Mar 18th, 2022
Bristol’s jazz daddies The Jazz Defenders drop their second album King Phoenix on Haggis Records, moving into new sonic territory with flourishes of hip-hop/jazz, cinema soundtrack flavors, Latin rhythms and soul-jazz inspirations.
King Phoenix is released on Haggis Records (home of UK funk kings The Haggis Horns), on March 18th and it’s a real departure from the band’s debut full-length Scheming, released in 2020. Whereas that album was a homage to the late 1950s/early 1960s classic jazz style known as hard bop, this release mixes it up with a wider sonic palette. The classic sound that has inspired the band this time is very much from the mid-late 1960s era and the merging of soul and funk beats with jazz solos/improvisation.
The album was anticipated by three taster releases: double-sider 45 “The Big Man” / “Love’s Vestige”, and singles “Live Slow“ (featuring US rapper Herbal T), and “Perfectly Impefect“ (featuring UK rapper and actor Doc Brown). All received great radio support from the likes of Craig Charles (BBC 6 Music), Helen Mayhew (Jazz FM), Jamie Cullum (BBC Radio 2), Ashley Beedle (Worldwide FM), Colin Curtis (Worldwide FM) amongst many others, all loving The Jazz Defenders‘ musical fusion of retro meets modern.
Tracks like “Wagger Jaunt” and “Munch” nod to the piano and organ-led soul-jazz of artists like Ramsey Lewis, Herbie Hancock, Reuben Wilson and Jimmy Smith. Meanwhile “Saudade” and “Love’s Vestige” feature Brazilian bossa rhythms but with some added film soundtrack overtones. Speaking of movie soundtracks, “The Oracle” is a pure homage to the classic cinematic compositions of maestros like John Barry (James Bond / The Ipcress File) or Lalo Schifrin (Mission Impossible / Bullet) right down to the very impressive string arrangement, beautifully scored and orchestrated by bandleader George Cooper.
A big departure from the previous album comes via the two hip-hop/jazz tracks, both which feature guest MCs. “Live Slow” has US rapper Herbal T blessing the mic over an uptempo soul-jazz number whilst “Perfectly Imperfect” features London MC/actor Doc Brown rapping on a nice and slow 90’s style head-nodding hip-hop groove. Both compositions show George Cooper‘s love for old school boom-bap hip-hop (by the way, he also plays keys with renowned UK hip-hop big band Abstract Orchestra). For classic jazz lovers who dug the first album, there are two pure jazz tracks that join the dots between that debut release and this sophomore one – “Twilight” and “From The Ashes” – with plenty of vibrant solos for the discerning listener.
King Phoenix is a statement in itself from The Jazz Defenders. After 2 years of music being destroyed by the pandemic and many musicians inactive, the band have risen from the ashes with a new vigour, energy and vision to try something new and not just repeat past musical glories. A band that sticks to the same script every release might just end up having a short shelf life but The Jazz Defenders are planning on being around for a long time.
‘King Phoenix’ out on LP / CD / Digital on March 18th via Haggis Records