Joe Armon-Jones – Turn To Clear View
(Brownswood BWOOD 0207CD. CD Review by Peter Jones)
One of the many joys of the current new wave of British jazz, centred around London’s Jazz Café and the mighty Tomorrow’s Warriors organization, is that it sounds so identifiably British. This is not meant in the flag-waving sense, but simply to point out that Joe Armon-Jones’s music is suffused with a sense of place. Hence that particular mix of influences you are only going to hear in the capital – rap, dub horns, funk, afro-beat, broken beat, drum’n’bass, rappers with London accents, not to mention the spaced-out vibe often associated with exotic cheroots. All these flavours are combined with a remarkably confident and sophisticated approach to ensemble playing and improvisation.
Ever since he left Eton and then graduated with a music degree from Trinity Laban, the trajectory of Armon-Jones’s career has been dizzying. He first drew public attention as the keyboard-player in The Ezra Collective. At this year’s Cheltenham Jazz Festival he appeared under his own name but also as a backing musician for Nubya Garcia. Now here is his second album, and it’s every bit as good as you might hope, with all the positive energy and excitement of the live shows.
Armon-Jones is an enthusiastic collaborator. His wide circle of fellow musicians is represented by Moses Boyd and Kwake Bass on drums, David Mrakpor and Mutale Chashi on bass, Oscar Jerome on guitar, Ezra’s trumpet-player Dylan Jones and saxophonist James Mollison, plus Nubya Garcia, and an array of vocalists. All of these have a different style, but all somehow fit the Armon-Jones mould to a T. The opening track Try Walk With Me features veteran afro-beat specialist Asheber, but this track is a gorgeous psychedelic journey into the mysterious unknown. The tune getting the airplay so far has been Yellow Dandelion, with the distinctive voice of LA-based Georgia Anne Muldrow, whom I last heard on Robert Glasper’s Miles Davis mash-up album. On The Leo & Aquarius we hear from English rapper Billy Shields AKA Jehst, and on Self:Love it’s the turn of Nigerian-born Obongjayar.
Garcia blows up a storm on You Didn’t Care, underpinned by the other-worldly harmonies of vocalist Luke Newman. And throughout, Joe Armon-Jones keeps things moving briskly, his characteristic Rhodes sound constantly shifting and evolving to produce alarming twitters and swoops, sudden multi-echoes and lightning fast arpeggios.