Saturday 17 December 2022

        Top Ten Albums 2022 - Five to One (and a few more that should've made it) 

I'll try an make a few less blunders in the spelling and grammar in this one. Rushing to post 10 to 6, I seem to have omitted words and made random spelling mistakes - for which I apologise!
 To reiterate, this list has nothing to do with sales, chart positions or indeed any other considerations that might affect or be affected by other people. It's what I have enjoyed the most from this years releases, and I'm already suprised that at least one of the albums in the previous post has appeared in a couple of other favourite albums list compiled elsewhere.

5. Claudia Acuna: Duo.

Simplicity itself, but done beuatifully. The clue is the title, a series of guests performing with Acuna, but not just a random set of guests,each bringing a different facet of performance to the voice, which is absolutely peerless. There are even  a couple of solo tracks, but the ones that stand out are duets with Russel Malone, Regina Carter and Kenny Barron, but the other guests all complement both her style and her choice of material. A  good starting point for listening might be her version of Chick Corea's "Crystal Silence"

4. Julian Lage: View with a room.

It's his second outing on Blue Note, and in my view much more rounded than "Squint" his first. Perhaps this is because on several tracks the trio is enlarged to a quartet by the guest appearance of Bill Frisell, who seems to encourage Lage to sit back and expand. The othe two members of the trio are no less impressive Dave King on drums and Jorge Roeder on bass. . Nearly all the tracks are self written, except "Echo" where he shares the credits with the bass player. Overall its a fluid display of virtuosity and it'll be interesting to see him live when he plays the Cheltenham Jazz Festival in 2023.

3. Emmet Cohen: Uptown in orbit.

Can't help but feel that this might be the final appearance on the Mack Avenue label for Cohen, who like I opined about Samara Joy two years ago, must surely be in line for a big label deal. This album displays all the qualities that made his first album so good, and extends his writing credits across a dazzling display of piano playing, helped out by the trio that seems to have taken to the road during 2022 - and is due to visit Europe in 2023. His choice of other peoples material is equally splendid ranging from Willie 'The Lion' Smith , Gerry Mulligan and the track that you might like to start with by Duke Ellington " Braggin' in brass"

2. Nimbus Sextet: Forward Thinker.

Wouldn't have found this for myself. Thanks to the grapevine of people who correspond with each other and make suggestions about jazz nuggets they may have missed, I got turned on to this. The band work out of Glaasgow and are a brass heavy set of jazzers who put this album together over a number of sessions that stretched across Glasgow, London and Amsterdam. The album appears on the Acid Jazz label which seem to have resurrected itself and produced some stunning, if unlikely, albums that belied its name. This is an album that I have sat down and listened to in its entierity, and I'd recommend "Search for Solace" and "From the shadows" as a starting point. I sincerely hope there's going to be another album next year.

1. Camilla George: Ibio-Ibio.

If you thought 'concept' albums were a mirage from the 70's here's one that brings together all the disparate facets of jazz in Britain today. The album is dedicated to the Ibibio people of soutj east Nigeria, and is an exploration of their beliefs and customs. The fact is that George's sax playing is at the top of her game, and she's gathered around her a luminary group of ,mainly London based, jazz players who are empathetic and lend depth to her compositions. The basis of the band is a quartet, with a special mention for Sarah Tandy's piano playing throughout. It's got great depth and is an album that I'm sure I'll return to again and again. 

and then were three (that nearly made it)

O'Higgins and Luft: Pluto.

A follow up to last year's belting "Play Monk and Trane" , which contains only one eaach of compositions by the above. The rest are 5 compositions by Dave O'Higgins and two by Rob Luft. The band are really tight, and it's good to hear Ross Stanley playing only piano. Possibly, if it had arrived earlier, it would have tipped into the ten - highly recommended.

Soul Revivers: On the groove.

Another unexpected release on the revived Acid Jazz label. About the group/remixers/provenance I know nothing. It contains a number of reworked reggae tracks , including two Ernest Ranglin tracks and  two attributed to 'Ms Maurice' of Kokoroko ( and also Camilla Goerge see #1 above). I'd like to think that there'll a follow up, but even as a stand alone project this is pretty fine.

Could we be more: Kokoroko

They are peerless live. I was eagerly anticipating this album (Abusey Junction by the band is the most played track on the show over nearly 15 years - recently overtaking 'Idle Moments' by Grant Green.)
There are some belting track on this album, but it doesn't really sustain the quality throughout and its to be hoped that for the follow up they create an album's worth of really strong material, because even on disc, when they burn, it's hot. Still a great album.

