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Van Morrison & Tony Allen: jazz chart success

Van Morrison tops the latest jazz and blues official UK chart. The Astral Weeks and Moondance singer-songwriter is the second Northern Ireland artist, after Gary Moore last week, to top the chart this month. Afrobeat legend Nigerian drummer Tony …

Published: 14 May 2021. Updated: 41 days.

Van Morrison tops the latest jazz and blues official UK chart.

The Astral Weeks and Moondance singer-songwriter is the second Northern Ireland artist, after Gary Moore last week, to top the chart this month. Afrobeat legend Nigerian drummer Tony Allen also enters the chart at no.3 with posthumous release There Is No End.

Van's highly controversial Latest Record Project Vol. 1 also enters the main UK album charts at no. 5. Van emerged against all odds on the record we think with his best work since, and up there with, 2008's Keep it Simple. Recorded at a number of locations over an unspecified period in the Musicbox Studios, Cardiff; Culloden Hotel, County Down; Real World Studios, Wiltshire; Subterania, London and the Bath Spa Hotel, Bath the blues are at the heart of it all but everything connects in the overlap in Latest Record Project's case mostly soul (eg specifically in a Ray Charles sense) and of course jazz flavoured by Richard Dunn on Hammond organ with a tiny bit of country snuck in via Dave Keary's banjo contribution say on 'Western Man'.

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The big songs that immediately embedded deep within quickly enough after several listens but pretty much immediately include 'Blue Funk' which is spectacular. Limerick man Dave Keary goes BB King-like at the beginning in a glorious burst and Van really is in the moment. 'Big Lie' has a very good duet with Chris Farlowe. 'A Few Bars Early' has an original angle to it. 'Thank God for the Blues' grooves and for lyrics I liked 'Western Man' most for its sadness. There is some humour ('Duper's Delight' made me laugh for the local lingo) and some righteous anger as well peppered throughout. Van somehow manages to get a hold of himself in terms of the polemics more than he did back in the autumn. Northern Ireland has been really badly hit by the ban on live music, much worse than a lot of places sadly. Van has stood up for the musicians throughout all this dire period. The sha-la-la-las on the title track sparkle and newcomer backing singer Kelly Smiley blends really well with Dana Masters and Crawford Bell. In the rhythm section Teena Lyle on percussion makes a big difference as she did opening Vince Power's PowerHaus in Camden Town back in December.

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RIP Norman Simmons

Pianist Norman Simmons has died. He was 91. Carmen McRae is and always has been marlbank's pre-eminent jazz singer of first resource and no. 1. No one comes close and Simmons was one of Carmen's greatest accompanists, probably the greatest of all, …

Published: 14 May 2021. Updated: 41 days.

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Pianist Norman Simmons has died. He was 91. Carmen McRae is and always has been marlbank's pre-eminent jazz singer of first resource and no. 1. No one comes close and Simmons was one of Carmen's greatest accompanists, probably the greatest of all, and so the Simmons touch let's be clear was remarkable, an art in itself inhabiting the song and working with many of the greatest singers whose work was nonpareil as was his.

Read more at WBGO.

Simmons who hailed from Chicago also worked with Ernestine Anderson, Anita O'Day, Joe Williams and Betty Carter. He had his own groups first at the end of the 1940s and led the house trio at the Beehive in his home town.

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