Reviews: Gil Scott-Heron, Moses Boyd

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Reviews: Gil Scott-Heron, Moses Boyd

Gil Scott-Heron: We’re New Again — A Reimagining by Makaya McCraven

[rating]5[/rating]

One of the most influential artists of the 1970s, Gil Scott-Heron battled through subsequent decades with the addictions he so vividly documented.

His final album, 2010’s I’m New Here, was a powerful record in itself and was followed by a fine set of Jamie xx remixes, but it has taken a further ten years for what feels like the definitive version to emerge.

Chicago drummer Makaya McCraven, leading an incredible quintet of modern jazz luminaries, has completely reimagined the material, sensitively supporting Scott-Heron’s fragile vocals and emphasising his recurring themes of strong women and so-called broken homes.

The unlikely but inspired Smog cover, ‘I’m New Here’, sets the tone early on, Jeff Parker’s soulful guitar echoing the poignant refrain: “No matter how far wrong you’ve gone, you can always turn around.”.

‘New York is Killing Me’ is recast as a humid, swampy blues, with the star’s cracked gravel voice edging into Dr John territory. The album closes with ‘Me and the Devil’, an intense funk workout that revisits the dirt roads of Robert Johnson’s anguished lyric.

It’s a magnificent and moving tribute to a complex man and a record that bears comparison with his finest work.

Moses Boyd - Dark Matter

[rating]4[/rating]

London drummer Moses Boyd has been a rising figure in UK jazz over the past decade, working alongside many of the current crop of exciting young players. His debut solo LP is a bold and ambitious blend of diverse influences, taking in elements of funk, afrobeat, garage, rock and more.

It opens with the busy and brilliant ‘Stranger Than Fiction’, Theon Cross’s tuba punctuating Boyd’s tight, intricate polyrhythms. Both energy and tempo stay high over the following few numbers, with the breakbeat and guitar jam, ‘Y.O.Y.O’, bringing to mind Ace of Club’s minor classic, ‘Tribal Knight’.

Of the three vocals featured, Nonku Phiri’s dark, impressionistic ‘Nommos Descent’ stands out, and in ‘2 Far Gone’, Boyd’s urgent 2-step groove gives Joe Armon-Jones plenty of elbow room for a piano solo.

A few tracks don’t quite hit the mark but, overall, it’s an impressive debut and an fine snapshot of the fertile London jazz scene right now.

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