“After Scheming, in 2020, the musicians from Bristol now offer us their second album, King Phoenix. An opus which is a very beautiful tribute to the jazz of the end of the 50s and the beginning of the 60s. Listening to the album, one cannot help but think of the soundtracks of films of that time. THE JAZZ DEFENDERS, the English quintet of keyboardist George Cooper, piano and organ, consists of Nick Dover on tenor sax, Nick Malcolm on trumpet, Ian Matthews on drums and Will Harris on bass. King Phoenix is an opportunity to savor a clever mix of Hard and Bop spiced up with swing and groove. We thus understand their affiliation to the Haggis Horns label. On this opus we owe a large part of the compositions to George Cooper. He composed eight and co-signed two others, the first with Doc Brown, not the one who plays in the “Back to the Future” trilogy but the rapper songwriter, and the second with the rapper musician producer Herbal T. Either the addition of two additional touches of modernity in this particularly contemporary and current jazz. I also want proof of this in the contribution of Brazilian and Latin rhythms that denote a “360-degree open-mindedness”. Magic, with that hint of nostalgia that gives such an album a very special flavor, one that provokes real favorites.”
Paris Move FRANCE
“The Jazz Defenders are a band from Bristol (United Kingdom) that have just released their second album 'King Phoenix', a work that is defined by its eclecticism and its lack of jazz prejudices.
And it is that this quintet led by keyboardist George Cooper does not say no to anything that has to do with jazz; from the most classic hard bop to jazz fusion, via hip-hop, more modern through groove.
Thus, in each song on the album several and diverse influences can be traced. In 'Wagger Jaunt' and 'Munch', two soul-jazz songs, the influence of jazzmen such as Ramsey Lewis, Herbie Hancock and Jimmy Smith can be seen.
For its part, 'Oracle' is a pure soundtrack of films by Sergio Leone (there is a good one, an ugly one and a bad one out there); and, of course, the hip-hop on 'Perfectly Imperfect' with the voice of the British MC and actor Doc Brown, who ends up becoming one of the best on the CD, and 'Live Slow' with the participation of the American rapper Herbal T .
For fans of the most classic jazz, they should refer to songs like 'Twilight' and 'From The Ashes', while those interested in Brazilian music can enjoy 'Saudade' and 'Love's Vestige'.
There is even a small space for classic romanticism, type Satie and company, with the very brief 'Reprise Queen Bee'.
Each and every one of the ten songs that make up this 'King Phoenix' have been composed by George Cooper, alone or in company (the two vocal songs on the album).
In short, the music of The Jazz Defenders is varied, friendly and perfect for evenings in which you want to be accompanied by jazz without generating any special type of worries”
Distrito Jazz SPAIN
“Instrumental soul jazz's main principle is to break them small and I admit that I paid little attention to the British band's previous album, but this time, surely better disposed towards it, I plunged head first into this magnificent King Phoenix. Well, I took it because at the fourteenth listening, I still shudder as much.
Sincerely, instrumental music, as a whole, really needs to have a soul to tease me with the G-spot. It often turns into a stylistic exercise. Bristol's quintet plays a soul jazz that goes from film soundtrack to a form of rap in costar three pieces. There are Lalo Schifrin, Bobby Womack or St Germain to restore the back and forth between classicism and modernity. Thanks to their virtuosity, jazz defenders highlight the melody, swing and atmosphere.
The absence of singing is not felt. The two times it sings is to fire hip hop and it's so well cheered that if you're not told that it's structurally rap, you really feel like you're in a modern soul jazz simmered the old way. I did an exercise that I often engage in, I let the record run by engaging in domestic activities to relay music in the background, and when suddenly, the ear is hung by a melodic sentence or a particular harmony, it is that you are caught up and the album is made for you. King Phoenix contains some nuggets that could well be used by cinema. Jazz Defenders offer a delicious custard with this record.”
Slow Show FRANCE
The Jazz Defenders deployed to protect the new jazz
The recent “King Phoenix” of the English band led by the excellent pianist George Cooper is a little gem. An immersive listening not only for soul jazz fans.
