2019 Release Rewind - Part 2 [July to December]
Rounding up our 2019 Release Rewind series, we've picked a collection of EP and LP's that came out from July to the end of 2019 which helped make last year fantastic for the local, national and international jazz scenes. The following artists feature in this article:
KOKOKO!, Scrimshire, Sunny Side Up Artists, Nérija, corto.alto, Tenderlonious, Joe Armon-Jones, The Comet is Coming, Binker Golding, Matthew Halsall, Neue Grafik Ensemble, Robert Glasper, GoGo Penguin, Portico Quartet, Oscar Jerome, Blue Lab Beats, Compro Oro, London Afrobeat Collective, Otis Mensah, Hector Plimmer, 30/70, Kamaal Williams, Hippo, François N’Gwa, Piotr Damaciwecz & Power of the Horns Ensemble, Yussef Dayes, & Local Talent.
KOKOKO! - Fongola (Transgressive Records, 5 July)
KOKOKO!’s distorted polyrhythms and spontaneous lo-fi sounds provide a chaotic soundtrack to their home country. When most people think of culture in the Democratic Republic of Congo, it’s The Rumble in The Jungle fight of Muhammad Ali vs George Foreman and the accompanying Soul Power concert with James Brown in the 70s, Mobutu in his abacost and leopard print hat, les sapeurs in their elegant tailoring, and the king of Congolese rumba Papa Wemba. KOKOKO! represent the antithesis of tradition, and their debut album Fongola - which translates to “the key” - is a torrid, anarchic, youthful journey smashing a new path through modern life in Africa’s third most populous city. You can trace the seeds of Fongola back to so many different places. It began in Kinshasa, in the Ngwaka neighbourhood where DIY experimental musical instruments are made, and the Lingwala neighbourhood where Makara Bianko sings every night on electronic loops with his dancers and where the band first met. KOKOKO! have spent their tours across Europe dreaming about what they wanted to tell the world. It was recorded in makeshift studios they built out of ping pong tables and mattresses in Kinshasa and Brussels. They spent months putting it all together in Abattoir, Anderlecht like a giant electronic puzzle with pieces that didn’t fit.
Scrimshire - Listeners (Albert’s Favourites, 19 July)
Albert’s Favourites co-founder Adam Scrimshire released his fourth album in the summer using a host of esteemed collaborators in Georgia Ann Muldrow, Emma-Jean Thackray, Joshua Idehen, Madison McFerrin, Chip Wickham and James Alexander Bright. The album comes six years after his previous release and aims to bring jazz, soul and electronic music into a more focused sound as the songs explore some deeply personal confessions as well as self-doubt and analysis. Titled Listeners, Scrimshire states: “over the last few years we stopped listening to each other, everyone is shouting at each other and no one is learning [...] I hope I’ve made something that is for other people more than I have before.”
Sunny Side Up - (Brownswood Recording, 19 July)
Sunny Side Up is Melbourne’s answer to Brownswood’s 2018 We Out Here album; the nine different artists on the record represent the DIY culture of the Australian city taking in soul, jazz and club culture and reinterpreting these influences into an album that has jazz as the midset, but the output being infinitely diverse - the selection of tracks range from deep house, broken beat, cha-cha, samba, p-funk and soul. The musicians often share houses and makeshift home studios in garages and backyard sheds of Melbourne as the city has more live venues and record stores per capita than any other city, and these are some of the artists hungry to build their own identity in the scene. The album features Phil Stroud, Dufresne, Kuzich, Audrey Powne, Zeitgeist Freedom Energy Exchange, Laneous, Silentjay, Horatio Luna and Allysha Joy. The record is a follow up to the era-defining release of the UK jazz scene We Out Here, the compilation that kickstarted a whole generation of London’s under-the-radar jazz kids to global headlining heights. As the music flowing out of the region would attest to, it appears we’re about to witness this same effect take place for the Melbourne contingent.
