18 December 2011

Ska LaVin NYE Party @ Troy Bar

Ska LaVin NYE Party 2011 flyerAs usual there are lots of vintage NYE parties coming up, but this one looks particularly good. Tommy Rock A Shacka from Japan is currently over in the UK and will be spinning alongside top London reggae selectors Tiny T and Asher G. Expect some great rocksteady, roots and ska.

Ska LaVin New Year's Eve Party
@ The Troy Bar

10 Hoxton Street,
N1 6NG

31st December, 2011.
8pm - 4am.
Tickets: £10

25 October 2011

Vintage Halloween Parties - October 2011

White Mischief Halloween party flyerWell, it doesn't look like there's much going on on Halloween itself this year, it being a Monday and all, but fear not, there's lots to choose from over the weekend preceding it. Here's my round-up of this year's choicest, Halloween-themed, vintage club nights. Dressing up is generally not obligatory, but in most cases it is highly appreciated, and at some of the events may even get you a discount on admission.


Jukebox Jam Halloween Special

A night of rock 'n' roll, rhythm 'n' blues and sleazy exotica from live bands and resident DJs. Guest jockey this month is the great Ben Olins from The Stag O Lee club.

A Danse Macabre - The Halloween Ball

An erotic, late-night ball featuring cabaret, burlesque, live bands and DJs including Dickon Edwards.

The Sizzle Suite

Old school funk, soul, ska, r'n'b, swing, calypso and more from DJs Duke Skeleton and host Count Sizzle plus The Congo Faith Healers live and flamenco from Paula y Manu.



White Mischief presents A Ghost In the Machine

Spectacular indoor festival in a multi-floored, converted Victorian cinema. Line-up features live bands, cabaret, installations, fabulous costumes and vintage DJs, including yours truly, spinning swing, blues, rock 'n' roll and more.

The Hideous Big Ten Inch Halloween Horror Show

Mr "Ghost Train" himself, Jerry Dammers, joins Count Skylarkin on the decks to spin "devilish blues, ghoulish ska, coffin-rockin' rocksteady and buried treasure from Tutankhamun's grave".


Finally, should you fancy getting away from all the ghouls and goblins, there are plenty of other nights to choose from, on the Friday at least. Check out the Calendar for suggestions:


19 October 2011

Duke Vin & The Birth Of Ska - 27th October

Duke Vin & The Birth Of Ska is showing for FREE on Thursday 27th October at the Peckham Plex Cinema. This is a film I've mentioned a few times on this blog. It has only had limited distribution, so each time it's shown in London I feel it worth pointing out. First released in 2008, I saw it myself at The Portobello Film Festival in 2009, and have to say it is well worth watching. An excellent slice of history, telling the story of Duke Vin - an important figure in the world of Jamaican music in the UK.

Duke Vin film poster
Directed by Gus Berger, the film is a documentary of 55 minutes in length, which features interviews with Duke Vin himself and other important figures in the UK reggae scene, as well as some vintage footage. I would have liked to have seen more footage from the 50s, 60s and 70s, but given the somewhat underground nature of the Jamaican music scene in Britain, I can imagine this being a story that just wasn't caught on camera.

A film like this was therefore long overdue. It tells a story that is essential for anyone interested in Jamaican music and culture and its influence on the UK.

Thursday 27th October. 7.30pm.
The Peckham Plex Cinema,

95a Rye Lane, London, SE15 4ST
FREE admission (booking essential)
Bookings: free_duke@live.com

Telephone: 07415 174 451

Cinema website: http://www.peckhamplex.com/
Film website: http://gustofilms.com/duke-vin/

SOAS World Music Stage at the Bloomsbury Festival

photograph of HarareThe Bloomsbury Festival comes to town this weekend, from Friday to Sunday, featuring a plethora of free events, covering music, dance, poetry and art.

For me, the highlight has to be the SOAS World Music Stage, which takes place in Russell Square from Noon on both Saturday 22nd October and Sunday 23rd October.

This two-day programme of free music from around the world has been selected by specialists at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) Music Department. Africa, Asia, Latin America and Europe are all represented by bands including: Laye Sow (Senegal), Ayarkhaan (Sakha/Siberia), Amira Kheir (Sudan), Shavnabada (Georgia), Rún (Celtic music), Harare (Zimbabwe) - and many more.

