- 01 – Lila
- 02 – Dreamy Driving
- 03 – Walking in Starlight
- 04 – Meandering
- 05 – Taranto
- 06 – Umoya
- 07 – Amor
- 08 – Direction South
PHILIP CLOUTS QUARTET – UMOYA
The music of pianist-composer Philip Clouts combines jazz and world music influences, both of which have been integral throughout his musical life. Philip Clouts is drawn to the freedom of jazz and to the rootedness of world music, genres which bring to his compositions both rhythmic vitality and stylistic diversity.
Born in Cape Town, Philip Clouts has been particularly influenced by the immediacy of South African music. Umoya is the Zulu word for ‘life force’, and can also be translated as ‘soul’ and ‘spirit’. This word has become the title of one of Philip’s songs, and of this whole album.
Yet the album is a melting-pot of wide-ranging influences: North African Sufi music, with its trance-like bass; Nigerian dance rhythms stemming from the Afrobeat style of Fela Kuti; European folk music from Italy and Romania; gospel; and, of course, jazz.
Philip Clouts has performed at venues including Ronnie Scott’s, Symphony Hall, Birmingham, and the Womad and Glastonbury Festivals, receiving praise for his “consummate musicianship” (Musician Magazine). He is joined by acclaimed jazz musicians, saxophonist Samuel Eagles (who has been mentored by the likes of Jean Toussaint), Alex Keen on bass guitar, and Dave Ingamells on drums.
Booklet in English, French and German.
Program notes by Rob Adams.
“Precise ebullience and relaxed funkiness”.
The Guardian – John Fordham / 15 October 2015
“Philip Clouts is the UK-resident Cape Town pianist who helped found the African-infused world-jazz group Zubop, and is currently touring with a new quartet featuring acclaimed young Trinity Laban saxophonist Samuel Eagles. Eagles gets into the spirit of both Clouts’ cultural openness and feel for dance grooves with his snaking, whooping soprano sax solo on the breezy Lila (a fusion of North African Sufi music and township jive), and his deftly swerving post-bop inventiveness illuminates the initially languid Dreamy Driving, much fuelled by the energies of bass guitarist Alex Keen and drummer Dave Ingamells. The rhythm section play with precise ebullience under Clouts’ electric keys on the jaunty Walking in Starlight, and the leader’s affection for a gospel-powered earthiness emerges on the coolly strutting Meandering and in the relaxed funkiness of his piano solo. The township bounce of Umoya’s title track makes it a standout of a set that compensates for the slightness of some of its themes with the unpretentiously light-stepping delivery that has made this group a popular live-show draw.”
“…a life-affirming, musically-accomplished album”.
Adrian Pallant / 6 February 2016
“It has to be the innate South African rhythm of life that Philip Clouts possesses which marks out his quartet albums with such sunshiny zest…infused with alluring ‘world’ grooves...Title track Umoya is the perfect illustration, its clarity and apparent simplicity actually paving the way for bright, syncopated rhythms which might recall Chris McGregor or Dudu Pukwana… a life-affirming, musically-accomplished album to relax into.”
“The rhythms and riffs are infectious. Keen and Ingamells maintain a tight groove throughout the record. Eagles’ saxophone lines flow extensively in wide ranging solos. Clouts’ solos are also full of life…”
London Jazz / 7 April 2016
“Clouts incorporates a lot of different influences into his music - north and west African, European folk musics, gospel - but each seen through a lens of his composer’s eye. The effect is to produce an album of variety but unified around a consistent, swinging township bop. The rhythms and riffs are infectious. Keen and Ingamells maintain a tight groove throughout the record. Eagles’ saxophone lines flow extensively in wide ranging solos. Clouts’ solos are also full of life: his extended solo on the eastern-infused Amor takes the listener into the depths of the tune. Despite Clouts’ magpie-like eclecticism, this record is firmly rooted in jazz.The influence of other forms is engrained in his compositions, but his unswerving ear for catchy riffs and compelling rhythms has produced an enjoyable series of tunes.”
“ His themes mainly have an appealing economy which allow his sidemen, particularly the glowing-toned saxes of Eagles, improvisational freedom while still respecting the music’s charming directness.”
