Reviews Zone

Wild Card: Life Stories (Top End Records) 3rd March 2018





4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)



Wasn’t it Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong who said: “If you have to ask what jazz is, man, you’ll never, ever get it”? Or something like that. He’s right. You don’t need to understand jazz. You feel it. Wallow in it and let it wash over you. Go with the flow….

There’s two types of jazz, same as there are two types of music. Good and bad. That said, it is all subjective, isn’t it? What’s one man’s idea of great music, might well be another’s idea of a bloody noise! Think back to your childhood and watching the latest batch of pop stars on TV, and your Dad comes in the room and asks what the hell that horrible row is? Which is what what we thought when we heard his choice of music, perhaps!

Well, one thing’s for sure; Clément Régert and his celebrated London-based jazz outfit Wild Card make a bloody lovely noise, and I doubt there’s ever anyone in their audience to question them about what music they play, and what it’s all about.

Their launch gig a couple of nights ago at the trendy Jazz Cafe Posk Hammersmith, to celebrate the release of their fourth album “Life Stories” on the same day, was rammed and pulled in a good few VIPs and what modern day folk call “taste makers”. (Not sure why, but that pointless phrase winds me up!!!)

Anyway, back to the music. So what have we got?  French guitarist/band leader Clément Régert and Wild Card have recorded the very same blend of tuneful numbers with a wide variety of hard-bop, Afro/Latin, New Orleans and raw funk grooves that have made them so popular on the UK Jazz scene in the last few years.

The “organ trio” powerhouse of the group, guitarist Clément Régert, organist Andrew Noble and drummer Sophie Alloway are stalwarts of the UK jazz scene. Here, they are joined by a smattering of special guests & good friends, with a very rich musical pedigree indeed:

  • Denys Baptiste (McCoy Tyner, Jazz Jamaica) on Tenor sax.
  • Carl Hudson (Incognito, Jocelyn Brown) on keys.
  • Adam Glasser (Sting, Hugh Masekhela) on Harmonica from South Africa.
  • Mary Pearce (Chaka Khan, Courtney Pine) on vocals.
  • Graeme Flowers (Manu Katche, Quincy Jones) on trumpet and Jim Knight (CeeLo Green, London Horns) on Alto Sax. They are both regulars of the Wild Card line ups.
  • Alistair White (Incognito, Van Morrison) on Trombone.
  • Will Fry (The Lion king musical, Roy Ayers) on Percussion.

The album was recorded “live” – all the musicians playing in the same room at the same time, and most of the tracks are from the first or second take. The album is overdub free , apart from a few shakers/percussion on some of the tracks.

They deliver 11 tracks; eight penned by Clément, and the other three, he arranged. They cover Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick In The Wall”, The Stones’ “Paint It Black” and a new song, “Herman’s Hoedown,” which closes the record, written by the band’s organist and pianist Andrew Noble.

So, the main guys. Let’s look at who they are and what their story is… Talented French guitarist Clément Régert from Paris. Since he moved to London in 2005, he has played in numerous venues and festivals in the UK such as The London Jazz Festival, London Latin-Jazz Festival, Ronnie Scotts, Pizza Express Soho, The Teignmouth Jazz festival and the Canary Wharf jazz Festival.

Clément has collaborated with the likes of Lianne Carroll, Natalie Williams, Dennis Rollins, Denys Baptiste, Mark Mondesir, Andrew McCormack, Robert Mitchell, Ross Stanley, Jay Phelps, Jim Watson and many more. He founded Wild Card and recorded/produced his debut album “Mixity” in 2008.

The band’s skilful drummer Sophie Allowa,y has toured the UK, Australia, and New Zealand with Roots Manuva. As well as performing on “Later…with Jools Holland”, The Mercury Music Prize, BBC Introducing and playing festivals such as London Jazz Festival, Glastonbury and Bestival. She has also toured with the Michael Jackson musical “Thriller”. Sophie has recorded with Roots Manuva, Hazel O’Connor, Wagga Man/Theo Gordon (producer), John Hogg and numerous recordings as a jazz drummer.

Andrew Noble on organ and piano is originally from Australia, based in London since 2004. Performing across town with a variety of jazz, groove and Latin projects. He has performed with saxophonist Derek Nash, Roberto Manzin, Reanato D’Aiello, Christian Brewer, Simon Spillet, Ed Jones, Toni Kofi and Gary Plumey, Robin Jones, Jim Mullen and Carl Orr, Ola Onabule and Kenny Thomas.

Andrew has performed at Edinburgh’s Fringe Festival, London Jazz Festival, Goodwood Festival Of Speed, The British Jazz Fest, Music Live at Birmingham NEC, All Out Guitar Fest, Marlborough Jazz Fest, The Teignmouth Jazz Fest and The Isle of Wight International Jazz Festival.

The material on “Life Stories” is creative, refreshing and jam packed with energy and a zest for life and this music. Nu-jazz they call it. Not sure what that really means, same as when they label country/folk/bluegrass/acoustic and a stack of other genres; Americana.

So, let’s forget labels and pinpoint a few simple questions. Is it good music? Hell, yeah. Is it well performed? See my previous answer. Is it well produced? Ahem, and again, I refer you to my earlier statement.

Does the material deliver an “even listen” and hold the attention? Very much so. Will this record appeal to fans of old school, modern – and all parts in between – jazz? It has every chance, methinks, but there’s only one way to find out for sure…………………

Their 2015 release “Organic Riot” was a triumph, and I for one gave it a glowing review in a national magazine I used to contribute to back then. But “Life Stories” seems to me to be stronger material and perhaps less “produced”, more flowing and innate, and ironically considering the last album’s title, more “organic”. Both albums are well worthy of being added to your record collection if you want quality jazz sounds, but the latest one has that extra seasoning and aptly, as Clément is a Frenchman: that  “Je ne sais quoi”.

Standout tracks: If I said all of them, you’d think I was on a secret bung from Monsieur Régert , maybe. I am not! But honestly, there’s no weak links here. It is all pretty special. The two well known covers, “Paint It Black” and “Another Brick In The Wall” are cleverly approached and turned out pretty well. The first one is perhaps a tad over-loaded and veers right away from the core tune maybe, but it is still a nice job, and the latter is a lovely result.

If you dig funky, groove-soaked, versatile and Premier League talent – and one thing to note is that no one player hogs the floor here, they all get their moment and make it pay, but this is an ensemble thing far more than the previous album – all bonded together with lashings of chemistry (and FUN with a capital ‘F’ as the cherry on top), this is for you.

So to finish off, let’s refer back to one of the greatest musicians and music stars that ever lived; Mr Armstrong, and another of his quotes. But in the modern day context of this fabulous UK band and this superb new record, “Life Stories”. He says:

“Hot can be cool, and cool can be hot, and each can be both. But hot or cool, man, jazz is jazz”. Yep, Wild Card and “Life Stories” – hot and cool, but most definitely jazz. I think they’ll happily take that…


By Simon Redley




1 out of 5 stars (1 / 5) ‘Dull Zone’
2 out of 5 stars (2 / 5) ‘OK Zone’
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