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Articles by Chris May

ALBUM REVIEWS

Makaya McCraven: Where We Come From (Chicago X London)

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A summit meeting starring luminaries from two of the planet's bleeding-edge jazz scenes--London and Chicago--Where We Come From was recorded at London's Total Refreshment Centre in late 2017 and was first released as a mixtape and a download. It pitches Chicago drummer Makaya McCraven alongside four leading faces on the young London scene--tuba player Theon Cross, tenor saxophonist Nubya Garcia and keyboardists Joe Armon-Jones and Kamaal Williams--and the (slightly) longer-established alto saxophonist Soweto Kinch. Remixes are by Ben Lamar Gay, ...

YEAR IN REVIEW

Chris May's Best Releases of 2018

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After decades in the shadow of its American parent, 2018 is the year in which British jazz is finally coming of age. A growing community of London-based musicians is emerging with a unique aesthetic which reflects both the Caribbean and African musical heritages of the majority of its vanguard players and also such locally created styles as grime and garage. Jazz was created by black musicians. The new London scene is by no means racially exclusive, but there is no ...

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Dakhla Brass: Murmur

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It never really went away, but during the late 2010s there has been a measurable upsurge of interest in brassy, post-marching-band jazz in Britain. A high-carat jewel on the London scene over the last few years has been tuba player Theon Cross and his band Fyah. Cross also brings his dextrous bass line magic to several other outfits including saxophonist Wayne Francis' Steam Down Orchestra, groups led by drummer Moses Boyd, of the ferocious semi-free duo Binker and Moses, and ...

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Various Artists: Unusual Sounds: The Hidden History of Library Music

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Library music--aka stock or production music--was first marketed in the 1920s, to be used by “picture palaces" showing silent movies. Its golden age came during the 1960s and 1970s, when it provided off-the-shelf incidental music for radio, television, film and advertising. Ever since Quentin Tarantino included recordings by one of that era's most prolific British library-music composers, Keith Mansfield, on the soundtracks for Kill Bill: Volume One (2003) and Grindhouse: Death Proof (2007), the genre has acquired a collectable retro-allure. ...

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Sandman Project: Royal Family

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Guitarist Tal Sandman's raw, groovecentric, transcultural Sandman Project draws a hefty chunk of its provenance from Ethio-jazz. The band's EP Royal Family does not contain enough improvisation to qualify as “jazz" however. Further, the Ethio-jazz in the mix, mostly contributed by trumpeter Tal Avraham and bass guitarist Shay Hazan, is less forward than the echoes of the John Lee Hooker-informed desert blues of Ali Farka Touré and traces of late 1960s West African psychedelic rock, strands for which Sandman and ...

ALBUM REVIEWS

Eriksson Kaner: Changed Beings

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This download-only single is the calling card of London-based pianist / composer Eriksson Kaner--and it is a most welcome one. The track is Kaner's first step towards building a profile on the city's jazz scene after five years' study at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester. Kaner's older brother, trumpeter Axel Kaner-Lidstrom, has already made a strong impression in the capital with the Sun Ra-inspired Where Pathways Meet and as a guest soloist on spiritual-jazz septet Maisha's sublime ...

ALBUM REVIEWS

Alice Coltrane: Spiritual Eternal: The Complete Warner Bros Studio Recordings

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The most arcane albums in Alice Coltrane's catalogue are not, as is widely supposed, the post-Impulse! mid-1970s discs collected on Spiritual Eternal: The Complete Warner Bros Studio Recordings. They are instead a series of cassettes Coltrane released in limited editions on her Avatar label during the 1980s and early 1990s, when she had retired from the public arena and was focusing on devotional music and leading a meditation centre in California. Unlike the Avatar recordings, the three ...

ALBUM REVIEWS

Maisha: There Is A Place

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The London jazz scene, which is in 2018 more active and characterful than it has been since the jazz-dance movement of the 1980s, offers up another jewel with this debut physical-release by spiritual-jazz septet Maisha. The band, led by drummer Jake Long, surfaced in 2016 with the download-only live album Welcome To A New Welcome (Jazz Re:freshed) before gaining a bigger profile as the group chosen to open the epoch-defining various-artists compilation, We Out Here (Brownswood, 2018). That album was ...

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Anders Lønne Grønseth: Multiverse

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Ever since Jan Garbarek put Norwegian jazz on the map, and especially so after the international success of his rigorously ascetic Officium (ECM) in 1994, the music has acquired a reputation for being not entirely passionless, but emotionally withdrawn. The “Scandinavian sound" which Garbarek championed was conceived in collaboration with ECM label founder Manfred Eicher as an alternative to the American jazz tradition. It eschewed emotional engagement in favour of cerebralism and was often infused with harmolodic motifs borrowed from ...

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Sarathy Korwar & The UPAJ Collective: My East Is Your West

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Indo-jazz fusion has distinguished ancestry in Britain. The music took shape in the mid to late 1960s, when a string of extraordinary albums, each with one foot in Indian classical music and the other in post-bop jazz, were recorded by guitarist Amancio D'Silva and violinist John Mayer. Both featured empathetic jazz musicians (Joe Harriott, Don Rendell, Ian Carr and others) in their bands. A decade later, John McLaughlin and Shakti took up the reins. Between times, in the late 1960s ...

ALBUM REVIEWS

Charles Mingus: Jazz In Detroit / Strata Concert Gallery / 46 Selden

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Summer 2018 saw the general release of privately held recordings by two giants of twentieth century jazz. First up was John Coltrane's Both Directions At Once: The Lost Album (Impulse!). It was followed by Thelonious Monk's Mønk (Gearbox). In autumn 2018, recordings by another totemic figure, Charles Mingus, become the year's third newly revealed archaeological discovery. The release of the Coltrane album was hyped as an event akin to the excavation of the Dead Sea Scrolls, ...

ALBUM REVIEWS

Moses Boyd: Displaced Diaspora

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The pre-release anticipation surrounding drummer and producer Moses Boyd's Displaced Diaspora was a sure sign that the cultural revolution that has reset London's jazz world over the last three years has bedded itself firmly into the architecture. Not because the album is a newly recorded set--but because it is not. The disc is a selection of tracks Boyd played on and produced during 2015. When an audience can be as excited as Boyd's is, at the time of writing in ...