by Ian Mann
December 22, 2021
An impressive addition to Kavuma’s catalogue, expanding upon the success of his previous two albums. It’s a mature and admirably diverse piece of work that touches several musical bases.
Mark Kavuma & The Banger Factory
“Arashi No Ato”
(Banger Factory Records – BF001)
Mark Kavuma – trumpet, Mussinghi Brian Edwards & Ruben Fox – tenor saxophones, Artie Zaitz – guitar, David Mrakpor – vibraphone, Reuben James – piano, organ, Deschanel Gordon – piano, Trevor Edwards- trombone, Michael Shrimpling – double bass, Will Cleasby – drums
Dylan Jones (trumpet), Theon Cross (tuba), Misha Fox (trombone, vocals), Deji Ijishakin – tenor saxophone
Shayanna Harris, Marcina Arnold, Megan Linnell, Livi Graham, Leena Chabula, Felicia Thandie Bhebhe, Django Booker-Roi Edwards, Richie Seivwright – vocals
“Arashi No Ato” is the third album release by the London based trumpeter, composer, bandleader and educator Mark Kavuma.
It follows his eponymous début “Kavuma” (2018) and follow up “The Banger Factory” (2019), both released on Ubuntu Music and both reviewed elsewhere on The Jazzmann. The Banger Factory has now become a band name, and also the name of Kavuma’s newly established record label.
Born in Uganda Kavuma moved to Peckham when he was ten and has since become an important and influential presence on the London jazz scene. In addition to the Banger Factory he also leads his own quartet and has also fronted the Floor Rippers, the hip hop infused house band at The Hootenanny in Brixton. He also co-leads a quintet with Banger Factory saxophonist Ruben Fox.
In 2013 I briefly witnessed the playing of Kavuma at that year’s EFG London Jazz Festival. He was playing on the Barbican Freestage with the Kavuma / Fox quintet. Effectively the group were supporting the Wayne Shorter Quartet, who later appeared in the Barbican’s Main Hall. The quintet also featured pianist Rick Simpson, bassist Mark Lewandowski and Empirical drummer Shaney Forbes. I was impressed by what I heard at the time, my initial reactions later vindicated by the quality of Kavuma’s album releases.
As a sideman Kavuma was worked with Jean Toussaint’s Young Lions, the Alan Weekes Quintet, Jazz Jamaica and the Nu Civilisation Orchestra. He has also been featured as a guest soloist with Wynton Marsalis’ Jazz at Lincoln Centre Orchestra and has toured with world music stars Mulatu Astatke and Salif Keita. He has also played with the visiting American jazz musicians Barry Harris (piano) and Jeff ‘Tain’ Watts (drums).
Kavuma has worked on a number of theatre and film productions and created music for the Barbican’s 2019/20 art exhibition “Into The Night”. He has also played with the rock group Scritti Polliti and with grime artist Kano.
An acclaimed educator Kavuma acts as a professional brass tutor for the Kinetika Bloco community band and has also worked with the Tomorrow’s Warriors organisation. He first became involved with music as a young member of Kinetika Bloco where he was mentored by trumpeter Claude Deppa and Kinetika’s late founder Mat Fox.
The Banger Factory project developed out of the residency that Kavuma led for three years at the Prince of Wales in Brixton, a weekly blowing session that has seen numerous musicians pass through its doors, with some staying around to cohere into a regular band as the evenings have become more formalised. “In my head I wanted it to be an organisation, a force to be reckoned with”, Kavuma has explained.
The core group that appears on this new album emerged out of those sessions and the majority of these musicians also appeared on Kavuma’s previous release “The Banger Factory”.
The Banger Factory line up is fluid, ranging from the full ten piece band to smaller permutations. As Kavuma has hinted it is his intention for it to be more than just a working band and more of an educational / community project along the lines of Kinetika Bloco and Tomorrow’s Warriors. “My vision is to really unify the London jazz scene over the next few years” he states, “and I definitely want to feature some of the artists that don’t get the attention that they deserve”. Here he sites Banger Factory saxophonist Mussinghi Brian Edwards, another of Kavuma’s mentors and a musician who has made a substantial contribution to all three of Kavuma’s albums. A comparative veteran Edwards helps to bring a cross-generational profile to Banger Factory.
Kavuma’s début album owed a sizeable debt to hard bop and the classic ‘Blue Note’ sound. The first Banger Factory disc then built upon the potential of its predecessor to create a work that was more varied, more mature and ultimately more contemporary.
“Arashi No Oto” offers something else again, a more ‘orchestral’ sound with the core Banger Factory personnel augmented by a number of guest musicians drawn from the London scene.
The album commences with the title track, the translation of the phrase “After The Storm” into Japanese. The ‘storm’ in question refers to the pandemic, although the music was actually written a short time before. “I really love how it sounds in Japanese”, explains Kavuma, before continuing “I thought it to be a fitting title for the album with everything that has been going on over the last year and a half”. It’s unfortunate that at the time of writing a second Omicron generated storm seems to be brewing.
