a recent bargain bin purchase as ever curious to hear some of the newer jazz thats out there. Mercury nominee Denys Baptiste here on "Alternating Currents" from 2001 has certainly produced an impressive ,varied jazz lp of varying moods,tempi + inventive moods with good if hardly inspired backing form his quartet of bass,piano, drums + piano.
its a matter of context i think - if you're a new fan of jazz : you'll find much on "AC" to please. traditional classic acoustic jazz ? tick. sophisticated arrangement yet still melodic ? tick. good variety of tracks covering a range of moods ? tick. fun + quirky in parts / sensuous vocals in others ? tick. vaguely mid-60's Miles Davis bop tradition ? tick. a good range of uptempo instrumental as well as slow vocal soulful tracks ? tick.
genuinely exciting , exploratory new jazz with an edge ? not really for me. Baptiste is a fine musician who plays accomplished post-bop as well as soulful tenor + alto saxes here but theres really no playing by anyone that has a rough or seat of the pants improvisatory feel. a shame.
a solid, perfectly enjoyably album from one of the uk's new talents but nothing here that Courtney Pine didnt do ten years earlier with arguably greater elan + arresting sax playing. a good is harldy essential lp. . first tho - buy John Coltrane (1960-1964), Miles Davis (1960-67), Ornette Coleman (anything), Courtney Pine (early lps), Steve Coleman (anything) or the hugley underrated Vandermark 5. new uk blood such as the far more exploratory TrioVD or Soweto Kinch highlight this lp s shortcomings - namely accomplished but for me -lacking true "fire" or edge.
3 stars going on 4. Baptiste's later LP "Let Freedom Ring" offers arguably the more satisfying experience with a wider array of styles + more exploratory sax.
Denys Baptiste answers his MOBO award with an album that is probably as important as Courtney Pine's 'Underground'. Pine's influence can been seen in Baptiste's music, but Baptiste certainly has a unique sound. Perhaps his most interesting is the second track 'The Kraken', a very atmospheric piece based on the alleged monster-sized squid in legends. He shows his musical flexibility in track 5 'Mind the Gap' seamlessly changing from 3/4, 4/4, and 5/4 timebase. The vocal efforts from Juliet Roberts on two tracks blend in perfectly with Baptistes style. This is a brilliant album, a definate must-buy for anyone interested in British jazz.
What we have here is a young(ish) British Jazzman showing the rest how to make a great album without resorting to gimmickry, trendy beats (yawn) and overrated superstar guests who have been resting on their laurels for too long. In my opinon, Denys has already bettered his mentor Courtney Pine in that his first two albums easily surpass those of the latter in terms of playing and strength of composition. OK, Denys has enlisted the wondeful Martin Taylor and Juliet Roberts on this recording. However, these people are not has-beens, they are never-weres who deserve far better than the relative obscurity that they have acheived thus far ( Talent doesn't always find the success it deserves without multi-million dollar A&R parasites in tow.) Putting my soapbox away now, this album has many fine and challenging compositions which although complex are never overcooked, inaccessible or cluttered with excessive blowing. The backup of his superb band is exemplary. This is an album that should not be missed. If there is any justice in this world ( and I seriously doubt that there is) this guy is going to be big news in the future. Good luck to him, he dererves it. He respects the tradition of the music while bringing new life to it. His compositions have the same freshness and originality of a young Wayne Shorter.