UK Jazz is on fire at the moment. Binker and Moses, Outside Broadcast, Nerija, SEEDS Ensemble and Ebi Soda are all releasing their strongest material to date whilst hinting at what is to come.
One name that can now be added to that list is Joe Armon-Jones. His 2018 debut album ‘Starting Today’ was a delightfully wonky ride, but his latest offering, ‘Turn to Clear View’, takes everything that made ‘Starting Today’ playful and fun while ramping up the captivating melodies, and guest spots, to create something that feels like an instant classic.
‘Try Walk With Me’ gets things going with hazy, keys and synths and horns what sway. By the second, or third, horn sway you are either hooked and when Asheber’s sonorous vocals kick in we’re off to the race. Be that a very slow and meandering race.
What ‘Try Walk with Me’ tells us is that we are going to be bombarded with glorious melodies and motifs. One of the albums standout moments is next. ‘Yellow Dandelion’ features neo-soul visionary Georgia Anne Muldrow on vocals. Here Armon-Jones has crafted a delicate backing track that ideally matches Muldrow’s soaring vocals. There are hints of P-Funk, in the solos, and subtle nods to bass culture and the LA beat scene but with a UK twist.
Despite opening with two strong guest spots, and showing how well he plays with others throughout, ‘Turn To Clear View’ is at its best when Armon-Jones goes it along and delivers forward thinking music that challenges our perception of that jazz is and should be in 2019.
‘Gnawa Sweet’ feels like perfect soundtrack to any night bus (mis)adventure. Hustler vibes ooze out of the speakers and everything has a late night feel. This isn’t dangerous jazz, but there are definitely plenty of sleaze horns and nocturnal keys. On ‘You Didn’t Care’ Armon-Jones’ lets saxophonist Nubya Garcia do her thing and the results are flawless as he complements her playing, rather than Garcia fitting in to Armon-Jones’ style.
‘Turn To Clear View’ is an album that shoots out of the speakers like a bolt of sunshine and immediately sucks you into its woozy world. After Armon-Jones and collaborator/co-producer Maxwell Owin wrote out the musical charts that would turn into ‘Turn To Clear View’ the whole thing was recorded over two days.
And its feeling of immediacy really comes across in the playing. But when you have Oscar Jerome, Moses Boyd and Nubya Garcia in your band the results were always going to be something special.
Words: Nick Roseblade
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