Thursday 8 December 2022

Edge of Jazz Top 10 releases 2022 - Ten to Six.

It's been a strange year. A lot of delayed releases, some still to appear, and a lot of material written during the lockdown(s) and only now coming to the market. In some cases albums compiled without the musicians ever being together by electronic means. That probably means that there are esoteric items that will barely trouble other compilers, but that I've really enjoyed. As ever, therefore, this top ten has nothing to do with sales, chart placings, other peoples opinions, just my own music that I've enjoyed during the course of the year. As has been the case in the past there are a few albums (four at the time of compilation) that didn't make it into the list and I've added as 'spares' to be listened to if you have the time and/or the inclination;

10: Here and there; Kibrom Bihane.

None more esoteric than this release from an Ethiopian keyboard player on a small US label that, as far as I know hasn't has a UK release. It's fusion at its very best with influences from right across what I would describe as 'The middle east'. Sitting on top of most of the compositions is a horn section that varies in size and contribution but drives it along quite wonderfully. Whether there will ever be a follow up is  unknown, but the more I've listened to this album subsequent to obtaining it, the more I've enjoyed it.

9: Last Decade: Benjamin Lackner.

There has been a flurry of piano led recordings on ECM this year, amongst them Julia Hulsmann with an album that narrowly avoided the cut. Lackner works out of New York, but the album recorded in France and engineered by Gerard de Haro has all the hallmark attention to detail with a perfectly captured timbre and a sound that Manfred Eicher seems to capture so easily. All the tracks, but one are Lackner compositions (Jerome Regard the bass player wrote Emile) but the band complement Lackner's piano playing beautifully with some equisite trumpet playing from Mathias Eick, the unexpected drum fills by Manu Latche and Regard who locks it all together. I've really enjoyed this album a lot and there's more being revealed with every listen.

8. Linger awhile: Samara Joy.

Look at last years list. Having made #2 I hoped that her follow up album would move her a little further forward. Moving forward in this case means moving to a larger label (Verve) and having a budget that allowed the employment of a wider range of musicians, although, in the main, still sticking with the standards that made her first album so successful, and allowing her voice to be mixed well forward.
Her phrasing is amazing, and listening to "Guess who I saw today" ( I remember a Julie London version and a great one by Laura Lee) she makes it her own. Mostly it's slower standards - but she seems equally at home with a more uptempo 'Social Call'. Really enjoyable, but I'll repeat my wish that for the next album they allow her to stretch out across a few more 'contemporary' songs.

7. King Phoenix: Jazz Defenders.

What continues to shine throuhout this album is joyousness. There's an exuberance that certainly manifested itself in their gig here in Exeter earlier in 2022, and the creative juices are evident throughout this their second album. George Cooper's tunes are redolent of a certain Blue Note period of jazz, and the horn arrangements certainly enhance that suggestion. New on this second album are a couple of vocal tracks. It's a delight to be able to recommend an album by a band that can recreate live what they put down in a studio, and I look forward to another release in 2023.

6. Hearts full of grace: Al Swaingers Pointless Beauty.

"An album about states of mind, written in strange and unusual times" writes Al Swainger in the sleeve notes of the album that he brought out  in 2022. He's Bass Player, with strong local connections to Exeter through his work as part of the House Band at the Blue Vanguard Jazz Club. This is so much more than an  album by a good bass player, and he assembled an excelllent band to support him including one George Cooper (See #7 above). Ant Law on guitar, Jon Clarke on drums, an, ethereally
throughout some stunning trumpet/flugel by Gary Alesbrook. Swainger further describes this as " an oveture to nothing". It's so much more!

..and those that didn't quite make it (but that I thoroughly recommend). Just one here, and three to come next time;

Only a Year: Alex Clarke Quartet.

Had this arrived earlier in the year it might well have figured in the 10. As has so often been the case this year  (see also #10 above) this was recommended by one of the small coterie of people that I correspond with who seek out jazz that think deserves a wider audience. This album has a luminary  [a word I overuse] band; David Newton on piano, Dave Green on Double Bass and Clarke Tracey on drums. It belong the Alex about whom I know little (she hasn't yet answered my e mail to her website) but she plays beautifully on alto and tenor sax on an album of mainly standards, with two of her own compositions, the title track, and the wonderfully titled "Betroots Burn". The label in Stray Horn Records and it well worth seeeking out.


