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Cock an ear for 80s ace Ken Stubbs and the release of 3 Shadows, 4 Angels

Imbued with an exquisite bittersweet melancholia 3 Shadows, 4 Angels is quite a find and amounts to an absorbing listen from a cult figure of the UK jazz scene now living in Australia, the Loose Tubes alto saxophonist Ken Stubbs who in First House …

Published: 10 Jun 2021. Updated: 10 days.

Imbued with an exquisite bittersweet melancholia 3 Shadows, 4 Angels is quite a find and amounts to an absorbing listen from a cult figure of the UK jazz scene now living in Australia, the Loose Tubes alto saxophonist Ken Stubbs who in First House with Django Bates, Mick Hutton and Martin France in the 1980s was a shooting star in a dazzling galaxy of talent who toured widely and picked up acclaim for ECM recordings Eréndira and later Cantilena. Now this all these years on seems a moment for Stubbs. The next generation presence particularly of the superb Phronesis pianist Ivo Neame on the record just released is only one of several significant plus-points in the record's favour as is the Frisellian touch of guitarist James Muller on the gorgeous Americana of '3 Shadows (for Jonny Cash) – The Beast in Me'. Make your day that bit considerably better and more complete why not by following the link to 3 Shadows, 4 Angels and a lost leader of note in all iridescence. In these often cynical times it's something of a miracle. Ken Stubbs, top. Photo: kenstubbs.com

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Blue Lab Beats, We Will Rise, Blue Note ****

The shock of the new? Always a good thing. And no one sounds like Blue Lab Beats. The way into the sound was hearing one half of the duo David Mrakpor, top left in the publicity photo above, live in a small Tottenham venue in north London the …

Published: 10 Jun 2021. Updated: 14 days.

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The shock of the new? Always a good thing. And no one sounds like Blue Lab Beats. The way into the sound was hearing one half of the duo David Mrakpor, top left in the publicity photo above, live in a small Tottenham venue in north London the laidback Post Bar last week grooving in trombonist James Lawrence's band Electro Nomads. Since then I have returned to We Will Rise often and get new things from it each time I return.

Riff alchemy on one level and beat blending the mood on another, the style however is non-purist and a shape-shifter on many levels equally applicable for jazz fans or the completely non-attached who might probably be more into DJs or African music. As for Mrakpor I don't think I have been as inspired in a long time hearing someone new live.

You can't really pin him down because on the record it's his guitar playing that stands out as well as his phenomenal piano playing. I guess first and foremost he is a world class jazz pianist but there's a lot going on. On the guitar side I was thinking Ronny Jordan a bit in terms of the way he comes over with an original riff that you can cling on to without even trying. But he is no way slick. And yet then, like last week, hearing him play keys like he's up there with Robert Glasper almost already and that's not all.

Nearly everything on this EP works, only the last track 'Tempting Dance 2' is not as convincing as the rest, small point, it's more of a party sound and not as vital but the thing is overall that what Blue Lab Beats do is to be deadly serious in terms of their musicianship but also fun and accessible in the way they communicate. With jazz and African sounds as well as strands of hip-hop coming together on the London scene as a regular thing getting ever more prominence in recent years Blue Lab Beats manage to sound both familiar and different at the same time. Because this is an EP and so not the length that most jazz fans prefer, ie LP-length, it might not be enough quantity-wise for the whole picture to emerge and yet you get a sense of something complete even bearing this in mind. Beatmaker NK-OK, top right, has confected a new sound drawing partly on boom-bap (eg like KRS-One a bit) with Mrakpor or Mr DM in Blue Lab Beats-speak. The pick is definitely 'Blow You Away (Delilah)' featuring Ghetto Boy and the 'Great Lemon interlude' is bliss. SG