by Ian Mann
March 27, 2015
Wild Card is more than just an organ trio. With its focus on original composition "Organic Riot" represents their most mature recorded statement to date.
(Top End Records TER0003)
“Organic Riot” is the third album release by Wild Card, the London based outfit led by French born guitarist and composer Clement Regert. It follows “Mixcity” (2008) and “Everything Changes” (2012), albums that were recorded by two essentially different line ups. A review of “Everything Changes” can be found elsewhere on this site.
“Organic Riot” is best regarded as the follow up to “Everything Changes”. Both albums feature the distinctive artwork of Fung Voon Him You Ten and revolve around the core trio of guitarist Regert, organist Andrew Noble and drummer Sophie Alloway.
Wild Card gig extensively around the capital and their shows regularly feature the playing of guest instrumentalists and vocalists, even the core trio can change for live work with Regert the only constant presence. I’ve not seen the band live but would imagine that their gigs are highly exciting affairs with no two shows being exactly alike.
Their albums also include contributions from illustrious guest musicians and previous recordings have included performances by such well known names as trombonist Dennis Rollins and trumpeter Quentin Collins. Neither of these appear on “Organic Riot” but instead the core trio is augmented on all tracks by regular guest performers Graeme Flowers (trumpet, flugelhorn) and Roberto Manzin (tenor sax). Trombonist Jerome Harper augments the horn men on selected items while Lili Ioncheva and Joao Caetano divide percussive duties between them to create an alliance with Alloway’s kit drums on virtually every tune. Vocal contributions come from the Parisian girl rapper B’loon who performs on three items, and from soulful singer Natalie Williams who appears on two songs and is also involved in the writing process.
The material on “Everything Changes” was wide ranging and included tunes by composers ranging from Horace Silver to Noel Gallagher via Kenny Burrell and numerous other jazz composers plus the Brazilian songwriter Baden Powell. There were also a number of Regert originals and this time round the emphasis is very much on the guitarist’s own writing with Regert’s name the sole credit on ten out of the fourteen tracks on “Organic Riot”.
Wild Card’s music is a mix of jazz, funk, soul and rap and also includes elements of African and Latin music. The emphasis is very much on the groove and although the band have been described as “nu jazz” there’s nothing bland or wishy washy about their music. However Wild Card are more than just a “party band” and “Organic Riot” contains examples of real beauty, particularly in its more reflective moments featuring Regert’s acoustic guitar.
B’loon has appeared on all three Wild Card items and her French language rap can be heard on the scene setting “Intro” with its funky grooves and distinctive muted trumpet.
The attractively melodic “Wild Card Theme” introduces a strong Latin element courtesy of the patter of Caetano’s percussion. Flowers, who made such an excellent contribution to “Everything Changes” is again in terrific form with an ebullient opening trumpet solo. Meanwhile Alloway and Caetano link up effectively on the bright, punchy arrangement.
The song “Feeling Good” (written by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley) introduces the gospel tinged voice of Williams as Regert re-channels the spirit of Nina Simone. The guitarist’s own solo also impresses as he blends together elements of jazz, blues and rock, culminating with him soaring skywards over the swell of Noble’s Hammond and Alloway’s solid backbeat.
B’loon’s presence helps to underline Regert’s links with both the London and Parisian music scenes. On the title track her French language rap augments the lively instrumental grooves generated by the musicians and brings a genuine urban edge to the music. Flowers’ fiery trumpeting and Ioncheva’s percussion breaks are also designed to catch the ear of the listener.
The music segues almost immediately into “Do U Wanna Know?” which features Regert’s acoustic guitar skipping lightly between sounds of surging Hammond, punchy horns and percolating percussion. At times his playing sounds oud like, implying the kind of North African influence that must almost be a given for a Paris raised musician. Regert shares the soloing with the excellent Flowers who is again in inspired form.
Regert impresses again on the appropriately energetic “Shake It Up!” where he shares the solos with Manzin’s earthy tenor sax above a ferment of drums and percussion.
“Tchouks” is jointly credited to Regert and B’loon and features another French language rap which combines well with the blend of driving rhythms and breezy, punchy horn motifs with trombonist Harper emerging to take the instrumental honours.
“Heartbeat” is one of the album’s more reflective pieces with Regert on acoustic guitar. He shares the solos with Noble on Hammond and Flowers on trumpet. It’s good to hear from Noble as a soloist for the first time. He seems to be rather under utilised on the album as a whole (live appearances may be different), occupying a largely textural role and also holding down the “bottom end” in the absence of a specialist bassist.
There’s more nimbly picked acoustic guitar on the lengthy “A Day Like No Other”, a piece that also helps to cement Regert’s growing status as a composer. An attractive melody and arrangement frames yet another excellent solo from Flowers and a second solo excursion from Noble - talk about London bus syndrome!
The song “Wash Him Out”, written by Natalie Williams features the composer’s powerful vocals on a funk/soul work out that squeezes some spirited horn exchanges between Manzin and Flowers into the instrumental section. The lyrics tell the tale of Williams ridding herself of an unsuitable boyfriend.
The eight minute instrumental “The Flood” begins with a sound incorporating gospelly Hammond, bluesy guitar and muscular tenor sax in a manner that evokes classic Blue Note recordings by the likes of Jimmy Smith and Big John Patton. So far, so retro but Regert’s soaring, wah wah drenched solo in the second part of the tune takes the music somewhere else again.
“Passion, Grace & Nutella” is a punchy instrumental that draws on both African and Latin influences. Township style guitar melodies mix with Latin grooves. Manzin is the featured horn soloist, digging deep on a powerful tenor excursion. There are also enjoyable features for percussionist Caetano and kit drummer Alloway.
As far as I can deduce the tune “Oz” is written by the New York based Andy Narell, one of the few jazz musicians to specialise on the steel pan. Its world music flavourings incorporate solos from Flowers on trumpet and Regert on acoustic guitar plus a rousing arrangement featuring horns and Hammond organ.
The closing “Manic Phase” is rather more laid back than its title might suggest, its gentle Latin grooves supporting thoughtful and engaging solos from Regert on acoustic guitar and Flowers on trumpet.
Wild Card is more than just an organ trio. Their music touches many stylistic bases and with its focus on original composition “Organic Riot” represents their most mature recorded statement to date. The core trio all play well, particularly leader Regert, although it could be argued that Noble is a little underused. All of the guest musicians make significant contributions but its the fluency of Flowers’ numerous solos that make him the pick of the bunch.
“Organic Riot” is a timely reminder of the talent within The Wild Card circle and is good advertisement for their acclaimed live performances. Forthcoming dates include the official album launch at Jazz Café Posk in Hammersmith, London on Saturday April 18th 2015.
Upcoming shows are as follows; (from http://www.wildcardmusic.com)
Saturday 28 March, Daszcalzo. Starts 7.30 pm. Free Entry.
2 Eccleston Place Belgravia, London SW1W 9NE
Sunday 5 April, OSP Hammersmith, Starts 5 pm. Free entry
London, Hammersmith W6 9PL
Thursday 9 April, The Plough, Starts 9 pm. Free Entry.
297 Northfield Ave, Ealing, W5 4XB.
Saturday 18th April, Wild Card new album launch “Organic riot”, Jazz café Posk.
238-246 King Street, Hammersmith W6 0RF. starts 8.30 pm.
Full line up + special guest “B’Loon” rapper from France
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