NIMBUS SEXTET-FORWARD THINKER.

Nimbus Sextet-Forward Thinker.

Label: Acid Jazz Records.

Format: CD.

It was just over three years ago when Nimbus Sextet signed to Acid Jazz Records in the spring of 2019. A lot has happened since then. 

The group recently released their sophomore album Forward Thinker, and are now regarded as one of the leading lights of the UK jazz scene. However, the story begins in the city known as the Athens of the North, Edinburgh.

That was where the group was founded by bandleader, primary composer, keyboardist and harmonica player Joe Nichols while he was studying at Edinburgh University. That was where he met the rhythm section of drummer Alex Palmer and bassist Mischa Stevens. The nascent group’s lineup was starting to take shape.

With the addition of guitarist Honza Kourimsky, trumpeter Euan Allardice and saxophonist Michael Butcher, Nimbus Sextet’s lineup was complete.

The newly founded group began honing their sound, playing live in Scotland and further afield. However, the most important gig of the group’s career took place in Scotland’s musical capital, Glasgow.

Nimbus Sextet had been booked to support DJ Gilles Peterson at the city’s Sub Club. In the audience that night, was Wayne A. Dickson of Groove Line Records. He spotted the group’s potential and during the gig, was convinced that Acid Jazz Records would be interested in signing Nimbus Sextet. 

They were. Nimbus Sextet signed to Acid Jazz Records in the spring of 2019. Meanwhile, Wayne A. Dickson became the group’s manager. This was the start of a new chapter in the group’s story.

By then, the group had forged their own unique genre-melting sound. The starting point was jazz. To this, they added elements of funk, fusion, jazz-funk, Neo-Soul and world music. It was a potent and heady brew which continued to win over audiences.

This included a tour of the UK during  February and March of 2020 that culminated at a sellout gig at London’s Servant Jazz Quarters in London. By then, the group were going from strength-to-strength. Then the lockdown struck, and bands like Nimbus Sextet were unable to tour. It was the start of a difficult time for the music industry.

Seven months later, on October ‘23rd,’ 2020, Nimbus Sextet released their much-anticipated, critically acclaimed and commercially successful debut album, Dreams Fulfilled. By then, they were already well on their way to becoming one of the leading lights of the UK jazz scene. 

Since then, Nimbus Sextet’s star has been in the ascendancy. They released their Helix EP on September 3rd, 2021. Two tracks were unreleased recordings from the Dreams Fulfilled sessions. This included an imaginative and innovative rework of Yussef Kamaal’s Lowrider. When it was played on BBC6 Music and Jazz FM it found favour with the group’s existing fanbase and introduced them to a new and wider audience.

As 2022 dawned, Nimbus Sextet were being hailed as one of the most groundbreaking groups who were part of the recent new wave of the UK jazz scene. It was no surprised when they were booked to play on hallowed ground, Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in London.

Everyone from British jazz greats like Stan Tracey and Tubby Hayes through to American jazz legends Bill Evans, Chet Baker, Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone, Roy Ayers, Sonny Rollins, Sonny Still and Wes Montgomery have played at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club. It was also the venue for Jimi Hendrix’s final public performance. Nimbus Sextet were following in the following in the footsteps of musical giants.

Having just released the single To The Light earlier that day, they didn’t disappoint. The group played a stunning set which showcased their unique genre-melting sound. Nimbus Sextet had come a long way in a short space of time.

Less than three months later, and the ‘4th,’ April 2022 was a big day for Nimbus Sextet. The group released a new single, High Time. This delicious slice of Neo-Soul finds Charlotte de Graaf of Kid Creole and The Coconuts taking charge of the lead vocal, and also features Jackson Mathod, who has worked with Stormzy. The single was a truly tantalising taste of what was to come from Nimbus Sextet on their new album. 

The same day as High Time was released, Acid Jazz Records announced the release of Nimbus Sextet’s much-anticipated sophomore album Forward Thinker, on 27th, May 2022. It finds Nimbus Sextet joined by a number of guest artists as they add elements of dance and hip hop to their existing musical palette. 

This included legendary percussionist Steve Forman who previously has worked with Pink Floyd, Barbara Streisand and Herbie Hancock. There were also contributions from Nubiyan Twist’s Jonny Enser, Scottish saxophonist Harry Weir and Nathaniel Cross who has worked with Macy Gray, Solange and Emilie Sande. These guest artists and the production duo of Wayne A. Dickson and Luigi Pasquini play their part in the evolution of Nimbus Sextet’s music on Forward Thinker.

Setting the bar high on Forward Thinker is the album opener High Time which is the only track to feature a guest vocalist. Charlotte de Graaf delivers a Neo-Soul vocal masterclass, and is accompanied by horns and keyboards which  ensure the arrangement swings. The result is one of the album’s highlights.

An eight minute genre-melting journey describes the title-track. As Nimbus Sextet’s rhythm section drive the arrangement along, horns are to fore on a track whose roots are in jazz-funk, but also incorporates elements of fusion, electronics and benefits from twinkling keyboards and the lushest of synths.

Woodview is just a short interlude written by bandleader. Initially, there’s a pensive, thoughtful sound before it’s all change and flamboyant flourishes of keyboards take this enchanting track in a new direction. 

Very different is Another Place which sounds as if it’s been influenced by Miles Davis or John Coltrane. Initially, it reveals a ruminative sound that encourages reflection. Then when  Nimbus Sextet change direction it’s as if the sun starts to shine. Playing a leading role are the blazing horns while a brief burst of hissing hi-hats sound as if they belong a seventies funk album. Then driving keyboards play their part in the sound and success of a track that also incorporates everything from jazz-funk to fusion as the group continue to showcase their virtuosity and versatility.

Another Place is another chapter in this eclectic musical journey. Initially there’s a nod to Frank Zappa and even free jazz. Then it’s all change as the tempo drops and a much more traditional jazzy sound takes shape. Later, the arrangement takes on a dreamy, laid-back, summery sound before briefly heading in the direction of cocktail jazz. However, Nimbus Sextet bowl another curveball and seamlessly the arrangement to this captivating musical odyssey heads in the direction of progressive jazz. 

Cinematic, spacey, dark and dramatic are just some of the words that could be used to describe From The Shadows. There’s even a hint of library music on a track that sounds like it could easily be the theme to either a new sci-fi series or cop show. 

Closing Forward Thinker is the jazz-funk and fusion of To The Light. In places, it seems to reference and pay homage to Herbie Hancock’s classic album Head Hunters. Bandleader Joe Nichols switches between keyboards, synths and mellotron as he and the horns drive the arrangement along at breakneck speed. The result is one of the strongest tracks on the album, and ensures it closes on a high.

Musical shapeshifters Nimbus Sextet return with Forward Thinker, a  captivating album of genre-melting music. Seamlessly the group combine and switch between disparate genres as they showcases their virtuosity and versatility. They combine everything from jazz and jazz-funk to free jazz, funk, fusion, library music and even electronica, hip hop and Neo-Soul on this genre-melting musical journey.

It’s a case of expect the unexpected on Forward Thinker. Nimbus Sextet bowl a series of curveballs and spring surprises aplenty along the way on their much-anticipated sophomore album Forward Thinker which doesn’t disappoint and leaves a lasting impression.

Nimbus Sextet-Forward Thinker.

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