Monday 31 October 2022

Very briefly, if all goes well (why should it?) Phonic FM will be on the Small Scale DAB+multiplex from next week. It's been a long jouney. There have been complications and delays galore. Having won the licence the Company were then forced to revise the original plans, whihc would have used two transmitters, because concerns were expressed about the siting of aerials and transmitters. We're going to end up with three, which has increased the amount of coverage, but increased the expense.

 We've also been amazed at the poor coverage of good quality internet provision in and around Exeter. Once you get out of the City centre the coverage is, in places barely 3G (which is supposed to be phased out soon), and as we discovered, getting fibre optic cable to sites is not as easy as it sounds. Devon County Council require three months notice of any potential road closures, or other works which require potential traffic lights or closure. The getting the service providers to adhere to any proposed plan, is not a given.

 The sites we've used have been helpful in not objecting overmuch to constantly changing deadlines, though having to ensure enhanced enclosure for anybody working on the sites has at times mean a huge juggling of available personnel.All that is needed now is to tweak the system, get Ofcom, our regulator arond all the three sites (somehow they seem to equate Devon with the size of London Boroughs, and dscover that without a tube system to get around, Cranbrook is at least a 25 minute drive from any of the other sites -especially with road closures as a hazard).

Oh yeah! The DAB+ is important. You need to note the plus sign, if you're hoping to tune in and retune your radio in the area. Fuller details to follow, as the start will be a 'soft launch' without much publicity. That will come later when all the gremlins have been sorted out. What could possibly go wrong - hopefully, not much.

Monday 11 July 2022

 Can't think that I've left my first resume of the years new releases that I've enjoyed so late before. However, here it goes; with the following proviso. Like the last couple of years new releases have been subject to all sorts of delays to release, albums recorded by various artist forced to record in seperate locations because of the covid restrictions which have taken a long time to put together, and, I susspect, unavailability due to problems with gigging to support sales. (on this subject one of the bands recently promoted by Phonic FM admitted to us that they expected to make at least as much from 'merch' as they did from their fees at venues)

Jazz Defenders - King Phoenix.

The defenders launched their second album with a series of gigs including one at the Phoenix. The influence is obvious - The Blue Note label c 1964-5, but the material is very much their own, with the majority written by George Cooper (sometime of Exeter). It's a a joyous keyboard led romp, with prominent horns courtesy of Nick Malcolm and Nicholas Dover. There are two 'vocal' tracks and is a building block from the first album, also available on Haggis Records - highly recommended.

Ethan Iverson - Every note is true.

All self written(except for 'Blue' written by Jack DeJohnette)  sees Iverson join the Blue Note label with a rather fine, mainly, trio album. His sidesmen are immensely supportive with Larry Grenadier on Bass, and the aformentioned DeJonette on drums. The material is strong and very varied, with 'The more it changes' being a song sung by 44 friends into their cell phones.. Persoanla favourites are 'At the bells and motley'  and the Jason Moran inspired 'Goodness knows'

Jonathan Blake - Homeward bound.

Drummer Blake sits back and works his way through a largely self written set of tunes. He's joined by a spectrum of 'new' Blue Note artists like Joel Ross on Vibraphone, Immanuel Wilkins on Alto Sax and David Virelles on keyboards. It all gels together into really satisfactory album (that's not damning it with faint praise!) with Blakes 'Rivers and Parks', Deacon Douglas' 'Shake the biscuits' and a wondeful version of Joe Jackson's 'Steppin' out' being my favourites.

Goldstein, Bernstein, Stewart: Peerpetual pendulum.

The ultimate chilled trio? This album is an apparently effortless cruise through a mixture of tunes written by members of the group, with some outstanding re-works of 'classics' like Wayne Shorters 'United', Gary Bartz's 'Libra' and a couple other unexpected tunes from MJQ and George Gershwin. 
They have the ability to make it sound so effortless and yet its complicated and only unravels its secrets slowly.

Kibrom Bihane: Here and there.

New to me, and recommended by a friend in the USA. Out on the (tiny?) Flying Carpet label. He's an Ethiopian keyboard player supported by a 7 piece band with a killer horn section. It's fusion, but there are lots of influences that flow through. There are two vocal tracks(Etsegenate Tadesse) and the whole album runs fluently through a gamut of influences and styles. At the time of wring, apparently no British release)

Joey Alexander: Origin.