Nérija - Blume (Domino, 2 August)
Nérija debut album came out in the summer as Blume is a vibrant, engaging and infectious record which showcases the predominantly female collective’s maturity since their debut EP. They draw on afrobeat, hip-hop, funk and reggae influences to create a majestic journey as the horns section of Nubya Garcia, Sheila Maurice-Grey, Cassie Kinoshi, and Rosie Turton intertwine particularly well as they have known each other since they played together at Tomorrow’s Warrior’s. ‘Last Straw’ and ‘Unbound’ stand out amongst the album with Shirley Tetteh, Lizy Exell, and Rio Kai providing the composed and inventive rhythm section to accompany.
corto.alto - Live from 435, vol. 1 // Live from 435, vol. 2 (435 Records, 16 August // 8 November)
The Glaswegian nu-jazz collective corto.alto led by trombonist Liam Shortall is releasing five volumes of music, with a new track every three weeks. The first volume of tracks all came out by August, and the second volume by November with more tracks still being released. They all feature live videos of the songs being performed in the small bedroom on Sauchiehall Street where the collective manage to fit in. With 12 tracks now released, one is quite simply astonished by the work ethic of Shortall who has written all the tunes and mixed them. Each song is quite different from one another and can go from smaller arrangements to big band bouncers - what a treat we have in store for the last two volumes.
Tenderlonious - Think Twice (22a Music, 13 September)
Tenderlonious continues to add to the jazz sound he has become known for over the past few years and delves further into the world of house and electronic beats, yet he still manages to capture the essence of his live instrumentation. He describes it as Detroit techno via Woking and South London. The sound on Think Twice has the aesthetic of Moodymann and of the techno of Underground Resistance whilst retaining the jazz nods that sound like they could come from a Rhythm Section International release.
Joe Armon-Jones - Turn to Clear View (Brownswood Recording, 20 September)
Returning with his second album only just over a year after his first LP, Joe Armon-Jones once again exhibits his iconic keys sound coupled with his nods to R&B, hip hop, dub and p-funk influences to create a fantastic follow-up. Featuring regular bandmates Oscar Jerome, Moses Boyd, and Nubya Garcia throughout, he collaborates with some of his favourite artists in Obongjayar, Jehst, and in the sumptuous single ‘Yellow Dandelion’, with Georgia Anne Muldrow as he has resounding soulfulness to his sound that evolves more and more over time, almost to a point that you forget he is a part of the increasingly influential Ezra Collective.
The Comet is Coming - The Afterlife (Impulse! Records, 27 September)
Danalogue (synths), Betamax (drums) and King Shabaka (saxophone) follow up their critically acclaimed Trust in The Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery with The Afterlife. On the EP, they state “the two records can be seen as companions, that cannot exist without each other, like day and night, light and dark, creation and destruction. They were made together, at the same time, and have always been intended to be experienced together. The Afterlife has been a topic of deep consideration and one of the keys to spiritual mythology around the world for millennia. The idea of a form of continuation of consciousness from our perceived reality into another state brings an extra dimension of meaning into the gravitas of our actions in this life, our respect and reverence for our ancestors, as well as the sense of a continuum of life over an infinite, timeless void.” The Afterlife continues to hover over that album’s scorched earth, not replicating the rush of “Summon the Fire” but instead exploring in greater detail that set’s most sombre moments. It’s concise yet also shows the trio’s depth in just over 30 minutes. Not much more is needed to be said as the cosmic, vociferous, electrifying, apocalyptic group continue to put their stamp on what a jazz trio is, as they convey spiritual jazz with an intense velocity that surely Sun Ra would have been impressed by.