The line-up sounds very interesting, though I must admit I'm not personally familiar with any of the bands apart from Harare, who I can heartily recommend. They are scheduled to play at 6.15pm on Saturday and I would go so far as to say the event is worth attending for them alone.

For full details, visit: http://www.bloomsburyfestival.org.uk/event/id/185

11 October 2011

Ghetto Lounge events - October / November

Saturday 15th October
Fela Kuti Birthday Tribute
@ The Jazz Cafe

This night will feature the Dele Sosimi Afrobeat Orchestra who promise to perform "carefully re-orchestrated Fela favourites/classics". Their selection from Fela's repertoire aims to mark the changes and development in his music through the decades — from Koola Lobitos (highlife, jazz) through to Africa 70 (Afro funk) and Egypt 80 (Afro big-band sound, with longer, more intricate pieces). There will also be guest musicians on the night, paying their respects to Fela, plus DJ Koichi Sakai (Afrobeat Vibration) on the decks playing "memorable Afrobeat anthems".

The Jazz Cafe, 5 Parkway, Camden Town, London, NW1 7PG
Doors: 7pm - 11pm
Admission: £17.50 advance, £22 on the door
Tickets: http://www.ticketmaster.co.uk/event/1f004658c1a9681e?camefrom=cfc_uk_mama_jazzcafe&brand=jazz_cafe


Friday 11th November
Anthony Joseph album launch
@ The New Empowering Church

Inspired by some lines from the surrealist poet Ted Joans, "Rubber Orchestras" is Anthony Jospeh's third album with his Spasm Band. It has been produced by drummer and leader of The Heliocentrics, Malcolm Catto, and includes one track arranged and produced by 2 Tone legend Jerry Dammers (The Specials).

The opening words on the new album "The griot is the sound of universal culture" are key to understanding the universe of Anthony Joseph. Born in Trinidad but London-based for many years, Joseph has carved out a successful career writing and teaching poetry, as well as recording and performing with his band. His vocal influences include: Jimi Hendrix, Benjamin Zephaniah, Fela Kuti, Sly Stone and Gil Scott-Heron.

The new album, "Rubber Orchestras" (Heavenly Sweetness/Naïve) was released this month, and it will be followed by a new poetry collection of the same name in November by Salt Publishing.

Support on the 11th November comes from the Jon Speedy Band and DJs Jerry Dammers and Koichi Sakai.

The New Empowering Church, 1a Westgate Street, London, E8 3RL
Doors: 9pm - 3am
Admission: £7 advance, £10 on the door
Tickets: http://www.residentadvisor.net/event.aspx?295428


Saturday 26th November
Afrobeat Vibration 3rd Anniversary special
@ The New Empowering Church

Saturday 26th November is Afrobeat Vibration's final installment of 2011 and its 3rd Anniversary. As always, the Dele Sosimi Afrobeat Orchestra will be playing authentic Afrobeat including Fela's classic tunes as well as original compositions. DJ support comes from Koichi Sakai.

The "Music is the Weapon" documentary film will be screened from 9pm-10pm and there will also be contests for the best Afrobeat dancer and best Kalakuta dresser as well as a Nigerian meal after the show.

The New Empowering Church, 1a Westgate Street, London, E8 3RL
Doors: 9pm - late
Admission: £7 before 10pm, £10 thereafter

Owen Gray's October concert cancelled

Sadly, the Owen Gray gig I wrote about that was due to take place on 19th October, has been cancelled.

The Phoenix City Social Club was to host the gig, but I've just been informed by the promoter that they will no longer be holding events at The Queen of Hoxton.

Instead their next event is planned to take place at Under The Bridge in Chelsea on the 2nd December, and Owen Gray has been added to the bill for that night.

29 September 2011

Slim silk knitted ties from T.M. Lewin

Slim silk knitted ties from T.M. LewinI popped into T.M. Lewin today and to my great delight found they are currently stocking the holy grail of men's neckwear: slim knitted ties made of 100% pure silk. And what's more, they are currently part of one of Lewin's famous half-price sales. Known colloquially as Slim Jims, these are quite simply the ultimate, classic, 1960s mod style ties. They should be a staple in any well-dressed man's wardrobe, but are sadly as rare as hen's teeth these days. To be perfectly honest, I haven't seen such nice ties in London since Soho tailor John Pearce made up a batch a few years ago.

