Archives for posts with tag: Mark de Clive-Lowe

Best of 2019

Unlike 2018’s deluge, new music crept up on me this year. It was a steady stream of high quality albums and songs, with a few surprises. Album of the year for me was Beautiful Vinyl Hunter from UK jazz pianist, Ashley Henry. The new album from my all-time favourite band,  Incognito, Tomorrow’s New Dream places a close second.

Herbie Hancock | Kamasi Washington, Toronto August 7 2019

I saw a good amount of live music. My sophomore experience with Herbie Hancock had an added bonus with Terrace Martin in his touring band. It was also a double-bill with Kamasi Washington, so yeah, concert of the year. I also enjoyed Toronto’s own Daniel Caesar on a chilly autumn night at Toronto’s Budweiser Stage. Opening for him, another personal favourite, Charlotte Day Wilson.

A couple of surprises were albums from Sara Bareilles and the Spoons. I had never heard of Bareilles until I saw her perform on Saturday Night Live. Her album, Amidst the Chaos, really resonated with me, which was a little surprising since it is bordering on country, a genre I don’t usually explore or focus on. When I discovered T-Bone Burnett produced Bareilles’ album, it all made sense (I’m a fan of his musical direction on the now defunct TV show, Nashville). Another pleasant surprise was New Day New World from the Spoons, a band I’ve followed since I was in my teens. Late comers in the year were from Kaytranada (BUBBA, Kaytranada Music) and what seems like an independent and mostly instrumental release, Visions, from Jarrod Lawson on his bandcamp page, released under the artist name, Orpheus.

Albums

  1. Ashley Henry, Beautiful Vinyl Hunter (Sony Music)
  2. Incognito, Tomorrow’s New Dream (Bluey Music)
  3. Daniel Caesar, Case Study 01 (Golden Child Recordings)
  4. Salaam Remi & Terrace Martin, Northside of Linden, Westside of Slauson (Flying Buddha / Louder Than Life)
  5. Taylor McFerrin, Love’s Last Chance (FromHereEntertainment)
  6. Daniel Maunick, Macumba Quebrada (Far Out Recordings)
  7. Shafiq Husayn, The Loop (Nature Sounds)
  8. Shigeto, Versions EP (Ghostly International)
  9. Sara Bareilles, Amidst the Chaos (Epic)
  10. Flying Lotus, Flamagra (Warp Records)
  11. Jarrod Lawson, Visions (jlawson.bandcamp.com)
  12. Spoons, New Day New World (Sparks Music)
  13. Marcos Valle, Sempre (Conecta)

 

Songs (Listen to this playlist on Spotify)

My favourite songs of the year were from a wide swath of artists, some of them new to me this year. I was really taken with “Flying,” by Dawn Tallman. It’s a beautifully written, produced, and performed song. Tony Momrelle’s duet with his Incognito compadre, Maysa, is another. Jazz trumpeter, Yazz Ahmed was a new discovery for me this year. Her Arabic-influenced and atmospheric jazz is a fresh sound. There are some selections from the dance/house genre as well, “Sim City” being one of my favourites from the year.

  1. Flying, Dawn Tallman, For Me (Honeycomb Music)
  2. We Had Searched for Heaven, Tony Momrelle feat. Maysa, Best is Yet to Come (Vibe 45 Records)
  3. What You Need, Kaytranada & Charlotte Day Wilson, BUBBA (Kaytranada Music)
  4. Sim City, Space Ghost, Aquarium Nightclub (Tartelet Records)
  5. Don’t Stop, Monodeluxe & Jaidene Veda (Vibe Boutique Records)
  6. Lahan al Mansour, Yazz Ahmed, Polyhymnia (Ropeadope)
  7. To B, Da Lata, Birds (Da Lata Music)
  8. Dance with You, Sunlightsquare feat. Omar, Dance with You EP (Sunlightsquare Records)
  9. Afeni, Rapsody feat. PJ Morton, Eve (Jamla Records)
  10. Mesosphere, Ryan Porter, Force for Good (World Galaxy / Alpha Pup Records)
  11. Life is a Dancefloor feat. Kimberly Davis, Shapeshifters (Glitterbox Recordings)
  12. How Long Does it Take, Mildlife (Heavenly Recordings)
  13. Asa no Yume, Mark de Clive-Lowe, Heritage (Ropeadope)

