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The Jazz Defenders · Meanderthal

After a great reception for their second album King Phoenix in autumn 2022, and 7" single "Rolling on a High" in 2023, The Jazz Defenders hit the road running in 2024 with a batch of new releases. The Bristol jazz outfit, led by pianist George Cooper (longtime member of UK funk kings The Haggis Horns), line up two singles as tasters for their third album Memory in Motion on Haggis Records. The first of these is "Meanderthal", a foot-stomping, toe-tapping groover that shows the band's continued love affair with the heavy backbeat-driven jazz of the 1960s in the USA, commonly called soul-jazz.

This music married the jazz improvisation of earlier eras, such as bebop and hard bop, to the straight eighths groove of rhythm & blues and soul music. Championed by musicians such as saxophonist Cannonball Adderley and pianist Ramsey Lewis, and especially artists recording for the legendary Blue Note Records label (people like pianist Horace Silver, trumpeter Lee Morgan, saxophonist Lou Donaldson and guitarist Grant Green), soul jazz became hugely popular outside of the niche jazz scene, even scoring top twenty pop single hits with tracks like "The Sidewinder" and "Watermelon Man".

"Meanderthal" comes in with a cracking snare drum beat married to a grooving piano/bass riff, all tied together with the brass punching out a blues-drenched theme. Topping off the composition is a funky Hammond organ, bringing in some good old gospel vibes (handclaps included), and embellishing the main theme and solos until finally cutting loose for a solo. As is the case with classic soul jazz, solos are short and sweet and the track is all about rhythm and the beat. A great introduction to the new music coming from one of the UK's finest jazz groups for 2024...The Jazz Defenders are well and truly back and ready to roll. More goodness coming soon but for now, kick back and enjoy the perfect marriage of soul and jazz that is "Meanderthal".

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