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Articles by Chris May

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Billy Parker's Fourth World: Freedom Of Speech

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Drummer Billy Parker's 1975 album only tangentially connects to Fourth World music, the pancultural style which was given its name five years later by Jon Hassell on Fourth World Vol. 1: Possible Musics (Editions EG, 1980), the trumpeter's first collaboration with Brian Eno. Parker's Fourth World is the name of the band heard on Freedom Of Speech, which, Parker says in his sleeve note, “was born out of the need to preserve and develop on a tradition brought to these ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Zara McFarlane: Arise!

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Zara McFarlane is a London-based singer and composer with a voice like an angel and a style that reflects her cultural roots in the Caribbean and in the mash-up that is modern metropolitan Britain, where jazz, grime, hip hop, reggae and other musics of black origin are hybridising and shape-shifting with joyful abandon. She is an alumnus of Tomorrow's Warriors, the band and outreach organisation co-founded by bassist Gary Crosby in 1991 with a special focus on young jazz musicians ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Jon Hassell: Listening To Pictures (Pentimento Volume one)

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By the time even the most revolutionary musicians reach their ninth decade, few are any longer making edgy work. All too often, conservatism has kicked in or, if not that, a younger generation has come along and moved the goal posts. But on Listening To Pictures (Pentimento Volume One), Jon Hassell, the creator of fourth-world music in the 1970s and other innovations since, is as venturesome as ever. Listening To Pictures is Hassell's first new release since Last Night The ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Azar Lawrence: Elementals

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Azar Lawrence sounds more like John Coltrane than John Coltrane ever did. Well, almost. Mid-period Coltrane that is, post Atlantic Records and the sheets of sound, when Coltrane starting to record for Impulse with producer Bob Thiele. The closeness of the resemblance is longstanding and uncanny, but it has not been a cynical pose designed to maximise Lawrence's commercial appeal. He was 15 years old when Coltrane passed away in 1967 and by that time the older saxophonist had already ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Kamaal Williams: The Return

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Cross-pollination of jazz and hip hop has spread fast during the 2010s. In-the-moment creativity and giving-the-drummer-some are powerful synergies. In the US, key players include Kamasi Washington, Thundercat and Christian Scott. In Britain, they include the extended family of musicians associated with reed player Shabaka Hutchings and the Brownswood Recordings label. Some of the British players are featured on the previously reviewed We Out Here (Brownswood, 2018), which is a great snapshot of the scene as it exists in London ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Sun Ra: God Is More Than Love Can Ever Be

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Sun Ra is best known for the extensive archive of recordings he made with his Arkestra, and most Ra enthusiasts are probably first attracted to his work by the sui generis imagination he brought to arranging for large ensembles. These span the recalibrated swing-band tropes of Jazz In Silhouette (Saturn, 1959), a perfect choice for an advanced-level Blindfold Test, through off-planet takes on exotica such as those compiled on the previously reviewed Exotica (Modern Harmonic, 2018), and on to such ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Svein Finnerud Trio: Plastic Sun

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From the early years of Norwegian jazz, few albums have stood the test of time as well as the venturesome and subtly psychedelic Plastic Sun. It was the Svein Finnerud Trio's second disc, and was released on Sonet in 1970. Inexplicably for an album of such beauty, it has been a hard-to-find collector's item for decades, having only been reissued once before, in 1998, as a CD on the Norwegian Jazz Federation's Odin label. In April 2018, Odin have reissued ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Kimoko Kasai with Herbie Hancock: Butterfly

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Reissues from Herbie Hancock's jazz-funk catalogue are always welcome, and few more so than Be With Records's vinyl-only edition of this long-neglected beauty. Recorded in Tokyo in 1979, it is comprised in the main of vocal versions of six Hancock originals and was singer Kimoko Kasai's fourth CBS-enabled collaboration with a leading US jazz musician--following Satin Doll with Gil Evans in 1972, In Person with Oliver Nelson in 1974 and Kimoko Is Here with Cedar Walton in 1975. The line-up ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Joe Armon-Jones: Starting Today

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Something exceptional is happening in London in spring 2018. A succession of albums, recorded by an intimately connected community of around 60 young musicians, is taking jazz in ear-opening new directions. Hybridisation and genretic modification are the names of the game, but the scene also reaffirms the music's traditional building-blocks, among them the creativity of black musicians in Britain, North America, the Caribbean and Africa. Nothing quite like this has happened in Britain for around 30 years. Not on this ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Idris Ackamoor & The Pyramids: An Angel Fell

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In 2016, California-based tenor saxophonist Idris Ackamoor relaunched his 1970s spiritual-jazz band, The Pyramids, and released a corking new album, We Be All Africans (Strut Records). In spring 2018, he has released another outstanding disc with another almost entirely new line-up. The only musician who is held over from We Be All Africans is violinist Sandra Poindexter, who has replaced Ackamoor's 1970s frontline foil, flautist Margo Simmons. Poindexter's gritty playing, which harks back to the pioneering work of Association for ...