May 25, 2010

V4YS Album Review - José James & Jef Neve - For All We Know (Impulse! Recordings)

We mentionned in late 2009 José James & Jef Neve remarkable live jazz project paying tribute to Alice and John Coltrane (we even included it in our 2009 favorite records even though it was only a live act, check the link for the full Brussels live video).
At the same time they signed on the legendary Impulse! Recordings label and were supposed to release an album this year. So here is "For All We Know".
Contrary to what I expected this record is not a studio version of their Coltrane project, but their interpretation of 9 timeless jazz classics. The sensibility of Jef Neve's piano play and the mesmerizing baritone voice of José fit perfectly together. The duo manages to create an intimate soul-stirring musical atmosphere that should appeal to many jazz fans.
Almost all of the record was recorded in one take during a half-day-long session in a Belgian studio, thus preserving the spontaneity of each adaptation.
Among the standards they decided to refresh let's mention their fantastic version of "Autumn In New-York" from Vernon Duke, the sweet cover of George & Irva Gershwin's "Embraceable You" made famous by Billie Holiday, the bluesy take of Andy Razah & Don Redman's "Gee Baby, Ain't I Good To You" or the juicy "Just Squeeze Me (But Please Don't Tease Me)" from Duke Ellington & Lee Gaines made famous by Ella Fitzgerald.

So after his own second album "Black Magic", released earlier this year and which explores nu-soul and abstract beats, and then the phenomenal live show he recently gave in Paris (review here) to promote it, José once again demonstrates the extent of his talent with this album focusing on his pure jazz side.

A true moment of refinement and class!

The duo is perfoming in many countries this summer, all dates here!

Below a small video with José & Jef discussing this album, you can also listen to several tracks among which "Autumn In New-York" HERE.

May 23, 2010

La Villette Jazz Festival 2010, Paris 31/08 - 12/09

For all our parisians readers out there I wanted to highlight the exceptional line-up of this year La Villette Jazz Festival that will take place early september.
Among others :
- Gil Scott-Heron , who will be there for his second parisian date of the year (not to be missed for those who could not attend his recent phenomenal gig at the New Morning, review here)
- two promising acoustic sessions from the explosive soul/funk singer Alice Russel
- a great afrobeat evening with Jimi Tenor and Kabu Kabu joined by the legendary drummer Tony Allen with whom they released a great album last year.
- a special nu-jazz set with one of the most gifted contemporary jazz pianist, Robert Glasper joined by nu-soul singer Bilal (I guess Robert will be playing Rhodes for the occasion, reflecting his nu-soul side).
- a contemporary jazz evening with the talented italian saxophonist Stefano Di Battista preceded by the funky french jazz pianist Eric Legnini.
Full listing and booking info on the festival site.

En Français dans le texte : 
Je tenais à signaler la programmation exceptionnelle du Festival Jazz A La Villette 2010 qui se tiendra début septembre.
Derrière la légende Gil Scott-Heron qui nous gratifie d'une seconde date parisienne après son come-back inoubliable au New Morning il y a quelques jours (compte-rendu ici), la direction artistique du festival nous a concocté diverses surprises alléchantes. 
Entre autres : 
- deux sessions accoustiques de l'explosive chanteuse soul/funk Alice Russel
- une soirée afrobreat de haut vol réunissant Jimi Tenor et son groupe Kabu Kabu et l'éternel batteur de Fela, Tony Allen, avec qui ils ont enregistré un superbe album l'an passé. 
- un set nu-jazz associant le brilliant pianiste de jazz Robert Glasper (jouant probablement du Rhodes pour l'occasion) et le chanteur nu-soul Bilal
- une soirée jazz qui verra le pianiste français Eric Legnini, au jeu souvent très funky, ouvrir la voie pour un concert de l'excellent saxophoniste italie Stefano Di Battista.
Toute la programmation et les modalités de réservation ici.

May 17, 2010

V4YS Selection #9 - Nu-School

Everyone knows about the "Nu-Soul" movement blending beautiful soul voices with groove, beats and modern musical productions techniques. Sade, Maxwell, Eryka Badu, D'Angelo or Raphael Saadiq are some of the well-known artists that have created this great musical space.
Next to it a relatively more underground scene has been emerging these past few years trying to perpetuate the "old-school" soul/funk sound from the 60's/70's.
Several independent labels like Stones Throw, Ubiquity, Truth&Soul, just to name a few, have been promoting a myriad of bands from all over the world.
Listening to their records it is sometimes difficult to believe that these artists are contemporary as their mastering of original "rough" productions techniques coupled with their love and culture of Soul/Funk golden age allow them to recreate a musical atmosphere very close to the 60's/70's.

Mixing young musicians to forgotten stars from the 70's that offer themselves a second career (think of Lee Fields or Charles Bradley) they offer a wide range of styles (Classic Soul, Funk or even instrumental jazz/funk). As their ancesters they deliver their full force on stage as we mentionned it several times in our live reviews (see our  Menahan Street Bands & Lee Fields or Gizelle Smith & The Mighty Mocambos live reviews for the most recent ones).

