Soul Revivers - On the Grove (Acid Jazz)

Soul Revivers – On the Grove (Acid Jazz)

Acid Jazz; not just a label, but a whole genre. A term coined by DJ Gilles Peterson and along with cohorts Bangs and Eddie Piller created the label on which this release sits. Described as a “passionate collaboration project”, a host of artists bring life to the 12 tracks offered.

Kicking off this smooth brew, we have ‘No More Drama’, a suitably titled song. I don’t know which came first, the composition or the title, as compilers Nick Mannasseh and David Hill apparently sent the backing track to the almost 90 year-old, guitar virtuoso Ernest Ranglin, in Kingston, Jamaica. This was done so he might lay down his particular style of octave guitar and this just works. The sounds that come from the speakers you will observe in wonder. This is instrumental music you’ll sit and play over and over, never getting tired of what is being presented, hearing new details each time you seep into the number. Moving on, this album certainly can’t be called a one trick pony, as Mannasseh and Hill introduce Ken Boothe, the Kingston Born vocalist, whose distinctive timbre has lent many a reggae and ska number its individuality. This track, ‘No More Dreams’, might be likened to the same expectation you feel when passing a coffee house. The aroma received on the approach, the whole carnival as the barista prepares your chosen blend, culminating in the smooth taste, as your senses envelop the richness of this legal high. This is how I’m finding much in common with Boothe’s long lived understanding of this musical genre, not just his ability to breathe life into the words “…why can’t we live as one…”, but the way the band understand these, as the smooth reggae demonstrates a tightness and precision exemplified by these masters of their art.

I might describe this collaboration as being a bumper package of love and experience. Its compilers and main men, Nick and David, have packed this with contributors that speak of the scene both have been involved with for five decades between them. The London music scene might have been the location where both started out, including running successful sound systems, labels and pioneering UK music genres, but it’s sunnier climes where both inhabit artistically. Growing up in Kingston, Earl 16 has 2 numbers included on this album, the next track, ‘Got To Live’ speaks eloquently of the times. Earl sings “Living in this changing world, wondering where I stand, wondering where we can go, to live and be free…”, and as I sit with the rolling news on the panel in front of me, I feel a chill descend my spine, as I pick up the story; the chorus begins, “A new day is dawning and it’s a new feeling, see the times are changing, we just want live in the new day now.”. Shades of Dylan perhaps, but I honestly don’t think I’d rather have a better story teller than he. As Earl plays out to a familiar bass run, the trumpet talents of Ms. Maurice, bandleader of Afro Jazz ensemble Kokoroko, is heard playing her metaphorical heart out on this instrumental number.

‘Look No Further’, is an Acid Jazz vibe and combines beautifully the artist’s playing. Alexia Coley follows this with ‘Gone Are The Days’ on which a beautiful bass run, combined with horn section, announces the number, and it’s like sinking your toes into the warmest sand, as 360 degree sunshine beats down. While I’m soaking in the rays, Alexia chimes in “Gone are the days, I share my world with you. I’m taking back my life.”, but rather than a malice filled lyric, accompanied by slick dub/reggae, I could quite easily spread onto my toast in the morning, as the butter drips onto the plate beneath. This is a gorgeous number, where the only thought I’m left with is the line she sings, “…I only wanted your lovin’…”, utterly sumptuous.

‘Meanwhile Shuffle’ is next on the menu, as a rim shot is offered up. The contributor here is Henry “Buttons” Tenyue, otherwise known as Matic Horns, a musician whose trombone can be heard on work with Aswad. This is hypnotic, like a snake charmer playing in an Egyptian market. Memories of years growing up in the 70s, where a diet of ska & reggae could be found on my playlist and was something to keep the horrors of glam-rock at bay. This instrumental slice ends with a cymbal fade out, as a heavy bass run is brought in. This is ‘Cee Rocka’ and it features Dougal and Ciyo. Our hosts describe themselves as being“…big fans of the music of Cedric Brooks and of light ska, but there’s just not enough of this kind of music around and what there is, we prize highly!” An instrumental, where vocal is replaced by wah-wah guitar and this sorrowful patter is lifted as a brass section is brought in. Next up, Nick recalls recording Devon Russell’s vocal, for ‘The Underground’ back in 1997. When compiling this collection he found the recording sitting on a hard drive and thought it perfect for Soul Revivers. Russell is well known for covering Curtis Mayfield songs and this one sits proudly on this collection. Offering up Russell’s rich vocal, performing alongside its glorious bass run, words portray an almost Beyond Thunderdome existence. 

We’re on the home stretch now, as faces familiar from earlier in this collection once again raise their artistic bent. Earl 16, otherwise known as Earl John Daley is the first of these with ‘Where the River’. This is a hazy, lazy number in which Daley laments a city life. In this track he sings “…you simply never know, where the river will flow…” his lavish vocal, telling this story in a Sunday morning vibe, totally easy. Guitarist Ernest Ranglin, performs ‘Harder’, a tune which Nick Mannasseh describes David Hill as sending 60s Ethiopian Jazz to reference. This is an uptempo telling and possessing a connection with early Upsetters tunes, the stage was set. Different in tone to ‘No More Drama’, this shows another side to the virtuoso, whilst still keeping the sound system vibe. ‘Futile Cause’ hears Alexia Coley as once again the lover spurned, but somehow I think her strength will see her through, if vocals are any way to judge this. Finally, ‘Down River’ by Ms. Maurice, once again shows the talents of this bandleader. Another instrumental, filled with that familiar bass run and Sunday morning tone. This is like eating syrup off a spoon, as once that sugar rush hits, the listener will be wanting more.

A collection of 12 tracks, that seem far greater in content. The album’s compilers have worked well to have assembled a sound system that can be accessed whenever and wherever you are, even from the palm of the hand.

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