The ties are 5cm (approximately 2 inches) at their widest point and have a length of 150cm (approximately 59 inches). They also have a reinforced neck band. Being silk, they knot and drape beautifully and hold a dimple particularly well.

The ties have been slashed in price from £79 to £39.50 and are also part of a 3 for £99 deal. They are available from T.M. Lewin branches, subject to availability (the branch I was in had only one colour in stock) but are also available to buy online. Standard UK shipping is just £3.95 and they even ship internationally.

So take my advice and snap these up before it's too late! If you don't, I guarantee you will regret it when they are discontinued.

For more information, or to buy online, visit the T.M. Lewin website

26 September 2011

The Three Degrees live in Islington - 10th October

AGMP presents Philly Soul vocal group, The Three Degrees, live at The Union Chapel in Islington on Monday 10th October.

Photo of The Three DegreesAlthough their line-up has changed over the years, The Three Degrees have existed continuously for almost four decades, and now lay claim to being the longest running female vocal group in history. Today, the trio consists of Valerie Holiday (who first joined in 1967), Helen Scott (who first joined in 1963) and Freddie Pool, who replaced Cynthia Garrison at the end of 2010.

Initially formed in 1963 by manager Richard Barrett, it is arguably their three year stint with Gamble and Huff's Philadelphia International label in the 1970s for which The Three Degrees are best remembered. It was during this era that the threesome had some of their biggest hits, such as "Dirty Ol' Man", "TSOP" and "When Will I See You Again". They also gained a great deal of attention from the fact that Prince Charles publicly acclaimed them as his favourite group (they performed live at Buckingham Palace for Prince Charles's 30th birthday party in 1978).

To read more about the group visit: www.thethreedegrees.com

To find out more about The Union Chapel visit: www.unionchapel.org.uk

The Three Degrees live at The Union Chapel
Date: Monday 10th October, 2011
Doors: 7pm
Address: Compton Avenue, Islington, N1 2XD
Tickets: £28.50 in advance from https://agmp.ticketabc.com/events/three-degrees/

25 September 2011

Owen Gray live in concert - 19th October

Legendary Jamaican singer Owen Gray performs live on Wednesday 19th October at The Phoenix City Social Club, backed by The Sidewalk Doctors.

Owen Gray is a true veteran of the Jamaican music scene, being one of the country's first home-grown stars. He began his singing career as a teenager in the mid-1950s after attending the Alpha Boys School, which is well known for training many of Jamaica's finest musicians. With his soulful voice, he effortlessly recorded in a variety of styles over the years, from rhythm & blues and soul through to ska, rocksteady and roots reggae. Many of his tracks also became popular in the UK, released on labels such as Starlite, Island, Blue Beat, Dice and Pama. He moved to England in the 1960s, where he still lives to this day.

The Phoenix City Social Club is a new midweek session in a great, 200 capacity, basement venue, promoted by the man behind the London International Ska Festival. Musically, the night promises "ska, rocksteady, soul and 2 Tone" from well-known DJs and live bands. Guest DJ on the 19th October is Cello from the Coast To Coast club.

Advance tickets are available from londoninternationalskafestival.co.uk/tickets

Venue: The Queen of Hoxton (basement)
Address: 1-5 Curtain Road, London, EC2A 3JX
Times: 7pm - midnight
Admission: £10
Website: www.facebook.com/PhoenixCityRecCo
Venue website: www.thequeenofhoxton.co.uk

22 September 2011

Michael Kiwanuka gig and EP launch

Fabulous young singer/songwriter, Michael Kiwanuka, is to perform live in West London on Sunday 2nd October before jetting off to support Adele on her US tour.

Kiwanuka emerged from North London in 2010 with a rootsy, acoustic sound and a voice straight out of the classic soul tradition. His excellent debut release, the three track "Tell Me A Tale" EP, came out earlier this year and has received many repeat spins on my hi-fi ever since. To me, it is very reminiscent of that folky, black soul sound of the early 1970s and stands out as much for its beautiful musical accompaniment and production as it does for its moving vocals and lyrics.

