• Ben Lee

January 2020 Roundup

Updated: Feb 12

Starting fresh at the start of this new decade, we will release a monthly roundup of all releases we haven't had the chance to catch. The following artists feature in this article:


Hill / Tino Contreras / Seu Jorge & Rogê / John McLaughlin, Shankar Mahadevan & Zakir Hussain / Werkha / Cap Kendricks / Stefano Rocco Quartet / Cherise / Shabaka & The Ancestors / Testiculo y Uno / Dan Rosenboom.

Hill - Into Outta This World (Self-Release, 10 January)

Brighton-based Hill have released their psychedelic-folk-jazz mammoth Into Outta This World, appropriately named it seems as the spectrum of grooves, rhythms and feels really take you into and out of your mind and it's willingness to follow the bendiness of their story. Consisting of three songs only, and all reaching double digits in minutes, you do feel like you have taken a tab that has sent you spiralling back to a secretive stage at Woodstock in the 60s, deeply entranced by a world of kaleidoscopic story-telling that the group embark upon - the final track's title 'The Tale of the Pixie and the Comet' gives you an idea of the kind of trip they tumble down. There is constant time changes as patience is needed but the reward is musicianship that is inventive in taking you through the countless peaks and troughs. Pete the Beet, Willow Bumble and James the Grapes are joined by guests Freddie Willatt (Saxophone), Toma Sapir (Tabla, Darbuka, Percussion) and Lau Ro (Cuica, Congas) to add flavour as elements of Pink Floyd and Henge crop up throughout the album.


Buy the Hill's record here, and keep up to date with them here.


Tino Contreras - Musica Infinita (Arc Records, 10 January)

Gilles Peterson's new label Arc Records has reissued the 1978 psychedelic, experimental jazz record Musica Infinita from Mexican drummer and composer Tino Contreras, who shared stages with Dave Brubeck, Cannonball Adderley and the Duke Ellington Orchestra throughout his illustrious career. The group name for the album, Quinto Sol ('Fifth Sun'), reflects the influence of the Aztec Calendar, a concept which Contreras and his partner scholar Estrella Newman were inspired to build their shared musical project around. The vibe is certainly one of experimentation as the first song 'Sinfonia del Quinto Sol' has wailing singing that is accompanied by a blaring trumpet, alongside Contreras' own rolling drum solo as the the other two tunes have a bumbling feeling created by the bass that the rest of the band strut to, with the rhythm section of the drums and piano particularly synchronising well. Having bought a copy several years ago before a gig in Japan, Peterson met Carlos Icaza (a Mexico-based record collector and musician) years after the purchase, who also had a copy of the record and managed to put Peterson in touch with Conrteras who was aged 95 at the time. Thus they agreed to reissue this special album.


Buy Tino Contreras' record here.


Seu Jorge & Rogê - Night Dreamer Direct​-​To​-​Disc Sessions (Night Dreamer, 15 January)

From concept to completion in four days, the Night Dreamer session between Brazilians Seu Jorge and Rogê puts a lifetime of collaboration and companionship into a record for the first time, as this is encapsulated by ‘Caminhão’, the first song the pair ever wrote together 25 years ago. The ambition of the pair to make a classic Brazilian record sees the record feature both on guitar and vocals alongside the percussionists Peu Meurray and Pretinho da Serrinha. Both instrumental in pushing Brazilian popular music out beyond their nation's borders, Jorge is also known for his acting work in 'City of God', 'Irmandade' and 'A Life Aquatic' alongside his work with Beck and David Bowie; Rogê has been nominated for Grammy's and worked with countless artists including samba legend Arlindo Cruz. Together, the seven compositions on this record draws on the duo's plaintive melancholy similar to that of the greats Milton Nascimento, Gilberto Gil and Jorge Ben.


Buy the record here, and keep up to date with Seu Jorge and Rogê.