“South African-born Clouts preserves much of the rich rhythm and exuberance of his home continent. But he cast further aﬁeld for other rhythmic patterns and cites “world music” among his prevailing inﬂuences. His themes mainly have an appealing economy which allow his sidemen, particularly the glowing-toned saxes of Eagles, improvisational freedom while still respecting the music’s charming directness. Both Keen and Ingamells add essential elements to this groove-laden programme. Direction South, featuring a halting subtlety of syncopation from the piano, has the quartet at a high degree of empathy.”
“… a revelatory experience”.
UKVibe / November 2015
“If you like your jazz music to be strong on the groove and with a subtle infusion of world beats, then this excellent new recording from the Philip Clouts Quartet may well prove to be a revelatory experience. Born in South Africa, but from an early age resident in London, leader, pianist and composer Philip Clouts studied under renowned pianist and music lecturer Howard Riley at the Guildhall School of Music and further study with Bheki Mseleku helped to refine his sound. The waltz-like opener, ‘Lila’, is notable for the sweet sounding alto saxophone of Eagles, but it’s inspiration in fact lies in the trance-like gnawa music tradition of Morocco. Interestingly, there are hints of an all-acoustic Weather Report on ‘Dreamy Driving’ and here the change of pace within the piece is a joy to behold. Saxophonist Samuel Eagles, who has been mentored partly by former Jazz Messenger Jean Toussaint and studied at Trinity Music College, comes across as something of a latter day Wayne Shorter on tenor saxophone, and has already been featured as a leader in his own right for his debut album on the F-IRE label, ‘Next Beginning’. There is a subtle use of Afro-Beat drum patterns by drummer Dave Ingamells on ‘Walking in Starlight’ with Clouts reverting to electric piano for a more 1970s feel, and the bass line by Alex Keen is an especially compelling one. A slow burner of an album that gets better with repeated listens.”
“Clouts’ compositions are strong and likeable. The quartet’s playing is similarly engaging, a feeling of optimism pervading the tunes with a life force of its own”.
All About Jazz - Bruce Lindsay / 7 December 2015
“It’s Keen and Ingamells who make the first statement -opening “Lila” with a simple, repetitive, but irresistible groove (the tune takes inspiration from North African Sufi music). The groove stays in place as Eagles (on soprano) and Clouts trade solos, ensuring that dancers will have no trouble keeping their moves together even as the soloists take their own flowing, melodic, paths. The centrality of the groove is a key element of Clouts’ music—the nature of the groove may vary, but not its importance. On “Walking In Starlight” it’s a reggae-influenced bass and drum rhythm that forms the foundation for Eagles’ snaky soprano lines and Clouts’ electric piano. “Umoya” shares this reggae rhythm: so, too, does “Direction South” although on this tune reggae takes turns with a gentle shuffle beat. “Meandering” has an unsurprisingly relaxed rhythm: one of the album’s most overtly jazz influenced tunes it serves to illustrate Eagles’ talent on tenor.”
“Whether the inspiration comes from South Africa, Jamaica, his adopted rural English home or the homelands of jazz, Clouts’ compositions are strong and likeable.”
The Scotsman - Tom Robinson / 20 October 2015
“Although not overtly Afro-jazz, the lean and limber music generated by the Dorset-based, South African-born pianist and his incisively rhythmic quartet is nevertheless heavily informed by the music Clouts heard growing up. He’s accompanied by saxophonist Samuel Eagles, bass guitarist Alex Keen and drummer Dave Ingamells, all of whom he brings to Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dunfermline and Aberdeen from 26-29 October (see www.philipcloutsquartet.co.uk). Eagles’s sax establishes its presence right away over infectiously bouncy bass and drums in the opening Lila. The African groove kicks in irresistibly in Walking In Starlight, with Clouts switching to electric piano to create a cool vibe over Ingamells’s insistently tapping drums, then returning to acoustic piano for the nicely strutting gospel blues of Meandering. That Clouts is clearly a man for melody is demonstrated in the European folk-influenced Taranto and Amor, piano and sax entwining nicely in the latter, similarly by the title track (named after the Zulu for “life force”), or the deliciously loping township jive of Direction South. Whether the inspiration comes from South Africa, Jamaica, his adopted rural English home or the homelands of jazz, Clouts’ compositions are strong and likeable. The quartet’s playing is similarly engaging, a feeling of optimism pervading the tunes with a life force of its own.”
