timeless – simply wonderful, wonderful music. 

Roots by Ian Carr’s Nucleus can be ordered directly from Be With Records. 


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