Review: Since launching a few years back, Matthew Halsall's Gondwana Records has released some terrific albums from a string of talented but often little-known artists. This brilliant set is another. It comes from Hania Rani, a pianist, composer and producer better known for her collaborative work with the likes of Christian Loffler, Dobrawa Czocher and Hior Chronik. "Esja" is Rani's solo debut and sees her sashay between atmospheric, often poignant pieces that put her impeccable piano playing at the heart of the action. It's exceedingly elegant and picturesque, with Rani's subtle use of field recordings and crackling background noise only enhancing the listening experience.
Review: David Hanke's Renegades Of Jazz project has been relatively successfully in achieving its initial aims, namely "bringing the jazz back to the dancefloor". After a three-year hiatus Hanke and company are back with a new album, "Nevertheless" - a funk-fuelled romp through bustling breakbeats, elastic double bass, fuzzy Stax style horns, jammed out piano lines and groovy guitar riffs. Hanke has roped in a number of guest vocalists and collaborators to put their stamp on the set, with stellar contributions from rapper Donnie Numeric (the hip-hop/jazz/funk fusion of "Hot Wired"), soul singer Clair Fallows (see the punchy floor-rocker "Light Me Up") and Afrika Fuentes (check the tropical funk brilliance of "Don't Break My Love").
Review: Tenderlonious' prolific explorations of contemporary jazz continue unabated with this new album from his supergroup, Ruby Rushton. With Mo Kolours and Yussef Dayes (formerly of Yussef Kamaal) amongst the highly skilled players in this ensemble, the quality spilling out of their fourth album need not be questioned. The band leader's signature flute stylings skip and twirl across the top of the music, with the overall brew striking that elusive but oh-so-sweet balance between loose, free-wheeling expression and rock solid groove. Fresh and satisfying at every turn, this is proof of why the modern jazz scene is so vibrant right now. Ruby Rushton can do no wrong!