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Bebop Spoken There

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Postage

14438 (and counting) posts since we started blogging 14 years ago. 716 of them this year alone and, so far, 13 this month (August 6).

From This Moment On ...

August

Thu 11: Vieux Carré Jazzmen @ The Holystone, North Tyneside. 1:00pm.
Thu 11: Baghdaddies @ Cumberland Arms, Newcastle. Time TBC.
Thu 11: Indigo Jazz Voices: Little Big Band Special @ The Globe, Newcastle. 7:45pm. POSTPONED!
Thu 11: Tees Hot Club @ Dorman’s Club, Middlesbrough. 9:00pm. Guests Donna Hewitt (sax) Josh Bentham (sax) Garry Hadfield (keys).

Fri 12: Ben Gilbert Trio @ Bishop Auckland Town Hall. 1:00pm.
Fri 12: Classic Swing @ Cullercoats Crescent Club. 1:00pm.
Fri 12: New Orleans Preservation Jazz Band @ Oxbridge Hotel, Stockton. 1:00pm. £5.00.
Fri 12: Rendezvous Jazz @ The Monkseaton Arms, Monkseaton. 1:00pm.

Sun 14: Vieux Carré Hot 4 @ Spanish City, Whitley Bay. 12 noon.
Sun 14: Tees Valley Jazzmen @ Hammer & Pincers, Preston le Skerne. 1:00pm.
Sun 14: Vieux Carré Jazzmen @ West Park, South Shields. 2:00pm.
Sun 14: Foundry Jazz Ensemble @ The Exchange, North Shields. 3:00pm.
Sun 14: Anth Purdy @ Blues & Bourbon, Newcastle. 4:00pm. Free.
Sun 14: Castillo Nuevo @ Revoluçion de Cuba, Newcastle. 5:30-8:30pm.
Sun 14: Sunday Night Am Jam Special @ The Globe, Newcastle. 7:30pm. Note start time.

Mon 15: Jazz in the Afternoon @ Cullercoats Crescent Club. 1:00pm.
Mon 15: Stu Collingwood Organ Trio @ Black Bull, Blaydon. 8:00pm. Blaydon Jazz Club.

Wed 17: Vieux Carré Jazzmen @ Cullercoats Crescent Club. 1:00pm.
Wed 17: Darlington Big Band @ Darlington & Simpson Rolling Mills Club, Darlington. 7:00pm. Rehearsal session (open to the public).
Wed 17: 4B @ The Exchange, North Shields. 7:00pm.
Wed 17: Take it to the Bridge @ The Globe, Newcastle. 7:30pm.

Wednesday, August 04, 2021

Album review: Xhosa Cole Quartet - K(no)w Them K(no)w Us

Xhosa Cole (tenor sax); Jay Phelps (trumpet); James Owston (double bass); James Bashford (Drums) + Soweto Kinch (alto saxophone); Reuben James (piano).

One of the happiest recollections from my career as a teacher with the Birmingham Music Service was running the Handsworth Area Ensemble – a group of young, beginner musicians meeting for weekly rehearsals in one of Birmingham’s culturally-vibrant inner-city areas. In particular, I shall always treasure the memory of the ensemble’s very promising alto saxophonist performing as the featured soloist in Take Five – arranged specially for him, in order to show off his amazing talent.  

That was 13-year-old Xhosa Cole, towards the start of his journey as a jazz musician!  Xhosa then went on to become a member of the Midland Youth Jazz Orchestra as a saxophonist and the Birmingham Schools’ Symphony Orchestra as a flautist. A few years later he achieved national acclaim when he was announced as the winner of BBC Young Jazz Musician 2018, and in 2020 he was named Breakthrough Act of the Year in the Jazz FM Awards.

