Wild Card run riot at Jazz Café POSK

wild-card

Already hailed as one of the best 10 jazz albums of 2015 by The Telegraph and having being pronounced Album of the Week by the Evening Standard, bandleader Clément Régert was naturally in high spirits the night of his album launch at the Polish Culture Centre’s fantastic West London jazz club earlier this month. They opened with an uptempo jazz version of the Arctic Monkeys’ epic tune ‘Do I Wanna Know?’, which then mutated into a wild Afro-latin-funk extravaganza, with Graeme Flowers on trumpet and Roberto Manzin on tenor saxophone stating the main theme. While neither vocalist Natalie Williams nor their French rap artist B’loon (as featured on the album) were available to play on the night, this didn’t dampen Wild Card’s enthusiasm: both Andrew Noble with his Nord set to über-Hammond and super-cool drummer Sophie Alloway drove a feisty first set from the back.

Régert thinks of their sound as belonging to the nu-jazz category, a label which I have to admit I’ve always been slightly wary of, but as the night wore on, I could see myself coming round to this re-branding (nu-jazz is to jazz what punk was to rock according to one writer). Their second number was John Scofield’s wonderfully vibey New Orleans-style tune ‘Chicken Dog’, which reined things in a little, the guitar taking the lead and the horns bringing out the gospel feel to the bridge. It was the first time I’d heard Manzin live, and his modesty belies the searing lines he plays, easily a match for Brecker or Bergonzi.

I didn’t always catch what Clément was saying, partly because of his strong Parisian accent and partly because he mainly spoke over the intro vamps, but I caught the general drift – he was there to have a good time and he wanted us to join in the riot. The chitchat wasn't always needed because the tunes really speak for themselves – such as the lovely ballad ‘Heartbeat’, which conjured up a mellow evening drive along the coast and featured a terrific flugelhorn solo from Flowers.

Noble showed his form on ‘The Flood’, giving it dynamic depth and texture, which brought out similarly stellar solos from Manzin and Régert. The first set closed with ‘Passion, Grace and Nutella’, billed as a nod to Paco de Lucia. In the second set, they opened with a beautiful tune ‘A Day Like No Other’ brimming with adventure, we were treated to the wonderfully rhythmic ‘Shake it Off’ and finally, they closed with the funky-as-hell ‘Wild Card Theme’. The band’s influences might be eclectic and geographically wide-ranging, but their sound produces the sense of a neat, integrated unit with strong, structured writing and supple musicianship.

– Sarah Chaplin
– Photo by Clive Newnham

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