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Articles by Chris May

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Norman Connors: Love From The Sun

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Love From The Sun is the last unalloyed jazz album recorded by drummer, composer and bandleader Norman Connors under his own name, before he changed course towards R&B and then descended--yes, let us embrace a judgemental moment--into the quagmires of disco and smooth jazz. In autumn 1973, when this album was recorded, Connors, who had made his recording debut on Archie Shepp's The Magic Of Ju-Ju on Impulse! in 1967, had just come off two straight years as a member ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Ola Kvernberg: Steamdome

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Steamdome is one of those albums that defies categorisation. It is part future-jazz, part avant-rock, part deep-house, part electronica, part contemporary-classical. It is the follow-up to Norwegian violinist and film composer Ola Kvernberg's whirlwind The Mechanical Fair (Olsen, 2016). That album was memorably pitched as heralding a “mutton western" genre, and the description also fits Steamdome, which winningly references some of Ennio Morricone's compositional tropes. There are a couple of substantial differences between the two albums. The first is that ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Chip Wickham: Shamal Wind

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British flautist and saxophonist Chip Wickham is a graduate of the fertile 1990s modal-jazz scene in the northern city of Manchester. It has produced some stellar talents, amongst whom saxophonist Nat Birchall and trumpeter Matthew Halsall shine most prominently. But while Birchall and Halsall, who guests on one track on Shamal Wind, have each notched up a decent number of releases under their own names--some of them on Halsall's home town-focused Gondwana label--Shamal Wind is only Wickham's second album as ...

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Sean Khan: Palmares Fantasy

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Palmares Fantasy is the fifth album to be released by British saxophonist Sean Khan under his own name or as the leader of SK Radicals. Like its predecessors, it is a blinder, in touch with the jazz tradition while absorbing influences from beyond it and wearing its political heart on its sleeve. The music is characteristic of Khan's wide-angled aesthetic. To make it, he travelled to Rio de Janeiro to collaborate with fellow outsider, multi-instrumentalist Hermeto Pascoal, and other luminaries ...

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Nicola Conte: Let Your Light Shine On

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Italian guitarist, bandleader, crate digger and DJ Nicola Conte's journeys into musics originating from beyond Europe--be they Brazilian, Hindustani, Latin American or African--sometimes carry a touch of the touristic about them, but his work is so transparently heartfelt that it never becomes a problem. It is also, always, superbly well crafted. Conte identifies Let Your Light Shine On as a celebration of African American spiritual jazz. It is perhaps his strongest release since his acid-jazz masterpiece, Jet Sounds (Schema), in ...

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Nat Birchall: Cosmic Language

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Spiritual jazz resonates most deeply during times of social stress and turmoil. It was, after all, created by African American musicians who were engaged with the civil rights movement in the 1960s. Later given the alternative description Afrofuturist jazz, the music had one foot planted in science fiction-inspired magical realism and the other in black consciousness-inspired social activism. The balance varied from musician to musician, but even the most magical realist among them--a grouping which would include Alice Coltrane, Pharoah ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Emanative: Earth

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Every so often an album comes along that is so sweeping in its cultural scope, and so far beyond the norms of critical discourse, that it almost beggars description. Such a disc is Earth, the fourth physical-release album from drummer and producer Nick Woodmansey's Emanative and the follow-up to the band's outstanding The Light Years Of The Darkness (Brownswood, 2015). Unlike the earlier album, whose source material comprised tunes written by Sun Ra, Joe Henderson, Alice Coltrane, Don Cherry and ...

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Alina Bzhezhinska: Inspiration

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Among the highpoints of London's 2017 jazz diary was the Barbican Centre's A Concert for Alice and John. The event commemorated the 50th and 10th anniversaries of the passing of John Coltrane and Alice Coltrane. It was headlined by Pharoah Sanders, the most distinguished surviving member of bands led by the Coltranes, who turned in an unforgettable set which ranged from an exquisite “A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square" through a fiery North Africanised version of John Coltrane's “Olé" featuring ...

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Tenderlonious featuring The 22archestra: The Shakedown

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In Britain, the incidence of self-taught jazz musicians has declined dramatically over recent decades. Jazz-studies programmes have mushroomed in colleges and more and more young players have been signing up to them. Successful stylists of earlier eras, who may have studied informally with an older musician but who learnt most of their art on the bandstand, increasingly belong to the past. Ed “Tenderlonious" Cawthorne is among a handful of autodidacts who have bucked the trend. He spent much of his ...

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Rodrigo Tavares: Congo

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Guitarist Rodrigo Tavares cites his primary influences as bossa nova and tropicália pioneers João Gilberto, Dorival Caymmi, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Chico Buarque, Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil and Tom Zé. But you would not guess it from Congo, a collection of lyrical instrumentals which reference Brazil only in passing, and which consciously avoid any recognisable sense of cultural location. When composing the tunes, says Tavares, he strove to be “geographically deceiving." That approach is followed through in the arrangements and performances. ...