As far as I know there is no particular name to define this genre, so I'll call it "Nu-School" to distinguish it from its "Nu-Soul" sister.
In this selection I tried to pick some tracks of my "Nu-School" favorite artists. You may already be highly familiar with them, if not I hope I hope that it will tease you enough to make you want to dig deeper into their work and go see them live!

Enjoy! (you can listen or dwld the podcast on divshare or listen to the track by track streaming on the 8-track player)

In this podcast you'll listen to (in order) : Aloe Blacc, The Soul Snatchers, Gizelle Smith & The Mighty Mocambos, Nicole Willis & The Soul Investigators, Mayer Hawthorne, Lee Fields & The Expressions, Greyboy Feat. Quantic & Sharon Jones, Breakestra, Speedometer, The Bamboos Feat. Alice Russel, Poets Of Rhythm, The New Mastersounds, El Michels Affair, Menahan Street Band.

You can check all of our podcasts/selections here.

May 11, 2010

V4YS Concert Review - Gil Scott-Heron - Live At New Morning, Paris (10/05/10)

Gil Scott-Heron (second set)
It's been almost 10 years.
We had to wait such a long time to have the immense pleasure of seeing Gil Scott-Heron back in France, in his beloved "New Morning" venue in central Paris.
So time has been passing by, the man has been going through his fair share of struggles, but him and his eternal talent have not "disappeared" as he joked during his hilarious intro speaches.
To add to the legendary tone of this very special evening, Gil was supported by long-time companions from "The Midnight Band" and "Amnesia Express" years, Glenn Turner (Keyboards, Harmonica), Brian Settles (Saxophone, Flute) & Tony Duncanson (Congas).
Together they offered two separate concerts in the same evening, each lasting just shy of 2 hours.

I attended both shows, each were identical as far as the tracklisting is concerned, focusing on classics with only "I'll Take Care Of You" from the recent album "I'm New Here".
Gil Scott-Heron (first set)
 1 Blue Collar
2 Winter In America
3 We Almost Lost Detroit - Work For Peace Medley
4 Three Miles Down
5 I'll Take Care Of You
6 Did You Hear What They Said
7 The Other Side (Part I, II & III)
8 The Bottle
9 "encore", don't remember which track it was, please help if you were there! 

Gil started alone on stage and after only three notes from his unseparable Rhodes Keyboards and the first two lines from "Blue Collar", if anybody in the audience still had any doubt, they were reassured : Gil is really back.
His unique deep & hoarse voice still carries the same amount of emotions than it did 10, 20 or 30 years ago. Even more touching was the genuineness of his interpretation (for each track of the show). He's been singing these classics a million times, but he still truly "feels" his decades-old socially-conscious lyrics and he should as, for most of them, they sadly still are particularly relevant these days.  
"Winter In America" was also sung alone at the Rhodes and introduced with a tale he made classic over the years, the "meeting between the seasons". The band came on stage for the medley blending one of my favorite Gil's song, "We Almost Lost Detroit", with "Work For Peace".
Making the audience laugh between each song with his always well-found quips about different subjects (his digression about the icelandic volcano was particularly funny), Gil also had us participate to help singing the easy chorus from the beautiful song "Three Miles Down" depicting the miners terrible work environment(audio below).

Brian Settles
Glenn Turner
 His band stood up to his standard : flute and tenor sax solos full of sensibility from Brian Settles, energetic harmonica parts from Glenn Turner or the final crazy 7-or 8-mn long congas impro in the middle of "The Bottle" by Tony Duncanson (reminding me of live explosions from the late Ray Barretto) were all brilliant.

Not much to add after such a fantastic moment, ah yes, something I was wondering yesterday night : if there were more Gil's, the world would surely be a better place!

Below a few treats : videos of the medley  "We Almost Lost Detroit-Work For Peace" from the second set and audio streaming of "Three Miles Down". Hope you'll like it!

Part 1 :

Part 2 :

"Three Miles Down", with a little help of the New Morning audience, the superb lyrics (not the easy chorus!) can be found (here) :

A few add-ons :

- If you want to know more about Gil's work, I suggest you watch the great 1-h long documentary done by the Bbc a few years back, youtube streaming here.

- If you're into "socially-conscious" soul/funk, you may also enjoy listening to our recent "Lyrics Do Matter" selection/podcast assembling some of our favorite tracks in that space.

- Finally for the french fans who missed the show yesterday, be aware that Gil will be performing early July at Gilles Peterson's Worldwide Festival in Sète, and in early september in Paris at La Villette Jazz Festival (tickets should be on sale in June).