Binker Golding - Abstractions of Reality Past and Incredible Feathers (Gearbox Records, 27 September)
The sensational saxophonist Binker Golding has released Abstractions of Reality Past and Incredible Fathers, an album harking back to the jazz of the 20th-century with his first quartet album. Featuring Joe Armon-Jones, Daniel Casimir, and Sam Jones to fill this quartet, Golding explains his inspiration for the record: "The album is about experiences I had throughout my teenage years & twenties. It’s about remembering, forgetting, thinking you've forgotten & remembering again. It's about people & friends that you'll never see again & times that you can't go back to, so you have to settle for the memory of them instead, whilst holding on to some hope for the future". Compared to his previous projects as part of Binker & Moses and also with Elliot Galvin, the album has a greater emphasis on harmonic and melodic development as he can move more freely in these more mature and emotional compositions.
Matthew Halsall - Oneness // Sending My Love [Special Edition] // Colour Yes [Special Edition] (Gondwana Records, 27 September // 8 November // 8 November)
A mega triple-LP release of meditative, spiritual jazz from Matthew Halsall descended on us this autumn. The recordings of Oneness coming from an early part of Halsall’s career in 2008 when he felt they were too sensitive to release at that time in his life, with all compositions built around a simple tanpura drone sound Halsall heard on Alice Coltrane’s ‘Journey In Satchidananda’ album. Sending My Love and Colour Yes were revisited by Halsall as he meticulously remixed and remastered them for the Gondwana Records 10th anniversary to achieve the sound he wanted but could not quite achieve a decade ago. All three albums feature the likes of flautist Chip Wickham, saxophonist Nat Birchall, harpist Rachael Gladwin, bassist Gavin Barras and drummer Gaz Hughes.
Neue Grafik Ensemble - Foulden Road (Total Refreshment Centre, 27 September)
Led by Neue Grafik, his ensemble released their debut EP in September as the producer, instrumentalist and DJ conceived the album as “a journey from Deptford to Dalston, right through Peckham. During a personal period of transition, I put this music forward at a crossroad of all my influences, taking the time to share and experiment with a band”. Featuring ESINAM, Brother Portrait, Nubya Garcia and Allysha Joy on the EP, Neue Grafik’s hybrid of jazz, house, hip hop, grime and broken beat comes through as the record mixes some live performances from the group’s debut gig at Total Refreshment Centre as well as their sessions there.
Robert Glasper - Fuck Yo Feelings (Loma Vista Recordings, 3 October)
With the album title inspired by people telling him how to do “black music, but it’s not run by black people”, Robert Glasper released his new album in attempts to create a mixtape vibe and thus an invitation to a whole host of collaborators (including Herbie Hancock, Bilal, Terrace Martin, Denzel Curry and many more) to come along to the studio for a jam to create these organic tracks. Some songs you’re waiting for something to happen before being told ‘fuck yo feelings’ as Glasper tries to create that mixtape vibe by hitting the sweet spot in between jazz and hip hop that he has so often found successfully. Despite some standout tracks in ‘All I Do’, ‘Aah Whoa’, ‘I Want You’, ‘Sunshine’, and ‘Treal’, the album meanders along and if you have no patience in the opening tracks you won’t even get to hear his better ones that don’t make this album a complete disaster. The vibe is evident, but there seems to be no purpose to any of it sadly.
GoGo Penguin - Ocean In A Drop [Music For Film] (Blue Note France, 4 October)
This EP from Manchester trio GoGo Penguin has been released to coincide with their second tour of Koyaanisqatsi, the experimental film from Godfrey Reggio and Ron Fricke that shows slow motion and time-lapse footage of cities and natural landscapes in the US for which the trio performed a live score of (the original score was composed by Philip Glass). After the success of the 2017 tour, the group wrote fresh pieces for the new tour as each song has their typical intensity and drive that matches perfectly with some of the film’s sequences as well as moments of ambient and atmospheric parts which require patience when seeing them perform live. A conceptual and rare audiovisual triumph.
