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Camilla George makes a stunning return with her third album on K7 records Ibio-Ibio, a rich, cultural journey dedicated to her Ibibio tribe of south-eastern coastal Nigeria from which the saxophonist and bandleader traces her ancestral roots. The album is a heady mix of afrobeat, hip hop and jazz co-produced by Camilla George, one of the finest offerings of the new London Jazz sound in recent years, a deep, penetrating listen that undulates with groove and impresses with masterful playing, deep harmonic workouts and synergetic performances from the ensembles core musicians. Across eight tracks, Camilla’s virtuosic alto saxophone performance collaborates with a stellar line-up of some of the tightest players in London’s jazz scene including Daniel Casimir (bass), Shirley Tetteh (guitar), Winston Clifford (drums), Sheila Maurice-Grey (trumpet), Rosie Turton (trombone), Renato Paris (vocals), Sarah Tandy (keys), plus Senegalese kora player Kadialy Kouyate, acclaimed US drummer Daru Jones (Jack White, Pete Rock, Talib Kweli), and Birmingham based MC Lady Sanity.
The set begins with the mesmerising groove of Creation – Abasi and Atai, an ice-cold session that features the deep bass stylings and heady sub-frequencies of Casimir on five string—who on upright has something of a Cecil McBee legend about him but on electric is beginning to sound somewhat like Marcus Miller’s British body-double. The electric blanket of Fender Rhodes becomes deeply interwoven within the track’s groovy knitwork, performed exquisitely by Sarah Tandy. Quicksilver alto playing from George and funky spoken word and conscious rap from MC Lady Sanity impart meaningful textures. Creation is, without question, one of the top contemporary jazz tracks of the year, building on a relentlessly funky groove constructed by masterful playing and expert musicianship. Journey Across the Sea ties in pertinent historical context about slavery routes, delving into the rhythmical and textural nuances of West African music, framed in the context of contemporary London Jazz. Ekpe is a sophisticated and extremely tight piece of instrumental jazz, featuring dexterous electric guitar work, great individual solos from Casimir and George and some strong horns throughout, set to the backdrop of some of the coolest comping from Tandy on acoustic piano. The tracks finale is another stripped back rendition of the first track— Creation – Nnyin Ido Ibibio—featuring more prominent spoken word and fine guitar playing from Shirley Tettah, whose subtle inflections and playful rhythmical interpretations sound fantastic. During a residency at a venue in Southbank this week, I brought my copy up from the shop to play out. I ended up playing the album opener three times over the course of one night. I could not recommend this album highly enough. One of the best contemporary jazz releases of the past few years, since the likes of Ashley Henry’s Beautiful Vinyl Hunter or Maisha’s There Is A Place: an essential purchase for fans of contemporary London jazz.
01 Creation – Abasi abd Atai (Feat Sanity and Daru Jones) by Camilla George
02 Journey Across The Sea by Camilla George
03 Ekpe by Camilla George
04 The Long Juju Slave Route of Arochokwu (Feat Sanity and Daru Jones) by Camilla George
05 Ukpowg by Camilla George
06 Abasi Enyong by Camilla George
07 Abasi Isang by Camilla George
08 Creation – Nnyin Ido Ibidio by Camilla George