Guitarist Tom Excell's Nubiyan Twist is one of the more substantial groove-based fusion outfits orbiting the perimeter of Britain's alternative jazz world. The band combines soul, funk, modal jazz, hip hop, and West African Afrobeat and highlife in a dancefloor-friendly melange which is a whole lot of fun while also possessing some depth. Based in Leeds in the north of England, the ensemble inhabits a similar bag as London's Ezra Collective and Levitation Orchestra.
Freedom Fables is Nubiyan Twist's third full-length album since 2015 and follows 2019's Jungle Run (Strut). That album included cameo appearances by the late Afrobeat drums auteur Tony Allen and Ethio-jazz pioneer, vibraphonist Mulatu Astatke. On Freedom Fables, cameo appearances include previous guest vocalists Ruby Wood and Cherise Adams-Burnett , an outstanding young singer who is destined for greatness, and first-time additions to the line-up, alto saxophonist and rapper Soweto Kinch and Ghanaian highlife vocal stylist Pat Thomas.
Lyrically, the album touches on serious subjects such as the objectification of women, and colonialism and its legacy. Adams-Burnett stars in a witty costume-drama video for her track "Tittle Tattle." The storyline concerns the comeuppance of an eighteenth century English aristocrat and rake, who is punished with a little light femdom and sploshing (look it up). You can check the film out on YouTube. Kinch is featured on another standout track, "Buckle Up," rapping and playing a soulful alto solo.
Ultimately, Freedom Fables is more of a visceral than cerebral experience, but, as George Clinton so memorably put it, "Free your ass and your mind will follow."
Morning Light; Tittle Tattle; Ma Wonka; Buckle Up; Keeper; If Only; Flow; 24-7; Wipe Away Tears; If Only; If I Knew.
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In addition to writing and editing for All About Jazz, Chris is editor of the British style/culture/history magazine Jocks&Nerds and consultant Afrobeat historian for Google Arts & Culture and Partisan/Knitting Factory Records.