Portico Quartet - Memory Streams (Gondwana Records, 4 October)
Portico Quartet return with their fifth studio album as they embrace the classic PQ palette of drums, saxophone, bass and hang-drums, but the output has modulated and become more modern, whilst still channelling the beauty and mystery which has always marked the very best of their music as they continually explore ambient, electronic influences alongside minimalism, jazz and beyond. As the name hints, there’s a sense here of a remembering, shards of past influences, and hints of ideas re-forged. For soprano and tenor saxophonist Jack Wyllie, Memory Streams “feels in some ways about the identity of the quartet, about the records we’ve made before, and the memory of them. We tried to reduce the elements to what really identified the group and also as a way to help us write – it’s not easy if you have unlimited possibilities. But it was also an interesting challenge, as it was about writing something new that felt like a development, whilst also drawing on the past”.
Oscar Jerome - Live in Amsterdam (Caroline International, 4 October)
Guitar-wonder Oscar Jerome releases first full-length record from a live performance in Amsterdam which features some of his recent singles from this year including ‘Misty Head / Sunny Street’ and ‘Gravitate’ as well as the sublime earlier releases of ‘Do You Really’ and ‘Give Back What You Stole From Me’. With a continuous stream of EP and single releases over the past couple of years it seemed appropriate for Jerome to release an album and even though this is not strictly new material, it gives an excellent snippet into his live performances and soloing ability as the songs often improvise along a jazz element to create some really tight extended cuts of these singles.
Blue Lab Beats - Voyage (Blue Adventure/AllPoints, 18 October)
Jazztronica duo of producer NK-OK and multi-instrumentalist Mr DM have released their second album Voyage under Blue Lab Beats as they continue to pour hip hop, afrobeat and electronics into a melting pot of mouthwatering jazz. Featuring a whole array of collaborators including Sampa the Great and Sheila Maurice-Grey, the album is titled Voyage to depict the journey as musicians and producers that the duo have come over the past year and a half since Xover in this sonic experimentation. Single ‘Stand Up’ stands out as a hypnotically grooving afrobeat tune that dances away for days.
Compro Oro - Suburban Exotica (Sdban Ultra Records, 18 October)
One of the leading bands in the ever-expanding new wave of Belgian jazz since their formation in 2014, Compro Oro have released their second album that further builds on their psychedelic approach to jazz utilising their unique focus on percussion in particular. From the danceable beats and colourful sounds of ‘Miami New Wave’, the exotic rhythms and textures of ‘10 Dollar Jeans Jacket’, and the curious vibraphone infusions and wild guitar riffs of ‘Rastapopoulos’, to the heady, bass-laden mover and shaker ‘Lalibela’ and traditional Latin and Cuban rhythms of ‘Dark Crystal’, Suburban Exotica offers wild, profound and uncanny flavours that explore the best of Afro-Cuban music and jazz tinged psychedelia.
London Afrobeat Collective - Humans (London Afrobeat Productions Limited, 25 October)
The nine-piece London Afrobeat Collective released their first album since 2015 as the international touring band has created a collection of anthemic songs with socially conscious lyrics, set to bold brass lines and hypnotic danceable grooves. The group combine diverse influences such as Fela Kuti, Parliament, Funkadelic and Frank Zappa to create an eclectic sound drawing on funk, jazz, rock, and dub to create something addictive and unique. Their sound has led them to touring all over Europe and in Africa, especially in Nigeria where they toured and appeared several times on national TV and performing in front of ten thousand people at the New Afrika Shrine during ‘Felebration’. The first single from this album ‘Power To The Women’ demonstrates their clear message in carrying the torch for afrobeat musicians to continue their mission in fighting for political and social change.
Otis Mensah - Rap Poetics (Mum’s House Records, 25 October)
Otis Mensah's new EP Rap Poetics is a continuation of his debut poetry book that explores rap as an intellectual art-form and potent medium of poetry in the face of a white-washed, elitist art world. Focusing on the power of vulnerability and artistic expression as emotional communication, Rap Poetics is an ode to valuing art as activism in the face of oppressive systems. In the vein and nature of Hip-Hop, it's about alchemizing worlds from words and celebrating the culture through Language Games. The Sheffield artist is preparing for an album release in 2020 which will hopefully propel him to more success which he deserves.
