by Ian Mann
January 24, 2023
The individual and collective excellence of the core trio allows their illustrious guests to express themselves and to give of their best too, which they all do without exception.
“Cabin 19 Fever”
(Top End Records TER006CD)
Clement Regert – classical & electric guitars, Andrew Noble – B3 Hammond organ, keyboards,
Sophie Alloway – drums
Binker Golding – tenor sax, Trevor Mires – trombone, Graeme Flowers – trumpet, Snow Boy – percussion, Maurice ‘Mobetta’ Brown – trumpet, Marcus Strickland – soprano & tenor sax, Dennis Rollins – trombone, Jim Knight – alto sax, Leo Richardson – tenor sax, Charlie Porter – trumpet Imaani – vocals, Rosie Turton – trombone, Paul Booth – tenor sax
Wild Card is a London based trio led by the French born guitarist and composer Clement Regert. “Cabin 19 Fever” represents their sixth album release and follows “Mixicity” (2008), “Everything Changes” (2012), “Organic Riot” (2015), “Life Stories” (2018) and “Beast From The East” (2020). With the exception of the début, which featured a different quartet line up, all of the previous albums have been reviewed elsewhere on the Jazzmann.
Wild Card have been a popular attraction on the London jazz circuit for many years and I finally caught up with them at the 2019 EFG London Jazz Festival when the band played an exciting show in the hot and sweaty environs of the Spice of Life venue in Soho. Here the core trio of Regert, Alloway and Noble was augmented by the powerful horn soloists Roberto Manzin (alto sax) and Rosie Turton (trombone). There were also a number of vocal items featuring the singing of Brazilian born guest vocalist Luna Cohen. It was a hugely enjoyable event and I was pleased to be able to see the band live at last after having covered them regularly on disc. Much of the material was sourced from the then forthcoming “Beast From The East” album, which was officially released in February 2020.
The core trio has been in place since the “Everything Changes” album but the group has always been supplemented by guest musicians and vocalists, both live and on disc. Wild Card’s list of guests has included some pretty illustrious names and this is a tradition that is continued on this new album, as can be seen from the collective personnel listed above.
With their mix of jazz, funk and soul Wild Card are something of a ‘party band’, but as I have observed in previous reviews there is also a high level of intelligence and sophistication within their music.
“Cabin 19 Fever” carries on from where “Beast From The East” left off by putting the emphasis firmly on Regert’s original compositions. Eight of the ten tracks on the new album were written by the guitarist with the only covers being arrangements of the Peter Gabriel song “Mercy Street” and “Georgy Porgy”, written by the American musician David Paich, keyboard player with the band Toto.
Three of the tracks were documented at Eastcote studios but the majority of the pieces were recorded remotely during the various lockdown periods, resulting in several big name US guests such as Brown, Strickland and Porter becoming involved. An unexpected bonus. And of course it’s the pandemic that helps to give the album its title.
The new album commences with “Olympus”, which opens in deceptively quiet fashion with the sound of Regert’s classical guitar before switching to a propulsive Latin-esque groove featuring the sounds of Snow Boy’s percussion. Golding, Mires and Flowers add punchy horns, with the latter’s brassy trumpet particularly prominent. The first solo comes from Regert on classical guitar, his nimble picking supplemented by the churning of Noble’s Hammond and the vibrant, interlocking rhythms of Alloway and Snow Boy. The guest percussionist then comes to the fore with his own feature, before handing over to Golding’s tenor sax. The full septet then come together for the rousing closing section. It all makes for a splendidly invigorating opening.
There’s no reduction in energy levels on the complex but funky “Definitely Maybe”, which features the twin horn attack of Golding’s tenor and Brown’s trumpet, plus the cranked up sound of Regert’s electric guitar. Brown delivers a fiery trumpet solo, fuelled by the stabs and surges of Noble’s Hammond, these allied to Alloway’s vigorous drum grooves. Golding then weighs in on powerful tenor as the tune goes storming out. The title is not an Oasis reference but a reflection on the conflicting advice offered t the public by the UK government during the pandemic.