 

New to Me (Re)discovered

Photo: patricerushen.com

In September of this year, BBC’s Gilles Peterson hosted an all vinyl special of his must-listen radio show with Patrice Rushen as his guest. Until then, I thought Forget Me Nots (and its ubiquitous sampling) was her singular claim to fame.

After I heard the program, I rushed to explore the rest of her catalogue and was bowled over by the impact she has made on jazz, R&B, and funk. Do yourself a favour listen to a Patrice Rushen marathon on your favourite streaming service or better yet, buy some albums. My current favourites are Patrice (Elektra, 1978), Pizzazz (Elektra, 1979), and Straight from the Heart (Elektra, 1982). Ms Rushen is still an active musician and music educator.

 

Passings

Some notable losses to the world of music this year: Ranking Roger of The English Beat and General Public, Johnny Clegg of Juluka and Savuka, Art Neville of the Neville Brothers, and Canada’s own John Mann, of Spirit of the West.

Aaron Neville. Photo: Erika Goldring/Getty Images

 

Anticipating in 2020

Terrace Martin has been hinting on his social media for some time that he has been working on his new album, DRONES. I’m also keen to see what Martin will do as producer on Herbie Hancock’s next album, which is also reportedly in the works.

 

Album Review: The Epic, Kamasi Washington (Brainfeeder, May 2015)

kwKamasi Washington is a jazz saxophonist that joins the vanguard of musicians bridging jazz with contemporary music from the many genres in its orbit. Listening to his album, The Epic, I wonder if Washington is this generation’s Herbie Hancock – someone who pushes the boundaries of jazz but does so from a place of legitimacy.

You might say the same of Robert Glasper and jazz innovators before him like Guru and Ronny Jordan. But there is something different about Washington’s brand of innovation. Perhaps it is his pedigree, having played with legends like Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Harvey MasonKenny Burrell, and George Duke.

The Epic is an incredibly immersive listening experience. I would liken it to a concept album by a band like Pink Floyd or an opus like Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew. It’s not the ethereality or electronic treatment that inspires this comparison. Rather, it is the ambition, the grandioseness of this album. It is truly the epic jazz album of the year, if not this decade.

The Epic’s ambience is established through a combination of Washington’s improvisation, a steady and pervasive baseline from Miles Mosley’s acoustic bass, and 20-person choir that evokes a blend of 60’s spiritual jazz and sci-fi cinematic scores. This sound emerges as Washington’s signature while being subdued enough to support, not displace, the profound range and depth of performances and compositions on the album.

With nearly 3 hours of music, the musicians are well showcased. I can’t recall the last time I heard so many generous and wonderful trombone solos, as played by Ryan Porter on tracks like “Leroy and Lanisha” and “Re-Run Home.” Igmar Thomas’ trumpet is another capable foil to Washington’s tenor sax. Stephen Bruner (a.k.a. Thundercat) brings his unique electric bass sound to “Askim,” interplaying fantastically with the majestic choir conducted by Miguel Atwood-Ferguson. Atwood-Ferguson, incidentally, worked on another recent spiritual jazz revival of sorts, my personal pick for 2014 album of the year, Church, by Mark de Clive Lowe.

Washington himself is a remarkable talent on the saxophone. His range is broad, from hard blowing dissonance reminiscent of Pharoah Sanders to the easy swing of a popular saxophonist like Grover Washington Jr. Kamasi Washington is comfortable and capable at both extremes and this album sees him traverse the expanse.

