NICOLAS BEARDE; I Remember You (Right Groove)

Sunday, 11 August 2019 18:19 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

altIt can't have escaped your attention that 2019 marks Nat King Cole's centenary. To celebrate the "100 up" much of the maestro's back catalogue has been reissued alongside plenty of rarities (particularly an "international" version of his hits), at the same time plenty of artists have offered their own tributes via their own interpretations of the Cole repertoire. Most prominent, of course, was the Gregory Porter collection.

Latest to offer a Cole tribute is acclaimed jazz baritone Nicolas Bearde... a lifelong fan of Cole and one of his chief inspirations and influences. Refreshingly, Bearde's King Cole homage is a little different to most of the others available. For starters Nicolas has avoided covering too many of Cole's "big songs". So no 'Mona Lisa' or 'Nature Boy' here; 'L-O-V-E' is probably the most "Cole-associated" song on this menu. Instead you can enjoy things like 'The Rules Of The Road', 'Thou Swell', 'That Sunday, That Summer', 'Funny Not Much' and 'I Remember You' for which the album is titled.

The second way in which this Cole collection is a little different is in the song treatments. The arrangements are new and fresh and all but three of the tracks use the classic piano, drums and bass accompaniment. Eric Alexander's tenor sax adds colour to 'That Sunday, That Summer', 'Funny Not Much' and 'Thou Swell'.

Thirdly, it's Bearde's elegant baritone that makes this song selection special and different. Nic's warm and caramel-infused vocals offer fresh perspectives without losing any of the inherent romance and heartbreak of the Cole versions.

Nicolas Bearde: 'I Remember You' is released on August 30th and Nicolas will be appearing at Pizza Express Soho on Wed. August 21st.

(B.B) 4/5



Friday, 09 August 2019 18:10 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

altThe Lewis Express first steamed into our consciousness last year with a lovely, eponymous soul jazz album that recreated (with a 21st century twist) the piano led jazz of people like Ramsey Lewis, Young-Holt, and Ray Bryant. We learned that the band were made up of George Cooper, Piano; Neil Innes, Bass; Sam Hobbs, Drums; and Pete Williams, Percussion and that they'd started off as the studio band for Leeds-based ATA Records. ATA, by the way, stands for "All Things Analogue" – so that should give you a clue as to where they're all coming from.

Last month we were delighted to learn that a new album was on the way – signalled by the single 'Clap Your Hands'/'Stomp Your Feet'. The former is a Ramsey Lewis ''Hang On Sloopy' kind of thing while the latter is ultra mod dance floor friendly – perfect for those who like to boogaloo!

The new album – named for 'Clap Your Hands' – has just been released and both 'Clap Your Hands' and 'Stomp Your Feet' are featured. The remaining six tunes offer more of the same carefully crafted soul jazz – plenty more to boogaloo and/or walk the dog to (we're bopping to 'Flat Palm Avenue' right now. If, on the other hand your dancing shoes are more of the Latin variety you can opt for the irresistible 'Danca De Duas Maos' or the even more exotic 'Moola Umemo'.... great stuff!

All eight tunes are band originated and just maybe it would have been interesting if they could have tried their hand at a big soul cover – in the way that Ramsey Lewis always did.... maybe next time? In the meantime, climb aboard the Lewis Express time machine and enjoy the trip back to mingle with the in crowd at the Bohemian Caverns!

(BB) 3/5

Last Updated on Friday, 09 August 2019 18:24


P.P. ARNOLD: 'The New Adventures Of ...P.P. Arnold' (earMusic)

Friday, 09 August 2019 07:00 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF


Pat Arnold's solo career started spectacularly with a big bang in 1967 only to disappointingly fizzle out three years later. By 1970, the big-voiced Los Angelino and former Ikette, who had settled in London, was without a record deal but began earning a living as a background vocalist, both in the studio and touring with name musicians. Occasionally she recorded one-off singles under her own name or made cameos as a guest artist on charting dance records (such as The Beatmasters' 'Burn It Up' and Altern-8's  'Evapor-8') but until 2017, when a long lost album from the late 60s/early 70s helmed by Bee Gee, Barry Gibb, was released, she hadn't made an LP since 1968.  Appropriately enough, the album was called 'Turning Tide' and loved by the critics, played a pivotal role in reviving the singer's career. Now, finally, we have the first album of brand new P.P. Arnold material since 1968's Immediate LP, 'Kafunta.'

'The New Adventures Of...' reminds us of what the world was missing out on when Arnold wasn't making her own records. Her distinctive, church-reared voice - now weathered but still soulful at 72-years-old  - fronts a kaleidoscopic melange of R&B, pop and rock flavours written and produced in collaboration with Ocean Colour Scene and Paul Weller band member, guitarist/songwriter, Steve Craddock. The US soul-meets-UK pop sensibility of the singer's '60s sides for Immediate is present in the DNA of some of the new material. The opener, the infectious 'Baby Blue,' with its subtle orchestral touches, has a nostalgic 60s pop feel, as does the shimmering 'Magic Hour,'  while the stirring 'Finally Found My Way Back Home' is imbued with a sanctified gospel feeling. 

