Daily jazz blog, Marlbank

Jalen Baker, Be Still, Cellar Live ****

With 'Lexi's Lullaby' a previous marlbank track of the week and easily the best track this is a stirring album. Other big pick is the absorbing 'There's Beauty in Fear'. Clean, sleek tunes that have a certain gravity to them credit surely must go …

Published: 8 Jul 2023. Updated: 11 months.

With 'Lexi's Lullaby' a previous marlbank track of the week and easily the best track this is a stirring album. Other big pick is the absorbing 'There's Beauty in Fear'. Clean, sleek tunes that have a certain gravity to them credit surely must go for the clarity of production direction to Jeremy Pelt guiding the less is more thinking and execution exhibited by US vibist Jalen Baker. Sonically it is odd in a way and not just because the vibraphone as an instrument is always capable of throwing a curveball given the blanket of scattergun vibrations it throws out. Curious more because the overall levels of resonance seem to have been toned down a bit and that ''flatness'' of sound gives this a very unglossy patina and a crisp edge to the shell of the ensemble. And you get a concentrated hub of sound whether it's the vibes or the supporting Paul Cornish on piano, Gabe Godoy on bass and bash-'em-hard Gavin Moolchan on drums who are all among the far more crowded personnel on earlier Baker album This Is Me, This Is Us. Baker is not as obviously dazzling as say Bobby Hutcherson de nos jours Joel Ross. But if anything Baker's composer and interpreter personality and individuality shine through just as much. Godoy's woody riff introducing the title track is a moment to savour but it's really immediacy of the thematic vocabulary that draws you in, even more interesting than the efficient cover of JoeHen material and treatment of 'Body and Soul'. There's humility, passion, and ideas here - maybe some of these pieces could have been extended even more in some extended improvisational flurries is the only caveat. It's over too soon.

Tags: Reviews

Acantha Lang, Beautiful Dreams, Magnolia Blue ****

The unquenchable face-in-the-candlelight slow ballad of 'Eventually' is what hooked us most firstly here four songs in from crossover soul singer songwriter Acantha Lang. Boisterous in places 'He Said/She Said' is a room or two away from jazz. But …

Published: 8 Jul 2023. Updated: 11 months.

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The unquenchable face-in-the-candlelight slow ballad of 'Eventually' is what hooked us most firstly here four songs in from crossover soul singer songwriter Acantha Lang. Boisterous in places 'He Said/She Said' is a room or two away from jazz. But with its bustling rhythm and a flying pace relentlessness getting down and dirty in places is infectious and relatable whatever you are into. Lang has been compared aply to Mavis Staples and has been touring with Roachford and won big as new artist of the year at London music venue owner Ranald MacDonald's Boisdale awards. I liked creole queen song 'Lois Lang' later. And the pace of 'River Keep Runnin' with its rampaging horns and the sweet honey in the rock quality of the London based New Orleanian's voice is so distinctive on 'It's Gonna Be Alright'. The hum-along poppiness of 'Whatever Happened To Our Love' has a hop to it that is terrifically caught, and sends us to thoughts of the feel of Betty Wright singing 'Clean Up Woman' a bit although the Lang approach is less raw. Such an individual sound and the audio engineering sonics are just what you want in a Stax-like creation. The horns on 'Come Back Home' at the beginning are a special moment taking you there but don't sound too try hard. What more can you ask for on a compelling debut?

Acantha Lang, photo: press