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…And Then There’s This

This page examines the unique and wonderful contributions of lesser-known UK and other European artists who have proven their musical excellence but have yet to receive their lion's share of recognition. Haven't heard of this or that artist before? Our main author, Steve Giachardi will surely make the introduction for you! Enjoy!

 

May 11, 2018

Jessica Lauren — Almeria

Jessica Lauren is one of those hugely talented British Jazz musicians who have been on the scene for a while but never truly get the fame and recognition they deserve, beyond their musical peers at any rate.

Almeria arrived today. It’s been a long day. I feel exhausted. You know when you have those days where nothing seems to go right? So, this was a real blessing to find in the post box. Unwrapped it and popped it in the player. Then began my magical musical journey. The opener is a mysterious African-flavoured janky groove that’s full of exotic flavours and shimmers with dusty heat. (Remarkable for a one-time East Londoner, now seaside resident!) This track really does take you for a ride across the desert. Then, there’s that haunting refrain. It lilts into your brain, and it’s over. The next thing you know, you’re coming to with the sounds of crickets and that crazy marimba tonking through. It’s like you are resting on some Oasis, with the sound of busy crickets, and then there are the pots clonking together a short distance away. You’re there, resting back up against a swaying palm, keeping out the heat, and Tamar Osborn starts blowing. Then there’s that crazy interlude, magic.

It’s with Amalfi that this album bursts into light. If this were a Nicola Conti track, it would be all over the lounge airwaves! A beautiful tune that carries on the heat this time beside the blue waters of the Mediterranean. I have never been to Italy, but this track took me there. Pure white houses, one atop the other, with the blue sea sparkling in the heat haze below.

Lauren and company paint beautiful pictures with their music. The next track finds her piano skulking down the alleyways, nipping in and out of the shadows. It’s a tune that’s got a trench-coat and trilby sound. Follow her. It’s dark and all kinds of gumshoe.

Then the playfulness returns. Chirchourlette pops along. This group just loves to vamp. A real head-nodder that occasionally dissolves into a cascade of shimmering tinsel tones before righting itself, and then there’s La Lauren on the Rhodes again. Stepping out and swinging. Now, that’s what I’m talking about.

Not sure if any of you remember the Chico Hamilton band from the sixties, well, Lauren and company evoke that same kind of vibe. On Bells Ring for Esmeralda, Lauren’s excellent piano playing rides over a gentle Latin vamp, (yeah, they are at it again!!), but this has so got a sixties Blue Note lilt to it. Tamar Osborn’s flute playing is beautifully breathy and drives this tune, classic.

We stay in that sixties Blue Note groove for more but wait, is that a harpsichord? Seriously? And yet it is just exactly the right sound in that space. Well, we might be on our way to Cuba, and maybe we get some Chocolate Con Churros. This groove just came and went like one of those delightful snacks!

And our journey through Latin America brings us to Argentina, the final track on this album. It starts wistfully, like a breeze blowing through the pampas, maybe there’s a light rain, and there’s certainly a chill in the air. It’s a sad farewell, a fitting, fado-esque adios to close out a remarkable journey of an album.

This is a soundtrack for this Summer. Interesting, catchy tunes that evoke mindscapes of exotic places, beaches, deserts, far away lands. It’s almost like finding a long-lost Blue Note.

Credit must go to the superb rhythm team of ‘Level’ Neville Malcolm and Cosimo Keita Cadore on bass and drums, respectively. They just groove throughout the entire album. Tamar Osborn’s contributions are delightful throughout, and Jessica Laurens piano, when she lets it go, is class. A really, really, good album. Can’t recommend highly enough! – Steve Giachardi