Philip Clouts Quartet white background

Reviews of 'Umoya'

“Precise ebullience and relaxed funkiness” The Guardian

“A revelatory experience” UkVibe

“Clouts' compositions are strong and likeable. The quartet's playing is similarly engaging, a feeling of optimism pervading the tunes with a life force of its ownAll About Jazz

“Compositionally strong with robust grooves…Clouts deserves to be better known, and Umoya speeds that direction of travel along nicely.” Stephen Graham

“…a life-affirming, musically-accomplished album” Adrian Pallant

“Eagles gets into the spirit of both Clouts’ cultural openness and feel for dance grooves with his snaking, whooping soprano sax... The rhythm section play with precise ebullience under Clouts’ electric keys…The township bounce of Umoya’s title track makes it a standout of the set, with the unpretentiously light-stepping delivery that has made this group a popular live-show draw.” The Guardian

“His writing sounds detailed and the themes are extended… there's a lot to enjoy here…" Jazzwise

“This melodic gem of an album is highly recommended.” Ian Mann

Reviews of 'The Hour of Pearl'

“Pulsating groove-orientated music…distinctive…spiritual and soul jazz…strongly melodic themes” Jazzwise

“Combines lightness of touch with a rhythmic sensibility: a winning combination.” All About Jazz

“Luxurious melodies, woven with subtle influences from Clouts' forays into world music…the saxophone is a joy throughout, uplifting and contemplative by turns” Jazz UK

“From South Africa to Dorset, this fine album conjures a range of moods and places- from the joyful to the dreamy- with its thoughtful, intricate writing and superb musicianship.” London Jazz News

“Alive and lyrical, this artfully structured album gently lulls the listener towards the peaceful interval ‘between day and night’. Culture Capital

“Emotionally-felt, highly listenable melodies and improvisations which colourfully lift the spirits” Adrian Pallant

“A characteristic mix of strong melodies allied to Clouts' extensive knowledge of global jazz styles. Well written, attractively melodic, stylistically varied and superbly played.” Ian Mann

“An album with bounce and variety and some really affecting moments…free and lyrical with a big emotional punch” Mike Collins

“Very strong melodies from Clouts played with bittersweet lyricism …Clouts’ solos have an attractively crisp, bluesy clarity that’s punctuated by the kind of evocative block chord impressionism made popular by the great Bill Evans…the whirling, mantra-like soprano sax evokes both the joy and peace at the very centre of The Hour of Pearl” Selwyn Harris

“With a plethora of wonderful playing and clever compositions I really cannot recommend this one highly enough.” Josh Jennings ‘Jazz Shaped’

Other Reviews

“They cook up some nice, tricky rhythms to keep you alert, and control an impressive range of dynamics...Clouts makes the piano sound exactly right for each piece” THE OBSERVER

“Dorset’s coastline, added to Africa Latina flavours, inspires much attractive writing and cogent, punchy quartet playing” JAZZ UK

“It ranges from a spirited nod to Charlie Parker, Bird’s Word, through the funky Dizzard Point to the title track’s soaring solos and polished percussion. Consummate musicianship” THE MUSICIAN

“Clouts swings with rhythmic deliberation and a crystal sense of phrasing. Saxophonist Lopez-Real shares Clouts’ inclusive, outgoing multi-cultural angle on jazz and leaves exuberant sounds ringing in your ears. The title track makes Sennen Cove sound like a place of fun as well as adventure with its Afro-Cuban lilt on this refreshing and most enjoyable album” JAZZWISE

“Bright and accessible yet contains enough subtlety to reward repeated exposure to its refreshing variety of rhythms, textures and moods” VORTEX JAZZ

"Joyous and celebratory...wonderfully unfettered playing” IAN MANN

“Great playing, interesting compositions” RADIO BREMEN

"Philip Clouts is an accomplished leader.” THE INDEPENDENT

And some reviews in full:

The Hour Of Pearl CD

All About Jazz (Bruce Lindsay)

The Hour Of Pearl—a title taken from John Steinbeck's Cannery Row—is the second album from the UK-based Philip Clouts Quartet. A melodic collection of original tunes, it combines lightness of touch with a rhythmic sensibility: a winning combination.

Pianist and composer Clouts was born in Cape Town. Although he moved to the UK in his infancy, the family home was filled with the music of his homeland, Abdullah Ibrahim and Chris McGregor proving to be especially influential on Clouts' development. In London, Clouts led Zubop and ZubopGambia, two bands steeped in the music of South Africa and many other nations.

Clouts now lives in the small coastal town of Lyme Regis, in the south-west of England. Known by some as "The pearl of Dorset" it's a place noted for its annual Fossil Festival and an appearance in Jane Austen's novel Persuasion. It's not noted as a hotbed of jazz, but this quiet, rural setting has, along with his South African homeland, inspired much of Clouts' music on this album.

Clouts is joined by saxophonist Carlos Lopez-Real, a member of London's e-17 and F-IRE collectives, bassist Alex Keen and drummer Jon Debruslais. From the relaxed swing of "On West Hill" to the restrained beauty of "Nyasa Lullaby" the quartet shows an ability to craft immediately accessible tunes that also repay repeated listening, revealing their subtleties of harmony and texture as they become more familiar.

