London DJ Gilles Peterson's worldwide touring produces some singular jazz and near-jazz experiences, the best of which he documents on his Brownswood Recordings label. Modern Cuban music figures prominently in the catalogue, and there have been several Japanese jazz albums, most memorably the Toshio Matsuura Group Group's Loveplaydance: 8 Scenes From The Floor (Brownswood, 2018). The label has released another left-field contender with Sunny Side Up, which showcases near-jazz bands from Melbourne, Australia, where there is, we learn, a thriving underground scene.
Rather as he assembled the young lions of London's emergent woke-jazz scene for a few days under the light-touch supervision of Sons of Kemet leader / saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings to record We Out Here (Brownswood, 2018), Peterson set up a similar exercise in Melbourne. Sunny Side Up was recorded over a week in a studio in the city, with saxophonist Alejandro "Silentjay" Abapo acting as musical director. The results are intriguing, though they may not appeal to jazz purists.
Unlike London, which has a jazz tradition stretching back almost a hundred years, Melbourne's engagement with the music is much more recent. Most of the musicians on this album came to jazz through funk, house and hip hop, and those influences are writ large across Sunny Side Up. Abapo, who is heard on several tracks, did a great job welding quite disparate approaches into a coherent whole, and he was ably assisted by engineer Nick Herrera. The lush, layered production frequently evokes Kamasi Washington's work, despite operating on a far smaller budget and featuring slimmer lineups ranging from trios up to nonets.
Only a few of the musicians here will be known to listeners beyond Australia, or indeed Melbourne. Abapo has recorded with Rhythm Section and toured with Flying Lotus , and singer Allysha Joy is signed to British trumpeter Matthew Halsall's Gondwana label. Stand-out tracks include Phil Strouds' four-on-the-floor astral-jazz opener, "Banksia," on which Abapo's soprano saxophone floats over synth programming which tips its hat to Alice Coltrane's Wurlitzer; and Dufresne's "Pick Up / Galaxy," which takes in the Pat Metheny Group in the early 1980s before rewinding a decade to a funkier blaxploitation vibe straight out of Isaac Hayes' Shaft soundtrack. Trumpeter / vocalist Audrey Powne's "Bleeding Hearts" is intimate and lovely. And Abajo's "Eternal / Internal Peace" goes modern astral with added splashes of flamenco guitar and bossa nova.
Banksia; Pick Up /Galaxy; There Is No Time; Bleeding Hearts; Powers 2 (The People); Nice To See You; Eternal / Internal Peace; The Wake-Up; Orbit.
Banksia (Phil Stroud): Phil Stroud: drums, conga, percussion; Ziggy Zeitgeist: loose percussion; Jack Doepel: Fender Rhodes; Matthew Hatch: lap harp, flute; Cameron Parkin: synth lead; Jimmy Bowman: trombone; Alejandro “Silentjay” Abapo: soprano saxophone;
Horatio Luna: bass guitar. Pick Up / Galaxy (Dufresne): Jimmy Bowman: keyboard, vocals, trombone, trumpet; Samuel Kuzich; drums, vocals; Luis Poblete: percussion; Matthew Lloyd: bass; Ikey: guitar, vocals; Alien: guitar, synthesiser, vocals; Alejandro “Silentjay” Abapo: keyboard, vocals; Chris Vizard: trombone; Elle Shimada: violin. There Is No Time (Kuzich): Samuel Kuzich: drums, flute, vocals; Cam Parkin: piano, Fender Rhodes, synthesiser; Alejandro “Silentjay” Abapo: soprano saxophone, vocals; Jimmy Bowman\; trombone; Ikey: guitar; Matthew Lloyd: bass; Phil Stroud: percussion; Lori: vocals;
Alien: vocals. Bleeding Hearts (Audrey Powne): Audrey Powne: trumpet, vocals; Myka Wallace: drums; James Bowers: piano; Tim Curnick: bass. Powers 2 (The People) (Zeitgeist Freedom Energy Exchange): Ziggy Zeitgeist: drums; Matt Hayes: bass; Lewis Moody: keyboards; Erica Tucceri: flutes. Nice To See You (Laneous): Laneous: vocals, bass, guitar; Las Mar: drums; Dön Võyágê: trumpet, trombone, flugelhorn. Eternal / Internal Peace (Silentjay): Alejandro "Silentjay" Abapo: saxophones, additional percussion; Jimmy Bowman: trombone; Lori: vocals; Simon Mavin: keyboards, synthesizers; Kumar Shome: guitar; Paul Bender: bass; Perrin Moss: drums, additional percussion; Luis Poblete: percussion. The Wake-Up (Horatio Luna): Horatio Luna: bass; Phil Stroud: drums, percussion; Jimmy Bowman: synthesiser, trumpet, bass trumpet; Ikey: guitar; Alejandro “Silentjay” Abapo: soprano saxophone. Orbit (Allysha Joy): Allysha Joy: vocals, Fender Rhodes; Ziggy Zeitgeist: drums; Horatio Luna: bass; Josh Kelly: saxophones; Elle Shimada: violin; Rara Zulu, Abbey Howlett, Danika Smith, Hannah Macklin: backing vocals.
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