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Brownswood Recordings - Sunny Side Up (2019)

 
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It's barely been a year since We Out Here; Brownswood Recordings' essential document of contemporary UK jazz. The compilation came at a point of critical mass for London's scene, heralding landmark releases from the likes of Shabaka Hutchings, Nubya Garcia, and Moses Boyd.

Sunny Side Up hopes to tread a similar path with its diverse roster of Melbourne up-and-comers, many of whom are yet to see recognition on the world stage. It's a chance to acknowledge the city's development, both artistically and as a community, following in London's footsteps to re-invent jazz for the twenty-first century.

If there's one thing linking these two scenes, it's a disregard for style. Opening cut Banksia sees drummer Phil Stroud lace sunburnt horn leads with a hefty dose of subliminal funk before Dufresne's Pick Up / Galaxy evolves the vibe into synth-laden Fela Kuti worship complete with scatted call and response.

Later on, Audrey Powne and 30/70 front-woman Allysha Joy shine vocally with soulful contributions. It's a mixed bag of influences held down by an upbeat atmosphere and genuine community feel.

Where Sunny Side disappoints is in its attempted fusions of intricate choral arrangements with groove-based jams. Multi-instrumentalist Laneous packs Nice To See You with gritty breakbeats reminiscent of London drummer Yussef Dayes. Sadly, the track is bogged down by tedious vocal parts which suffocate improvisation.

Kuzich executes these elements a bit better on There Is No Time, drawing from reggae to weave intoxicating group chants between a relaxed bassline. Thankfully, trained jazz singer Audrey Powne absolutely nails her execution of a more traditional vocal cut, interspersing melody with tight passages of trumpet-led quartet improv on Bleeding Hearts.

It's hard not to be excited about Sunny Side Up. The compilation highlights an Australian scene that actually has something to say. It can be a bit embarrassing when Australia ignores our home-grown talent, but thank god for Brownswood. Sometimes you just don't know how good you've got it until it’s in compilation form.

6.5/10

First aired on 4ZZZ's New Releases Show 19/7/19

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