Welcome to the latest issue of Denis Poole’s Secret Garden, the page that offers a British perspective on all that’s good, and not so good, in the world of smooth jazz and classic soul. Co founder of the Brand New Heavies Jim Wellman has gathered together some of the bands former line up and combined them with numerous other accomplished soloists, including Roy Ayers, for the project Post Modern Jazz. The end product is the CD Love Not Truth and although described by the publicity blurb as big band Jazz funk it is in fact much more interesting and diverse than that.
The Brand New Heavies were pioneers of the London acid jazz scene and translated their love for the funk grooves of the 1970s into a sophisticated sound that evoked memories of classic soul in an era dominated by hip-hop. Originally an instrumental unit inspired by The Meters they were formed in 1985 by Jan Kincaid, Simon Bartholomew and Andrew Levy who had become friends while at school in the London suburb of Ealing. Eventually adding a brass section and Jay Ella Ruth as vocalist, the Brand New Heavies built a cult following throughout the London club circuit and, with various changes in line up along the way, continued to record and perform right through the nineties.
Although none of the original trio feature in Post Modern Jazz, guitar player Lascelles Gordon, sax man Mike Smith, keyboardist Robert Carter, trumpeter Gerard Presencer and Jim Wellman, all of whom figured with the Heavies at one time or the other, are around to play a part. The result is an ultra tight collection of ten tracks that, much like the music of The Brand New Heavies themselves is unapologetically retro and always compelling. This tone is set as early as the intro track, ‘Sun Theme’, a simple keyboards and vibes techno rhythm that paves the way for the title track where the vocals of Roy Ayers combine with luscious yet understated horns for a sumptuous slice of up tempo jazz funk that threatens to be a real dance floor filler.
On the subject of dance floor fillers the late Mel Nixon who is known for his Northern Soul classic ‘Something Old Something New’ is featured twice. ‘Crazy Love Song’ is Latin funk that develops an infectious vibe along the way while one of the CD’s standouts is ‘Love Once More’. It starts off tight and funky, blends in the vocals of Nixon then knocks your socks off with backing from Jim Wellman and Judy La Rose. That backing just keeps on going as first Keith More on guitar then Robert Carter on keyboards deliver choice solo’s to engender something akin to dance frenzy.
The vocals of Judy La Rose are a major feature of the album. She demonstrates her range in applying the lightest of touches to the mid tempo retro feeling ‘Darkness Into Light’ and again takes the lead on the complex and sophisticated ‘Everything’ that, in addition, is blessed by a Roy Ayers solo. However her most significant contribution comes on ‘Lucy’ where first a tight rhythm and then a catchy horn riff precede Judy’s soulful vocals on a tune that has all the hallmarks of a cult classic in the making.
Yet another highlight is the instrumental ‘Undecided’. While still charged with funk it is the most melodic track by far and is helped in this respect by a sweet vibes solo from Ayers. Another vibes solo, this time complemented by Ayers own vocal lead, is the centerpiece of the foot tapping ‘Good Vibrations’, (no, not The Beach Boys track), and he is back again for ‘Another Kind Of Culture’. It’s a number that might best be described as chill funk with Ayers vocalizing the chorus and Judy La Rose making a welcome return to sing the verses.
Love Not Truth by Post Modern Jazz is a delight not only for those of us who hark back to the funky and non synthesized days of past decades but for everyone who has even just an ounce of soul in them. For more go to www.postmodernjazz.comPosted by Denis Poole at February 6, 2006 11:28 AM