To crown these achievements, Xhosa Cole’s debut album K(no)w Them, K(no)w Us has just been released by Stoney Lane Records. This is certainly the most exciting newly-released jazz album I have heard for a long time, and I would not be surprised if, in future years, it is considered to be one of the seminal works of British jazz. The album conveys an expression of individuality, originality and authenticity whilst, at the same time, celebrating the heritage of the great African-American musicians of the 20th Century, and the Great American Songbook. We hear compositions by Ornette Coleman, Thelonious Monk and Lee Morgan and, in Xhosa’s own playing, we hear the influences of Charlie Parker, John Coltrane and Ornette Coleman – ‘standing on the shoulders of greats’, as Xhosa himself says in the sleeve notes.

Xhosa Cole always acknowledges the crucial value of his early musical experiences in his hometown and, in celebration of this, the album features special guest appearances by two other outstanding Brummie musicians – saxophonist Soweto Kinch (whose recent album Black Peril features Xhosa) and pianist Reuben James.

The album opens with a wonderfully rousing rendition of Woody Shaw’s Zoltan. This starts with an incredibly exciting introductory drum solo from James Bashford leading to a 2-bar quotation from a piece of classical repertoire played by Xhosa alongside trumpet player Jay Phelps. (I immediately recognised the quotation but had to contact my conductor friend Rupert Bond in order to have it correctly identified. I challenge any of your readers to say which piece of music this phrase comes from!) We then hear the main melody, followed by some fantastic improvisatory interplay between Xhosa and Jay Phelps, and then a great double bass solo from James Owston.

Blues Connotation captures the unbridled excitement associated with the music of its composer Ornette Coleman. Again, there is wonderful collective improvisation between tenor sax and trumpet, and Xhosa, in his solo, demonstrates superb mastery of his instrument through, for example, his fast, high-note flourishes interspersed with the repeated blasting out of a bottom C!

Manhattan by Rogers and Hart introduces a feeling of beautiful, calm relaxation, featuring a great solo from pianist Reuben James, but then surprising us at the end with an exciting, rather frenetic coda! Played Twice is a Thelonious Monk composition which I had not heard before. It features another great drum solo from James Bashford, this time punctuated by exciting short phrases on trumpet and tenor sax.

Alto saxophonist Soweto Kinch makes his first appearance on the album in Tadd Dameron’s On a Misty Night. The beautiful, close harmony between alto sax, tenor sax and trumpet make the three instruments sound like a much larger front line, and the joyful excitement of Kinch’s playing, along with his supreme mastery of the instrument’s altissimo register, are an inspiration!

What’s New?, written by bassist Bob Haggart under its original title of I'm Free and recorded under that name by the Bob Crosby Band, was renamed and became established as a jazz standard by artists as diverse as Frank Sinatra, Peggy Lee, Lucky Thompson and Miles Davis amongst others. This version is, basically, a duet between tenor sax and double bass – with just some very light drumming in the background. There is wonderful interplay between the two instruments, with some beautiful, gentle, long-note playing by Xhosa as backing to the bass solo. Also, in this number, Xhosa demonstrates his superb, creative mastery of the saxophone’s harmonics – using this technique to change the timbre of notes as well as, sometimes, producing more than one note at the same time!

Soweto Kinch joins in again on the last number of the album – Lee Morgan’s Untitled Boogaloo. Like the opening track, this starts off with an exciting drum solo and, when the rest of the band comes in, the level of excitement is such that you feel you might be listening to a big band – a wonderful close to a wonderful album! Cormac Loane.

3 comments :

Mark said...

A late response but I’m totally with you. This is some of the freshest jazz (and it is jazz) I’ve heard in a long time. Yes, I am x. But this - like all good jazz - is new.

Mark said...

for 'x' read 'old'...

Chris Kilsby said...

An even later response - missed this the first time!

Many thanks Cormac for the informative review - Xhosa Cole is as you say a fresh and exciting new tenor voice, with tremendous takes on some challenging and not so familiar ( to me at least!) material. This album is certainly a bold statement of his arrival as a top player and band leader - though I think I'll wait to hear his compositional voice before declarations of "seminal" are made.

As to your classical "quiz", at the risk of being a smart arse (!) surely the clue is in the name of the track referring to Zoltán Kodály the great Hungarian composer?

Chris

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