May 8, 2010

V4YS Ep/Album Review - Broken Social Scene - Forgiveness Rock Record (Arts And Craft Records)

This blog is first and foremost about my love for "black" music in its widest sense, but as I said in our first folk podcast post (available here), I'll be mentionning indie/folk favorites from time to time as it also is an essential part of my musical universe.
This week one my favorite band in that space, Toronto-based collective Broken Social Scene, has finally released on the label Arts And Craft an outstanding 4th album titled "Forgiveness Rock Record".

Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning are still at the helm of their resplendent ensemble but there have been several changes in the making-of.
The core band is tighter (7 main members on this record) and they left their canadian homebase to record this album in Chicago with local indie-scene musician and producer John McEntire. Some thing did not change however, they sticked to to their "collective "spirit by having lots of guests and "additional members" participate in the record such as well-known former members Leslie Feist and Emily Haines and several windy-city's alternative rock scene musicians.

So what does it sound like?
This album is definitely closer from traditional "indie rock" than their previous works, with most tracks being true "songs" with vocals as opposed to the more abstract "compositions" distinctive of their fantastic ealier productions.
The brilliant opening anthem, "World Sick", symbolizes this. If the band is immediately identifiable notably through their mesmerizing deluge of guitar sounds and deep extended intro and outro, the power radiating from the amazing chorus feels "indie" in its primal sense. So does the heavy like "Forced To Love" that should rocks quite a bit when performed live or "Water In Hell".
Still, their unique melancolic ambient sound signature is never far way and keeps meandering gently deep inside this record. It sounds all the more this way in more laid-back songs like "Sweetest Kill" and "Romance To The Grave".

The band has evolved and explores new territories with "Forgiveness Rock Record". Overall this new indie atmosphere is more cheerful than what they had accustomed us to, but the feeling of fragility and humanity radiating from this new masterpiece is as vibrant to me.

Below an overview of the record starting with the massive "World Sick" :

The band recently started a world tour, check their myspace page for all dates.

(I'm actually desperatly looking for a ticket for their May gig in Paris as it got sold out before I woke up!)

May 4, 2010

V4YS Album Review - Kings Go Forth - The Outsiders Are Back (Luaka Bop Records)

It seems the classic 60's/70's soul/funk revival movement keeps getting bigger and bigger, and we love it!
After Lee Fields, Sharon Jones or more recently Gizelle Smith & The Mighty Mocambos, here comes another old-school soul/funk album called "The Outsiders Are Back", first LP from Milwaukee-based Kings Go Forth.
To be honnest this album  is not a complete surprise as some of the album's tracks, such as the smashing "One Day", were released during these last two years as singles or appeared in nu-funk compilations (like Soulshaker).
Still, the 10-member band led by bass player Andy Noble and veteran singer Black Wolf reach a new level with this LP, released on the independant label Luaka Bop Records, that should appeal to many classic soul/funk lovers.
Using old-school productions technics, the band offers amazing vocals (with backing chorus perfectly answering Black Wolf's truly touching leading voice) and a brilliant rythmic section.
Also worth noting is the diversity of soul music styles that can be found in this record : from funky hits like "One Day", "Now We're Gone" or "Get A Feeling" to mid-tempo melancolic tunes like "Fight With Love" or "High On Your Love", or disco-style Tom Moulton's remix of "Don't Take My Shadow".

I hope they'll be touring in Europe in the coming months, for the moment Us audience can check their tour dates on their site (and they should as I heard their live acts stand up to the quality of their releases).

Below the already famous "One Day" :

May 2, 2010

V4YS Album Review - Flying Lotus - Cosmogramma (Warp Records)

Flying Lotus (Steven Ellison) is one of the most sought-after avant-gardist electronic music producer.
Several highly acclaimed Ep's and two first albums ("1983" and "Los Angeles") had many people categorize his musical style as "abstract hip-hop" but various high-profile collaborations like on José James latest Lp, "Black Magic", showed that the man can wear many (musical) hats. The richness and diversity of sounds found in "Cosmogramma" confirms he breaks all musical codes. To me this is his most interesting production to date, a must-listen.

We're talking about a real "Album" here, meaning a musical piece where it's difficult to extract such and such individual track.
Actually I should use the word "journey". To me the best travel experiences require a bit of effort (to adapt to a new environment), open-mindedness (to leave any prejudices aside) and sensibility (to be able to "feel" the unknown). Well these also probably are essential components to fully enjoy "Cosmogramma".
No clearly identifiable musical styles, no easy melodies or chorus, but an exquisitely dreamy musical atmosphere blending discontructed beats, creative keyboard waves, mesmerizing voices samples or bits and pieces of spititual jazz. Get ready to enter a brand new musical country!

In 2009 one of my favorite Lp was Bibio's "Ambivalence Avenue" which also was a musical ufo transcending electronic musical genres. I have a feeling that I already enjoy "Cosmogramma" as much if not more.
You should try it, really.

Below "And The World Laughs With You" Feat. Radiohead's Thom Yorke (but once again keep in mind that on this record each track is only a piece of an amazing puzzle):