The five ‘defenders of jazz’ are growing exponentially compared to the already satisfying debut. Two years after the Scheming who had placed them under the magnifying glass of the careful worshippers of the African-American post hard bop sound more open and free from old time schemes and at the same time capable of being immediately enjoyable, here is the second release of George Cooper and his pard.
The pianist of the Haggis Horns, another funk jazz supergroup for whose label the Jazz Defenders also play, and the hip-hop big band Orchestra Abstract, as well as already alongside “personages” such as Hans Zimmer, Nigel Kennedy, Slum Village and U2, signs all ten tracks of this excellent King Phoenix . And his travel companions – the same Nick Dover on tenor sax, Nick Malcolm on trumpet,Ian Mathews on drums and Will Harris on bass, plus some guests – pander with the class of formidable sessioners as they are, already noticed alongside bigs like Andy Sheppard and Pee Wee Ellis, Massive Attack and Nostalgia 77, so to mention.
The declared love of the debut cd for soul jazz à la Blue Note, the classic label with the characteristic sound dictated by immortals such as Art Blakey, Horace Silver, Wayne Shorter and so on, the one that still ritters in a juicy and modern way in Twilight and From The Ashes, with a trend and solo that refer to the masters just mentioned, opens up The opening Wagger Jaunt and the following Munch immediately mark a new direction, very current and alive, towards a proposal that mixes the lessons of Herbie Hancock and Ramsey Lewis to fly towards articulated and contagious riffs: soul jazz yes, but without dross, without backward looks, brilliant and very lucid.
The Oracle still displaces, immersing us in a soundtrack climate, with clear references to those spaghetti westerns by Italian masters such as Riz Ortolani or Carlo Rustichelli, thanks to the performance of guest violinist John Pearce. (Arrangements by George Cooper). The following Love’s Vestige, with a decidedly bossanova flavor, introduces the first of two rapped tracks, the slow and captivating Perfectly Imperfect, vaguely 90s, with the voice of the MC/London actor Doc Brown. The other is the concluding Live Slow, which sees US rapper Herbal T (Chris Jones, Wax’s twin) lead a formidable soul-jazz uptempo song. The path is closed by the melodic Reprise: Queen Bee, with the careful and curious explorations of Cooper on the solo piano, and the masterpiece Saudade, another soundtrack with a South American flavor, a bit Lalo Schifrin, with an impressive theme, the sublime piano, two super Latin rhythms.
A record that all those who think of jazz as a genre for only intellectual wigs, who wrinkle their beards and pull their pipes while looking for interpretations and analysis that can deceive them that they are true solos of music, should listen to. They would understand that these very effective instrumental crossings, these impromptu boundless flights, these solid groove phrasing, these surprising and engaging developments, are true, great music of today. Music for everyone, explosive and intriguing.
After the great response to their latest single of 2021, the hip-hop/funk/jazz mashup Live Slow with the American rapper Herbal T, the warlords of Bristol's soul-jazz The Jazz Defenders release a new single. A sample of his next second album King Phoenix (Haggis Records), which will be released in the spring of 2022, but this time with British MC Doc Brown as a special guest.
The perfectly Imperfect single has an acoustic, slow and lazy jazz that meets a funk rhythm accompanied by a great introduction of double bass, before some crisp trumpets enter to present the first bars with the voice of Doc Brown. As he flows into the microphone, some street soul choirs emerge that float behind him, in the style of the 90s, which gives the track a dreamy and summery hip-hop vibe. Undoubtedly, a possible party anthem for next summer, presented as an elegant mix of soul/jazz/hip-hop.
The quintet, directed by keyboard master George Cooper, who comes from the kings of British funk The Haggis Horns, has been building its enormous reputation throughout the United Kingdom in the last two years since his debut album Scheming reached the soul/funk scene in December 2019. In the fall of 2021, The Jazz Defenders toured the United Kingdom, a sold-out show at Ronnie Scotts in London, one of the legendary jazz squares.
In the song Perfectly Imperfect, The Jazz Defenders are linked to the British rapper, actor and multi-talented comedian Doc Brown, who from his roots in the rap battles of the United Kingdom of the early 2000s and the open mic sessions in London, began to work with DJ/producer Mark Ronson.
