Jakob Manz, Groove Connection, ACT ***1/2

A pretty soulful guilty pleasure of an album delivered to the max by young German saxophonist Jakob Manz (a monster player at just 21) keeping stellar company here and more than riding high with everyone. If you know the sound in this context of UK …

Published: 1 May 2023. Updated: 12 months.

A pretty soulful guilty pleasure of an album delivered to the max by young German saxophonist Jakob Manz (a monster player at just 21) keeping stellar company here and more than riding high with everyone. If you know the sound in this context of UK player Tom Waters (son of boogie-woogie giant Ben Waters) then you'll be in your element with Manz. The band includes bass guitar titan Tim Lefebvre and keyboardist Roberto Di Gioia who has written several of the tunes. The wisdom of including an R Kelly song - 'I Look To You' as it happens - is a moot point. But very well interpreted by Manz it is who meshes intuitively with guitarist Bruno Müller aptly arpeggiating. It is of course an incredibly beautiful ballad wondrously sung by Whitney Houston on her last studio album released in 2009. The Manz treatment here is the best thing of all here by quite a way and a must. Other covers include a standout treatment of the African-American spiritual 'Wade in the Water' and the Lionel Richie classic 'Dancing on the Ceiling'. Fear not it doesn't become too like a wedding party evening do. Manz proves at home particularly with the 1980s elements of the song choices for sure.

Ubiquitous recent Adele classic 'Easy on Me' is also here. And again Manz nails it and the band grooves behind him, taking the tempo up a bit, very pleasingly. A new David Sanborn in the making? Who knows. But very possibly and already a made jazzer: he must have been woodshedding when still in the womb. Manz speaks to the soul when he plays the saxophone and isn't afraid to tackle the familiar. A winning guest slot by Sardinian master Paolo Fresu muted against a vital Lefebvre line arrives at the beginning wrapped up inside rolling trombone riffery from Karin Hammar on 'Jazz is a Spirit.'

Jakob Manz, photo: Gregor Hohenberg/ACT

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Kira Linn's Linntett, Illusion, Whirlwind **1/2

Baritone saxophonist and composer Kira Linn from Germany also sings on Illusion which is a saxophone heavy sextet affair. The originals split between wanting to head more towards a pop destination and lingering in a more jazz balladic direction …

Published: 1 May 2023. Updated: 12 months.

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Baritone saxophonist and composer Kira Linn from Germany also sings on Illusion which is a saxophone heavy sextet affair. The originals split between wanting to head more towards a pop destination and lingering in a more jazz balladic direction particularly on 'Solitude' which features the best soloing on the album. But the whole thing doesn't really hang together enough. Some tracks are coated in a cloudy synth wash, better is the more atmospheric vocal beaming through on 'That Thing'. Linn combines in the front line with altoist Nico Wenger and tenorist Christopher Kunz. Lukas Großmann's synths come more into their own ''underscoring,'' in a dare of a typesetting challenge sense of a tune title anyway, 'Numb_ers.' SG. Kira Linn, photo: cover art detail