THE THING about China Moses’ album Nightintales (MPS) released in March last year was that it tears up a notion of genre because the sound is so open and weirdly contemporary yet sort of retro as well particularly in some of the later tracks.
The jazz singer is confirmed now to headline the Bray Jazz Festival, county Wicklow, in Ireland on 4 May.
There is no dumbing down. ‘Running’, the first track, sprung forward from the bass of “Level” Neville Malcolm provides a hustle and ignites with the energy of Anthony Marshall’s production that draws in the heat of R&B and yet chills it for a good few minutes in the jazz fridge.
China Moses has a whole lot of style and is completely in control, poised and primed. ‘Put It On The Line,’ has a monster kick drum and bass-constructed groove roaring up at you from the wiry basement throb to the ease of reluctant horns simmering as Moses languidly reaches the chorus against the deliberately lazy backing blend of vocals peeking in.
Luke Smith is on piano, Rhodes and organ; Sir Nev on bass playing a blinder; and Jerry Brown is on drums crafting the core of it all. The big song? Well, it has got to be the beautiful, “complicated”, torch song ‘Ticking Boxes’ introduced lovingly by Smith on piano where China shows her emotions best of all on a song you could well hear Mary J. Blige hardly do more justice to but yes of course you’d like to hear Blige pile in with a version of her own.
The lyrics are never trite in China’s hands, she has the ability of making you believe it all however make believe, the empowering chorus like an anthem of self-help and let it go. ‘Ain’t about the past/ain’t about worrying ’bout tomorrow,’ she solemnly relates, all neat and direct, an enveloping shadow conveyed in such a layered way, the drama of the song spun from the flimsiest of threads into the purest of silk and complete with an oblique ending. The contemporary beats coming in here play their part after the main business of the song is done and the smoke of trumpet adds to the mood and yet is not too much of a pose. The songs were written by Moses and Marshall, and this is their most moving one for sure.Overall China seems to have grown as an artist on this album and she has as ever formidable interpretative powers at her beck and call, the confessional resigned quasi-chanson-like asides of ‘Whatever’ one angle she can curl her voice around, and by contrast the sass and cheek provided by the flapper-like fun of ‘Watch Out’ part of the entertaining Caro Emerald-like mix and a boon for fans of a more vintage sound.
I suppose China has learnt a good deal from her mother Dee Dee Bridgewater in shaping her voice and storytelling and how to project and pounce meaningfully on every little nuance; and China’s idol Dinah Washington’s influence is also surely fed into her overall approach but now so embedded you would scarcely notice as her own timbre and styling is so different.
The main thing about this album is it is about now and not then. Its pithy elegance, sheer catchiness and joie de vivre also more than play their part. Groovy trumpeter Takuya Kuroda guests on the big ballad trumpet solo on ‘Lobby Call,’ the other stand-out song on the album and a number that contains a certain Strayhornian passion and architecture, while Kuroda’s fellow trumpeter Theo Croker adds dash to the little doo-wop retro Francophile craziness of ‘Blame Jerry.’ SG
China Moses, above. Photo: Sylvain Norget. More details about the Bray jazz festival via their website.
Kurt Rosenwinkel, Neil Cowley, David Lyttle and Brandon Flowers drummer/co-songwriter Darren Beckett are among the strong high profile city of Derry jazz and big band festival line-up.
See the Millennium Forum website for the Mary Black, Van Morrison and Mary Coughlan gigs; and the main jazz festival site including all details for 3-7 May.
THE DUBLIN LABEL DIATRIBE are curating a festival called Éiríocht at Dalston club the Vortex in London on 16-17 March, new Irish contemporary and improvised music firsts include a film/voice/quintet setting of T.S. Eliot’s seminal 1922 poem The Waste Land, a century changing work along with Ulysses published that year which both gave birth as seminal works to literary modernism. Directed by television and film actor Adrian Dunbar (Line of Duty, Hear My Song) who regularly directs and performs in the plays of Samuel Beckett at the Happy Days festival in Enniskillen, The Waste Land features a score by Nick Roth who has also performed a number of times at the widely acclaimed Fermanagh festival and who leads the Yurodny ensemble. Éiríocht is supported by IMRO and Culture Ireland as part of GB18: Promoting Irish arts in Britain.
WHAT’S ON times may be subject to change, check venue website for latest running times
Friday 16 March 7pm Izumi Kimura 8pm Colm O’Hara / David Lacey 9pm TRE: Francesco Turrisi / Nick Roth / Kate Ellis 10pm Shane Latimer.
Saturday 17 March 2pm Benjamin Dwyer 3pm Olesya Zdorovetska / Keith Lindsay 4pm Laura Hyland / Peter Marsh 5pm Linda Buckley 6pm Mick O’Shea / Irene Murphy 7pm Sean Carpio 10pm The Waste Land – film and Anna Nygh, Orla Charlton, Frank McCusker, Stanley Townsend (voice) with Nick Roth, Alex Bonney, Matthew Bourne, Riann Vosloo and Simon Roth 9pm Lauren Kinsella/ Kit Downes 10pm Umbra: Chris Guilfoyle, Chris Engel, Sam Comerford, Barry Donohue, Matt Jacobson and 11pm DJackulate.
Lately I have been reading Teju Cole’s novel Open City bought on impulse in a well stocked book shop which even puts on jazz as part of their evening programme of events – their No Alibis series returns in a few weeks.
The book first published on this side of the Atlantic approaching eight years ago is set in New York and Brussels and the reason I mention it is that it is dotted with jazz references, not particularly crucial to the story but skilfully dropped in.
A young doctor, the main character and narrator, has dinner with a fellow, older doctor who he met on the plane over from New York. She advises him to ‘be sure to get Cannonball’s Somethin’ Else... that’s the great one of all his albums, a true classic.’ Julius duly promises he would. Nat Adderley, writer of ‘Work Song’ and brother of Cannonball the fictional doctor treated, as she did his brother and she and her husband through them later met other jazz musicians including Chet Baker.
As for Cannonball the Copasetic Foundation has just received a grant from Arts Council England to launch ‘Portrait of Cannonball’ – a celebration of Cannonball’s music with Tony Kofi on alto sax, Kind of Blue-featured Cannonball’s instrument, and Byron Wallen on cornet, Nat’s preferred horn, a favourite instrument going back to the early days of jazz as championed by Buddy Bolden no less.
I thought I heard Cannonball say more like, the Portraiture group includes pianist Alex Webb, Andy Cleyndert or Daniel Casimir alternating on bass depending on the gig and drummer Alfonso Vitale plus a guest spot by award winning singer Deelee Dubé who will reference Cannonball’s work with Nancy Wilson, the group publicity points out. SG
The first show is on 2 February at London jazz club the Vortex.