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Bebop Spoken There

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Vieux Carre Hot 4 - Spanish City, Spanish City Plaza, Whitley Bay NE26 1BG. Tel: 0191 691 7090. 12 noon. Free.

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Vieux Carre Jazzmen - The Holystone, Whitley Road, North Tyneside NE27 0DA. 0191 266 6173. 1:00pm. Free.

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Tuesday, June 21, 2016

CD Review: James Morton - The Kid

James Morton (alt); + Fred Wesley (tmb); Pee Wee Ellis (ten); Andy Shepherd (sax); the Easy Access Horns; Alex Johansen (vcl) Simon Picton (gtr) & Others.
(Review by Steve T).
British saxophonist James Morton was influenced by James Brown, Hip Hop and Jazz it says here; but all you really need to know is he was bitten by the Godfather. At a time when most of his peers in the British funk field were bitten by people who were bitten by James, or by people who were bitten by people who were bitten by Brown, it's quite refreshing to go back to the source.

To say he wears this influence on his sleeve is something of an understatement, but he's backed it up by enlisting heavyweight assistance from alumni of his idol. Saxophonist Pee Wee Ellis was an important component  of the James Brown sound at its most vital time and did some gigging and tutoring in our region a few years ago, including guesting with another JB legend - Maceo Parker - at the Gala in Durham.
Trombonist Fred Wesley took over leadership of the JBs when George Clinton stole Bootsy and co. for his own fledgling funk empire and Fred and Maceo would soon follow. The last time I went to Hoochie Coochie was to see Fred and the new JBs when it was full of funkateers, trombone players and presumably Lance, who likes a bit of hoochie in his coochie. Some of the former moaned that it got too Jazzy in the middle but all of these musicians aspire to play Jazz. Fred was thrilled when he was able to record 'to someone' with 'proper Jazz musicians' but humbled that he may not be good enough. I love trombones and I love Fred Wesley.
As if Morton didn't have enough strength in the horns department, there's his mentor Andy Sheppard for good measure, as forceful and instantly recognisable as ever.
Just in case anybody didn't spot the JB connection, track two Stand Up sounds suspiciously close to James' own I got the feeling, so much so that I had to check whether it was a cover. At times later in JBs' life, his fortunes became perilous and he was strapped for cash, but I'm sure he wouldn't have succumbed to the unfortunate current trend of suing for writer credits going on in the media and law courts at the moment, not least because the song was never the thing for him. Imagine the chaos if the estates of great folk, Jazz, Blues, Soul and Reggae artists started suing each other. I believe Uptown Funk currently has about eleven writer credits (and rising) and Brown should certainly be one of them.   
Following that, Eyelets sounds like a James Brown reworking of Curtis Mayfield's Impressions anthem People get Ready and the next track introduces his very own Lynn Collins, a singer who made her name as part of the JB empire. And so it goes on but not always so blatantly. There's also some fancy, funky guitar work from Simon Picton which pricked up a pair of ears in the back of the car. 
In his heyday JB brought out records almost every week and the saturation of availability due to arch-baddies Amazon, CDs and downloads means you can access it all. But beware, it wasn't all great.
This may all sound critical but it's a fine album and if you don't already have enough James Brown type stuff - and you can't have too much James - this would be a good place to start, or should I say continue?
Steve T.
Release Date July 8 on Matusik Records.

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