John McLaughlin, Shankar Mahadevan, Zakir Hussain - Is That So? (Abstract Logix, 17 January)

Is that So? sees legendary guitarist John McLaughlin collaborate with prolific Indian composer and vocalist Shankar Mahadevan, and life-long friend Zakir Hussain on the tabla as the pair have worked together since they founded Shakti in the early '70s. Mahadevan states the album is a meeting of the 'musical cultures of the East and West' as they work in putting different harmonies to the scales of the Raga system; 'The whole texture, colour, feeling and the canvas of the music excited us as harmonic content does not exist in Indian classical music'. McLaughlin goes on: 'from the outset in the early 1970's, I constantly researched the possibilities of integrating harmony into the traditions of North and South India [...] however, the idea I mention above, was to abandon the rules of the Raga system completely and apply my own western harmonic liberty'. Whilst their is experimentation used in this record, it offers a very serene piece of music that speaks of the maturity these artists have gained over the years.


Buy the record here, and keep up to date with John McLaughlin and Shankar Mahadevan.


Werkha - The Rigour (First Word Records, 17 January)

Werkha's first release with First Word Records is the funk driven EP The Rigour, as he states 'this record is about reflecting on my process and the identity of Werkha as a part of my life. Music is work. In all its different ways, it's a craft that I apply myself to and exist by. As much as that is about love, it's also about pouring in time, effort, patience and rigour'. Hailing from Manchester originally, he has a steady release output since his debut back in 2012. This EP starts with the synth-boogie 'Generation X' that utilises strings creatively, as seen in hip hop vibes of 'Swing Thru' and the groovy jazz breakbeat 'Favourite Corner' that has some especially funky guitar lick driving through. Berry Blacc provides slick RnB vocals in 'The Key' whilst the summery vibes come through with 'in Sunny G' as Ellen Beth Abdi's vocal hook adds soul to this groover, with the drums being particularly busy and fresh on this number.


Buy the record here, and keep up to date with Werkha here.


Cap Kendricks - Keepsakes [Reworks] (Melting Pot Music, 22 January)

The new EP release from Munich-based producer Cap Kendricks is the reworking of some of his beats from his 2018 album Keepsakes from his favourite artists, including Douniah, Kid Abstrakt, Misha, Sisi Jalé and Arletis. This builds on his work with some of Germany's finest MCs as the reworks offer fresh soulful and rap interpretations of the rich analogue and synth sounds Kendricks has developed. The deep atmospheres of melancholy displays how he has been influenced by J Dilla, Easy Mo Bee, Flylo, Madlib, James Blake and Betty Ford Boys in these evocative remixes.


Buy the record here, and keep up to date with Cap Kendricks here.


Stefano Rocco Quartet - A New Night, A New Day (Self-Release, 24 January)

Italian jazz guitarist Stefano Rocco, based in Sydney since 2014 after studying jazz in London for five years, has released his debut album A New Night, A New Day with his quartet, presenting both modern and classic takes on latin and jazz. Having co-hosted a weekly jazz night since 2018 in Surry Hills, Sydney with pianist Nick Southcott who features in the album, the album is a story made of seven episodes. Chronologically unfolding over the lapse of 24 hours, each song represents a place, a time, and a mood felt by the unknown character at the centre of the story. The music uses the idea of dark and light, night and day to emphasise the contrasting and evolving situations and the passing of time. Having released 'Ready, Steady' as the first single, Rocco has uploaded a live session of 'A New Night' that provides an excellent excerpt into the quartet's style and the craft of Rocco's work in his original compositions.


Buy the record here, and keep up to date with Stefano Rocco here.


