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Sizzling Billboard chart success this week for a slice of Tower of Power

Hilarious usually to look at the top of the Billboard jazz chart given that Ultimate Sinatra has been no. 1 for a mere 82 weeks. You can't get more relevant than that, huh? New this week is more of a lift and the presence at no 3 of a Californian …

Published: 10 Apr 2021. Updated: 27 days.

Hilarious usually to look at the top of the Billboard jazz chart given that Ultimate Sinatra has been no. 1 for a mere 82 weeks. You can't get more relevant than that, huh? New this week is more of a lift and the presence at no 3 of a Californian institution and their record Tower of Power: 50 Years of Funk & Soul: Live at the Fox Theater a record of a 2018 hometown Oakland show. Pick of the record is the formidable 'What is Hip/Soul Power'. I've only heard Tower of Power the one time at a sold out KOKO in 2012. (On the KOKO front Nick Lewis, who used to do a sterling job under former boss Simon Cooke at Ronnie Scott's, is now working at the Mornington Crescent venue as head of music ahead of its reopening next year.) Thinking back to that night the place was packed and Camden had come out in force with sold out notices on the door, and by the beginning of the support band's slot who I had come to review you would have needed sharp elbows to have got anywhere near the front such was the early turn-out on a warm night that felt like New York in late-May. That's the kind of buzz lolling at the back listening to the PA that we have been missing for over a year the thrill that is going out to hear music live being part of something human and significant among strangers as you are to them they are like you.

Also check out 'What Is Hip' from Tower of Power (Warner Bros, 1973) and look too in the top 10 of the US chart the hugely credible Promises is new at 9. Promises is that rarity, an album that has picked up loads of 5-star reviews and is shifting a few as well. Link: to the Billboard chart, week of 10 April.

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Minihi virtual debut

Very notable this week because they made their online debut as a four-piece last night via a dice.fm stream playing from Recaptures Minihi present a sound that is unusual and distinctive. I harbour a theory that bands that become big do not …

Published: 10 Apr 2021. Updated: 25 days.

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Very notable this week because they made their online debut as a four-piece last night via a dice.fm stream playing from Recaptures Minihi present a sound that is unusual and distinctive. I harbour a theory that bands that become big do not correspond closely to the rules of a genre but become attached anyway to a certain community who habitually gravitate towards a certain one no matter how heretical the band that they have latched on to happen to be. So that partly explains outliers like Get the Blessing, Portico Quartet, Neil Cowley trio, Kokoroko. It may very well happen with Minihi and certainly this very impressive showing leads me to think that they will be a band we all know about before too long when touring resumes. As a jazz listener I get what they play instantly but it is not jazz that they are playing at all in the sense of close or any adherence to the obvious stylistic attributes of any of jazz's many traditions apart from one: a very strict emphasis on cross-rhythms. (However it is interesting that percussionist Zands has a jazz background.) These cross-rhythms, and this is an immaculate virtuoso rhythm band given that you have a kit drummer and two percussionists led often by Duggan from the mallets or following the Agnes Obel player's vocalised enchanting, are absolutely vital at the heart of their sound. What they do isn't about any variant on minimalism if you just see them as a classical contemporary outfit because they don't fit that billing either. It also isn't anything to do with groove. Their material is very striking and almost metronomically precise, I like the use of hammered dulcimer best of all, certainly there is a strong emphasis on structure that helps shape what they do and so because of a framework in the writing the tunes actually have a narrative to them that you can discern. I am not talking about the back story to the tunes which to me is not as interesting a defining factor although they provide a lot of colour. Duggan and Zands explained these articulately in chats between performances in last night's stream. The Minihi sound isn't naturalistic in the sense that it can easily paint a picture even if it is of a journey on a bullet train or a tender last walk because it is abstract enough not to demand knowledge about what inspired the tunes. In other words it is not programme music. Next departure point will be when the band play in front of an in-the-same-actual-space audience. It is blindingly obvious beyond the fractured kind of Alaska that is experiencing performance virtually that when the time is right they will go down a storm. SG

Minihi: Calie Hough, top left, Louise Anna Duggan, Zands, Jay Chakravorty. Photo: Dice.FM stream