Wild Card is an Anglo-French band that has been making waves on the Nu-Jazz scene in the UK over the last few years. The band comprises of guitarist and bandleader Clément Régert, who composed most of the music, Australian-born Hammond organist Andrew Noble, and drummer Sophie Alloway, who has played in a variety of settings, including a two-year stint with rapper Roots Manuva.
In a live setting, at their recent CD launch party in London, they were joined by an experienced horn section, consisting of the superb English trumpet player, Graeme Flowers (who has played with the Brand New Heavies, Kylie Minogue, to name but two) and Italian-born saxophonist Roberto Manzin.
The band’s third CD, Organic Riot, was released last week, and the title reflects Régert’s concerns over the growing ethnic tensions in Paris, where he was born. The title track features the French rapper, B’loon, who has featured on the band’s previous recordings. Her rap combines well with the Latin-tinged funk, the track climaxing with an explosive trumpet solo.
Another guest vocalist on the album is MOBO-nominated British soul singer Natalie Williams, who sings on Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse’s Feeling Good, from the musical The Roar Of The Greasepaint, and self-composed Wash Him Out. The former is one of the album’s many highlights. Whilst the song has been covered by everyone from Nina Simone to Michael Bublé, Williams makes it her own, her soulful delivery eventually giving way to a fluid guitar solo by Régert
The instrumental tracks are no less impressive. Wild Card Theme is another Latin-sounding track, again featuring a fine solo by Flowers, whilst Do U Wanna Know sees drummer Alloway holding a tight groove as the horn section plays an infectious riff. Régert and Flowers take the solos, both underpinned by the warm, organic Hammond organ from Noble.
Passion, Grace & Nutella is also worth a mention. Clément Régert was apparently enjoying the second album by John McLaughlin, Al Di Meola and Pace de Lucia, Passion, Grace and Fire, but when he learned the title, found it somewhat pretentious. His own tune name checks the popular Italian hazelnut and chocolate spread, and lends the track a slightly more grounded feel.
It’s worth noting that the CD was recorded live, in each case using the first or second take, so it gives the listener a good idea of what to expect on stage. The guest vocalists did not feature at the album launch party, which took place at the impressive Jazz Café Posk in Hammersmith. I thought this might detract from the event, but could not have been further from the truth. The band really comes alive on stage, allowing more space for the impressive horn section, which shared the front of the stage with Régert. The new CD is highly recommended, but if you’re in the UK, make an effort to see them in concert too. Details of forthcoming gigs can be found on the band’s website, www.wildcardmusic.com