“Aleppo Express” is gentler than its title might suggest and commences with the lilting sound of Regert’s classical guitar and the softly serpentine sound of Strickland’s soprano sax. Additional instruments come on board as the piece gathers momentum, with Noble this time featuring on both electric piano and Hammond. But it’s the combination of acoustic guitar and soprano sax that helps to bring a genuinely Middle Eastern feeling to the proceedings, with Strickland later stretching out more expansively with a probing solo.
Gabriel’s “Mercy Street” is speeded up and given something of a jazz-funk feel with Imaani contributing a warm, soulful vocal. Instrumental solos come from Regert on acoustic guitar, Rollins on trombone, Flowers on trumpet and Knight on incisive alto sax. Alloway is a busy and inventive presence throughout and enjoys something of a drum feature before Imaani’s vocals eventually return.
The playful “Tweenies” buzzes with an appropriately child like energy and features the infectious rhythms of Alloway and Snow Boy. Golding, Mires and Flowers form the horn section and the Australian born Noble is finally given his head on a blazing Hammond solo. The horns then get their chance in a good natured series of energetic tenor / trombone / trumpet exchanges. Regert fills in any gaps on electric guitar.
“Copycat” features the same line up and is a marginally more laid back slice of jazz funk with fluent but fiery solos from Flowers on trumpet and Regert on electric guitar, plus a dynamic drum feature from Alloway.
The title track introduces another new face with Leo Richardson coming in on tenor sax and sharing the solos with Noble’s Hammond, Regert’s electric guitar and Flowers’ trumpet on another impressively energetic jazz funk workout.
“Deception” slows the pace and darkens the mood, the title again perhaps a reflection on government antics. The core trio are joined by American heavyweights Strickland, this time on tenor, and Porter on a piece that is rich in terms of dynamics and contrasts and which progresses through a number of phrases during its four and a half minute duration. Both Strickland and Porter impress with the fluency and intelligence of their contributions on a track that breaks away from the predominately party mood and does so to good effect. It’s not trademark Wild Card but it might just also be the album’s stand out cut.
Imaani returns to add her voice to the old Toto hit “Georgy Porgy”. As ever Wild Card give it a busy jazz funk groove, which suits Imaani’s soulful vocals perfectly. Instrumental solos come from Regert on acoustic guitar, Turton on trombone, Flowers on trumpet and Richardson on tenor sax, with Alloway also featured at the drums.
The album concludes with the instrumental “i87”, which features a clipped funk groove and cogent solos from Mires on trombone, Booth on tenor sax and Regert on electric guitar. Noble doubles on Hammond and electric piano, the latter deployed in a curious solo break mid-tune. Alloway, the woman dubbed ‘The Goddess of Groove’, simply excels behind the kit as always.
“Cabin 19 Fever” represents another highly impressive recording from Wild Card. Like its immediate predecessor it puts the main focus on Regert’s original writing and once again he delivers on the compositional front.
Equally impressive is the fact that the album feels like a unified piece of work despite the remote nature of many of the recordings and the presence of so many different guests from both sides of the Atlantic. It’s Regert’s vision that holds it all together and he receives terrific support from Noble and Alloway, his partners in the Wild Card project for more than a decade. The core trio is very much at the heart of the music, usually without attracting too much attention to themselves, but always central to the success of the Wild Card sound. The individual and collective excellence of Regert, Noble and Alloway allows their illustrious guests to express themselves and to give of their best too, which they all do without exception.
It’s probably fair to say that within their chosen template Wild Card’s albums have exhibited consistent artistic growth and “Cabin 19 Fever” is arguably their best yet, improving even on the excellent “Beast From The East”.
“Cabin 19 Fever” will be officially released on Thursday January 26th 2023 with a sold out live performance at the Elgar Room at the Royal Albert Hall in London. The core trio of Regert, Noble and Alloway will be joined by Golding, Flowers and vocalist Corina Kwami.
All of the group’s albums are available via the Wild Card website;
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