Nubiyan Twist Freedom Fables Strut
Ten-strong jazz group Nubiyan Twist have spent the past five years honing themselves as a creative vehicle for collaborative expression. Having previously combined forces with Afro-jazz luminaries such as Tony Allen and Mulatu Astatke, the band have carved out a high-energy sound that meanders from the frenetic melodies of Ghanaian highlife to the funk-inflected jazz exemplified by Donald Byrd and to a languorous West Coast hip-hop production style.
Their latest album, Freedom Fables, finds Nubiyan Twist at the height of their cooperative powers, enlisting the likes of highlife veteran Pat Thomas, saxophonist Soweto Kinch and singer Ego Ella May across its nine tracks.
Freedom Fables finds its strengths when the group acts almost as a backing section for their featured guests, giving them the freedom to channel their sounds through the ranks of the Nubiyan Twist rhythm section. Pat Thomas’ Ma Wonka, for instance, could easily have taken pride of place on his fantastic 2019 record Obiaa!, with its bright horn lines and undulating polyrhythms, while Soweto Kinch’s Buckle Up provides a welcome outlet for the saxophonist’s vocal skills, pairing a Roy Hargrove-inspired melody with a synth-inflected backing.
Rather than patchwork pastiche, the band’s sonic identity holds steadfast throughout. Guitarist Tom Excell’s high-register strumming links tracks Tittle Tattle and Ma Wonka, for instance, while the group’s formidable horn section provides a punchy and instantly-recognisable foundation for the neo-soul grooves of Morning Light and Flow, where vocalists Cherise and Ria Moran tackle the ethereal melody. In this way, Nubiyan Twist are in dialogue with their collaborators, rather than in service to or stifling them. The result is not a groundbreaking record but one that is deeply satisfying and accessible nonetheless.