The Epic’s more conventional arrangements include “Cherokee,” a lovely tune sung by Patrice Quinn in the best tradition of lounge jazz and a version of Debussy’s “Clair de Lune,” arranged in 3/4 time while maintaining the composition’s lilting beauty.

To me, this album’s appeal is peculiar because I find it simultaneously exhilarating and comforting. I’m excited by its newness – but also comforted that we have a new and credible steward to lead jazz forward. With The Epic, Kamasi Washington sets forth.

 

The Players: Kamasi Washington – Tenor Saxophone; Thundercat – Electric Bass; Miles Mosley – Acoustic Bass; Ronald Bruner Jr. – Drums; Tony Austin – Drums; Leon Mobley – Percussion; Cameron Graves – Piano; Brandon Coleman – Keyboards; Ryan Porter – Trombone; Igmar Thomas – Trumpet; Patrice Quinn – Lead Vocal; Dwight Tribble – Lead Vocal

2014 in Review: New, New to Me, and Those We Lost

A year ago, I was rife with anticipation for the music 2014 would bring. A new Incognito album was due and several new artists were on the verge of debuting new albums. In retrospect, 2014 delivered on its promise but not for all the reasons I thought.

image058-250x250 Citrus-sun-albumIncognito did release Amplified Soul (Shanachie) in May. It was the strong and consistent album I knew it would be. The first (pleasant) surprise of the year came before that in March with the release of People of Tomorrow (Dome Records) by Citrus Sun, an instrumental project led by Incognito leader Jean-Paul Bluey Maunick.

Screen Shot 2014-06-02 at 11.05.25 PM dim_division_3More new music kept coming from sources that were not typically in my musical wheelhouse. Of these, I’d say Mark de Clive Lowe’s Church (Ropeadope, 2014) was the sweetest find. Miguel Migs’ Dim Division (Soul Heaven Records, 2014) comes a close second.

On the downside, two highly anticipated albums were lacklustre in my regard. Zara McFarlane’s If You Knew Her (Brownswood, 2014) and Jose James’ While You Were Sleeping (Blue Note, 2014) had moments of strength but I wasn’t able to connect with the albums on the whole, unlike previous releases from these artists.

Finally, 2014 had its disappointments, mostly because of what it didn’t bring:

  • I’m still eagerly awaiting KING’s full length album. A single release was all they could muster this year but their website indicates the album, We Are KING Music is set to drop (no telling when).
  • Ady Suleiman was a singular talent brought to light by Gilles Peterson in 2012/13. Although he continues to record and share tracks via social media, it’s not clear if an album is in the works. His SoundCloud page is definitely worth a listen.
  • The buzz on Q-Tip’s new project, The Last Zulu, rose and then faded. It’s not clear how real this album is or when it will finally drop.

Favourite Albums:

  1. Mark de Clive Lowe, Church
  2. Lion Babe, Lion Babe EP
  3. Incognito, Amplified Soul
  4. Miguel Migs, Dim Division
  5. Citrus Sun, People of Tomorrow
  6. Sonzeira, Brasil Bam Bam Bam
  7. Lone, Reality Testing
  8. Michael Jackson, XScape
  9. D’Angelo and the Vanguard, Black Messiah
  10. Bobby Hutcherson, Enjoy the View

Tracks

  • Blum “You’ll always be in my heart (Omega Edit)” – Heard on Jason Palma’s excellent radio program, Higher Ground (ciut.fm, Thursdays 8pm ET). Amazing re-work of a Sarah Vaughan track.
  • Lion Babe, “Jump High feat. Childish Gambino”- One of four outstanding tracks on the self-titled EP released in December.
  • KING, “Mr. Chamaeleon” – A single track from this talented trio is better than no new music but fans continue to pine for a full album.