Hector Plimmer - Next to Nothing (Albert’s Favourites, 25 October)
The London-based producer, composer and DJ Hector Plimmer continues to develop his sound that is drenched in tribal rhythms and beautifully crafted bass. Influenced by beat-makers like Flying Lotus and Theo Parrish, but with the subtleties of the classic Metalheadz era drum and bass, his second album Next To Nothing features guests Ego Ella May, Emma-Jean Thackray, Pie Eye Collective, Alexa Harley, and Andrew Ashong. After featuring on Brownswood Bubblers 11 and winning the PRS Steve Reid InNOVAtion award, Hector caught the attention of Albert's Favourites' label heads Adam Scrimshire & Dave Koor which led to the transfer of almost a whole album's worth of material and resulted in his 2017 debut full-length record Sunshine. Since then he has a regular NTS radio show. Where he plays genres across the spectrum of hip-hop, beats, funk, soul, disco, afro-beat, house and jazz which all influence his electronica inspired releases.
30/70 - Fluid Motion (Rhythm Section International, 25 October)
With their third album Fluid Motion, Melbourne’s 30/70 are the face of Australia’s newest wave of soul-influenced brilliance. Fluid Motion shifts between neo-soul and languid, Dilla-esque tendencies, astral-facing jazz textures and authentic vignettes of UK club music history. It’s a formula that was first defined on their 2015 debut Cold Radish Coma and majestically expanded upon with their critically acclaimed 2017 release Elevate. London has become something of a second home for 30/70, as evidenced by Gilles Peterson’s latest Brownswood compilation ‘Sunny Side Up’ which features three tracks from 30/70 members: Ziggy Zeitgeist, Horatio Luna and Allysha Joy. The 30/70 collective have had their ears to the ground and plugged into the sound of the UK underground. This new album takes inspiration from the syncopation of broken-beat, the immediacy of grime’s and dub’s sonic aesthetic to create something that is a truly global amalgamation of local sounds, finessed by Allysha Joy’s instantly recognisable vocals; the rawest and most real of voices.
Kamaal Williams - DJ-Kicks: Kamaal Williams (!K7 Music, 8 November)
DJ-Kicks invited Kamaal Williams to curate a mix for their renowned series as it features four new tracks from him. The exclusives are a live take of 'Snitches Brew,' 'Shinjuku' and 'Strings ATL', as well as 'Wivout U' from Henry Wu. Williams has taken his long-standing love of seventies jazz fusion and mixed it up with the contemporary sound of the London underground to great effect. House, broken beat, grime, soul, funk, hip hop and jazz all permeate his work, which has seen him evolve from producer Henry Wu to acclaimed live band Kamaal Williams, backed by talented drummers and bassists. His pioneering work in the studio and live arena has influenced a whole new generation of like-minded musicians that have helped keep London as one of the most exciting musical cities in the world.
Hippo - Binary Diet (Astral Tusk, 15 November)
After their debut EP release in 2018, Bristol-based electronic future jazz trio returns with a new shorter EP that continues their exploration of improvisation buried in a nest of beefy electronics, bouncing rhythms and big riffs through their saxophone, synthesisers and drums. In the lineage of Donny McCaslin and STUFF, their sound has a full and wonky oomph to it as their music would not go amiss in a rave just as much in a basement jazz club.
