Neneh Cherry, Broken Politics

From 2018. A feeling of “parallel runnings” is what stops me in my tracks most when I listen to an album like Broken Politics by Neneh Cherry. The parallel music here is electronica, the intertwining involving the role of Four Tet aka Kieran Hebden …

Published: 14 Nov 2019. Updated: 3 years.

From 2018. A feeling of “parallel runnings” is what stops me in my tracks most when I listen to an album like Broken Politics by Neneh Cherry. The parallel music here is electronica, the intertwining involving the role of Four Tet aka Kieran Hebden who you may recall blew us all away with his work with drummer Steve Reid. This parallel music is not fused or diluted in any way. It is what it is. It assumes no qualifications or knowledge. It is populist in the best sense in that it can appeal in a humane way to anyone. Better than that it makes us reflect.

Londoners will know today that those very contemporary and real broken politics in Britain, Europe and the US and the insidious mainstreaming acceptance by default of populist and far right politics however you wish to hone in on the idea have forced non-political people as well as the politicos to the streets for the People’s Vote march. It is that serious.

Ahead of the release of the album Cherry said in one promotional interview: “I have a name. You have a name. We’re not just these faceless mounds you can put in the ground. We’re human beings with lives and stories.”

Cherry has other parallel musics at play in her imagination at work notably punk and free-jazz aka improv and these have surfaced before: remember her luminous work with The Thing Cherry’s laidback but at times emotive vocals making the material they worked on together convincing and certainly hard hitting.

The list goes back to the Rahsaan-loving Rip Rig + Panic, later Bristol, Massive Attack and the trip-hop years and of course hugely memorably with Youssou N’Dour when they took world music to a 1990s global TV audience nation that was at that time not at all certainly in the UK as well versed with African music as millennials are today but who nevertheless lapped it up and made ‘7 Seconds’ a huge hit.

What Cherry does sits alongside jazz and as often as not jumps right in as part of the spirit. And we can dip in and out as much as we like in a revolving door way. Her approach provides and has done so for years a perspective that some inside the jazz bubble can miss out on.

Not everyone is as attuned to a jazz sensibility as Cherry even the so-called orthodox jazz singers out there who are routinely regarded as part of the furniture but who sometimes get lost in the sentimentality and mores of the grand traditions of the music and which have thrown up a barrier that is far from invisible. SG

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Ben Monder, Amorphae, ECM

From 2016. A stimulating departure for the guitarist, who is on the late David Bowie’s album Blackstar, and whose playing credits over three decades span work with Jack McDuff, Marc Johnson, Lee Konitz, Maria Schneider, George Garzone and Paul …

Published: 14 Nov 2019. Updated: 3 years.

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From 2016. A stimulating departure for the guitarist, who is on the late David Bowie’s album Blackstar, and whose playing credits over three decades span work with Jack McDuff, Marc Johnson, Lee Konitz, Maria Schneider, George Garzone and Paul Motian.

Ex-Bill Evans and Keith Jarrett American quartet drummer Paul Motian (1937-2011) is featured with Monder on the album. Initially conceived, according to an ECM listing on the US version of Amazon, before Motian’s death, as a series of duos, the Monder/Motian portion of the album was recorded in 2010 (the rest of the album following in 2013).

Monder had been a member of Motian’s Garden of Eden band recording for ECM in 2004 a septet that featured three guitarists all told also including Jakob Bro who also made his label debut as leader this past year. More duos on Amorphae are included featuring free-jazz legend Andrew Cyrille while for the trio tracks synthesizer player Pete Rende joins.

The guitarist has his own bands in the States and appears in duo with singer Theo Bleckmann as well as having surfaced on a substantial number of records as a sideman. His most recent album as a leader, Hydra, was released two years ago on the Sunnyside label. Monder plays electric guitar and electric baritone guitar on the album. The music played is mostly Monder’s, with the exception of Oklahoma song ‘Oh, What a Beautiful Morning.’.

It's achingly beautiful music, long flowing Frippian lines emerging from the murk of headlights through rain, the drone of an exhaust bleeding loud figuratively speaking and broadening, funnelling out, like the sound a truck might make blaring through the liquidy hue of the blackest of nights, the air a wispy presence swirling around. Rende’s expressive synth washes are a foil for Monder. Cyrille and Motian in the sequencing and concatenation of their styles match, a oneness, as earth faces the sky. SG