Bex Burch and Leafcutter John, Boing! Vula Viel Records ****

The sane thing is not to think of genre at all when listening to Boing! Even ''Uncategorisable'' does not do it justice. Let's think of it instead in terms of percussion, ritual and an electronic world that is more than any one instrument. …

Published: 23 Oct 2021. Updated: 11 months.

The sane thing is not to think of genre at all when listening to Boing!

Even ''Uncategorisable'' does not do it justice. Let's think of it instead in terms of percussion, ritual and an electronic world that is more than any one instrument. There is a remarkable ecosytem of sounds that Leafcutter John cultivates and cross-fertilises with the less mysterious but nonetheless equally riveting Bex Burch rhythms that add a grittiness to the floatier and more elastic elements that swirl around it.

Leafcutter John has in the past collaborated with Polar Bear, one of the greatest UK jazz bands to have emerged in the last 30 years, and has forged a solo career at the cutting edge of acclaimed electronics innovation in his own right ever since.

Burch is an innovator herself as hearing the percussionist a few times over the years firstly at the Vortex in east London and more recently at a theatre venue in Dublin confirmed. Burch's interest in African music specifically emerging from the Dagaare in Ghana and her interest in the gyil (a balafon-like instrument) meshing with the futuristic Leafcutter sound is a fascinating often highly cinematic collision.

Their collaboration is a very different sound to Vula Viel's (where Burch works with among others Melt Yourself Down bass guitarist Ruth Goller and drummer Jim Hart) and possibly an even better direction for Burch certainly as a headphones listen and in terms of composition. I can't imagine how this would come across live given how it seems as if it belongs more properly as desert or moonscape than concert stage. An arty, stimulating, sound that works as a whole rather than for individual tracks it's as if the pair have reinvented Brian Eno's innovations. There's a lot of heart to it all.

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Melanie Charles, Jazz (Ain't Nothing But Soul), Verve ***

The Melanie Charles cover of Norman Mapp's 'Jazz (Ain't Nothing But Soul)' associated with Betty Carter is a rollercoaster ride that just about wins me over in the end although I'm not totally convinced by it. Initially it seems conventional but …

Published: 23 Oct 2021. Updated: 11 months.

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The Melanie Charles cover of Norman Mapp's 'Jazz (Ain't Nothing But Soul)' associated with Betty Carter is a rollercoaster ride that just about wins me over in the end although I'm not totally convinced by it. Initially it seems conventional but then the sonic trickery begins and the carpet is pulled from underneath. Listening after a couple of minutes I paused and went off to listen to The Modern Sound of Betty Carter instead, the 1960 Richard Wess-produced LP for ABC that the song appeared on and which Charles elaborately reworks. The opening is faithful and Charles' voice is quite like Carter's. On the Carter there are great horns and an exuberant vocal and it's very brief, everything is concise, frothy and positive. Mapp was a protégé of Dinah Washington and a singer too.

Drawn from Y'all Don't (Really) Care About Black Women (Verve, 12 November) Charles also covers Marlena Shaw classic 'Woman of the Ghetto' already featured in these pages. When eventually the whole arrangement moves to be swung against keys and more street when the organ eventually solos it's far more interesting. Eventually it even goes faster and sprints towards the close, additional pace lifting the whole thing up. Melanie Charles, above. Photo: press