Saturday, 26 July 2014

Shabazz Palaces : Lese Majesty

Earlier today i sat and listened to the second album from Shabazz Palaces 'Lese Majesty' on my headphones and it wasn't in the background, it wasn't the secondary thing holding my attention, it was the main focus of my attention because it demanded it.

This album should be the defining album of the genre this year, but in reality it barely clings on to the roots of rap and hip hop such is it's flirtation with the experimental. The Seattle duo of Ishmael Butler and Tendai Maraire  journey to the centre of the earth and back again, finding exotic and weird things on the way.

Focus track 'They Come In Gold' is a fine case in point, with chanted lyrics over oily drums and an corkscrew r&b sample -  because the production rarely sits still, it seems constantly fluid.  The former Digible Planets frontman takes things to the brink and time and again, during which time the narrative seems to consist of squawked lyrics, sometimes barely audible, chanting and short repeated mantras.

As they put it themselves the album is "a series of astral suites, recorded happenings" . And at 18 tracks, this is an ambitious soundtrack which more than stakes a claim as the 8th wonder of hip hop.

Hip Hop just got some new science fiction heroes.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Love Supreme : 4th - 6th July

Love Supreme, 4th- 6th July

Tucked away in a beautiful village in Sussex, England is a fledgling Jazz and Soul festival called 'A Love Supreme'. It's sponsored by Jazz FM and for the second year played host to some international stars of the genres as well as some local heroes.

Upon arrival you can tell it's all pretty plush. The grass is green, you walk under an villagey clock tower and of course, there is a country manor in the background - although it was fenced off to the riff raff, aka me, of course.

Despite the over-zealous bag searching and security, once inside it was a decent experience. The campsite was not over crowded, you could pick a spot, and the people all seemed very friendly and laid back.

During Friday night's initial perusal of the site i bumped into an old friend working at the Rough Trade shop and we scarpered off site to watch the Brazil quarter finals.

Saturday morning and some delicious columbian coffee was served from one of the stalls. It was good stuff, i had to go back Sunday morning!

So to the music. Midday Saturday and the first act i saw was Matthew Halsall. It walked straight into one of my gigs of the year. As a live experience his band play what Mojo mag described as if “Grooving through time on the spiritual sunship.”  It's modal, it's spiritual jazz, there was a harp, the musicianship was incredible and to be honest, nothing else could top this moment. When the band took it in turns for their solo's i would smile at the summit. Even the drummer gets involved on Patterns taken from new album 'When the World Was One'. Buy the album, it does not disappoint. That's what I did after the gig.

After that the Computers came and conquered the event stage with their rollicking, sweary Rock & Roll that had the whole audeience dancing. Not jazz but well done them.

Incognito on main stage got the crowd up and remembering some of their hits and later on the Saturday Lalah Hathaway (Donny Hathaways Daughter), was okay but such a slow pace, she seemed slightly pre-occupied at times. The 15 minute version of Gershwins summertime was just too long to hold attention. I needed something more upbeat ahead of Earth Wind & Fire so i snuck out after 45 minutes.

Earth Wind & Fire ripped through some of their classic songs which had the crowd dancing whilst Laura Mvula i thought was a bit dull, though pulled a huge crowd to sign her album afterwards.

After 11pm i went dancing in the jungle/dub reggae tent before Ty and Harleigh Blu played. 2am and exahusted i crashed.

Sunday started off with the playback of the Miles Davis Jazz classic 'Feeling Kinda Blue' which was presented by the Jazz writer for the independent and a Jazz FM DJ, a good start to the day.

Later on Brighton local Alice Russell got the crowd going ahead of sets by Courtney Pine, Jose James and later on Gregory Porter.

All in all a super festival and one which will only get better!

The clock you walk under as you go in


The on site record shop was run by Rough Trade and did some very good business

Campsite at night

Best coffee around was this Colombian blend

Inside one of the tents

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Playlist: Soul Trip, Part 3

Another playlist that was about 6 months in the making for me is Soul Trip 3! Looking at some classic music from 1970 until 1974, this time round it's about the covers, we have a little bit of the Ruffin brothers, performing the classic Hollies track 'He Aint Heavy..' . Then there's Sarah Vaughn's super version of Inner City Blues by Marvin Gaye and Joe Bataan's The Prayer, from his 1971 album 'Mr New York And The East Side Kids' a very good vocal album and different to some of the his other work, it's a beautiful song.

Also chipping in we have some instrumentals, first up MFSB's keyboardtastic version of Family Affair, which is preceeded by O'Donel Levy's Carpenters cover-  'We've Only Just Begun'. Emotive jazz guitar from his Breeding of Mind album where the top line is often replaced with his heartfelt strum.

Other appearances come in from Soul brother number 1, James Brown who makes the cover star for the playlist,  an early Chaka Kahn joint, Al Green, Leroy Hutson, Gil Scott Heron's Black & Blues project , Howard Tate and Ann Peebles amongst others.

I had alot of fun creating this, hit play below and let me know what you think!
Blessings, Simon

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Daptone Soul Revue : 27th June 2014

A packed Shepherds Bush Empire witnesses 3 hours of top notch soul and afro Jazz from some of America's biggest soul artists.

It's 8.13pm on a warm Friday night in West London. As we enter through the doors on 1st, on stage is Charles Bradley, a man who has inspired many to keep chasing their dreams and never give up. His first record deal was only signed when he was 62. Down and out in New York City and living on the breadline, Bradley had lived a tough life. He was looking after his elderly Mother whilst he was continuing to live with the loss of his brother who was gunned down and murdered. Having acted as a James Brown covers act for years just to survive and having lived through many an ordeal, Bradley was spotted and asked by Thomas Brennick to cut a single record with the Menehan Street Band. The rest is history and inspiring history at that.

Now on his second album 'A Victim Of Love', Charles Bradley moves, dances some decent jigs and manages a decent low split that would leave some 40 years younger struggling. His stage craft is bore of 40 years of gigging experience. In short he learned through experience and stacks of difficult crowds. London is simply bowled over. With an audible sweat his songs groove and his voice and story are so powerful and full of emotion, it's hard not to get caught up and both celebrate and cry with him. "Why is it so hard to make it in America" rings out in the auditorium but seconds later he says 'i love you all' . A man of faith too, Bradley uses a 5 minute jam to tell part of his story. He talks about roses and gifts of God before he says "and then there was one more rose, a black rose!". The crowd cheers and the band start up again. The soul fans are dancing on the seats and applauding, not just because of the outstanding quality, but because Charles Bradley epitomises the person who never gave up, who's being blessed and getting his reward. Watch 'Soul of America' for more.

So a tough act to follow, the bridge between the former James Brown impersonator and Daptone legend Sharon Jones, is Antibalas, a group who i'd heard of but didn't know much about. Flooding the stage with a 12 piece band, the afro-jazz groove was often hypnotic and built the audience into a different type of frenzy. The only thing the venue was missing at this point seemed to be a big dancefloor, a low ceiling and free flowing rum but it was of good stuff. An especial highlight had to be Sáré Kon Kon a 10 minute opus Fela Kuti would have been proud of. Had to buy the album after the gig too!

Finally it was Sharon Jones who came on and to be fair was following two acts of an exceptional standard, but she is a pro. Having battled health issues 12 months ago she still had more energy than alot of youngsters, dancing across the stage, firing the crowd up and belting out some classic songs from her catalogue.

The encore involved all the bands on stage singing Sly & Family Stones 'It's a Family Affair' , a true soul vintage and great way to finish the evening.