*** August Album Of The Month ***
(5 / 5)
Oscar Jerome “Breathe Deep” is the stunning debut album from an exciting young British nu-jazz artist- triple threat singer, guitarist and songwriter who gets the vote for Music Republic Magazine’s Album of the Month for August. An absolute no-brainer!
We went nuts about his recent single “Give Back What U Stole From Me” – our single of the month for May. That mesmerising cut is on the new album, delighted to say.
It was follow-up to “Your Saint” featuring Brother Portrait and the 6-Music B-listed “Sun For Someone”, featuring Joe Armon-Jones. Both on the new album.
Hailing from Norwich in the UK and now South London-based, Oscar is a busy boy, splitting his time between his solo career and the Brownswood-signed Afrobeat outfit Kokoroko. Oscar penned the track “Abusey Junction” for Kokoroko and it has amassed more than 50 million streams.
A graduate in jazz guitar from London’s Trinity Laban Conservatoire, Oscar has collaborated with Shabaka Hutchings, Moses Boyd and Yussef Dayes. Oscar has completed successful tours of the USA, Europe and Australia, and accepted an invite to tour with Kamasi Washington last year.
He will tour UK and Europe later this year (all being well subject to the pandemic situation), including his biggest headliner to date at Electric Brixton, London on November 25th.
Collaborators on the debut album include a few of his Kokoroko colleagues, Joe Armon-Jones, friends in Sons of Kemet, Maisha and Steam Down as well as the wondrous Lianne La Havas.
The boundary-blurring material is marinated with flavours of Afrobeat, West African funk, broken-beat and 60s Latin American soul jazz…and more.
The record opens with “Searching For Aliens”, a 47-second guitar instrumental before the super “Sun For Someone” grabs the attention. An up-tempo summery, feel-good jazzy cut with ensemble BVs.
A vocal that sounds like Oscar is about to spit a few bars, but maybe decided not to. Drum track is in the pocket. Fabulous start to the set. Lovely flowing guitar solo. The hook will bury itself deep in your head.
“Give Back What U Stole From Me” is one of the best tracks of any genre I have heard this year, and I need my fix of this one on a regular basis. The album version has an extended percussion thing at the front, whereas the single dives straight in.
The whole thing sounds more New York than Norwich. More South Bronx than South London. Jazz meets hip-hop in feel. Oscar’s vocals and guitar licks well on-point. The drummer earns his fee on this one cut alone. Sax man too. Bloody awesome.
“Your Saint” features a spoken-word part from UK-based, Sierra Leonean rapper and poet Brother Portrait, co-founder of arts collective Steam Down.
“Coy Moon” is a love song, inspired says Oscar, by the imagery of John Keats, the balafon playing of Mawdo Suso and the gated snare drums of Lee Scratch Perry. Lovely chilled vibe. He delivers a different side to his vocal; a softer, gentler approach. Nice job.
“What’s Up Buttercup”, another short (59 seconds) interlude before “Gravitate”, where the in-the-pocket drum groove is surely inspired by David Garibaldi and TOP’s “Squib Cakes”. Oscar’s guitar break is sumptuous. The track has a feel of the great Omar.
Oscar the fabulous guitarist to the fore on the pleasing percussive instrumental, “Fkn Happy Days ’N’ That”, which he says is a tribute to guitar greats Grant Green and Kenny Burrell.
I am sure they’d be happy – but may wonder why there are sheep bleating at the end of the track!. (Also puts me in mind of Ronny Jordan – minus the sheep!).
“Timeless” is the stripped-back voices and guitar cut (plus subtle percussion and a sweet horn solo), which pays homage to Oscar’s dad. The vocals are shared with the sublime Lianne La Havas. A perfect-fit dream team. Quite beautiful. Love to hear more from this magic pairing. Another Omar-like vibe.
The third of the three short instrumental interludes, “Draggin’ My Heels” is a 54 second ode to George Benson. Closing proceedings is the acoustic track “Joy Is You”, where Oscar delivers yet another different side of his vocal.
A song he wrote a good while ago, recorded a few times in various places until it made the album – celebrating the birth of his nephew and paying homage to Oscar’s family past, present and future. It has a vibe in the same territory as Lianne La Havas’ own solo work.
While the whole album really is a little gem, there are four standouts for me here: “Sun For Someone”, Gravitate” and “Timeless”, and the undisputed, drop dead gorgeous, stone cold killer, knock out, mutha of a track that I’ll never tire of….
“Give Back What U Stole from Me”. Oscar sounding so innate, so comfortable in his own creative skin. So right and so right now!
Many of us human beings spend an inordinate number of hours giving brain space to the impossible-to-answer conundrum: Why were we put on this earth? Listen to the likes of Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Mahalia Jackson, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Luciano Pavarotti…. no need to ask that question of them.
That can surely be said of Oscar Jerome on one listen to the 11 cuts on “Breath Deep”. An exiting start for an exciting artist….
I predict this introduction to just how damn good this guy is, will propel him to big success and Oscar Jerome will (and should) become very important as an artist in his own right, and as collaborator to many big names in the future.
A fully formed debut album, the quality of which many artists would give their left dangly bit to have come up with after three, four or more releases in a career, let alone as a debut. Oh Oscar……………….Oh yessss.
By Simon Redley
(1 / 5) ‘Dull Zone’
(2 / 5) ‘OK Zone’
(3 / 5) ‘Decent Zone’
(4 / 5) ‘Super Zone’
(5 / 5) ‘Awesome Zone’