His new EP, "I'm Getting Ready" has just been released on vinyl this week and is available to buy from Amazon here

You can listen to the lovely title track on YouTube here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Wgj6vJDfjY

Michael Kiwanuka live @ The George IV
Date: Sunday 2nd October
Address: 185 Chiswick High Road, W4 2DR
Doors: 7.30pm – 11pm
Tickets: £7 from www.musicglue.net/blueflowers/

For more information about the gig, visit: www.blueflowersmusic.co.uk

To find out more about Michael Kiwanuka, visit his website: michaelkiwanuka.tumblr.com

16 September 2011

Tea time with Lil' Koko - 25 September

Time For TeaIt's tea time! Nestled in the heart of Shoreditch, the Time For Tea vintage tearoom is the setting for a one-off afternoon tea with a difference. Your host for the day is the effervescent Kate Pieroudis (aka Lil' Koko) who promises a fine selection of cakes (including Lavender Cake, Oh-My Chocolate Cake, and scones) while her Italian friend Chiara serves up Crostata and Tiramisù (my favourite Italian dessert).

In between preparing the tea, DJ Lil' Koko (Ronnie Scott's, Nightjar) will also be spinning vinyl to get you dancing. And pianist Dom Pipkin will be stopping by from 6pm to tinkle the ivories too. Open from 2pm - 8pm. Free admission.

Time For Tea,
110 Shoreditch High Street,
E1 6JN

13 September 2011

The S&M Cafe in Essex Road has closed down

The S&M Cafe, IslingtonI've just discovered that the S&M (Sausage & Mash) Cafe on Essex Road in Islington has closed down. Despite its inconsistent service and menu over the years, I rather liked the place as it kept the English Heritage listed cafe (originally Alfredo's, opened in the 1920s) in use as an old-fashioned style eatery (albeit a rather expensive one).

I've no idea yet what will become of the premises with its beautiful, original decor, but will update you as I find out more.

It seems that the S&M chain has now shrunk down to just one remaining location (in Spitalfields) as the Portobello Road branch also closed down some time ago. The food there is good, though I've unfortunately found the service quite slow and unfriendly at times.

Official announcement here: www.sandmcafe.co.uk/islington.php

12 September 2011

The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975

Directed by Göran Hugo Olsson, The Black Power Mixtape is a fascinating documentary about the Black Power movement in America between 1967 and 1975. It is due for general release in UK cinemas on 21st October, but I was lucky enough to see a preview screening of the film last month.

The Black Panther Party in Black Power MixtapeRunning at just over an hour and a half, the film is primarily a compilation of long-lost footage which was found buried in a Swedish Television archive - unseen by the public for 30 years. On top of this are added contemporary audio interviews from leading African-American artists, activists, musicians and scholars.

So far, release dates include:

Curzon Soho / 21st - 27th October
The Ritzy, Brixton / 21st - 27th October
The Lexi Cinema, Kilburn / 28th October - 3rd November

This list of screenings is expected to grow however, so keep your eyes open for other cinemas across London.

Angela Davis in Black Power Mixtape

06 September 2011

The E17 Art Trail - September 2011

E17 Art Trail 2011The E17 Art Trail is currently taking place in Walthamstow in North East London. It runs until 11th September. The E17 Art Trail is a free annual festival showcasing artists from Waltham Forest. This year there are more than 1000 contributors exhibiting in over 100 venues around the borough. The Trail also includes film, poetry and music events.

For more information and full listings, visit www.e17arttrail.co.uk

25 August 2011

Notting Hill Carnival 2011

Gaz's Rockin' Blues Sound System at Notting Hill Carnival 2005. Copyright (c) Pedro FigueiredoDespite the riots that took part in London a few weeks back, this year's Notting Hill Carnival is still going ahead as planned. Starting at 9am each day, Europe's largest street festival returns this August bank holiday weekend (Sunday 28th and Monday 29th August).

Both Gladdy Wax's and Gaz Mayall's sound systems will be out in full force, with legendary reggae singer Winston Francis performing live on Gaz's sound system, backed by an 11-piece band. Sadly, Duke Vin is unlikely to make an appearance this year though, as he has been unwell for some time.

In view of the riots and intelligence suggesting some gangs have planned trouble for the Carnival, extra safety precautions have been taken for this year's event. The Guardian reports that: "Scotland Yard will double the number of police officers on duty at the Notting Hill carnival to 20,000 – by far the biggest deployment in the event's 47-year history".

They also say: "Carnival organisers have decided the parade of floats will finish by 6.30pm, and the static sound systems by 7pm, earlier than usual."

Though it's wise to err on the side of caution, I feel we must not let troublemakers stop us from enjoying our city's greatest event. Carnival is a celebration of all that is great about London - in particular its multiculturalism.