François N’Gwa - Ogooué (Into The Deep Treasury, 25 November)
French reissue label Into The Deep Treasury presents Ogooué as a tribute to N'Gwa's homeland, compiling some of his finest pieces, carefully restored and remastered. Since the early 80's, Gabonese musician François N'Gwa has been jamming with instruments, synthesizers and later, on production software exploring multiple music aesthetics from his Paris based home studio, where he initially moved to study. Over the years, N'Gwa has written and produced incredible and timeless music, melting together his African music heritage with his favourite influences; the tracks featured were produced between 1985 and 2004. The album incorporates hypnotic synths and trippy percussion – merging jazz and tango sounds with traditional African music. His 1985 single, ‘Eliwa/Alibi’, saw N’Gwa taking influence from Otis Redding and Jimmy Hedrix, while singing in Gabon’s local dialects – Myene and Fang. Founding his own studio and releasing his second album in 1986, titled N’Gômi & Ibogha Songs, N’Gwa was soon headlining public events. However, it was his 1994 album, La Panthère a pleuré, that saw him touring across Europe and Gabon. Despite this, N’Gwa has only achieved fame in Gabon and still remains largely unknown to an international audience.
Piotr Damaciwecz & Power of the Horns Ensemble - Polska (Astigmatic Records, 29 November)
The first LP release by Piotr Damaciwecz & Power of the Horns Ensemble since 2013 was recorded at a very special time for the Polish jazz group. The album was recorded the day before and on the anniversary of the outbreak of the Warsaw Uprising, as these were the only available dates for all of the musicians. The exceptional atmosphere and thus the dignity of this time were emphasized by the events preceding the recordings. Damaciwecz states “it was a very moving period, concluding a certain era, as several people close to us, both musically and personally, died. The great master, Tomasz Stańko, to whom we partly dedicated this session, passed away”. The album mixes composition perfectly with improvisation as it excellently celebrates the collective’s 10th anniversary together.
Yussef Dayes - Duality (Good Grief Inc, 4 December)
The double single release from Yussef Dayes features ‘For My Ladies’ and ‘Othello’ as he prepares to release his next new full length in 2020, an album with Tom Misch. The single features Charlie Stacey on piano and keys and rejoins with Rocco Palladino on bass as the single comes out after the ‘Yesterday’s Princess’ video of the trio covering Stanley Clarke’s ‘Yesterday Princess’ and Curren$y’s ‘Job’ was released earlier in the year. The single goes from some delightful R&B chilled-out jazz to Dayes signature frenetic and busy drumming style accompanied by some cosmic DnB from Stacey and Palladino, as it simply reinforces his position as the standout drummer for this new generation of London jazz musicians coming through.
Local Talent - Higienópolis (Projectwhatever Records, 20 December)
The Toronto based trio released their debut album Higienópolis last month as the new group is led by composer and keyboardist James Hill, known for his work with jazz hip hop group BADBADNOTGOOD. The concept of this project came about when Hill was travelling in Brazil, as the majority of the works were composed in the São Paulo neighbourhood of Higienópolis where he was inspired by the abundance of artistic and musical talent despite the country’s ongoing economic disparity in these cities. The album, therefore, reflects musical themes ranging from dark, melancholic motifs to bright, yet eerily apprehensive anthems.
You can buy all of the releases mentioned above via the links below:
Sunny Side Up - Brownswood Recordings
corto.alto - Live from 435, vol. 1
corto.alto - Live from 435, vol. 2
Joe Armon-Jones - Turn to Clear View
The Comet is Coming - The Afterlife
Binker Golding - Abstractions of Reality Past and Incredible Feathers
Matthew Halsall - Sending My Love [Special Edition]
Matthew Halsall - Colour Yes [Special Edition]
Neue Grafik Ensemble - Foulden Road
Robert Glasper - Fuck Yo Feelings
GoGo Penguin - Ocean In A Drop [Music For Film]
Portico Quartet - Memory Streams
Oscar Jerome - Live in Amsterdam
London Afrobeat Collective - Humans
Hector Plimmer - Next to Nothing
Kamaal Williams - DJ-Kicks: Kamaal Williams
Piotr Damaciwecz & Power of the Horns Ensemble - Polska