“Compositionally strong… robust grooves…Clouts deserves to be better known, and Umoya speeds that direction of travel along nicely.”
Marlbank - Stephen Graham / 10 October 2015
“Two years on from the release of The Hour of Pearl pianist Philip Clouts has rejigged his quartet extensively and the style too becomes bluesier and more tightly honed.
Quite a lot of what you’ll hear on this new heavily sax-flavoured record (especially on tracks like ‘Meandering’) falls within the sort of territory that Joshua Redman has navigated successfully over the years but there’s a township twist hardwired into the sound especially built from bass guitar up that makes it a signature Clouts sound.
Clouts, while a Bill Evans-influenced player who first emerged with his 2010 album Sennen Cove, sounds quite different here to his putative inspiration, his touches on piano or Wurlitzer electric piano on ‘Walking in Starlight’ funky in a Billy Taylor manner and quite down home. The Cape Town born Lyme Regis-based player moves away from many of his world music interests here although the joy of the groove is still a factor. Umoya takes its title from a Zulu word for “life force.”
Compositionally strong the album, made in February this year in Derek Nash’s London studio, has a directness about it and sounds current. Clouts on the album is joined by saxophonist Samuel Eagles, who has a big part to play as a main melodic and soloing presence, by bass guitarist Alex Keen providing some of the most tangible Township links with his robust grooves and who returns from The Hour of Pearl, and by drummer Dave Ingamells. Clouts deserves to be better known, and Umoya speeds that direction of travel along nicely.”
“His writing sounds detailed and the themes are extended… There’s certainly a lot to enjoy here…”
JazzWise - Peter Bacon / December 2015
“The freedom of jazz and the rootedness of world music - those are the twin inspirations of Philip Clouts, South African-born, Guildhall-trained and now Dorset-resident. The South African inﬂuence is clear in two tracks — ‘Direction South’ and the title track — while Clouts explores the Sufi traditions of North Africa in ‘Lila’. Nigerian rhythms in ‘Walking In Starlight‘, gospel-jazz in ‘Meandering’, and Southern European folk in ‘Taranto’ and ‘Amor'. While these are the starting points, all are filtered through Clouts’ own compositional style and the playing of his tightly disciplined quartet. His writing sounds detailed and the themes are extended, so while soloists - chiefly Eagles and Clouts himself - have the freedom to improvise they also have a lot of melodic and harmonic material already set out for them. The rhythms - Keen plays electric bass throughout - are structured at the funky end of things. There's certainly a lot to enjoy here, especially when Eagles lets go a little, but the feeling of formality can have a constraining effect. Imagine a flamboyantly patterned African Dashiki shirt intended to hang loosely but instead tucked into a ﬁrmly-belted, neatly-ironed pair of chinos."
“… a richly varied album that explores a variety of jazz, folk and world music styles and does so with a good natured relish… This melodic gem of an album is highly recommended.”
The Jazz Man - Ian Mann / 6 April 2016
“Pianist and composer Philip Clouts was born in Cape Town, South Africa but has lived in the UK for many years. However African sounds have remained an important influence on his music as evidenced by this new quartet release on the American record label Odradek, an artist run not for profit venture that began with recordings by classical musicians before diversifying into jazz.
Clouts first came to my attention over a decade ago as part of the London based world jazz outfit Zubop, a group with a particular affinity for the music of the Gambia. He was one of the band’s principal composers and appeared on several of the group’s well received releases on the 33 record label. Zubop were also a highly enjoyable live act and I recall seeing them at the Assembly Rooms in nearby Ludlow back in 2003.
Clouts has lived in Dorset since 2006 and his previous quartet albums “Sennen Cove” (2010) and “The Hour of Pearl” (2013) both drew inspiration from the English coast and countryside. Clouts’ highly melodic writing style mixed English pastoralism with a panoply of world jazz styles and the resultant music was simultaneously both highly personal and eminently accessible. It’s a combination that has won Clouts considerable critical approval, but not, perhaps, the wider acclaim that his talent deserves. It may, however, be that his isolation from the London jazz scene has been a factor in this regard.