The music exhibits the steadily growing maturity of Kavuma’s writing, a ballad commencing with a passage of unaccompanied piano, discreetly joined by bass, drums and the eerie shimmer of Mrakpor’s vibes. The leader’s thoughtful and lyrical trumpet is joined by the gentle, gospel swell of James’ Hammond. Kavuma’s solo is answered by a passage featuring tenor saxophone, played by Edwards at a guess, which exhibits similar qualities. Bassist Shrimpling is also featured with a melodic solo, There’s a sense of calmness and serenity throughout that is totally in keeping with the title.
There’s a change of pace with “Eluid”, a Kavuma composition inspired by the exploits of the Kenyan athlete Eliud Kipchoge, the first man to run a Marathon in under two hours. Kavuma was fascinated by Kipchoge’s feat and wrote a “running theme” at the piano which was subsequently developed by the Banger Factory band at their Prince Of Wales sessions. There’s a real big band feel to the opening passages with the horns combining to good effect above the suitably agile rhythms. Guitarist Zaitz, who impressed on the first two Kavuma albums, takes the first solo before handing over to the leader, who paces his solo expertly, eventually soaring up into his instrument’s upper registers. Trombonist Trevor Edwards’ solo is more earthy, contrasting neatly with the twinkle of Mrakpor’s vibes. Drummer Will Cleasby also delivers a strong performance.
The first ‘outside’ item is a cover of “Love Will Find A Way”, written by Eubie Blake and Noble Sissle and sourced from the 1921 musical “Shuffle Along”, the first Broadway hit show to feature an all black cast. Kavuma and Fox played the piece at a performance at the Barbican and subsequently decided to record it for the album. The blues and gospel inspired intro features just piano and tenor sax, the latter played by Fox. Cross then takes over the melody on tuba, playing with remarkable tenderness and emotion on an instrument that was malfunctioning at the time of the recording. Fox later takes over on tenor once more, and the performance also includes contributions from Zaitz, Mrakpor, Shrimpling and Cleasby.
“Brother James” is a brief trio excursion featuring the talents of the 2021 BBC Young Jazz Musician of the Year Deschanel Gordon at the piano. He receives empathic support from Shrimpling on double bass and Cleasby at the drums, the latter deploying bare hands for much of the performance. It’s a piece that has also been recorded by the whole band but Kavuma elected to use this version. Given the brevity of the album as a whole (a little under thirty seven minutes) it’s disappointing that we aren’t allowed the opportunity of hearing this alternate take, which would inevitably have sounded very different.
Introduced by bass and drums “Hedz” is inspired by the work of multi-instrumentalist and composer Eddie Harris and was written by Banger Factory saxophonist Mussinghi Brian Edwards. Gordon appears on Rhodes and shares the solos with the mercurial Mrakpor on vibes, Kavuma on trumpet, the composer on tenor and Zaitz on guitar. A relaxed funk flavoured groove underpins the piece and the overall feel is sometimes reminiscent of the music that appeared on producer Creed Taylor’s CTI label.
The album’s second cover is an arrangement of “David Danced” from Duke Ellington’s “Concert of Sacred Music” from 1965. Kavuma had played the tune with the Nu Civilisation Orchestra before bringing it to The Banger Factory. The band perform the piece in a deliberate ‘lounge jazz’ style, with a brushed drum groove underpinning Mrakpor’s quietly virtuosic vibes soloing. Guitarist Zaitz and bassist Shrimpling also make significant contributions, as does the pianist – the album credits don’t always distinguish between Gordon and James.
Kavuma’s Christian faith is important to him and the album closes with the massed ranks of The Banger Factory performing a version of the song “One More River”, in an arrangement inspired by the recording by Sam Cooke and The Soul Stirrers. This features the choir of vocalists, led and arranged by Shayanna Harris and with Richie Seivwright singing the lead vocal line. The arrangement also features eight horn players as guests Cross, Jones, Misha Fox and Ijishakin join the four Banger Factory regulars - “that’s like a choir in itself”, observes Kavuma.
The performance commences with church like Hammond, later joined by the blues and gospel inflections of the horns, with Cross’ tuba prominent in the arrangement. Mrakpor’s vibes sprinkle a little celestial fairy-dust as we’re transported from South London to the Deep South of the US. The singers then come in, with Seivwright an emotive lead voice. It’s a stirring collective performance, one that captures the Banger Factory spirit and which also inspired the album cover art, featuring all of the participants.
“Arashi No Ato” is an impressive addition to Kavuma’s catalogue, expanding upon the success of his previous two albums. It’s a mature and admirably diverse piece of work that touches several musical bases. Kavuma’s ego-less approach to his work is also impressive, despite being the group leader he actually sits out on a couple of tracks, proof, if any were needed, of Banger Factory’s collective ethos.
My only quibble would be the brevity of the album, which is very short by modern CD standards. That said the recording should be judged on what it includes, rather than what it does not, and in this respect it stands up very well. The critical reaction to “”Arashi No Ato” has been very positive and rightly so.
Audiences will get the chance to hear Kavuma and many of these musicians again in early 2022 when Banger Factory Records releases “Legacy”, by Kinetika Bloco, a celebration of the organisation featuring many of its now famous alumni. “Legacy” will be released on January 7th 2022 and I intend to cover the album in due course.
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