To help you find your way around, Time Out have once again produced an excellent map of the Carnival area, showing the location of all the static sound systems as well as the parade route:


Finally, the BBC's weather forecast is predicting a dry Sunday and Monday, with sunny spells, so here's to a great party! See you out on the streets!

17 August 2011

Jean-Paul Séculaire - upcoming DJ sets - Aug-Sept

Crawdaddy! Friday 2nd September 2011It's been a frightening and painful time for London and the UK recently, but it looks like things are starting to get back to normal again now. I say it's time to start getting out again!

I'm still working on relaunching the Right On! club night. Unfortunately, the venue I had lined up fell through at the last minute, but I am now researching alternatives. If you haven't already, do join the mailing list via www.right-on.org and "like" the Right On! Facebook page: www.facebook.com/rightonclub

Although there's no date for Right On! yet, I do have upcoming gigs at two other excellent, vintage black music nights in North London over the next couple of weeks. Details as follows:

Saturday 20th August, 2011
Sweet 'n' Dandy @ The Horatia
98-102 Holloway Road, London, N7 8JE
8pm - 2am. FREE before 11pm, then £3

Friday 2nd September, 2011
Crawdaddy! @ The Wilmington Arms
69 Rosebery Avenue, London, EC1R 4RL
7.30pm - 12.30am. FREE

Hope to see some of you out on the dancefloor soon!

08 June 2011

Clapton Festival - 11th-12th June

The Clapton Festival takes part this coming weekend, Saturday and Sunday 11th-12th June.

The festival includes live music, talks, film screening, food and drink, pop-up shops and markets, walks and more, but the highlight has to be Reggae Sound Connection featuring the Gladdy Wax Sound System.

This takes place at The Round Chapel on Lower Clapton Road and features Gladdy Wax alongside Solution Sound with guest DJs Trevor Sax and Manesseh. The event runs from 4pm - 10pm on Saturday and admission is £3 on door.

For the full festival programme visit: claptonfestival.com/programme.htm

25 May 2011

Right On! meets Bande À Part - Sat 4 June

Right On! meets Bande A Part - flyerAfter the success of our encounter in 2010, I've been invited back to Shoreditch's premier vintage black music night, Bande À Part, to play another Right On! style set.

You can expect a fantastic mix of jukejoint sounds from the 1950s, 1960s and beyond, aimed firmly at the dancefloor, from myself and resident DJs Cousin Benson and Kimihiro Oue: RHYTHM & BLUES, DOO WOP, BLACK ROCK 'n' ROLL, SOUL, SKA, REGGAE, BOOGALOO and more - all on original vinyl.

Located just off the main Shoreditch strip of Old Street, The Troy Bar is an atmospheric, one-floor venue with tucked-away booths and a separate bar area, leaving dancers all the space they need to shake a leg on the wooden dancefloor.

Right On! meets Bande À Part
@ Troy Bar, 10 Hoxton Street, London, N1 6NG
Saturday 4th June, 2011. 8pm - 2am
FREE before 11pm; £3 afterwards

To find out more about Right On! visit www.right-on.org

If you'd like to RSVP to the event on Facebook visit:

19 May 2011

Shiftless Shuffle 10th Anniversary - 19 June

Shiftless Shuffle, London's amazing jazz dance club session, celebrates its 10th Anniversary on Sunday 19th June.

Although this is a celebration, it will also sadly be the last one for a while as the club has to leave its present venue. So make sure you don't miss this one and help give the session the send-off it deserves. DJs for the night are: Perry Louis, Nick Hosier, Simon Mansell and Seymour Nurse.

Shiftless Shuffle 10th Anniversary Party
@ The O Bar (basement), 83-85 Wardour Street, Soho, W1D 6QE
5pm – 10.30pm (No dance class)
£6 before 6pm, £8 after

For more information visit www.jazzcotech.com/whatson.htm

07 May 2011

The Impressions live in London - 10 June

AGMP & Jazz FM present the first ever UK performance of one of the most important soul groups of all time - The Impressions. The band will be performing all of their hits and the songs of Curtis Mayfield with backing from the Curtom Orchestra. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to experience one of the greatest soul groups in person. The exact line-up of the group has not been advertised, but I would assume it to consist of Sam Gooden (who originally joined in 1958), Fred Cash (who originally joined in 1960) and Reggie Torian (who originally joined in 1973 after Curtis Mayfield's departure).

