Sampladelic Nu Jazz from Jason Swinscoe's Cinematic Orchestra together with Fontella...
Peter Marsh 2002-11-20
Nu Jazz - there's a lot of it about. A few years ago, dance music's relationship with jazz amounted to nicking samples from old Blue Note records in the hope of appropriating some hipster cool. Things have changed since then, with the likes of St Germain, 4 Hero and Bugge Wesseltoft forging a music where the saxophone and the sampler can (just about) peacefully coexist.
J. Swinscoe's Cinematic Orchestra are old hands at this game, roping in musicians like Tom Chant (also known for his improv work with the likes of Eddie Prevost) and keyboard whiz John Ellis to add flesh, blood and breath to Swinscoe's digijazz constructions. Every Day is their second album and seems destined for instant Nu-Jazz credibility - it even has (wait for it) Gilles Peterson sleevenotes.
Every Day kicks off with the single "All that you Give"; cascades of Alice Coltrane-esque harp, followed by (surprise!) an Alice Coltrane string sample, topped off with a deeply soulful vocal from Fontella Bass (of "Rescue Me" and Art Ensemble of Chicago fame). It certainly pushes all the right cosmic jazz buttons, whereas on the second collaboration with Ms Bass ("Evolution") Swinscoe cuts up her vocal over a downtempo groove into short, repeated phrases that recalls Moby's "borrowing" of blues recordings. Despite some fine Rhodes soloing by John Ellis and a nice scratch outing from DJ Food's P.C., the track seems constructed rather than played (not surprising when the sleeve lists four different recording locations).
The Orchestra finally head towards escape velocity with 'Man with a Movie Camera'; a slinky, atmospheric slice of fusion driven by Luke Flower's crisply inventive drumming and featuring some fine Tom Chant soprano soloing, which hints at what the band are capable of in a live setting. Better still is the eleven minute "All Things to All Men"; a cooly minimalist atmospheric funk workout complete with typically off beam rhymes from Roots Manuva (even namechecking the Tardis - cosmic !) and a lovely, kora like Rodhri Davies harp solo.
The closing title track, (complete with a sumptuous Charlie Haden like intro from bassist Phil France) goes nowhere beautifully with gently chattering synths gurgling happily to themselves over Flowers and France's slo-mo grooves and muted kalimba riffing.
Though this is an attractive record, it's mostly all surface; repeated listens don't really reveal anything new and you can't help feeling that this won't be an album you'll be playing much this time next year. Gilles Peterson's sleevenotes are designed to suggest otherwise; "The Cinematic Orchestra tread the fine line between DJ culture and a week at the Village Vanguard", he writes. Some might say it's a yawning chasm rather than a fine line, but with Every Day the Cinematic Orchestra are at least building a bridge. More grit and muscle would be welcome though; how about a live album next time ?
Like This? Try These:
Various - The CTI Master Collection
Roots Manuva - Run Come Save Me
Chris Bowden - Slightly Askew