CD reviews

Vibration Black Finger – “Can You See What I’m Trying to Say”

Vibration Black Finger – Can You See What Im Trying to Say (Jazzman JJMANLP 121. CD review by Peter Jones)

Music that breaks genre boundaries is difficult to sell. People naturally want to know what it sounds like, and if the compositions have been drawn from decades of listening and playing in a wide variety of contexts, sometimes it’s hard to know how to describe them. I imagine Lascelle Gordon has this problem with his project Vibration Black Finger, whose second album this is.

Vibration Black FingerSo it’s probably best to begin by saying that Can You See What I’m Trying to Say is terrific – eminently listenable, and it gets better the more you listen to it. Gordon has been around for a long time and done a lot of interesting work: he played percussion and keyboards in the first iteration of the Brand New Heavies in 1985, when they were called Diana Brown and the Brothers, and he DJ’d at the Wag in the ’90s, but he’s never quite broken through. I get the impression he’s making music that he likes, and if anyone else likes it, fine, but that’s not really the point as far as he’s concerned.

The album has been assembled from bits and pieces he’s had lying around at home for years, in some cases, and that’s where most of it was recorded. There are deep layers here, echoes of  cosmic jazz, groove, rock and pop (he likes A Certain Ratio), funk, dub, electronica and found sounds. In interviews, Gordon has cited James Brown, Can, Herbie Hancock, Weather Report, the Art Ensemble of Chicago and the ECM catalogue. He slips in sly musical tributes here and there throughout the album: on Acting for Liberation (pt.1), for instance, there’s a quote from Herbie Hancock’s 1973 version of Watermelon Man.

In the modern British context, Vibration Black Finger has that riffy, blissed-out vibe that we’ve been hearing recently from the likes of Chip Wickham and Matthew Halsall, with Ebony Rose (Empty Streets, The Glory) and 72-year-old free jazz veteran Maggie Nicols (Acting for Liberation pt.2, Only in a Dream) adding some super-cool vocal and lyrical contributions. Julie Kjaer (flute) and the late Ken Kambayashi (bass) also make their presence felt. Pianist Diana Gutkind, whose playing reminds me of Robert Wyatt, has stamped her influence on the album with the pleasantly drifting Persia and Cornelius, her own haunting solo snippet Gutkind’s Dream and the delicately dreamlike Soul Fire.

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Lascelle Gordon has been astute in his choice of collaborators. At times quiet and eerie, at times a cheerfully noisy mash-up, the music of Can You See is varied and multi-layered, but somehow always itself. Just a lovely piece of work.

LINK: Listen to track Soul Fire from the album

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