Album Appreciation: Sunny Side Up

A while ago I wrote about the ‘We out Here‘ compilation album which Gilles Peterson’s Brownswood Recordings put out as a primer for, and celebration of, the burgeoning London ‘jazz’ scene. I say ‘jazz’ because that is probably the genre more than any other which united those recordings… with artists bringing in other influences from their own cultural backgrounds: hip hop, funk, soul, grime… well the list could be endless if you drilled down far enough. These artists certainly redefined and broadened was jazz could be… arguable developing a scene, especially around London… but elsewhere in the UK too… which you might describe as bringing to it new forms of jazz… but could equally argue that these mash ups were more eclectic than that.

However you want to describe it, though, the ‘We out Here’ recordings acted as a catalyst for me to explore some of the amazing artists that are on that record, effectively raising them up from the underground and giving them an extra layer of exposure to the point where many of them are developing their own distinctive sounds and really running with them.

Brownswood seems to be now repeating the trick with what looks, at face value at least, to be a similar scene in Melbourne judging by the descriptions of the record I’ve seen. A scene that is close-knit, highly collaborative, based around a few studios and venues… with the catalyst of a breakthrough act, in Melbourne’s case Hiatus Kaiyote… a soul band who have very much ploughed their own eclectic furrow.

Like ‘We out Here’, ‘Sunny Side Up’ was recorded at a single studio, the Grove, by the various artists over the period of a week using the same producer, Silentjay. These are not phoned in contributions or donations of previous work by musicians. The album is recorded in a way that showcases the very community which it comes from, and as such has a coherent feeling to it which might otherwise be absent.

As such it acts as an excellent starting point for the ‘new jazz’ scene in Melbourne, and points to the different ways in which artists are developing and shaping jazz music to synergise with their own experiences.

It’s hard to imagine how the album could get off to a better start than with the beautiful sound of Phil Stroud’s ‘Banksia’, with its rich grooves and wonderful mix bringing together a soulful jazz that just enriches the heart as it goes. These foundations are built on by Dufresne, whose funky ‘Pick Up/ Galaxy’ had me scrambling back to those classic early 70s Stevie Wonder albums… really tight but with a contemporary edge that I find really convincing. Together these tracks really set out the stall of what this Melbourne scene is… eclectic yet with strong common bonds…

After that Kuzich takes it down a few notches with ‘There is no Time’. This track feels both melancholic and uplifting, while Audrey Powne’s ‘Bleeding Hearts’ keeps it mellow with a stunning jazz vocal performance which feels both traditional and bang up-to-date. The interplay with the trumpet here is superb, a real highlight amongst an album of highlights.

Then Zeitgeist Freedom Energy Exchange takes us from the smoky jazz club to the dance floor with a punchy and very groovy ‘Powers 2 (The People)’… this track has so many elements feeding into it it would be a review in itself to cover it all, check it out here…

The beat goes on with ‘Nice to See You’ from Laneous… a track that is just so superbly arranged and played, with his marvellously rangeful vocal performance being particularly noteworthy.

The whole album is produced by Silentjay, who gets his own track ‘Eternal/ Internal’ piece which, importantly, featured members of Haitus Kaiyote members: Paul Bender (bass), Simon Mavin (piano/ keyboard), and Perrin Moss (drums). The track soars and feels like a real celebration of the scene and this album… I don’t know but I like to imagine this being performed triumphantly at the end of the week long session.

Two numbers left, which, again, come from different places musically… but share a certain DNA. Horatio Luna’s ‘The Wake Up’ has elements of house liberally sprinkled into it, a track which starts slowly and builds up wonderfully over time… it’s a track you could lose your shit to on the dance floor, but also find yourself staring wistfully and reflectively out of a window to. And when that trumpet comes in at around 5’30” – just bloody marvellous!

In contrast Allysha Joy’s ‘Orbit’ takes things right down into the depths of your soul and leaves you both in pieces and at peace with the world… another fantastic and emotional performance amongst a set of tracks which have such depth and warmth to them.

From the evidence presented here the Melbourne jazz/ funk/ soul/ urban scene is in exceptionally rude health. The album tells us that there is a lot to discover, and I look forward to disappearing down a deep and spider-like rabbit hole… discovering the wider work of the musicians showcased here.

‘Sunny Side Up’ is out now on Brownswood Recordings.



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