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THE JAZZ DEFENDERS

UK jazz ensemble The Jazz Defenders release their third album "Memory In Motion" in April on Haggis Records (home of The Haggis Horns and Malcolm Strachan). The Bristol jazz boppers deliver another quality release of original material that takes in their usual diverse mix of influences and genres, from timeless acoustic jazz referencing the classic sounds of Blue Note Records, to a more contemporary fusion where jazz meets soul, funk and hip-hop.

Although they love to mix things up, their roots are in the classic acoustic jazz quintet sound of the late 1950s/early 1960s, back when hard bop and modal jazz ruled. They have already explored this musical path well on their previous albums but they still deliver a couple of classic inspired jazz cuts here. "Chasing Fantasies" and "Fuffle Kerfuffle" both give the band some space to cut loose on solos over swing jazz beats that will keep their original jazz audience happy. The latter bubbles away with a jazz shuffle beat that would make drum legend Art Blakey smile.

"Meanderthal" and "Snakebite Playfight" bring soul to this jazz party. Exactly like jazz legends Lee Morgan/Herbie Hancock/Freddie Hubbard etc did back in the early-mid 1960s. The first is a feel-good, toe-tapping gem that's heavy on the backbeat and short and snappy on the solos, the exact reasons that made it the perfect opening single from the album. "Snakebite Playfight" comes with a jaunty New Orleans shuffle before transforming into a heavy psychedelic soul jazz burner, flipping back with ease to the NOLA shuffle for the Mardi Gras meets bebop piano solo by band leader George Cooper.

"Rolling On A High" is a hip-hop/jazz banger that sees the band continue their collaborations with UK rapper Doc Brown, a perfect combination that began on their second album "King Phoenix''. This time, the Doc spits some old-school block party-style bars over a bouncy uptempo funky beat with the band cooking up some soul stew behind him. Definitely dancefloor material.

Another uptempo jam is the heavy jazz fusion jam "Net Zero". It kicks off with some live broken beat kit playing and piano/bass staccato vamping before taking off into Headhunters territory on the solos, sounding both contemporary and classic at the same time. This is The Jazz Defenders at their fiercest and toughest and delivering a track that will have jazz dancers worldwide in an utter frenzy.

It's not all uptempo numbers or dancefloor-oriented compositions on this album. Two tracks take the musical dynamics right down to give a temporary break from the high-energy numbers. "Take A Minute" has a rolling double bass line locked into the groove while the horns play a lazy and laid-back theme with vibes embellishment, sounding like some trippy independent film soundtrack. Another recurring musical reference point for this band over the years.

The album finishes on a poignant and introspective note with a beautiful piano and double bass feature for George Cooper and bassist Will Harris. It's called "Enigma", it was recorded live in Paris and it closes the album on a peaceful note evoking the music and playing of Bill Evans. The perfect way to close this brilliant third album from The Jazz Defenders.

With Memory In Motion, pianist George Cooper and his band undoubtedly pay great homage to a golden era of jazz music that they love, but also elaborate on this influence with a wealth of modern musical experience, to create their own raw and vibrant compositions. The result is an enthrallingly unique sound that is as danceable as it is listenable.

STAFF COMMENTS

Matt says: More treats from the UK jazz landscape. Bristol's The Jazz Defenders are the full package - continuing the lineage and traditions of the genre authentically and with their own unique style. The playing is fabulous throughout, as is the arrangements and production. Seriously, modern jazz has never been in such great shape!

TRACK LISTING

1. Meanderthal
2. The Long Haul
3. Chasing Fantasies
4. Rolling On A High (feat. Doc Brown)
5. Take A Minute
6. Fuffle Kershuffle
7. Snakebite Playfight
8. Net Zero
9. Enigma (Live In Paris)


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