UK funk band, Speedometer, have been confirmed as the support act for this concert, with Andy Fairclough (The Root Source / The Organism) sitting in on piano/organ.

The Soul of Curtis Mayfield
Featuring The Impressions & the Curtom Orchestra + Speedometer
Friday 10th June, 2011. 7.30pm
The Barbican Hall, Silk Street, EC2Y 8DS
Tickets: £22.50 - £35

For more info and to book tickets, visit:

20 April 2011

The London International Ska Festival

The London International Ska Festival starts tomorrow, Thursday 21st April, lasting until Sunday and featuring an array of Ska and Reggae acts from around the world.

Headline acts include Jamaican legends Ken Boothe, Marcia Griffiths and, reuniting for the first time since the 1970s, Dave & Ansel Collins, who will be celebrating the 40th anniversary of their UK Number One single, 'Double Barrel'.

Also performing is foundation singer and Alpha Boys school graduate, Owen Grey - one of the first vocalists to record for Island Records and Coxson Dodd.

The festival will be held at the Clapham Grand Theatre, St. Johns Hill, Clapham Junction, London, SW11 1TT and promises 38 bands and DJs from 11 countries showcasing all Ska has to offer: from it's roots in American Rhythm & Blues, to the Jamaican originators, the progression into Rocksteady, Reggae and Two Tone, to the very latest 21st Century Ska sounds.

As well as the headliners, top names include James Hunter, Giuliano Palma & The Bluebeaters and DJs Clive Chin (Randy's Records), Mark Lamarr, Gaz Mayall, Jim Cox, Tommy Rock-A-Shacka, Greedy G and many more.

For more information visit:


03 March 2011

Win a free copy of Prince Fatty's "Super Size" CD

5 copies of Prince Fatty's fantastic "Super Size" album to be won!

Courtesy of Mr Bongo Records, I have promotional copies of the "Super Size" CD to give away to five lucky readers of the London Dossier blog. All you have to do is email the answer to the following question, along with your full name and postal address, to info@londondossier.com

* In which UK city/town is Prince Fatty currently based?

The first five correct entries I receive will win a copy of this excellent reggae album from 2010, which features guest vocals from former Studio One recording artists Winston Francis and Little Roy.

The album came in at number #3 in my Top Five albums of 2010. You can read my review here:



* Only one entry per person and per household allowed.
* This competition is only open to UK residents.
* There will be no substitute prizes or cash alternatives.
* We take no liability for prizes lost or damaged by the postal service.
* Winners will be notified by email. Losers will not receive a reply.
* The results of the competition will be published on this blog. Full names, emails and addresses will not be disclosed.
* The editor's decision is final in all matters relating to this competition.

01 March 2011

The Top 5 London Albums of 2010

A little late with this, but here are my favourite five albums from 2010 recorded (partially or fully) by London-based artists:

1) The Filthy Six - The Filthy Six (Acid Jazz)

A near-perfect album in every way: from the excellent cover artwork to the all-important music within. The Filthy Six's blend of Hammond jazz, soul and funk has taken London's club scene by storm, and this album proves that their sound translates equally well onto disc. The match with Acid Jazz records was made in Heaven and kudos must also be given to the label for signing them up.

The long-player is entirely instrumental and the majority of the tracks are self-penned. Their cover version of the "Get Carter" theme, however, was also chosen as the debut 45rpm single from the album. The only track that didn't entirely work for me was their cover of Amy Winehouse's "Rehab", though the solos are good and it proves popular on dancefloors. To be honest, it's hard to pick a favourite track as the whole record is so strong, but I should give a mention to "Knockout". This original number was also released as the B-side of the aforementioned 45rpm. It's a real groove of a track and will definitely be featuring in my DJ sets.

If you like 1960s soul-jazz, Blue Note, the Hammond sound or are merely curious to hear one of the best young bands of the last 10 years, then you quite simply must own this album!

Available on vinyl, CD and download

2) Fire Walker - The Root Source (Freestyle)

A beautiful instrumental album from Andy Fairclough's Root Source - a seven-piece jazz outfit with something of a 1970s sound and a groove aimed firmly at the dancefloor. This is their second album and their best yet. Whilst most of the tracks on the album are originals, the highlight has to be Fairclough's inspired arrangement of the "Oompa Loompa Song" and "Pure Imagination" from the 1971 film version of "Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory". So lovely and unexpected did I find the band's atmospheric treatment, that I had to keep playing these numbers over and over again!

