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Pork Chop Reviews

Guardian  (John Fordham)

When the young saxophonist James Morton surfaced in London on fellow Bristolian Andy Sheppard’s 50th-birthday gigs in 2007, he energetically linked Sheppard’s loose-improv contemporary approach to a hot, gospelly energy reminiscent of Cannonball Adderley or David Sanborn. Morton regularly plays with Pee Wee Ellis, the former James Brown and Van Morrison sax sideman, and Ellis’s searing sound and punchy accents have been a significant influence. Still, it’s hard to make anything beyond a retro impact from a soul-jazz album celebrating the anthemic hooks of the Crusaders, or the preachy melodramas of the Hammond organ funk bands of the 1960s. Morton, however, has done just that. He and his sidemen (particularly the classy guitarist Denny Illett) have reworked this familiar idiom with a relaxed affection that reignites it. Morton ascends from wistful beginnings to hypnotic eloquence on Forgiven, turns God Bless the Child into a soul groover, in effect, and if he mildly sends up improv and swing on Skits 1 and 2, there’s enough depth to this appealing set to show that he understands jazz from the roots up.  (John Fordham) 3 stars

Mojo

Big Fat Funky 4 Stars

The Independent

Rather than reproduce familiar David Sanborn-isms, Morton goes back to the generic, street-funk source, with strutting and stuttering solos that suggest Hank Crawford or Oliver Sain. Denny Ilett’s guitar can be rocky as well as funky, which isn’t necessarily a plus-point but the drumming of Ian Matthews carries a satisfying thump.

Blues and Soul

Morton’s Porkchop is sizzling with crackling, it’s hard to believe this guy’s still in his 20′s with such depth, feel and all round blessed sonic power.

Raw and direct, just listen to ‘The Hump’ a gorgeous slice of slick, laid back old school funk with a ferocious guitar solo as well. It’s not just about Morton his band kick butt too! Influenced obviously by the music of his mentor, Pee Wee Ellis used to play back in the day. Morton bites at the heels of his teachers and reminds us all about the golden days of funk and it’s aunts and uncles the blues, Jazz and Latin.

Homages are also paid to Eddie Harris (of listen here, freedom jazz dance fame) with a rough tough version of ‘Cold Duck Time’. Morton’s alto is positively bristling with visceral energy and this particular sussed band leader is savvy enough to surround himself with top notch funkateers, just check out Dan Moore’s playing on this one, sublime! A true hammond player-look Ma no bass player either!

Ok so new territory it ain’t save for a perplexing oddity of Bristolian weirdness on one experimental track (that doesn’t really work), however there’s few funk bands who can reach this kind of single malt maturity so early on. Sit back and savour the flavour of the freshest funk furore this side of the pond. Porkchops away!

WORDS EMRYS BAIRD

VENUE MAGAZINE

James Morton’s alto sax has been a star item on the Bristol music scene for over a decade now and yet, surprisingly, this would seem to be the first proper recorded product in his own name. It was well worth the wait, however, as Porkchop’s powerhouse sound erupts on opener ‘Going Home’, a down ’n’ dirty jazz-funk blaster with Ian Matthews’s drumming hammering things along, Denny Ilett’s blues-rock guitar and Dan Moore’s bubbling Hammond all pitched to perfection. Breathing space comes with a couple of impassioned ballads ‘Forgiven’ and ‘God Bless The Child’, allowing Morton to stretch out across the looser rhythms, but it’s the snappy soulful groove of upbeat numbers like ‘The Hump’
that get you reaching for replay over and again. Brilliant stuff. (Tony Benjamin) HHHHH

THE LIST

Bristol alto saxophonist James Morton has worked regularly with Pee Wee Ellis (of James Brown fame), and clearly soaked up the American saxophonist’s soul-jazz-funk ethos. The dance-floor friendly grooves and soulful licks draw heavily on the soul jazz organ bands of the 60s, but push beyond a simple re-treading of old ground.

Morton’s saxophone work has a punchy energy and invention, and reveals a command of a considerably wider range of jazz idioms than just soul jazz. Denny Ilett avoids the clichés of jazz-funk guitar in original and engaging style, while Dan Moore on Hammond organ and drummer Ian Matthews stoke the boiler in exuberant fashion. A fresh twist on a familiar theme, with enough grit ‘n’ grease to sidestep drifting into the smooth jazz camp.

JOHN FORDHAM

Andy Sheppard, whose sax sound is one of the most recognisable signatures in British jazz, has been celebrating his 50th birthday with a week of gigs shared with various guests at the Pizza on the Park.

This gig, the fourth in the series, is both unusual for him (with its inclusion of old jazz classics like Milestones) and nostalgic. Sheppard burst out of Bristol and on to the wider UK scene by coming second in the Schlitz-sponsored Young Jazz Musicians’ contest of 1986, when his impassioned Coltrane-esque soprano-sax odyssey kickstarted his career.

Tonight, he is joined by a group of Bristol musicians, including young alto-sax firebrand James Morton and powerful drummer Simon Gore.

Sheppard’s slow-burn solos married tonal subtlety and controlled fire, and Morton acted as a powerful bridge between contemporary jazz and hard-bop history. On sly blues features, Sheppard sometimes sounded like a tenor-playing Paul Desmond, and the band neatly segued one exultantly harmonised bluesy coda into the famous riff-theme of Milestones.

Sheppard’s Carla Bley associations surfaced in the whimsical, Nino Rota-like melody of a Latin piece from his Hotel Suite. Behind Morton’s sermonising improvising, Sheppard would generate backing face-to-face with Gore, whose crisp intensity grew as the night went on. A Spanish-sounding episode turned into a hip-hoppish account of Round Midnight, and Milestones returned at the finale, Morton opening his solo with a nod to the Cannonball Adderley version. It was an effervescent mix of old and new without a hint of a compromise.

THE JAZZ MAN

I defy anybody not to have a good time when this band are playing, but these guys have the chops to convince more serious listeners too.