Alan Skidmore’s Ubizo: 50 Journeys (Provocateur)
South African jazz has taken an inexplicably low profile over the past decade or so, which is a pity because there is still much energy and inspiration to be found there. Thankfully British tenor saxophonist Alan Skidmore picked up the baton back in 1999 by collaborating with the Cape Town-based Amampondo drummers.
With his second Ubizo album (his third disc for Colin Towns’ Provocateur label) the township groove is still crucial although the African players are from further north in the continent and the scope has widened considerably. It’s a really great amalgam of European and African jazz, with Skid’s strong Coltrane influence of course a happy weld. The components – the writing, the African percussion, the strong grooves, the rich, warm recording sound – all are in effective harmony. Great cover art too.
Patricia Barber: The Cole Porter Mix (Blue Note)
What is this thing called love, this funny thing called love? That’s the subject matter of most of the songs from the Great American Songbook, as summed up by one of its chief contributors, Cole Porter. And, on the strength of this album, it’s difficult to think of a singer more attuned to capturing all of love’s complexities.
You don’t get mushy romance from the Chicagoan singer and pianist but you do get the desire and the desolation, the naked as well as the nude. It’s a measure of Patricia Barber’s sophistication as a composer that she can match with her three submissions the quality of the song writing on the rest of this album – classic Cole Porter tunes all. Do try the final track, her New Year’s Eve Song. It’s a perfectly formed gem of insight and rhyme.
Her excellent band is supplemented by the equally incisive Chris Potter on saxophone.
Twelves Trio: Here Comes The Woodman With His Splintered Soul (1965 Records)
We might not be aware of it up here in the Midlands, but apparently if you go daan saaf and head for the E17 postcode you will find that Walthamstow is becoming the jazz equivalent of the East Village. And you might come across bassist Riaan Vosloo, drummer Tim Giles and tenor saxophonist Mark Hanslip, best known as members of Electric Dr M, Fraud and Outhouse respectively, but likely to be beset by hurrahs as a result of this disc.
It really is excellent. Just try the opener, the punchy Jiggery Pokery with its never-erring bass ostinato, its timeless tune and beautifully focused solos. Or the atmospheric sound explorations of She Moved Through The Fair. Lots of air and lots of exciting sound waves in it.
Pianist Zoe Rahman sits in on a couple of tracks. Let’s hope we hear them up here in the B postcodes before too long.
Asaf Sirkis Trio: The Monk (SAM Productions)
Best known as Gilad Atzmon’s Orient House Ensemble drummer, the always-lively Asaf Sirkis goes back to jazz-fusion principles with his own trio. Fellow Orient House colleague Yaron Stavi is on electric bass and Tassos Spiliotopoulos is on guitar. The band is supplemented by Gary Husband on keys and Adriano Adewale on percussion on some tracks.
Sirkis gives his Billy Cobham tendencies a good workout on the opener, while the title track is a slow-builder with Husband on organ which over its ten minutes never quite delivers on its promise.
One for the post-rockers and retro-fusionists, and probably much more effective live – there’s a chance to find out at Taylor John’s in Coventry on November 8 and at the White Swan in Stratford on November 16.