That collaboration took him on a tour around the world with George Cooper's band that included the wind section of The Haggis Horns. That connection takes us to the first single from The Jazz Defenders of 2022, another good sample of their next second album that will be released in March.
Mallorca Music Magazine
"More classic in the system but no less interesting and worthy of attention - even by a non-expert audience - are The Jazz Defenders, from Bristol. Guided by George Cooper, keyboard player who, although very young, can already boast collaborations across the board, from Hans Zimmer to Slum VIllage, the combo debuts on Haggis Records, a label founded by The Haggis Horns, one of the most renowned British funk institutions. Their Scheming is swinging and catchy, solidly anchored to the tradition of Blue Note Records without forgetting the creativity and personality of the themes and grooves, as well as a certain lightness of approach that allows musicians to play with quotes and references that highlight and underline again their single virtuosity. Special mention for the original song Rosie Karima, romantic ballad that brings to mind the most inspired Joe Zawinul."
Tony D'Onghia, Sentireascoltare.com ITALY
“It may seem presumptuous, and therefore highly dangerous, to call his group The Jazz Defenders, because if we don't save it properly, the whole ship will take on water. But with King Phoenix, their second opus at Haggis records, the combo is doing much more than saving jazz. It gives it back the luster of yesteryear.
“Jazz is not dead, it just smells funny” said the great Frank Zappa. And it is true that, like rock, jazz had its hours of glory. However, it keeps resurfacing, up and down hill, including many influences in the game, whether world music, electro, hip-hop, rock (and we forget some). This King Phoenix, despite its rather respectful start, quickly ignites to offer us a great album, neither more nor less.
From hard bop to bossa.
This album is above all a tribute to the hard bop jazz of the late 50s-early 60s. But like a brat full of mischief, he moves away from it to flirt with funk, Latin rhythms and hip-hop, always with an inspired tact and a science of melodies that hit the mark instantly. In 10 titles, it's almost as many universes as The jazz defenders travel without getting lost once along the way.
It must be said that the fundamentals are acquired and respected. Solid rhythmic pair, never faulted, both from the point of view of feeling and that of inventive efficiency. We say it right away, the groove is there, never ostentatious, but always relevant, exciting, modern. Impossible to remain unmoved, he immediately triggers the movement, just as he puts a cheeky little smile on our face, the kind that would make Zappa tell him to turn over in his grave 7 times before speaking (but we love him still going strong that one).
Added to this unbreakable rhythmic pair are impeccable brass instruments, an inspired piano, which together allow the different titles to take off somewhere in the stratosphere. The energy deployed by the quintet is simply phenomenal, as powerful as it is light, as inspired as it can be inspired by the great names of yesterday (from Herbie Hancock to Ramsay Lewis, passing through Reuben Wilson and Jimmy Smith ).
Thus, the beginning of the album plays jazz with an almost funky tendency, before a first beautiful prank towards an imaginary film soundtrack, halfway between that of an Ennio Morricone who would offer us a duel music in a western and the "romanticism" of a John Barry. “The Oracle” turns out to be a pure marvel of the genre, able to be slipped into any film, whatever its genre, as long as a highly emotional scene takes place. Love’s Vestige borrows a few notes evoking Latin America, just like Saudade (all the same eyeing more South America) whose title almost speaks for itself.
And then here is the hip-hop contribution reminding us a little of the rantings of a Guru and his Jazzmataz. Impeccable flow from Doc Brown on Perfectly imperfect (which is badly named because we don't detect any imperfection), just like that of Herbal T on Live slow (which also does not bear its name very well because if his flow is completely relaxed, he tumbles at full speed).
But of course, it is the blue note that is expressed by all the pores of his skin on this perfectly mastered and thought out album. It must be said that the thinking head of the object, namely George Cooper, who wrote 8 of the 10 titles alone, and co-wrote the other two, is running at full speed. He seems to have taken everything at face value and then, as if by magic, restores it in a liberated form, nourished with the good grain of jazz, while remaining sublimely accessible, even to those who are not followers of the genre.