Cherise - Paradise (Self-Release, 31 January)

Cherise has dropped her debut EP Paradise as she continues to breakthrough the jazz scene, having been crowned as Jazz FM's Vocalist of the Year in 2019. Since graduating from Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music in 2017, she has performed at EFG London Jazz Festival, The Royal Albert Hall, The Kennedy Centre in Washington D.C. and Love Supreme having come through the Tomorrow's Warriors programme in her youth, which she now works as a tutor and leader at. She states that 'the main themes of the EP are honesty and escapism. It begins and ends with songs that are about escaping to an environment that brings inner peace. In Paradise this is through imagining a separate and pure reality.' With a touch of Sade and her confident vocals that scat through the EP, she is joined by a rhythm section that push the melodies in their sensual and spacious grooves and combines the ambient neo-soul and breezy jazz together. Expect new music from her in 2020 as well as a collaboration with Nubiyan Twist.


Buy the record here, and keep up to date with Cherise here.


Shabaka & The Ancestors - Go My Heart, Go To Heaven (Impulse!, 31 January)

Shabaka & The Ancestors have announced their new album We Are Sent Here By History, which is due for release on 13 March, as it is the first record for the ensemble on Impulse!. Ahead of the album’s release, the group has shared the first single 'Go My Heart, Go To Heaven' which has an evocative video that offers a glimpse into the album's message. Shabaka says 'We Are Sent Here by History is a meditation on the fact of our coming extinction as a species. It is a reflection from the ruins, from the burning. a questioning of the steps to be taken in preparation for our transition individually and societally if the end is to be seen as anything but a tragic defeat. For those lives lost and cultures dismantled by centuries of western expansionism, capitalist thought and white supremacist structural hegemony the end days have long been heralded as present with this world experienced as an embodiment of living purgatory.' The bass and drums combine particularly well to offer the freedom for the song to flow and weave behind the drooling sound of Shabaka as he plays the saxophone with an amazing dexterity, as the song tantalises what the rest of the album hopefully will be like, just full of free jazz slammers.


Buy the record here, and keep up to date with Shabaka & The Ancestors here.


Testiculo y Uno - Two (Melting Pot Music, 31 January)

Testiculo Y Uno are Hulk Hodn and Twit One, two producers from Cologne in Germany. In 2009 they produced the first volume of the ground-breaking Hi-Hat Club series that kicked off the careers of beatmakers like Suff Daddy, Dexter and Brenk Sinatra. 10 years later they have recorded a second album called Two, as the first 10 tracks are produced by Twit ONe and the rest by Hulk Hodn. Tracks 'Everyonesaysho', 'Wasabi Terraces', 'Larry Wah Nam', 'Westcoastin'', and 'Gohead' offer the most inspired beats that lock you in a deep head bopping mood of chill hop.


Buy the record here.


Dan Rosenboom - Absurd in the Anthropocene (Gearbox Records, 31 January)

Trumpeter and composer Dan Rosenboom embraces imbuing spontaneity and improvisation, given its relevance in a time marked by unpredictability and absurd realities, and so Absurd in the Anthropocene magnificently demonstrates his approach in curating an abstract and experimentalist record. Rosenboom states 'maelstrom and cognitive dissonance are everywhere, online and on the news. People cherry-pick what they want to believe and discount factual data. Inequity is rampant. In the face of such overwhelming chaos, turning toward our inner humanity is a powerful move. I want to take all that emotional fuel, and turn it into something creative, spontaneous, and beautiful.' The album surpasses this aim as 'Mr Lizard Said' and 'Heliopteryx' provide the most tilting and spiralling heavy jazz numbers, with 'Apes in Rapture' feeling like the most triumphant in the big band style it emanates. The use of the bass and synths as low end gurgling, wobbling and shimmering tones deliver the layers of absurdity amongst the magnificent horns and woodwind sections, particularly impressive in 'Green Moon' and 'Pushed to the Edge'; Rosenboom's own soloing is spectacular in 'Still' and 'Forget What You Know'. There's also space for some rock numbers, with the guitar wailing strong in 'Lemonade' and 'Obsidian Butterfly' offering a grand testimony to Rosenboom's influence of Frank Zappa and Soundgarden. The album is simply a glorious selection of slick abstract, heavy jazz.


Buy the record here, and keep up to date with Dan Rosenboom here.

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