New to Me: Rediscovered

Untitled-3.inddMarvin Gaye & the Mizell Brothers 

Two tracks from recording sessions that until recently were hidden away in Motown’s vaults are perhaps the best recorded music to be released in the last decade. Combining Mizell production with Gaye’s easy-going vocals is nothing short of alchemy. It’s too bad this partnership wasn’t allowed to flourish under the Motown Records leadership of the day. “Woman of the World” and “Where Are We Going” are must-haves for soul and jazz afficianados.

stevie-wonder-songs-in-the-key-of-live-2014-tour-600x400Songs in the Key of Life

This classic Stevie Wonder album had gone unnoticed by me until this year. Smash hits aside, the album is a strong end-to-end opus and was perfectly featured in Wonder’s recent live tour. I was fortunate enough to catch him in Toronto in November. This album is now firmly on my desert island list.

Notable Passings

  • Idris Muhammad – A drummer with remarkable range, from work with Ahmad Jamal, Pharoah Sanders, and even Ernie Ranglin
  • Charlie Haden – Contrabassist with jazz credentials ranging from John Coltrane to Keith Jarrett and Ornette Coleman
  • Bobby Womack – One of the most recognizable voices in soul music. He had been enjoying a resurgence of sorts recently with the release of The Bravest Man in the Universe (XL Recordings, 2012)
  • Ronny Jordan – A particularly poignant loss for me because Jordan was one of the first artists I discovered who bridged jazz, funk, and hip-hop. This musical space has dominated my listening for the better part of two decades and Jordan’s guitar jazz hold’s a special place for this reason.
ronny-jordan

Ronny Jordan (1962-2014)

 

Album Review: Church, Mark de Clive-Lowe (Ropeadope LLC, 2014)

stjohncoltrane

Iconography of the African Orthodox Church, St. John Coltrane

The Church of St. John Coltrane is a congregation in San Francisco that believes God spoke through John Coltrane’s music. Canonized in the African Orthodox Church, Coltrane is pictured in their iconography with his tenor saxophone, flames emerging from its bell.

“Spiritual Jazz” is used to describe Coltrane’s recordings from the mid-1960’s. It’s a moniker that also suits Coltrane collaborators like Pharoah Sanders and Leon Thomas. Characterized by long-play recordings, entrancing rhythms, melodies and the occasional cacophonic interlude, spiritual jazz was often considered avant-garde.

My uninvited and admittedly cursory sermon on the history of spiritual jazz is meant to illuminate Mark de Clive-Lowe’s recent release, Church. It’s a remarkable ode to spiritual jazz, surprisingly authentic for a producer who is better known for electronic dance music.

Screen Shot 2014-06-02 at 11.05.25 PM

With Church, de Clive Lowe has pegged the ‘vibe’ of spiritual jazz while bringing his own modernity to it. The record is quite a departure from his prior work, although he did release a jazz oriented album, Take the Space Trane (Tru Thoughts, 2013) with the Rotterdam Jazz Orchestra early last year.

The track, “Ghaziya,” is the best showcase of the sound de Clive Lowe cultivates across the whole record. Its use of scales more commonly associated with North African and West Asian music draw comparisons to Afrobeat revivalists The Budos Band and Soul Jazz Orchestra. What sets Church apart is the injection of electronic elements and a production style that isn’t afraid to mash up traditional jazz instruments with synthesized melodies and beats.

Vocal collaborator, Nia Andrews, appears on several tracks, the most striking of which is “Hollow.”  Keeping with the spiritual jazz vibe, Andrews’ performance and de Clive Lowe’s arrangements on this track evoke the work of Fertile Ground

While novel and tasteful, honouring spiritual jazz is not what makes Church a strong album. Rather, it’s de Clive Lowe’s musical choices, sharp production, and authentic jazz performances. That it has a cohesive theme, musically and lyrically centred on spiritual reflection, makes this album even stronger and more lasting.

Related Listening:

  • Hum-Allah-Hum-Allah-Hum-Allah” – Pharaoh Sanders, Jewels of Thought (UMG Recordings, 1969)
  • Black Is” – Fertile Ground,Black Is (Blackout Studios, 2004)
  • Budos Rising” – The Budos Band, The Budos Band II (Daptone Records, 2007)