Review: On his latest full-length excursion, British jazzman Nat Birchall has taken the bold move of replacing a piano with a harmonium. The move is reflective of his growing interest in the drone-heavy sound of Indian classical music, with the Harmonium's wheezing, modulating, held-note sound adding an authentically meditative feel to the album's raga-inspired spiritual jazz movements. Naturally, there are harmonium solos, too, and these dizzying, accordion-esque interludes, combined with freestyle drum solos, Birchall's distinctive sax playing and adventurous double bass parts, help to create a genuinely psychedelic and spiritual mood. It's adventurous stuff, but also hugely engaging and entertaining.
Heaven's Mirror (feat Idris Ackamoor & David Molina)
Iyaami (feat Dele Sosimi)
Spice Routes (feat Nat Birchall)
Egosystem (Solar Noon)
Reflection (feat Nat Birchall & Liz Elensky)
New Day (feat Ahu)
Heaven's Mirror (reprise)
Minutes To Midnight For This Planet
Raga Requiem (Dusk)
Review: For one reason or another, this is Emanative's debut for London's Jazzman imprint, with the artist having touched most other like-minded labels thus far. Better late than never, we say! It also marks Nick Woodmansey's fourth studio album to date, having travelled through Space and Time, and now landing firmly on Earth. As you'd expect, mystique and experimentation are very much a core part of this LP, morphing at every turn, shifting unpredictably amid jazz flutes, deep cello bass, and a supremely sporadic drumming aesthetic that perfectly encapsulates the 'free' element of jazz. The electronics play a part too, however, adding a noticeable aura to an already atmospheric selection of sonic patterns. A beauty, from start to finish.
Review: The 27th reissue in Jazzman's ongoing "Holy Grail Series" comes courtesy of Infinite Spirit Music, an undeniably obscure, one-off project helmed by pianist, producer and arranger Soji Ade. "Live Without Fear" was recorded in 1979 and tops the "wants list" of many spiritual jazz collectors, thanks largely to the album's superb fusion of African rhythms, soul-flecked jazz workouts, free improvisation and tribal percussion. This first ever CD edition sounds fantastic. It's hard not to fall in love with the heady bongos, rich double bass and snaking saxophone of "Children's Song", the gentle warmth of "Rasta" and the Afro-fired, tribalistic free-jazz experiments of "Ritual" and "Father Spirit, Mother Love".
London Experimental Jazz Quartet - "Destroy The Nihilist Picnic"
Ahmadu Jarr - "Kathung Gbeng"
The Braz Gonsalves 7 - "Raga Rock"
Fitz Gore - "Gisela (Lion Rock)"
Eric Nomvete's Big Five - "Pondo Blues"
Paul Winter Sextet - "Winters Song"
Tete Mbambisa - "Trane Ride"
Aquila - "Um Allah"
Review: With the previous four volumes all celebrating the many routes of jazz and its relationship with the western world, Jazzman's fifth Spiritual Jazz volume looks further afield and explores jazz from the rest of the world. From South Africa to Argentina, Jazzman have unearthed tracks that have never before ventured from their country of recorded origin and compiled the album and artist information with the level of detailed documentarianism we've come to expect from them. A truly unique listen, and a kindly reminder that while America may be home to jazz's sturdiest roots, its tendrils reach a lot further.
Solomon Ilori - "Igbesi Aiye (Song Of Praise To God)"
Review: The latest instalment in Jazzman's "Spiritual Jazz" compilation series is something of an epic. It was initially released as two separate double vinyl compilations, but is here brought together on one two CD set. It's epic for a reason, though, as it explores the little known and under-celebrated spiritual gems lurking within Blue Note's vast catalogue. Given the staggeringly high quality throughout, picking a mere handful of highlights is tough. That said, we'd suggest checking the wide-eyed dreaminess of Duke Pearson's ambient-jazz cut "Cristo Redentor", the entrancing African drums of Solomon Ilori's "Igbesi Aiye (Song Of Praise To God)", the gentle breeze of Bobby Hutcherson's "Verse" and the "Rose Rouge" style grooves and heady chants of Eddie Gale's "The Rain".
Review: Between 1988 and 2000, the shadowy crew behind the Strip label put out six volumes of "Las Vegas Grind", a compilation series celebrating sleazy - and usually undeniably obscure - rhythm and blues, rock and roll and novelty lounge records from the 1950s and '60s. Here the series returns thanks to Jazzman, who somehow managed to to track down the digger responsible - and his eccentric record collection. From skewed surf-rock and low-slung rhythm and blues to comedy big band swing, rousing proto-funk and "Rocky Horror Picture Show" style madcap stompers, the album offers a whirlwind romp through some seriously good - and not to mention especially silly - gems rescued from dollar bins, dumpsters and yard sales the World over. Do yourself a favour and check it out.