The rest of the album is not quite as infectious as the "Charlie And The Chocolate Factory Suite", but the last two tracks, "Echoes Of Your Past" and "Streams", certainly keep the quality just as high. The only complaint I can really make about the album as a whole is that there maybe isn't enough variation. However, it is a very strong release and The Root Source prove themselves to be another young group to keep your eyes (and ears) on!

Available on CD and download

3) Super Size - Prince Fatty (Mr Bongo)

This delightful reggae album from Brighton-based producer Prince Fatty features fantastic guest vocals from Jamaican legends Winston Francis and Little Roy (now based in London) as well as Horseman, Natty, Alcapone and Hollie Cook. Much of the material consists of cover versions - from the straightforward, such as Winston Francis's soulful take on Bruce Ruffin's "Dry Up Your Tears" which kicks off the album - to the more unusual, namely the dancehall reggae versions of hip-hop classics "Shimmy Shimmy Ya" and "Insane In The Brain". These two are definitely love-em or hate-em tracks, but Prince Fatty certainly deserves full marks for originality and to my ears these are vast improvements on the originals.

The aforementioned Winston Francis track and Little Roy's "Need Some Lovin" are definitely the best tracks here. Much of the rest of the album consists of dub, which doesn't work quite as well for me as the straight reggae tracks. Prince Fatty is without a doubt an excellent producer and has hired some phenomenal musicians and vocalists for this album, but King Tubby he is not.

The sound of the album is very clean and up-to-date, which at times is all that differentiates it from the music of the 1970s that it draws inspiration from. This is not a bad thing, though it may be something that divides opinion amongst reggae connoisseurs. Overall, however, "Super Size" is a sterling effort and proof that authentic soulful reggae can still be produced in the 21st Century.

NOTE: The album is available on vinyl as well as CD, but with fewer tracks. These "missing" tracks were released as 45rpms.

Available on vinyl, CD and download

4) Skalsa #1 - Skatroniks Jamaica (Skajam)

Whilst "Skalsa #1" was finished in 2009, it wasn't until 2010 that it got its official release - with the band performing the whole album live at the launch party at Camden's Jazz Cafe.

Skatroniks Jamaica were formed in 2003 and I had been waiting eagerly for this, their first album, since hearing them live on a number of occasions. At their early gigs they came across as a reincarnation of The Skatalites. Since then, some changes have occurred to their line-up, most notably with Bigga Morrison taking on the role of vocalist, producer, song writer and keyboard player. Whilst Bigga is not the strongest vocalist, he does prove himself to be a great songwriter and arranger. The 8-piece band is full of other talented musicians however, with mentions going to Jay Phelps on trumpet, Alan Weekes on guitar and Brian Edwards on Sax.

Although the album didn't quite live up to my expectations, it does still contain some amazing ska tunes in a Skatalites vein that make it well worth the money. "Forward Ever", "Flight To Ethiopia" and "Original Nubia" are destined to become floor-fillers and I plan to feature them heavily in my DJ sets. I also like the title track, though it has more of a straight Cuban rhythm than the ska-salsa hybrid that the name and lyrics imply. The sweet "Diurnal & Nocturnal" vocal ska track should also get a mention as a catchy and heartfelt love song.

The album is slightly let down by its production, use of sound effects and unnecessary vocal echo, but that shouldn't put you off. I can only hope that the band continues to play live and that we don't have to wait so long for their next release.

NOTE: It is already near-impossible to find this album on CD (which is a shame as the booklet contains some nice artwork and brief notes by Ernest Ranglin), but it can still be downloaded in MP3 format from Amazon.

Available on CD and download

5) Mambo Ska - Ska Cubano (Casinosounds)

Ska Cubano must surely be one of the most exciting live acts around at the moment. Their performances are full of energy and talent and seem to get better and better. Mambo Ska is the third studio album from the band and is good fun, though not as consistently strong as their previous two albums in my opinion. The production is very clean, but somehow seems to lose a little something. However, it is well worth picking up for "Pachito E Che", "Cumbia Del Monte" and "Mambo Ska" - the title track. That's not to say that the rest is just filler, but these are the stand out tracks for me.