In acute contrast, the house music-inspired 'Hold On To Your Dreams' has a completely different vibe, evoking memories of Arnold's cameos on '80s and '90s dance records. Different again is the long 'The Last Thoughts On Woody Guthrie,' Arnold's distinctive take on a Bob Dylan poem, which is recited over an eerie percussive groove. She also covers two Paul Weller tunes, the '60s-esque 'When I Was Part Of Your Picture' with baroque orchestration and the more ruminative, 'Shoot The Dove.'  The singer's versatility is spotlighted again on 'I'm A Dreamer,' which shows that Arnold can convincingly  do anthemic power ballads without making them sound cheesy. Even more powerful is the album's closing song, the haunting 'I'll Always Remember You,' which is the singer's moving lament for her daughter Debbie, who perished in a car crash during the mid-'70s. It concludes what is a fabulous showcase for a singer whose talent never received the rewards it deserved.

(CW) 4/5

Last Updated on Friday, 09 August 2019 07:11


VARIOUS: Serving Up Some Soul (Jasmine)

Wednesday, 07 August 2019 18:22 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

altLatest compilation from budget label Jasmine is a superb collection of embryonic soul – 25 memory jerking tracks all released prior to 1963 (the date after which royalties kick in). You know you're in for a treat from the cover which sports a classic black and white pic of the Impressions  in full flight. Curtis, Sam and Fred look ultra cool in their tuxedos. Their included track is 'Minstrel And Queen' – one of Curtis' famed "story" songs. The Impressions are just one of many big names on the album. You can also enjoy Jr Walker's 'Cleo's Mood, Chuck Jackson's 'Any Day Now', Walter Jackson's 'I Don't Want To Suffer' and The Supremes' 'Your Heart Belongs To Me'. The sound on that last one (a Smokey song, by the way) sums up the magic of the album. It's rough round the edges but very atmospheric – which, of course, was the attraction of early Motown. Sadly the song, Mr Robinson not withstanding didn't chart, justifying the girl's 1962 nickname at Htsville – "the no-hit Supremes".

Many of the other artists on this album, unlike the Supremes, remained "no hit" performers but that doesn't make contributions from people like Sidney Barnes, Jamie Coe, Leroy Jones, Jean Dushon, Eli Lee and others any less important in the evolution of soul... and that's exactly what this album is all about. Here is soul music in its infancy with artists (like the Supremes and the Impressions) searching for their special and unique sound which went on to resonate world wide.

(BB) 4/5

Last Updated on Wednesday, 07 August 2019 18:32


STEVE COLE: Gratitude (Mack Avenue/Artistry)

Saturday, 03 August 2019 15:46 Bill Buckley E-mailPrintPDF

altSax man Steve Cole is the "Mr. Reliable" of smooth jazz. He rarely fails to deliver a classy set of glossily produced, melodic, foot tapping and head nodding tunes and this new 10 tracker is classic Steve Cole. That's to say, it's packed with his trademark soul-infused, sax-led grooves – like the big opener 'Good News Day'. There's more of the same on the oddly titled 'Five60H83', 'Can't Get Enough' and 'Let's Go'. 'Starting Over' is a touch funkier, featuring some 'Shaft' style guitar from Bernd Schoenhart while the bouncy 'Soho' (Cole's tribute to Brit soul bands Incognito and the Brand New Heavies) is another pleaser. 'Neo Soul' offers a second "homage"; here the inspiration is Ramsey Lewis's 'Sun Goddess'

The album's focus cover cut is a version of Skip Scarborough's 'Love Ballad'. Steve takes no liberties with the beautiful melody and vocalist John James plays it straight too, though the sax is the lead... Mr. James' sweet cooings are the backing vocals to those lead lines.

Elsewhere, 'Toronto' brings the album to a moody close while the album's title track is a sweet and slow, melodic meander. Its title (and that of the album) is significant. We're told that Steve Cole recently suffered a health scare (no more details than that) and this whole long player is his way of showing "gratitude" to those who cared for and supported him.

'Gratitude' has been co-produced with longtime collaborator and fellow saxophonist David Mann and sensibly Cole and Mann use the same band throughout ... his regular rhythm section, bassist Lamar Jones and drummer Khari Parker playing alongside guitarist Bernd Schoenhart, organist Ricky Peterson and horn players Trevor Neumann and Dan Levine. The empathy is obvious and between them they craft classic smooth jazz/classic Steve Cole.

(BB) 3/5

Last Updated on Saturday, 03 August 2019 16:01


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