The London-based jazz funk trio, Wild Card, are back with a new album, Cabin 19 Fever. As usual, the band are joined by some amazing guest musicians, who beef up the sound and a little spice to the mix.
The core trio remains unchanged; French bandleader, songwriter, arranger and guitarist, Clement Regert, Australian organ player, Andrew Noble and British drummer, Sophie Alloway. The other musicians are too numerous to list here, but include ‘regulars’, such as trumpet player Graeme Flowers and saxophonist Leo Richardson, US tenor saxophonist Maurice ‘Mobetta’ Brown (Robert Glasper), British saxophonist Binker Golding, trombonists Rosie Turton, Dennis Rollins and Trevor Mires, singer Imaani (Incognito) and Latin percussionist Snow Boy. Having so many guests could make the album seem too fragmented, but too Regert’s credit, they combine seamlessly, his arrangements as strong as ever.
As usual, the album is primarily comprised of Regert orginals – complete with quirky, personal song titles – and some well-chosen covers. As the album’s title suggests, it was recorded at three different sessions during the various breaks in lockdown, when musicians – like all of us – were desperate to get out.
Regert did manage a holiday in Greece, which inspired the album’s opener, Olympus. The song begins with some gentle acoustic guitar, but this soon gives way to the band’s trademark funk, driven by Sophie Alloway on drums and Snow Boy’s percussion. Graeme Flowers’ soaring trumpet dominates here, but there’s some lovely interplay with Trevor Mires on trombone and the superb Binker Golding on sax. Regert delivers an acoustic guitar solo too, offering a change of scenery.
The stuttering stop-start beat of Definitely Maybe has nothing to do with Oasis, thankfully, but the indecisive advice from the UK government during lockdown. Alloway nails the complex rhythm, Regert plays some powerful electric guitar and special guest ‘Mobetta’ Brown delivers a fiery solo.
Aleppo Express was one of the single from the album, and was inspired by the journey made to the UK by Regert’s barber from war-torn Syria. It is a more gentle, lyrical piece than the tunes which open the album, with Regert switching back to acoustic and Marcus Stickland playing some quite haunting soprano sax.
Mercy Street is the album’s quirky cover, transforming Peter Gabriel’s quiet, atmospheric original with a full-on jazz funk vibe. Imaani’s warm vocal is superb, as is Alloway’s inventive drumming. Regert plays an acoustic guitar solo, before handing over to Dennis Rollins on trombone and Graeme Flowers, who uses a mute for his trumpet solo.
I’m guessing that Tweenies was inspired by the restless behaviour of Regert’s children during lockdown. Snow Boy returns, adding his trademark energy, and there’s a funky organ solo from Andrew Noble to enjoy. Copycat is more laid-back jazz funk, punctuated a fabulous solo by Graeme Flowers and a funky drum break from Alloway.
The moody Deception slows the pace, and sees the return of Marcus Stickland, this time on tenor. It’s another great tune that really demonstrates the band’s enormous versatility.
Georgy Porgy was written by David Paich appeared on Toto’s debut, and the original had a distinctly Boz Scaggs feel. Wild Card up the tempo, and the funk, with Imaani taking on vocal duties to good effect, and Regert, Rosie Turton and Graeme Flowers taking turns to deliver punchy solos. The album ends with i87, some crisp, melodic funk with some warm electric piano from Andrew Noble and even warmer trombone from Trevor Mires.
Watch the fantastic lockdown video of Georgy Porgy here:
Cabin 19 Fever is a fine album, and one I have play repeatedly this past few weeks. The album has a slightly different vibe to its predecessors I feel; it’s a little less guitar-driven, and it may be me, but Andrew Noble sounds more prominent on this album. Regert’s arrangements and production are first-class, as always, and it will be great to hear some of these new tunes on the road, where the band can stretch out. Recommended!