Album of the Day: Joe Armon-Jones, “Turn to Clear View”

On his recent 6 Music radio show, Gilles Peterson reflected on how “some of these records that are coming out from the U.K. scene […] it’s really turning into something interesting, with words and arrangements.” One of the artists responsible for that shift—in terms of both musicianship and inventiveness—is London keyboard virtuoso Joe Armon-Jones. Like many artists in London’s fertile jazz scene, Armon-Jones received his education at Trinity Laban music school before joining in sessions with youth jazz collective Tomorrow’s Warriors. Equally important in Armon-Jones’s development was his father, a jazz-fusion musician who passed on his love of the spacey, free flowing sounds of the analog keys to his son. Continually inquisitive and spontaneous, Armon Jones’s debut LP for Brownswood, Starting Today, owed as much to the dub reggae of King Tubby and the street sounds of London as the abstract fusion of Herbie Hancock.

On his new record, Turn to Clear View, Armon-Jones enlists the same group of musicians from his first LP (guitarist Oscar Jerome, drummers Moses Boyd and Kwake Bass, saxophonist Nubya Garcia, and bassists David Mrakpor and Mutale Chashi) to create one of the most important LPs to emerge from the young London scene. Loose and languid, the opener “Try Walk With Me” (featuring the evocative vocals of Asheber) sets the tone, before guest Georgia Anne Muldrow delivers one of her finest vocal performances on the sublime neo-soul jazz track “Yellow Dandelion.” As woozy as it is exploratory, the single “Icy Roads (Stacked)” sends Armon-Jones’s analog keys swirling around Kwake Bass’s off-kilter drums and killer bass hooks by Chashi. And on the empirical two-part “Self:Love,” Armon-Jones joins Nigerian Londoner Obongjayar on vocals for a suitably ambitious closing track from a constantly evolving artist.

-Andy Thomas

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