"Pachito E Che" is a ska version of the Cuban song made famous by Beny More with Perez Prado. The vocals are provided by the talented Beny Billy (who no longer performs live with the band) and the group skillfully swing both the Jamaican and Cuban elements of the rhythm. This track was recorded as a straight ska instrumental in the 1960s by The Skatalites as "Latin Goes Ska", but here Ska Cubano give them a run for their money!

"Cumbia Del Monte" again features Beny Billy on vocals and is a pretty straight cover version of the classic cumbia track recorded in the 60s by a number of bands, including Carmen Rivero y su Conjunto. Ska Cubano proved on earlier albums that they can swing their cumbia numbers as well as, if not better than, their ska ones and this one ticks all the boxes.

"Mambo Ska" is an original by group leader Natty Bo, who also provides the vocals (probably his best on the album). It is a joyful sing-a-long number which beautifully sums up the concept behind Ska Cubano and their Jamaican-Cuban fusion (which, though not unique, arguably has no better exponents).

Available on CD and download

Greg Foat Group news

Greg Foat Group EPI've just got hold of a promo copy of the new EP from London-based jazz pianist, Greg Foat. Taken from his forthcoming album on Jazzman Records, Dark is the Sun (The Greg Foat Group - JMANCD/LP.041), the EP comes on limited edition 10" vinyl with a beautiful, psychedelic, hand-printed sleeve (unfortunately not featuring a track listing).

Side A is a lovely, atmospheric, harpsichord-led piece, but my favourite track is the first tune on the B-side - a jazz waltz that kicks off with a definite nod to Harold McNair's "The Hipster". The theme and use of choir also draw similarities with Jim Williams' and John Lunn's theme from Hotel Babylon, but the track comes across as homage rather than pastiche. The rhythm really swings and the melody progresses nicely. The 3rd track is basically a reprise of the previous one and again conjures up something else I've heard, that for the life of me I can't quite place at this moment in time.

In conclusion, the EP is a welcome addition to my record collection and I look forward to hearing the whole album (will try to get my hands on an advance copy before its release in April!)

For more information, and to listen to clips from the EP for yourself, visit: jazzmangerald.blogspot.com/2011/02/coming-soon-greg-foat-group-10-ep.html

You can also catch Greg Foat playing live every Tuesday from 10pm at The Experimental Cocktail Club, upstairs at 13 Gerrard Street in Chinatown (a venue that in its former, less-sophisticated guise as the Thirteen Club was once home to Right On!). Admission is free before 11pm and £5 after, but the door staff can be quite difficult, so be sure to tell them you are there to hear the jazz.

07 February 2011

The return of Right On!

I am planning to relaunch my respected and much-missed vintage black music club night, Right On!, this year and am currently working on the website and online presence. To that end, I have just created a page for the club on popular social networking site, Facebook. If you would like to be kept informed of the club's relaunch via Facebook or would just like to show your support or network online with fellow fans, please join the page by following the link below and then clicking the "Like" button (you will need to be logged into Facebook).


Of course the best way to stay informed is to join the mailing list by emailing me at paul@right-on.org

It would also be much appreciated if you could help spread the word to fellow lovers of vintage black music. Let's bring the club back with a bang!

To find out more about Right On! check out www.right-on.org

12 January 2011

London Maps from Herb Lester Associates

Back in July 2010, I wrote about the excellent You Are Here map from Herb Lester Associates and mentioned that they were working on other London guides.

Though I've not gotten around to reviewing them until now, they actually brought out two other excellent maps late last year, with each map being even more beautifully designed than the last.

The second in the series is entitled May We Help You? and lives up to its promise of being a guide to "The best specialist suppliers in London". Though it covers such unusual services as bulletproofing, Japanese knife sharpening and taxidermy, this guide is more than a mere curiosity, offering as it does details of far more essential suppliers - from the sartorial (tailoring alterations, invisible mending, buttons, cobbler) to the practical (locksmith, umbrellas, stationery).

The third map in the trilogy, and the largest to date (at twice the size of the others), is an historic guide to London's lost gems of the 1960s. Billed as "a retrospective guide to London's shops, clubs, boutiques and sundry diversions, 1960-66", Wish you were there is a fascinating and extremely well researched insight into the era of Swinging London, when the city was perceived to lead the world in fashion and nightlife.

For more information on these maps, see the following links:


All three pocket guides are available to buy from select stockists, or online from the Herb Lester Associates website for just £3 (£4 for Wish you were there): http://herblester.com/buy-the-map/

Do yourself a favour and order your copies today!