It's true, those who shout at the elitist character of jazz will be at their expense as this record is easy to approach, to listen to, to love. In fact, it's very simple, this record gives us instant pleasure, a desire to smile at life, to celebrate a few moments of joy, alone or accompanied. King phoenix turns out to be festive, lively, instinctive, dancing, joyful, like an ultra-powerful remedy for the ambient gloom.
Because it is, like the phoenix, that the group has returned from the limbo of oblivion (the one into which the world of music seemed to have rushed) after a two-year hiatus due to a pandemic. In this new skin, they simply seek to entertain themselves (and at the same time to entertain us). So, does The Jazz Defenders live up to its name? Certainly. But they do more than save jazz, they save us too. Unmissable!
The title of King Phoenix.
We love The Oracle, We love Live Slow, we also love Munch. And Twillight too. But finding one track better than another on this record is like looking for a needle in a haystack. They are all perfect. What to add to that? Nothing, except to go and buy the disc.”
Litzic Magazine FRANCE
“Do we really have to wait until February for the release of the second album by Bristolians The Jazz Defenders? "Slow down, you're moving too fast!", The text tells us several times, but it is impossible to stay still whilst listening to Live Slow, the new single by the British quintet, the first not to be an instrumental but also a collaboration with the American rapper Herbal T.
Live Slow begins in 1960s soul-jazz style à la Herbie Hancock with an infectious uptempo piano round provided by group leader George Cooper, a keyboard master and well-known member of the funk band The Haggis Horns. It almost feels like being in a Swinging 60s jazz club, until the straight leg entry of Herbal T which transforms the song into an exercise in style that blends jazz and hip hop.
The excellent experiments in this field of Guru's Jazzmatazz come to mind, and this is the vein in which Live Slow fits. Music played by a jazz band, with an MC rapping on it. The result was very successful, but the desire to live slowly waiting for the new record, that's perhaps, is asking too much! (Adaja Inira)”
Music Letter ITALY
"The ten tracks of the "Scheming" long player by The Jazz Defenders, all produced by mastermind and pianist and organist George Cooper make a compact and light-footed impression, have enough time and space to breathe and leave untidy, free-thinking, puristic, but definitely handmade and Earth-bound jazz moments are just as there are clacking grooves and even really funky footsteps.
Mastermind George Cooper delivers a clever and intelligent, but also emotionally free manner, which gives the album "Scheming" and the Jazz Defenders plenty of space to breathe and also to release untidy and always unexcited moments and consistently analogue feeling, which gives the debut album "Scheming" its justification and on many other things and a fascinating development of the band, which at some point, as well as the start with it also, hope to move away from Haggis Records and move on.
Until then, we will enjoy “Scheming” by The Jazz Defenders, of course and in a very contemporary way also available on vinyl as what it is: a compact, entertaining piece of contemporary jazz that lives in a retrospective and is not contradictory and that you can feel and almost feel can touch - that's the way it should be."
"An excellent record of pure be-bop from the English band coming from a rib of the prophets of funk, The Haggis Horns.
Great Groove and very pleasant listening in its academic and impeccable classicism.”
Antonio Bacciocchi ITALY
"Since the opening of the album with Top Down Tourism there has been a playful exchange between wind and piano, a stylistic figure that winks at the listener, supported by an impeccable execution and an evident harmony between the members of the band. Whether it's in more swing moments like in Everybody's Got Something or in the Latin jazz branches of She'll Come Round and Costa Del Lol (already from the name a fundamental clue that the group does not take itself too seriously), it is palpable how much these musicians have fun recording this record. The titletrack Scheming, a 60s soul boogaloo with absolute protagonist organ, the most intimate and delicate Rosie Karima, and the jazz-funk groove of Late also stand out, but this is one of those albums on which you can press play and let go from start to finish. A very successful reinterpretation of the spirit of 60s soul-jazz."
What happens when soul meets jazz, funk meets barhouse music, trumpet meets saxophone, acoustic and electric basses meet organs, keyboards and drums?
A daring combination?
Welcome to the musical universe of the JAZZ DEFENDERS, who on the one hand are considered passionate lovers of the Blue Note Records and of HORACE SILVER, HANK MOBLEY or ART BLAKEY, at the same time guaranteed with all their trumpet dominance and the daring sound combinations or the playful unit of blowers, keys, bass and drums, such as with the album opener presents the highest art of jazz music. A lot comes together here - but it fits.
