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Summer Singles - Ben's Picks

Updated: Sep 25, 2019

There's been a whole host of tracks released throughout the summer to get excited about, and Ben does a rundown on some of his favourites from the Leeds scene and beyond:

Necktr - Cold Water (released on Wormfood Records)

Leeds 9-piece group Necktr have had a busy summer of festival appearances at Mostly Jazz Funk & Soul, Ealing Jazz, Kendal Calling and Boomtown amidst a few lineup changes which see the talented Esme Bridie (vocals), Nix Ward (keys & vocals), and Poppy William-Daniels (trumpet) move on to new opportunities. Their newest single 'Cold Water' is their first release since their Something's Happening EP from November 2018 and will be released on 11th October. Alan Raw's BBC Music Introducing in West Yorkshire show has already previewed the song (go to 12:45 on the link) and it does not disappoint. It has some strong summery vibes with stomping horns phrases as the keys solo is particularly magnificent before the song has an energetic outro. You'll next be able to bop to them live at The Wardrobe on 28th September as they support Gilles Peterson which will hopefully round off a successful summer for them.

Jasmine - Blackout (released on Tight Lines)

What a delightful treat it was to see a new single pop up from Leeds quintet Jasmine after their debut EP Bring To Light which was released back in April 2019 (read our review here). Released on 13th September and also played on Alan Raw's BBC Music Introducing in West Yorkshire show recently, 'Blackout' has a wonderful mysteriousness to it as bandleader Jasmine Whalley on alto saxophone plays superbly before the rhythm comes in on an off-kilt feel. The song has a certain eeriness to it by the end and makes you feel like you're watching a tense film noir scene as they all enhance this mood very well. After playing a host of festivals through the Jazz North scheme they won to be a part of, Jasmine will next be playing in Sheffield on 4th October and in Leeds supporting Mansion of Snakes on their debut LP launch party in November.

Freese Trio - Pleasure Island

'Pleasure Island' is the single from Leeds-based dark trip-hop electronica grunge band Freese Trio's second album The Beast in the Blueprint, with the LP having been released on 13th September. The album explores the effects of trauma, using metaphors to describe PTSD and patterns in behaviour, thoughts and emotions (please read the excellent review from Local Sound Focus here). Jemma Freese says 'each composition delves into inner demons and truths that allow the audience to be reflective and gives them space to experience vulnerability' and 'Pleasure Island' certainly does this exceptionally well. Written in 5/4, the gurgling bass prods the song along superbly alongside the loose feel from the drums, as Freese's vocals cut through darkness confidently. Having received funding support from the Manchester Jazz Festival Hothouse Scheme to record the album, the trio celebrates their immersive album with a launch party at Hyde Park Book Club tonight before playing in Huddersfield next month.

Project Hilts - Lonely Days

Another Leeds 9-piece Project Hilts released their debut single 'Lonely Days' on 16th July. Fronted by London MC/producer Hilts, an established member of the UK grime scene with some of his tracks listed on SBTV, he moved to Leeds and joined forces with some of the city's best young musicians to create this group that blends jazz with grime, hip hop, neo-soul and Latin vibes. The single is a wonderful demonstration of the ease Hilts raps over the tight rhythm section as the horns flutter in and out before the group coming together for an irresistible chorus that leads to some creative solos. Having already supported the likes of Emma-Jean Thackray, Chainska Brassika and Loyle Carner, you can see Project Hilts at Weekend Respite at Hyde Park Book Club tomorrow, as well as at The Domino Club in October, The Hootananny in Brixton and The Wardrobe as part of the Soul Rebel Sessions in December. Check out their Tight Lines session video below too for their song 'It Ain't Worth It' published in July as well.

Pyjæn - In Search of the Sticky Side (released on Deep Matter)

Moving out of the Leeds scene we start with London 5-piece Pyjæn who released their eponymous debut album today. Having released singles 'Nah' in April and 'Creation' in July, 'In Search of the Sticky Side' came out last month and displays their ability to link their rock, electro, afrobeat and hip hop influences into jazz. The song starts with a rock feel before the sax and trumpet come in with some lovely phrases before the trumpet and guitar smash their solos. They have a UK autumn tour lined up and will play in Leeds at the Soul Rebels 7th Birthday at The Wardrobe on October 5th amongst other shows in Manchester, Sheffield, London, Brighton, Newcastle and Bristol.

