Wild Card – Organic Riot (2015)

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Wild Card are an exciting and innovative funky ensemble. Their first album Mixity was released in 2008, and received widely positive reviews. The present main band comprises Sophie Alloway on drums, Andrew Noble on Hammond organ and guitarist Clement Regert. They have played together since 2011. As a trio, they have played several jazz festivals and many UK jazz clubs. A 2012 album Everything Changes was also well received.

Wild Card’s latest album Organic Riot, due on March 30, 2015 via Top End Records, finds the band collaborating with percussionist Pedro Segundo and vocalist and writer Natalie Williams. Leader, composer and guitarist Clement Regert is a regular on the UK jazz scene. He has played the London Jazz Festival and also alongside Lianne Carroll, Mike Gorman, Alex Hutton and many other musicians. London drummer Sophie Alloway has performed with George Melly and Jools Holland, toured with Michael Jackson and played several UK festivals. Andrew Noble, on Hammond organ, is an Autralian now living in London. Andrew has performed with a number of jazz and Latin projects. He has played with Derek Nash, Christian Brewer and Tony Kofi to name just a few.

Natalie Williams has sung with Jamie Cullum and Lalah Hathaway. Other guests on Organic Riot include Graeme Flowers on Trumpet (Michael Buble, Quincy Jones), Roberto Manzim (James Brown, Omar Akim) on tenor sax and Jerome Harper, a new York trombone player (Snarky Puppy, DWeckl). On percussion for some tracks there is Portugese drummer Joao Caetano (Chaka Khan, Incognito), and from Bulgaria there is percussionist Lili Iontcheva (Ciyo Brown, Thomas Crown Affair) on others. It also features French rap artist B’loon. For this album there was a determination to capture a live feel. All the artists recorded in the same room at the same time with all the tracks from first or second take – the nearest thing to ‘live’ performing on a CD you can get.

The first track, appropriately titled “Introduction,” is short but very sweet with thumping bass and drums overdubbed with spoken vocals from B’loon. “Wild Card Theme” starts with a trumpet solo from Graeme Flowers, followed by a Latino-beat rhythm section of bass and drums with the trumpet soaring over the top then the whole ensemble join to create a delicious, swinging number. “Feeling Good” is a vehicle for William’s vocals backed by the whole band and is a great take on Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse’s original song. “Organic Riot,” written by Clement Regert and featuring B’loon on vocals, is a distinctive and original song with the vocal interacting with the band almost as an additional rhythm section. The French language slips sublimely into the heavily accentuated bass and drums. Emotive and energetic, the song is well placed as the title track on this album.

“Do U Wanna Know” has an interesting and catchy lilt, evocative of Parisienne style music and has a lovely guitar solo in the middle section from regert followed by the wondrous trumpet playing of Flowers. “Shake It Up” is a lovely number with a deliciously dexterous sax solo from Roberto Manzin which expresses the joy of this tune, ably backed by bass and intricate drumming. “Tchouks” and “Heartbeat” follow — both tracks featuring all band members. “Tchouks” is up-beat and funky whilst “Heartbeat” is softer, gentler, showing another side to the band. “A Day Like No Other” is a swinging, uplifting number with both the trumpet of Flowers and the keys of Andrew Noble featured heavily.

“Wash Him Out” again features Natalie William’s vocals and is written by the lady herself. It is a lovely, soulful ballad. There is a ludicrously sublime interlopement by sax and trumpet halfway through, contrasting with Natalie’s soft, soulful voice, and followed by a polished sax solo before Natalie takes the track to its conclusion. “The Flood,” another piece by Regert, starts with guitar and keys and the bass then takes the theme, handing it to the rest of the band who eventually let the sax take control for the middle section. Manzin demonstrates the ridiculous ease with which he travels the registers. This is one solo you never want to end, and the final section featuring the keys of Noble engages the listener totally. Improvised, free form funk — almost. The track ends with full band at full pelt. Beautiful.

The interestingly titled “Passion, Grace and Nutella” is a funky, dancey number written by Regert again featuring all the band with a space for another glorious sax solo from Manzin and a drum section from Joao Caetanao which finishes the number. Andy Narell’s piece “Oz” features a great trumpet section for Flows and leads to “Manic Phase,” another Regert-scribed number which features the trumpet of Flowes and the guitar of Regert in a funky groove, the metal strings providing a clarity to the notes which suit the tune well. The trumpet picks up where guitar leaves off, and develops the tune into an intricate tangle of notes yet still the tune is recognisable.

With Organic Riot, Wild Card proves a real find. I was expecting funk; I was expecting groove — but what I was not expecting was the improvisation which the band introduce into almost every number. Together, Wild Card takes these tunes, plays with them a little bit, returning to the melody and then handing it to a soloist to do with what they like for a while before the band finish each number in a polished, coherent style. The album is simply classy.

Sammy Stein

Sammy Stein

The Something Else! webzine, an accredited Google News affiliate, has been featured in The New York Times and NPR.com's A Blog Supreme, while our writers have also been published by USA Today, Jazz.com and UltimateClassicRock.com, among others. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Sammy Stein

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