"Scheming" is the debut album of five, at first glance damn young, music boys from Bristol, who already sound like old-rehearsed, masterful jazz bunnies and on the vinyl edition of the album sound-technically intoxicating and somehow like the good, old times, when you still took time for music instead of letting it degenerate into stream macula Who please plays or makes such music today if he wants to earn quick money with it? Of course, none, but only those who actually still believe in themselves and their music and are also excellent musicians. All this also applies without any restriction to the JAZZ DEFENDERS from Great Britain.
The passionate quintet, which dispenses with a guitar, otherwise comes up with the typical classical rock instruments (acoustic and electric keyboards and basses as well as drums) and a wind section of trumpets and saxophones, combine catchy soul or funk with quite complex jazz rhythms on "Scheming" and thus sits between several differently stylistic music chairs without even Rather, they distribute ass kicks in the music direction, which always relies only on one-sidedness. And there's a lot in this regard - you just turn on some standard station on the radio...
The second "Scheming" LP page will then even be magnificently orgely in the best BOOKER T. & THE M.G.' S-style opens up that the green onions literally fly around your ears. And it is precisely this title, which gave the album its name, at the same time refers to the perfection of the band keyboardist GEORGE COOPER, the founder of the JAZZ DEFENDERS and one who can easily hold a candle to a HERBIE HANCOCK, also because with his just 31 years already has well-known bands or supported musicians, such as HANS ZIMMER, U2, NIGEL KENNEDY or THE HAGGIS HORNS (under whose label they also publish "Scheming"). Even the black market ("Black Market") of WEATHER REPORT seems to be permanently open at the JAZZ DEFENDERS.
But swing is also a natural variety of THE JAZZ DEFENDERS, which they live out extensively in "Everybody's Got Something" and "Hawkeye Jorge", including playful drum interludes.
And so that the bass is not neglected, he was previously allowed to let off steam on "Late" for a good six minutes right at the end of the LP-A side.
Diversity instead of simplicity - and if such a great cross-genre band like MEZZOFORTE from Iceland combined Scandinavian, jazzy, funky and pop during their "Garden Party", then the JAZZ DEFENDERS from England combine jazz with soul and funk as well as swing and a fat blue note atmosphere. Both variants work and not only make you happy, but also show that jazz, if it serves as a music basis, but simply does not take itself too seriously, can be a lot of fun - but perfectly calculated and implemented. Not a musically clumsy carnival for the ears, but colorful pleasure for the senses.
"Scheming" thus becomes a sensual experience for all those who refuse to sound technical limits and are looking for a freedom with open ears that denies mass compatible, but would still be suitable for the masses if you would only listen to it more often on the radio instead of being overfed with the sugar-sweet uniform width of flat-breasted-eared moderators.
CONCLUSION: When the British JAZZ DEFENDERS unpack their music mix of jazz-soul-hardbop-swing-funk on their debut album "Schemen", then not only great variety, but also passionate-professional joy of improvisation is called for. A top debut that can easily compete with the albums of many jazz greats, such as the "old gentleman" HERBIE HANCOCK or the "young boy" MICHAEL WOLLNY.
Musik Reviews GERMANY
"The album, "Scheming", was released on Haggis Records, the label started by UK funk band The Haggis Horns.
Superfly takes a quick run through some of the highlights from that release.
Opener "Top Down Tourism" immediately sets the tone from the first notes of George Cooper's piano, played in a style reminiscent of Dave Brubeck's infectious riffs. "Everybody's Got Something" is a swinging number based around the fun exchange between sax and trumpet.
The title track switches things up with swirling organ taking the place of the piano. In "Late", the bass provides a solid groove for horns and piano to explore melodically. And things take a Latin-tinged turn in "Costa Del Lol", whose title underlines the playfulness of the entire album. "Rosie Karima" slows down the tempo and provides a beautiful intimate and delicate performance. Closing things off is the hypnotic and cool "Brown Down".
From first track to last it's evident The Jazz Defenders thoroughly enjoyed making this album. Check it out!
Superfly, BELFAST UK
Late Night Dream UK