Blue Lab Beats - Stand Up (released on Blue Adventure/AllPoints)

London duo NK-OK and MR. DM, aka Blue Lab Beats, have released the single 'Stand Up' on 13th September ahead of their new album Voyage to come out on 18th October. After releasing their Vibes Central EP in June, the duo have collaborated with Kaidi Akinnibi (soprano sax), Richie Garrison (saxophone) and Sheila Maurice-Grey (trumpet) to create this instant afrobeat/highlife hip mover. The song has a sublime rhythm section phrase which keeps the groove constantly cool throughout as all three collaborators come in and add their sharp solos to this sensational funky bop. Their first confirmed gig after their album launch will be in London at Omera in November.

Melt Yourself Down - Boot and Spleen (released on Decca Records)

Heavy jazz punkers Melt Yourself Down return with 'Boot and Spleen' which was released back on 17th July. The song starts with a breathtaking phrase of wailing guitar before the sax jumps on in with even more aggressiveness as the song instantly gets you wanting thrash yourself around the room. The group state ''Boot and Spleen' is about being a minority in the UK and Europe at a time where the far right is intensifying its presence across the whole continent and the world.' The high energy seems appropriate in trying to reject the far-right rise that discriminates against these minorities as the whole group play together to create this powerful statement. With no release date or title yet to come from their upcoming third album, we can at least get excited that it surely will be soon as they have an autumn UK tour planned, with them visiting Leeds in November at Headrow House. Check out their video to the single below.

Rōnin Arkestra - Cosmic Collisions (released on Albert's Favourites)

Going out to the far east in Tokyo, we have been blessed by Mark de Clive-Lowe's Japanese group Rōnin Arkestra who released 'Cosmic Collisions', a belter of a jazz-funk tune, on 23rd July. In a 3/4 pattern, the song starts off with some hard-hitting piano and drums setting the tone for a voyage through some gloriously written horns phrases that continue to build throughout. After releasing their debut EP First Meeting back in March this year (read our review here), the band will follow up with a debut album on 27th September named Sonkei as this song and their second single 'The Art of Altercation' are both fantastic teasers of what is to come. Let's hope they tour the UK soon!

Joe Armon-Jones - Yellow Dandelion (released on Brownswood Recordings)

Joe Armon-Jones returns with his second album out today called Turn to Clear View only a year after his debut album Starting Today. His second single released on July 24th, 'Yellow Dandelion', features LA musician Georgia Anne Muldrow on vocals as the song has a very chilled neo-soul jazz feel to it which sumptuously swirls around Muldrow's commanding voice. Armon-Jones once again is innovative in his solos and this follows from the first single 'Icy Roads (Stacked)' released in June which is equally as ingenious and eloquent. Due to fracturing his wrist and having to postpone some of his shows for the tour of this album, he will be in Leeds on February 11th performing at Belgrave.

GoGo Penguin - Time-Lapse City (released on Blue Note France)

Finally, going back up north to Manchester, jazz-electronica trio GoGo Penguin released a single from their upcoming EP Ocean in a Drop: Music for Film named 'Time-Lapse City' on 6th September. In typical GoGo fashion, the song features some mazy non-linear drum patterns amongst a constant oscillation of piano notes and marvellous double bass work which move into a crescendoing pattern at the end. The second title track single from the EP 'Ocean In A Drop' was released today and is already familiar to fans as a live version was released on their Live At Abbey Road EP as their upcoming EP is set for an October 4th release date. The EP coincides with the start of their small but worldwide tour of their live performance of their original soundtrack to Godfrey Reggio’s 1982 cult documentary Koyaanisqatsi which they had previously performed to in a 2017 UK tour. The tour is in high demand with their homecoming Manchester date sold out, but there is still an opportunity to see them play in London at EartH on October 21st, or if you fancy going away in October to LA, San Francisco, Berlin or Paris I can assure you it will be 1000% worth all your pennies.


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