Loose Tubes – Arriving ★★★★

Lost Marble LM008
Eddie Parker (f, kys), Dai Pritchard (cl), Steve Buckley, Iain Ballamy, Mark Lockheart, Julian Nicholas, Ken Stubbs, Julian Arguelles (s), Lance Kelly, Chris Batchelor, Ted Emmett, John Eacott, Paul Edmonds, Noel Langley (t), John Harborne, Steve Day, Paul Taylor, Richard Pywell (tb), Ashley Slater (b tb, tb, MC), Richard Henry (b tb), Dave Powell (tba), Django Bates (kys, Eb horn), John Parricelli (g), Steve Watts (b), Martin France (d), Thebi Lipere, and Louis Petersen Matjeka (perc). Rec. 13, 14, 15 September 1990 and May 2014

Here’s the highly-anticipated third and final instalment in the ‘live’ trilogy of recordings from Loose Tubes’ farewell residency at Ronnie Scott’s in 1990. Following on from Dancing on Frith Street in 2010 and Säd Afrika in 2012, the new CD Arriving comes with a few unexpected bonus tracks that wouldn’t have figured in the series’ curator Django Bates’ initial plans for the set. It’s a very significant addition: they’re compositions commissioned by BBC Radio 3 from the already legendary Ronnie’s 30th anniversary comeback residency last year by the newly-resurrected Loose Tubes.

Although they seem to mark the end of the reconciliation, the title Arriving suggests otherwise; Loose Tubes could, let’s hope, be around for a while yet. With eight further gems from the original Tubes repertoire, the band’s musical palette is as idiomatically broad as its musicians were diverse. It’s clear however from listening to Arriving that it never compromised the magical collective spirit and vision that the ensemble had when it took to the stage. Bates turns to the music of the military and the big top on the funkily uplifting ‘Armchair March’ and ‘Nights at the Circus’ respectively; flautist Eddie Parker achieves a nifty take on 1980’s jazz-funk to kick start ‘Children’s Game’ while Chris Batchelor’s smoky Kind of Blue trumpet solo on John Harborne’s ‘A’ is one of many moments to be savoured. Ashley Slater in his MC role deserves a mention too (he’s more audible on this CD than previous ones) for his affectionate put-down of band members (“the inevitable solo from Django Bates. But can he play a ballad?”), a sudden call to political arms (“Let’s not go to war in Kuwait!”) and 30 years later some things haven’t changed (“Steve [Buckley] was actually recently excavated from under a giant rock in Exmoor.”)

Of the new commissions, there’s the obvious signs of maturity as Bates continues from where he left off on ‘As I was Saying...’ with a quote from ‘Sweet Williams’ (the last thing he wrote for Loose Tubes Mk1) before the arrangements take on an angular dance-like rhythmic sensibility that could have only come out of the new millennium; Eddie Parker’s ‘Bright Smoke Cold Fire’ is more old skool but superbly written with its Mahavishnu, Hermeto Pascoal and Gil Evans references. If you’ve got the first two CDs then this one’s a no brainer. But listening to both 1990 and 2014 versions, it becomes clear that this is one reunion that isn’t just dependent on celebrating past glories.

– Selwyn Harris

Jazzwise September 2015 Issue Albums Reviewed List

All these albums are reviewed in the September 2015 issue of Jazzwise which is out now – to read them all click here to subscribe and get a FANTASTIC FREE CD

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Steve Davis Say When Smoke Sessions

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Paul Dunmall/ Tony Bianco Homage To John Coltrane SLAM

Eyes of a Blue Dog Hamartia eyesofabluedogmusic.com

Michael Gibbs and the NDR Big Band Play A Bill Frisell Set List Cuneiform

Michael Gibbs and the NDR Big Band In My View Cuneiform

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William Parker For Those Who Are, Still AUM Fidelity/Centering

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Larry Carlton Strikes Twice/Sleepwalk/ Friends

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Bill Evans Complete February 1972 Paris ORTF Performance Domino

The Milo Fine Free Jazz Ensemble featuring Steve Gnitka Earlier Outbreaks of Iconoclasm Emanem

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Sons of Kemet – Lest We Forget What We Came Here To Do ★★★★

