WHEN all of this (gestures expansively at the pandemic) is over we’re going to want live music. We’re going to need live music. Hell, we’re going to deserve live music.
Freedom Fables, Nubiyan Twist’s follow up to their acclaimed Jungle Run from spring 2019, on Strut Records, feels like the gig we need; the gig we deserve. There’s a blast of summer’s warm air and shoes off; a sense of arms-wide liberation and yet a Village Vanguard intimacy about this album that jets you forward in time, to that first ecstatic late-night live show of the summer, the sun going down on a great day, cold beer, and lockdown a faint, miserable memory of months gone by,
The Leeds/London collective fuse soul, jazz and global styles with uplifting accomplishment. There’s a joyful complexity in the musicianship which would be indulgent and irksome if it weren’t so purposeful and energising. Shot through with moments of hip hop, Latin, jazz and UK soul, the nine tracks on Freedom Fables defy you not to be optimistic, and – for the most part – not to dance.
Standard-setting opener “Morning Light” (with Ria Moran) brings – after a throaty cackle and the defiant cry of ‘Yeah!’ into a sexy horn section intro – a laid back, bass-driven groove just a minor chord or two away from being mainstream pop classic. “Tittle Tattle” (with CHERISE) is perhaps the standout track. Complex jazz lines, that horn section, a live feel that makes it seem like we’re in a close crowd in an after-hours tent at the festival of your choice, a warm breeze, carrying the music to nearby tents where the fools who turned in early are heading back out to see whoever that is.
If they run, they’ll arrive in time for “Ma Wonka” (with Pat Thomas) and “Buckle Up” (with Soweto Kinch), which keep the party going. Impossible not to dance to, there’s a torrid sway to “Ma Wonka” which transports, and a smoother, nighttime vibe to “Buckle Up”; and again there’s that scent of the end of a hot day in the air. CHERISE is back on “Keeper”, and two tracks later on “Flow”. The former has a jazz club intimacy, all wrist-rolling, tricky drums and brass squiggles, the latter more funky bass and pop sensibility. “If I Know” (with K.O.G) has an urgent drive to get the whole crowd on its feet, while “24-7” features Ego Ella May’s smoky vocal and some fiendish drumming in a more soulful, chilled mood. The final track, “Wipe Away Tears” (with Nick Richards) is a big jazz closer (and again that horn sound is gorgeous) with the husky voice of a fine night, well spent.
Freedom Fables feels like quite the night out. It doesn’t just conjure up the gig we need and deserve. It brings a promise of the summer we need; the summer we deserve.
Nubiyan Twist’s Freedom Fables is available now digitally, on CD and on 2xLP; order yours over at Bandcamp.