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Album Review

Nubiyan Twist: Freedom Fables

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Nubiyan Twist: Freedom Fables
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.

In the pocket support comes from a gritty four-piece horn section comprising trumpeter Jonny Enser, alto saxophonist Nick Richards, tenor saxophonist Denis Scully and baritone saxophonist Joe Henwood, who float on the tasty vamps and ostinatos of organist Oli Cadman, bass guitarist Luke Wynter and drummer Finn Booth.

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."

Track Listing

Morning Light; Tittle Tattle; Ma Wonka; Buckle Up; Keeper; If Only; Flow; 24-7; Wipe Away Tears; If Only; If I Knew.

Personnel

Tom Excell: guitar, electric; Nick Richards: saxophone, alto; Luke Wynter: bass, electric; Oli Cadman: organ, Hammond B3; Jonny Enser: trumpet; Denis Scully: saxophone, tenor; Joe Henwood: saxophone, baritone; Finn Booth: drums.

Additional Instrumentation

Nick Richards: alto saxophone, vocals; Tom Excell: guitar, bass guitar, keyboards, synthesizer, percussion; Luke Wynter: bass guitar; Oli Cadman: organ; Jonny Enser: trumpet; Denis Scully: tenor saxophone; Joe Henwood: baritone saxophone; Finn Booth: drums; Ria Morgan: vocals (1); Cherise: vocals (2, 5, 7); Pat Thomas: vocals (3); Soweto Kinch: alto saxophone, spoken word (4); Ruby Wood: vocals (6); Ella May: vocals (8).

Album information

Title: Freedom Fables | Year Released: 2021 | Record Label: Strut Records

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