Shabaka Hutchings (ts, cl), Seb Rochford (d), Tom Skinner (d) and Theon Cross (tba) Rec. date not given

Unlike bands at the youth end of the mainstream music culture, young jazz ensembles tend to be looked upon as a work-inprogress. So it’s a rare thing for a young group’s debut to be showered with praise as much as Sons of Kemet were on the eve of their debut CD Burn in 2012. But Shabaka Hutchings’ double drum-sax-tuba quartet isn’t your typical jazz group, anyone who’s seen them live especially will have experienced the band’s intensely sensual and exhilarating combo of rhythm and melody – we can perhaps see a loose parallel on a larger scale in the US with the positive reaction to the debut of LA based saxophonist Kamasi Washington, in spite of his more stellar Flying Lotus connections.

Compared to the effects-laden, dub-like studio production on Burn, Lest We Forget... benefits from a pared down, earthy ‘live’ feel although it also gains from the kind of sonic precision associated with contemporary beats and electronica in the artful hands of its producer/band member Seb Rochford. There’s a pivotal contribution from Theon Cross, the tuba player who replaced his mentor Oren Marshall 18 months ago, delivering on the promise he revealed as a pivotal member of LOOP Collective saxophonist Tom Challenger’s Brass Mask. While Marshall’s experimental approach to the tuba is less evident, Cross’ fat brass grooves are charged with a precision and energy.

Besides the pervasive influence of Caribbean New Orleans and AfroBeat rhythms in the details, as well as on the danceable surface, for the opening track ‘In Memory of Samir Awad’ Hutchings’ raunchily stabbing tenor sax riffs have something of the flavour of Ethiojazz about them – he’s a member of Mulatu Astatké’s Heliocentrics the more eastern/Arabic influences being tied to the tragic plight of the young Palestinian of the title.

– Selwyn Harris

Jazzwise August 2015 Issue Albums Reviewed List

All these albums are reviewed in the August 2015 issue of Jazzwise which is out now – to read them all click here to subscribe and get a FANTASTIC FREE CD

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Kamasi Washington – The Epic ★★★★ Recommended

Brainfeeder BFCD05
Kamasi Washington (ts), Thundercat, Miles Mosley (b), Ronald Bruner Jr, Tony Austin, (d) Patrice Quinn (v), Ryan Porter (tb), Brandon Coleman and Cameron Graves (p, kys) plus strings. Rec. date not stated

The title is not to be taken lightly. In numbers it translates as: 3CDs; 17 songs; 32-piece orchestra; 20-piece choir; 10-piece band. With scale being such a defining feature of this music it is also worth noting that there are 172 minutes to contend with, and it is to Washington’s credit that the output is justified, first and foremost because the artistic ambition matches the sweeping production.

Known for his work with producer Flying Lotus and a member of the Los Angeles aggregation The West Coast Get Down, Washington is a player and composer with a penchant for long-form pieces in which melodic lines are ornate anthems wrapped in finely shaded orchestral threads. Although music industry marketeers will inevitably tag this as ‘spiritual jazz’ the dominant aesthetic thankfully avoids any of the sub-genre’s clichés, such is Washington’s desire to draw together references that are refreshingly disparate. In real terms that means that the all-important choral basis of the music – mostly sleek soprano lines that soar around the themes like a volley of flutes and piccolos – blends Horace Silver and Pharoah Sanders from the 1980s rather than 70s (think the former’s The Continuity Of Spirit and the latter’s Heart Is A Melody), while some of the rhythmic and harmonic content has the authoritative, dark-tolight stance of the great Horace Tapscott’s Pan Afrikan People’s Arkestra. Washington’s own playing, with his dry, stark tone and concise, clenched phrasing is impressive, but the greatest achievement of this work is the newness that springs from a deep historical root.

Moving from hard swing to funk to some of the digital age sensibilities scoped out by Thundercat, this is an album of progressive present day thinking that willfully acknowledges its debt to the past, as befits the ongoing relationship between the two. So if there is a sample of a Malcolm X speech it is relevant to the current political debate: There’s nothing wrong with being a Muslim. There is something very right about the premise and execution of this work.

– Kevin Le Gendre

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