18 years old at the time of recording this is not his debut. His keyboard playing is an instantly recognisable one, and it helps that the quret that accompany him on most of the tracks is made up of  Larry Grenadier on Bass, kendrick Scott on drums and Gilad Hekselman on guitar. He wrote and arranged all the material and there's not a duff track on the album.

Charles Lloyd Trio: Chapel

Now over 80 this is the first of what is going to be a three set collection of trio pieces, all with different trio members. This one has Bill Frissell on gitar and Thomas Morgan on drums. As the name suggests it was recorded in a chapel, and it appears to have been a laid-back session giving each of the three musicians, ample space to stretch out and develop the emerging themes in an unhurried and dllightful way. This is one for a quite cotemplative evening, and will more than satisfy until Volume 2 in the series is issued later in 2022.

Al Swainger's Pointless Beauty: Hearts full of grace.

Yes I did an extended interview with him on 'Exeter Talking' which gave us time to play several tracks and contemplate where this came from. That it's been picked up by a wider audence is testament to his writing, and also to the excellent quartet that support his compositions. I'd be hard put to categorise what this music is (do I have to/ do I need to?) but it fits beautifully into 'The Edge of Jazz'. My two favourute tracks are 'Remember the sky' and 'Existential blues'. Did I mention yet that George Cooper - see the top of this list plays keyboards. Ask for this by name at one of Al's gigs.


Wednesday 4 May 2022

Playlist 3rd May 2022:

Should be back to normal next week, and thanks for your patience over this! Here's what I played;

  1. Sombrero Sam                            Charles Lloyd                  Dream Weaver
  2. Jungle fiction                              John Scofield                   Uberjam
  3. What's new?                                Jimmy Smith                   Cool blues
  4. La vida es un carnaval                 Angelique Kidjo              Celia
  5. She wont forget me                     Ethan Iverson                   Everey note is true
  6. Get happy                                   Milt Jackson & Coleman Hawkins  Bean bags
  7. That's all I want from you          Nina Simone                     Baltimore
  8. Bright Mississippi                       Fred Wesley                     New friends
  9. Heavy vibes                                 Montana Orchestra          12" single
  10. Imik si mik                                  Hindi Zahra                      Handmade
  11. Summer Breeze                           Ole Matthiessen               Social distancing blues
  12. Blue Train (alt take)                     John Coltrane                  Blue Train
  13. Honeybone                                   Russell Malone               Triple play
  14. Police & thieves                           Zara McFarlane               If you knew her
  15. Billie's bounce                             Django Bates                    Beloved Bird
  16. Circling                                       Tord Gustavsen                 The Well
  17. Dance of denial                           Ray Barretto                      Contact!
  18. Looking for the heart of Saturday night Gwyneth Herbert   Bittersweet & Blue
  19. Three to get ready                      Dave Brubeck Quartet        Time out
  20. Hub's nub                                   Freddie Hubbard                 Open sesame

Tuesday 26 April 2022

It's been a while....

Been meaning to catch up (and will!), but, for now, whilst the website is undergoing some atttention here's the playlist for Tuesday 26th April.

  1. Blue Bossa                                  Joe Henderson           Page one
  2. Live alone and like it                  Cyrille Aimee             Let's get lost
  3. Abusey Junction                         Kokoroko                   We out there
  4. Mambo Inn                                 Ronny Jordan             A brighter day
  5. Back home blues                       Charles Mingus          Mingus three
  6. Love me or leave me                 Nina Simone              Mood Indigo
  7. Two steps                                  Al Swainger               Hearts full of grace ( out 1st June)
  8. Dry danse                                  Chick Corea               My Spanish heart
  9. There is a crack in everything   Alison Rayner            Short stories
  10. Senor blues                               Carmen Souza            The Silver messengers
  11. Brother Yusef                            Ole Mattheison           Social distance blues (out 13th May
  12. On Staddon heights                   John Surman              Saltash Bells
  13. 20% body fat                             Robert Walter             There goes the neighbourhood
  14. Canteloupe Island                     Herbie Hancock          Empyrean Isles
  15. Ever since I stole the blues       Mose Allison              My backyard
  16. Swift                                         Nejira                          Blume
  17. Douglas                                    Jorge Rossy                 Beyond Sunday
  18. Essa Cancao                             Sabrina Malheiros       New Morning
  19. Harder                                      Soul Revivers              On the groove
  20. Biere la gazelle                        New Kora Band           New cities
  21. The Village blues walk           Kofi- Barnes Aggregation  Kofi Barnes aggregation
It'll be like this next week as well for reasons you can hear on the show which should be up on mixcloud soon!