(Top End Records 2012 TER0002CD. CD review by Alison Bentley
Wild Card are an organ trio led by French guitarist and composer, Clément Régert, featuring Andrew Noble (Hammond and keys) and Sophie Alloway (drums and percussion), augmented with special guests. The album takes the listener pleasurably from the joie de vivre of brassy funk and latin grooves to cool classic organ trio swing and to more introspective tunes. A distinctive feature is Régert's nylon string semi-acoustic sound used on the funky tunes - a Brazilian sound taken into a different sphere.
The short Intro invokes the spirit of Ronnie Jordan, or Roy Hargrove's RH Factor, with fab Franch rap (from B'loon) over catchy muted trumpet and flute riffs and strong backbeats. Horace Silver's Psychedelic Sally (later revisited with French rap), has a tight unison horn head, and a take-no-prisoners infectious groove. Italian sax-player Roberto Manzin's solos have something of the chromatic excitement of Brecker and the soulfulness of Sanborn.
Régert's DaFonk Jam has a funky sharp 9 groove and horn riffs redolent of the JTQ or Soulive. The Fender Rhodes sound revisits Head Hunters in Andrew Noble's fine bluesy solo. Graeme Flowers' thrilling rhythmic trumpet solo references Red Clay-era Freddie Hubbard. Sophie Alloway's strong groovy versatile drumming is a pleasure throughout the whole album.
Jason Moran's tune Ms Garvey Ms Garvey (fine Joey de Francesco-style solo from Andrew Noble)and Burrell's Midnight Blue have a shuffly swing beat, while Régert 's Sweet Smoke has a gentler swing, where the understated guitar head opens out into harmonised horns, and a fine bluesy Ronnie Jordanesque guitar solo. Steve Kuhn's The Saga of Harrison is a subtle and introspective jazz waltz, with delicate cymbal work. Régert s solo here is an interesting Egbero Gismonti-like blend of Braziian, Classical and jazz guitar styles.
Régert's What About It... Rough? and Everything Changes are more upbeat Afro/Latin. The latter's sweet melody is shared between guitar and Dennis Rollins' beautiful smooth trombone, his laid-back melancholy solo moving into bebop phrasing. The guitar solo here is particularly expressive, as are the interesting, rich drum and percussion textures.
Régert's gentle Latin side is shown in Baden Powell's lovely Canto de Xango, and Kenny Barron's Sunshower, a yearning melody beautifully transcribed for guitar in a Baden Powell style , a gentle bossa nova. Wonderwall recalls Wes Montgomery's 60s reworkings of classic pop songs. This a very festival-friendly band - great tunes, great musicianship and great fun.