“Umoya” introduces a brand new line up with only Alex Keen on electric bass remaining from the previous quartet recordings. Dave Ingamells comes in on drums and the saxophone chair is occupied by rising star Samuel Eagles, brother of Partikel leader Duncan Eagles.
The new album is lavishly and highly professionally packaged, something of an Odradek trademark I suspect, and both Rob Adams’ liner notes and Clouts own observations on the music offer valuable insights into the eight compositions in an all original programme.
The album commences with “Lila”, which, Clouts informs us, is inspired by North African Sufi music, the title coming from a Gnawa ceremony performed in this tradition. Keen’s “trance like” bass line allied to Ingamell’s metronomic drumming, propels the piece and underpins lively solos by Clouts on piano and Eagles on soprano sax. There are hints of the modal jazz of John Coltrane, particularly in Eagles’ playing, and Clouts adds compositional variation by experimenting with different meters as the piece progresses. It all makes for a distinctive and attention grabbing opener.
Insistent rhythms are also a component of “Dreamy Driving” where Clouts teams them with a “floating melody” and also speaks of “allowing more freedom within the improvised elements”. It’s another attractive piece, this time more obviously ‘jazz like’ in construction, that gives Eagles plenty of room to cut loose on alto, demonstrating his considerable ‘chops’ before handing over to the composer at the piano. Clouts solos with his customary fluency and inventiveness and there’s also space within the music for drummer Ingamells to express himself.
Clouts switches to Wurlitzer electric piano for “Walking in Starlight”, a piece inspired by the life and music of Fela Kuti. Nigerian rhythms form the backbone of the tune and the combination of Keen’s electric bass and Clouts’ keyboards makes for a pleasing brand of African funkiness. The consistently impressive Eagles takes the first solo followed by Clouts on Wurlitzer.
“Meandering” is a piece closer to the jazz tradition and has a strong gospel feel to it, sounding a little like a tune from a classic Blue Note record. The solos here come from Eagles on bluesy alto, Clouts on piano, and Keen on singing, melodic electric bass.
“Taranto” sees Clouts casting his global musical net still further as he explores the melodies, harmonies and rhythms of Southern Italian folk music. Folk like melodies combine with denser jazz harmonies to frame ebullient solos from Eagles on alto and Clouts on piano.
The title track takes its name from the Zulu word “Umoya” meaning “life force” but sometimes translated as meaning “soul” or “spirit”. It’s an appropriately celebratory piece that combines folkloric and modal jazz elements with an underlying funkiness. There are joyously exuberant solos from Clouts on piano and Eagles on alto, both of them well supported by the propulsive and responsive section of Keen and Ingamells.
“Amor” represents another excursion into the world of European folk music with Clouts basing his composition on a Romanian musical scale. Eagles switches to soprano for a piece that combines exotic Balkan melodies with some dramatic dynamic contrasts with drummer Ingamells showing up strongly in the tune’s closing stages. Meanwhile Clouts’ expansive piano solo provides a degree of balancing lyricism.
The album closes with the Township inspired sounds of “Direction South”, a re-working piece that was the title track of an earlier trio album. It’s a ‘feel good’ piece that captures something of the exuberance of Township Jazz and features relaxed but swinging solos by Clouts on piano and Eagles on alto, these complemented by the underlying funkiness of Keen and Ingamells.
There’s little of the landscape inspired English pastoralism that informed both “Sennen Cove” and “The Hour Of Pearl” but perhaps that’s no bad thing. Clouts has come up with an album that is significantly different to its two immediate predecessors but he has lost none of his flair for a good melody and a tight groove. The result is a richly varied album that explores a variety of jazz, folk and world music styles and does so with a good natured relish. Eagles, who impressed with his own leadership début, “Next Beginning”, in 2014 sounds like a particularly natural fit for the Clouts quartet and is in fine form throughout while Keen and Ingamells also combine well to create a flexible and supportive rhythm team. Clouts wears his own virtuosity lightly as he demonstrates his mastery of a wide range of jazz piano styles.
Fans who enjoyed “Sennen Cove” and “The Hour Of Pearl” will doubtless enjoy this album too and the sheer variety of the record should also appeal to anybody who enjoyed the music of Clouts’ former band Zubop. I’ve always been rather partial to the music of Philip Clouts and this melodic gem of an album is highly recommended.”