JOSÉ JAMES | QUELLE CHRIS + CHRIS KEYS | GROUP LISTENING | CASSOWARY | ANDY SHAUF
Hello again friends, freaks and fans of Future Jazz and a very Happy International Jazz Day to you!
In the week that Buzzfeed claimed it could predict which decade you should live in based on your favourite style of cheesecake (can you tell we’re in the middle of a global pandemic?), I’m serving up five tasty combinations you are guaranteed to want to gobble up.
Providing our buttery biscuit base (no, not you, blokes from Masterchef), is neo-soul superstar José James, who returns with a little bit of added swing. His collaboration with British vocalist Laura Mvula, Nobody Knows My Name is your Charm Offensive.
Layering on a filling that’s anything but vanilla, we have new music from rapper Quelle Chris and his producer bestie Chris Keys. Their song Sacred Space is your Military Coup.
Adding a Japanese-style flourish (without all the fluff) we have an ambient re-working of Cate le Bon’s track Sad Nudes byGroup Listening. That’s your Peaceful Protest.
A sharp twist of lemon zest comes from a new artist Cassowary [pictured], whose beat-music-inspired jazz and awesome musicianship is brought to the fore on your Guerrilla Warfare selection, Moth.
And finally, topping things off with some dark chocolate shavings is Saskatchewan native Andy Shauf. His track Living Room provides your Quiet Riot this week.
And so, my friends, if any of that has got you loosening your belt in anticipation (that sounded weirder than I thought it might) by all means, hear more here…
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THE CHARM OFFENSIVE
JOSÉ JAMES: NOBODY KNOWS MY NAME
In recent years Minneapolis-born singer José James has been through a period of huge reinvention, during which it’s not always been easy to decipher exactly who he is and what he wants his sound to be. From his beginnings as a Soulquarian-style neo soul bad-ass he transformed once for his jazzy cameo in a Fifty Shades of Grey film (which always felt a little two appropriately like a not-entirely-comfortable piece of role-play for him), then again for his Bill Withers and Billie Holiday tribute albums, and finally for his forays into trap music on 2017’s Love in a Time of Madness. But now, with his first self-released album No Beginning No End 2, he finally appears to be feeling himself.
That doesn’t mean he can’t bring some of his friends along, mind. On Nobody Knows My Name he brings in the considerable talents of British neo-soul singer Laura Mvula and jazz pianist Kris Bowers to fantastic effect and, combined, the trio’s swing feels genuine and breezy and cool – all the things James was on No Beginning No End 1, but now in a fresh and exciting new way.
Further reading: discover what this song’s lyrics are about in this interview with Brooklyn Vegan.
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THE MILITARY COUP
QUELLE CHRIS + CHRIS KEYS: SACRED SAFE
MELLO MUSIC GROUP
Detroit-raised, Brooklyn-based rapper Quelle Chris and producer Chris Keys re-unite following their 2015 album Innocent Country, only this time with a far higher profile. The former (known to his Mum as Gavin Christopher Tennille) caused quite the stir last year when he released the album Guns which received critical acclaim, in large part due to its acerbic critique of current American violence.
Innocent Country 2, on the contrary, feels like taking a deep breath and having a moment to reflect; nowhere more so than on Sacred Safe. Perhaps it’s the ease with which the duo work together, perhaps it’s the casual way Keys tickles the, um, keys but everything here just feels less confrontational and more content, less stressed out and more stripped-back. Sure, Homeboy Sandman pops his head in to announce how “every single person on Earth irks me” but he also drops a faux Jamaican ‘what a gwarn’ reference so, really, how pissed can he be?
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THE PEACEFUL PROTEST
GROUP LISTENING: SAD NUDES
Having had her album Reward nominated for last year’s Mercury Prize, Welsh singer-songwriter Cate le Bon and the ambient duo Group Listening (Sweet Baboo and Paul Jones) have released Here We Go Again – an EP that re-imagines five of the album’s tracks.
In this version of Sad Nudes everything is slowed-down and completely instrumental and yet, rather than feeling sparser, it actually grows richer and more textured than before. Though there’s little difference in the notes being played, the new version seems more graceful; as delicate and deliberate in its movements as a Japanese geisha and equally as captivating to behold.
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Not to be confused with a lavishly-plumed species of flightless bird (no, I’d never heard of them either), Cassowary is the nom de plume of singer and multi-instrumentalist Miles Shannon. The LA native mixes modern jazz vibes with influences from his local beat scene and this week released his debut, eponymous album.
For most people, I imagine nothing beats the excitement of hearing a great new track for the first time. Not for me. I’m a drummer so when I hear a track like Moth I get excited thinking about the 20th time I hear this, at which point I might actually understand what the fuck sticksman Sean Tavella is doing and can start to contemplate playing along.
And, while that is my own personal obsession, it should not distract the rest of you from the awesomeness of what’s going on elsewhere, where fans of Kassa Overall, Jordan Rakei and even Body Meat will find plenty to enjoy.
Further reading: this insightful interview with Cassowary on Bandcamp.
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THE QUIET RIOT
ANDY SHAUF: LIVING ROOM
For those not familiar with Andy Shauf’s work, you should be aware that his previous releases have names such as Darker Days, Waiting for the Sun to Leave, Sam Jones Feeds His Demons and The Bearer of Bad News. So what can we expect from the Canadian singer-songwriter on his latest album The Neon Skyline?
Well, with a back-catalogue of album titles like that, it’s no wonder Shauf’s reputation is that of a remorseful raconteur – a teller of tales from the vantage point of tomorrow’s repentance. And while Living Room contains its fair share of lyrical self-loathing as he laments his failure to “give a shit” about a picture his son has drawn for him, the track just feels too damn gleeful to be considered gloomy. With its low-fi production and swaying ride cymbals, it seems custom-made to weave seamlessly in and out of some Late Night Tales compilation as you and your alcohol-addled amigos drift in and out of consciousness. So perhaps Shauf should give himself a break, eh?
And so we reach a cease-fire for this week.
You can find all of the tracks reviewed above in the 45 Revolutions per Minute playlist below or click to access the Future Jazz Playlist on Spotify itself.
If you like what you hear (or even if you don’t), please engage in dialogue with me @45rpm_Reviews on Twitter. And, if you’d like to receive updates weekly, please subscribe to the email list to get these recommendations sent to your inbox weekly.
Until next time, love and noise.
– SV –