New Orleans music icon Dr. John passes away

— Features — Liam Cook

The GRAMMY award-winning pianist and songwriter Dr. John passed away yesterday, aged 77. A Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, the celebrated artist was a champion of New Orleans’ diverse cultural heritage: drawing inspiration from Mardi Gras, Louisiana Voodoo and the travelling medicine shows of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, for his stage persona and vibrant live shows.

Born Malcolm John Rebennack, he was initially a session musician, before crafting the musical concept the underpinned his first few albums. The role of ‘Dr. John, the night tripper’ is said to have been intended for another performer, but when the musician lined-up to play Dr. John dropped out, Rebennack took up the mantle.

Dr. John performed back-to-back nights at Band on the Wall in 1983 and will be fondly remembered for his landmark debut album Gris-Gris, his heartwarming tribute to New Orleans in the form of Dr. John’s Gumbo, and his astonishing record with funk outfit The Meters, entitled In the Right Place.

Selva Discos to reissue two rare albums by Fernando Falcão

The Brazilian record label Selva Discos have announced that they will reissue two rare albums by the little-known Brazilian artist, Fernando Falcão. A contemporary of Egberto Gismonti, Falcão was initially active in the counter-military movements of 1968 in his native São Paulo, but was sent to France soon after, for fear that he would be arrested and imprisoned. It was during his fifteen years in exile that he met his first wife, the actor Valérie Kling, and with his father-in-law, François-Xavier Lalanne, began broadening his artistic output.

Recorded in 1979 during his period of exile, the first album to be reissued is Memória das Águas, a far-reaching, folk-rooted record featuring amongst varied instrumentation a bespoke berimbau, described in its press release as a ‘one-of-a-kind balauê…built in France with Lalanne.’  The berimbau is the instrument famously played by fellow Brazilian artist Naná Vasconcelos. The second album, Barracas Barrocas, is described as ‘more condensed and coherent’ than its predecessor, and was issued in a small quantity on Egberto’s Carmo label in 1987.

Both of the late artist’s albums are due to be reissued in August 2019 and can be previewed on soundcloud via the above links.

The Repeat Listen: EABS – Slavic Spirits

Tasting notes: Zbigniew Namysłowski ‎– Winobranie, Oliver Lake – NTU: Point from which creation begins, Ruby Rushton – Ironside, George Russell – Electronic Sonata for souls loved by nature

EABS’ astonishing Komeda trilogy: comprising a studio LP, live album and 12” single with frequent collaborator Tenderlonious, heard the seven-piece ensemble exploring the riches of late Polish composer Krzysztof Komeda’s back catalogue. Their fresh and inventive renditions of his work exemplified both Komeda’s ingenuity and their ability to traverse contemporary jazz, hip-hop, fusion and electro-acoustic soundscapes with confidence and flair.

Having concluded the project, a natural progression for the ensemble was to present a collection of original compositions. They have done just that upon new album Slavic Spirits, but notably, as the album’s title indicates, their gaze remains fixed upon the heritage they share. On this album, the band’s perspective shifts from the impact of one influential composer on the Polish jazz continuum to heir wider cultural, historical and mythological heritage. Reflecting upon the tragedy of forgotten sources, the scars of past traumas, the intrigue of fringe mythology and ‘Polish demonology’, and much more, they have crafted a reflective yet coruscating sound self-described as ‘Slavic melancholy’.

The album begins with an atmospheric blend of nature recordings, percussion and subtly morphing ambient sound, transporting the listener through disconcerting darkness to the stomping ground of the woodland spirit, via interjections of free trumpet and saxophone and rumbling electronics. Transitioning seamlessly into Leszy, we’re presented with our first piano motif: Marek Pędziwiatr’s pensive, brooding melody, that blossoms from its delicate root into a deeply emotive full band arrangement. A synth solo from Marek perforates the spiritual wash at the track’s midpoint, making way for a soaring soprano solo from Tenderlonious, before the ensemble return to the founding melody, bringing it home with power and passion.

Południca builds like a cinematic, early-seventies Morricone composition, with subtle chord changes, gentle plucked strings and sorrowful woodwinds, before transitioning into a Pędziwiatr-led passage, with Vojto Monteur’s electric guitar chords swelling beneath his Marek’s expressive playing. ŚLĘŻA (Mgła) represents one of the album’s many collective compositions; ideas which have originated from improvisation and experimentation, without one clear leader or writer. Those shorter pieces, free in structure and rich in sonic intrigue, bridge the gaps between the longer compositions — giving variety to the structure and pace of the album.

Ślęża begins with Marcin Rak’s alternating pattern on the ride cymbal and is followed by a commanding horn riff. Over the course of the 8-minute track, the band carry the composition through developing sonic environments, with tenor player Olaf Węgier leading the line through a Bitches Brew-esque passage of psychedelic fusion, before the group re-emerge from the depths with a bright closing passage. Final track Przywitanie Słońca (translating as Sun worship) takes shape around a fierce drum and bass rhythm, with trumpeter Jakub Kurek soloing passionately off the back of another timely Tenderlonious appearance, this time adding mirroring and harmonising with the track’s triumphant horn lines.

On this atmospheric, exceptionally well-executed album, every musician has their moment in the spotlight. The strong concept seems to give each player confidence and conviction, which is captured and conveyed beautifully in the mix and mastering of the material. The group’s hip-hop sensibility remains, but the samples and rhymes are no longer. This is a mature and spiritual jazz record, that shows its creators to be a band with real vision.

New sounds and visuals

OSHUN have released a new video for their Bittersweet vol. 1 track, Blessings on Blessings. Directed by WhoTheWizz, the visual reflects their connections to Ile Ogundase in NYC, with Thandiwe and Niambi sporting garments made from African textiles and hanging out on the porch with their community peers. Check it out below and catch the duo at Band on the Wall next week.

Manchester-based four piece Diving Station released their new single, Film, last week. Recorded with the band’s regular producer, Hugo Meredith-Hardy, the track explores ‘struggle and frustration in a world moving on from each thought so fast it has no time to take a breath in, let alone out.’ The song is mellifluous and packed with intricate wordplay, gritty electric guitar and feather-light harp melodies characteristic of their dynamic dream-pop aesthetic. Stream the new single below.

Bill Ryder-Jones has this week released Don’t Be Scared, I Love You from his forthcoming solo record, Yawny Yawn. The black and white visual sees the singer-songwriter at the piano, with hand-scrawled lyrics accompanying his performance. Check it out below and catch Bill at Band on the Wall in October.

Antinote records premiered River Yarra’s new cut Toad Charmer this week, ahead of the release of a new EP at the end of June. With dubbed out percussion, avant-garde vocal splicing and an array of synth and keyboard elements, it’s a leftfield, slow tempo, technicolour dance cut that’s bound to draw in fans of Golden Teacher, Fatima Al Qadiri and recent releases on the DEEWEE label.

Finally, Radio Martiko returned with three outstanding 7” singles this week! Pick of the bunch (a very tough choice) is Surfing on the shores of Java and Casablanca, with its Evergreens A-side Es Lilin. RM’s Fred Kramer says of the track: ‘When blasting it through my speakers, the laid back guitar riffs sent me over the moon and the idea of reissuing the tune came up naturally.’

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