- Dego and Kaidi are the finest practitioners of the soulful, syncopated, jazz-flecked London sound that was first incubated at the now-resurgent Co-Op parties. It's often called broken beat, though Dego and Kaidi bristle at categories. (The website of Dego's 2000 Black collective calls their sound "genre-defying music from the African diaspora.") On A So We Gwarn, Dego and Kaidi's first album together, they delve deeper into a craft they've been refining, along with a cast of trusted collaborators, for nigh on two decades. The LP arrives on Sound Signature, whose founder, Theo Parrish, has close ties to London and its music culture, having held down a regular slot at Plastic People, the club that was home to Co-Op during its heyday.
A So We Gwarn's first two songs hint at something special. "See & Blind, Hear & Deaf" starts with a twinkle of Kaidi's keys before launching into a soulful groove. Better still, "Treasure Beach" bursts into life with Wayne Francis's sax and Yelfris Valdes's trumpet providing a thrilling sense of propulsion, the kind you hear on a Fela Kuti or Tim Maia record. "Treasure Beach" is not only this album's best track, it's one of the best dance floor songs I've heard all year. London boogie, British jazz-funk, jazz-fusion—whatever you want to call it, it's wonderful.
The rest of the album doesn't reach these heights. But there are still several tunes to savour, including two that don't make it onto the vinyl LP: the smoky boom-bap of "Sista's Love," and the bass-heavy squelch of "Shy Makku." And then there's "The Sorrell Sweet"—it's easy to imagine Parrish treating the stuttered rhythm to his trademark EQing—and "18.1096 N 77.2975 W," a breezy excursion into instrumental boogie. (The title's coordinates land on the Crooked River All Ages School in Jamaica.) A few tracks are intricate jam sessions that will likely drift past all but the firmest devotees of this music. But outside recognition is of little interest to Dego, Kaidi and co—as Nadine Charles sings on the second-last track, in lyrics written by Dego, "It's all for us."
01. See & Blind, Hear & Deaf
02. Treasure Beach feat. Wayne Francis & Yelfris Valdes
03. Too Much Ginger feat. Miles Brett
04. Sista's Love
05. Nyabinghi Warriors
06. Decide What You Choose feat. Nadine Charles, Sarina Leah & Mr Mensah
07. Maroon Strategies
08. The Sorrell Sweet
09. A So We Gwarn
10. 18.1096 N 77.2975 W
11. Shy Makku
12. The Rockers Rebel Step
13. It's All For Us feat. Nadine Charles, Yelfris Valdes, Ray Carless, Mr Mensah & Miles Brett
14. Don't Put Your Hat Where Your Hand Can't Reach feat. Wayne Francis