Xhosa Cole: K(no)w Them, K(no)w Us

Editor's Choice

Rating: ★★★★

Record and Artist Details


Soweto Kinch (as)
James Owston (b)
Jay Phelps (t)
Xhosa Cole (ts)
James Bashford (d)
Reuben James (p)


Stoney Lane


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Rec. 2020

Xhosa Cole caught the public's attention in 2018 as winner of the BBC Young Jazz Musician award: the two-year wait for this eagerly anticipated debut is an indication of how seriously he takes his commitment to his art. ‘Manhattan’ shows him wearing his heart on his sleeve as an unabashed traditionalist of the Rollins school, with Newk's big tone, impeccable swing and wry humour all present: but this is far more than a mere exercise in nostalgic re-creation.

Cole has selected some of the most adventurous and exciting players from his Birmingham hometown to present a compelling exploration of what jazz means to him, paying tribute to his influences while creatively re-combining them, so the lush arrangement of Dameron's swing-to-bop ‘On A Misty Night’ is spiced with Soweto Kinch's Dolphy-esqe alto and Reuben James' floridly romantic piano, Monk's ‘Played Twice’ is pulled and stretched towards freedom by the virtuosic rhythm section, and Woody Shaw's ‘Zoltan’ is tackled with a fearless abandon that recalls the spirit of Ornette's classic quartets. Cole manages to convey his deeply felt reverence for the forebears without seeming overwhelmed: ‘Blues Connotation’ demonstrates how he uses his influences as a launchpad for some genuinely thrilling flights of invention, while Jay Phelps' nimble, accurate trumpet provides the perfect foil for the leaders' wide-ranging expressiveness. The wildly inventive bare-bones tenor trio reading of ‘What's New’ displays a level of unaffected sincerity that's rare in contemporary UK jazz. This is one of the most exciting releases of the year, brimming with potential.

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