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Nat Birchall

Saxophonist Nat Birchall has always been something of an enigma, a sublimely soulful saxophonist hidden from view in the Northern hills of England. His debut album Sixth Sense (1999) first announced him to the jazz world as an urgent tenor saxophonist with a feel for pulsing modal hard-bop. But it was his cult hit and now highly sought after soulful slice of spiritual jazz Akhenaten (released on trumpeter Matthew Halsall’s label, Gondwana Records, in 2009) that suggested that the spirit of Coltrane was alive and well in Northern England. Acclaimed by the critics (MOJO for one hailing its ‘spacial sunship beauty’ and ‘lyrical heat haze hypnotism’) Akhenaten together with Halsall’s own releases ‘Sending My Love’ and ‘Colour Yes’ helped create the unique sound that the Independent On Sunday described as ‘rain soaked spiritual jazz from Manchester”. Growing up in a Northern Village, Birchall was hardly exposed to jazz but through some friends fell in love with roots reggae and dub in the early ‘70s and it was the legendary Jamaican jazz-influenced saxophonists, Cedric Brooks, Tommy McCook, that inspired him take up the saxophone and through them that he discovered the music of John Coltrane

ARTICLE: YEAR IN REVIEW

Chris May's Best Releases of 2019

Read "Chris May's Best Releases of 2019" reviewed by Chris May

The world may be going to hell in a handcart, but the year has been full of uplifting jazz. Here are ten of the best albums--the first seven newly recorded, the final three reissued or recently unearthed. Each one is the coyote's cojones. Yazz Ahmed Polyhymnia Ropeadope The eagerly ...

ARTICLE: ALBUM REVIEWS

Matthew Halsall: Oneness

Read "Oneness" reviewed by Don Phipps

On Oneness, trumpeter and composer Matthew Halsall has fashioned a compendium of pieces that are fixed between spiritual meditative repose and poetry in motion. The collection of seven tone poems was recorded over three sessions in 2008 and are only in 2019 being released. In the liner notes, Halsall explains: “I've always treasured these recordings and ...

ARTICLE: RADIO

Junius Paul, Piero Bittolo Bon, Avishai Cohen & Other New Releases

Read "Junius Paul, Piero Bittolo Bon, Avishai Cohen & Other New Releases" reviewed by Ludovico Granvassu

In the second part of this week's episode we continue our exploration of new and upcoming releases with two smash albums, a stunner from Piero Bittolo Bon's Bread and Fox and the debut album by Chicago bassist Junius Paul. During the rest of the show we feature Nat Birchall's tribute to Yusef Lateef and music ranging ...

ARTICLE: ALBUM REVIEWS

Nat Birchall: The Storyteller: A Musical Tribute To Yusef Lateef

Read "The Storyteller: A Musical Tribute To Yusef Lateef" reviewed by Chris May

The deification of Yusef Lateef, which began only after his passing in 2013, rests on the first decade of his long recording career, from 1957—1967, when he extended the language of jazz to include elements of Asian and Middle Eastern musics while recording for Savoy, Prestige and Impulse. After a second decade with Atlantic, where he ...

ARTICLE: ALBUM REVIEWS

Vin Gordon: African Shores

Read "African Shores" reviewed by Chris May

In 2019, British saxophonist Nat Birchall is celebrating twenty years as a bandleader. His specialism is post-John Coltrane spiritual jazz. Since 1999 he has released an album every two years or so. The most recent was the outstanding Cosmic Language (Jazzman, 2018). The next is due later this year. Fittingly for an anniversary year, it will ...

ARTICLE: ALBUM REVIEWS

Nat Birchall: Obeah Man

Read "Obeah Man" reviewed by Chris May

Welcome to the latest analog-era time warp... the vinyl revival has rebirthed the 45rpm seven-inch jazz single. The format faded away in the 1960s. Even back then, chart hits such as Stan Getz's “Desafinado" (Verve, 1962) were freak events, but before the coming of album playing FM radio stations, an edited version of an album track ...

ARTICLE: ALBUM REVIEWS

Infinite Spirit Music: Live Without Fear

Read "Live Without Fear" reviewed by Chris May

Britain's Jazzman Records has form when it comes to spiritual jazz. Its series Spiritual Jazz: Modal, Esoteric and Deep Jazz, now one release away from its tenth volume, has made accessible again some of the most worthwhile but near-lost African American music of the 1970s. The label also supports modern day British musicians. Stand out home-grown ...

ARTICLE: ALBUM REVIEWS

Maisha: There Is A Place

Read "There Is A Place" reviewed by Chris May

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 ...

ARTICLE: ALBUM REVIEWS

Nat Birchall meets Al Breadwinner: Sounds Almighty

Read "Sounds Almighty" reviewed by Chris May

The British tenor saxophonist Nat Birchall has been recording uplifting cosmic-jazz since 1999, when he self-released his debut album, The Sixth Sense, a hard-bop tinged affair which included, in tracks such as the two versions of “Helix Nebula," pointers to his future direction. It took Birchall a decade to come to wider attention, with the release ...


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