Despite the title, "Riptide" is a smoothly flowing, mid-tempo tune which gives Lopez-Real a chance to showcase his lyrical alto saxophone. Elsewhere, on "Nyasa Lullaby" and "Clef Mona" for example, he favors the soprano sax. Clouts' piano is heard to particularly fine effect on "Delta," his combination of bright, sparkling, single note runs and chordal playing giving the tune its rhythmic punch as well as its melodic flow.

Keen and Desbruslais take few solos but their work is key to the rhythms and moods of The Hour Of Pearl. Debruslais' brushes and Keen's economically spacious bass line do much to give "As Evening Falls" its calm beauty, underpinning Lopez-Real's sax and Clouts' piano to create a standout tune on an album of quality.

London Jazz News (Alison Bentley)

British pianist Philip Clouts’ new album evokes the spirit of place. Born in South Africa, he draws on music from that background and other cultures, fused with jazz in this captivating album.

Delta is a portmanteau title bringing together music from the Middle East with the blues. (It alludes to the Nile and Mississippi Deltas, and even a Cuban rhythm born in a Nigerian river delta). Clouts' piano opens somewhere between McCoy Tyner and Abdullah Ibrahim, with an insistent groove. As Carlos Lopez-Real's sax brings in the theme, there's a trace of 60s Blue Note Wayne Shorter. In the fast Afro-Latin central section, his phrases are springy and exciting, with a liquid tone recalling his mentor Dave Liebman. Jon Desbruslais' excellent drum solo has a vibrant sound and is beautifully- recorded- you feel as if you're sitting on the drum stool. Clef Mona opens with strong piano tremolo (like Tyner again) before the 6/8 folky tune, with its klezmer nuance. Clouts' solo is uplifting, exploring patterns just behind the beat, always communicating simply and directly. Nyasa Lullaby uses a scale from an African thumb piano, recurring hypnotically among Desbruslais' atmospheric percussion as the sax theme floats overhead. Lopez-Real can sound a little like Courtney Pine- the latter's sweet, Caribbean-influenced side.

Several tracks have a meditative quality, in particular the The Hour of Pearl- Steinbeck's phrase describing the dawn, 'when time stops and examines itself.' Written during a snowfall, the repeated piano phrases are like flakes drifting behind the plaintive sax line. It epitomises Clouts' considered writing: piano and bass in unison for a few bars; sax and piano harmonising Jarrett/Gabarek-style. The sections build subtly to an affecting moment, where the pensive piano solo merges into the sax theme. In As Evening Falls, time seems to stand still. Lopez-Real sounds as if he's singing the lines of his solo between the sensitive piano fills. The gentle bossa groove invokes Jobim; the chord sequence takes you to unexpected places but always back home. Alex Keen's melodic bass solo has an unhurried quality that allows his rich tone full expression. In Riptide the piano is mimetic: the wave-like arpeggios run into the splash of the cymbals, over a gentle township groove.

Clouts lives near the Dorset coast, and On West Hill is named after his street: a clear, bright optimistic township-style piece. Lopez-Real gets right into the rhythmic corners, the long lines cossetted between the bluesy Oscar Peterson-ish piano voicings. Flamingo-ing's lively calypso melody (in 7/4) is carefree; sunny piano/sax harmonies move in simple riffs through the key changes.

From South Africa to Dorset, this fine album conjures a range of moods and places- from the joyful to the dreamy- with its thoughtful, intricate writing and superb musicianship.

Sennen Cove CD

Philip Clouts is perhaps best known as the pianist in Zubop, a band at the heart of the so-called 'world jazz' strand within the music that manifested itself from the 1980s onwards.

On this album, on which he is joined by fellow musical traveller (in this context it is important to distinguish between tourists and travellers), saxophonist Carlos Lopez-Real, bassist Alex Keen and drummer Paul Cavaciuti, Clouts has allowed the natural beauty of his home base, Charmouth in West Dorset, to inspire his ten compositions, but the actual music has roots in everything from South African township music (Clouts was born in South Africa), New Orleans funkiness, Afro-Cuban rhythms and post-bop jazz (M-Base saxophonist Steve Coleman particularly important here, his dry, slippery sound an obvious influence on Lopez-Real).

Like Clouts's previous trio recording (also involving Keen, but with Sean Randle on drums), appropriately entitled Direction South, Sennen Cove is bright and accessible yet contains enough subtlety to reward repeated exposure to its refreshing variety of rhythms, textures and moods.

Chris Parker Vortex Jazz

Philip Clouts Quartet: Sennen Cove (Point Records PCD025)

As someone who spent a lot of time in South Africa, probably more than Clouts, who was born there, I still respond to that African attitude to jazz that has always permeated his piano playing. He makes jazz that is happy to cross-pollinate with other world musics, whether African or Latin, and jazz that embraces good times while still taking its art seriously.

Now living on the coast of South West England and taking inspiration from his surroundings, which might not match the Cape’s grandeur but do at least have surfers off-shore, Clouts has written lots of new songs played here by the pianist with Carlos Lopez-Real on saxophones, Alex Keen on bass and Paul Cavaciuti on drums.

The tunes wear their complexities lightly, and they are naturals for improvisation. The Latin kick-beat of Aqua Glide really does call to mind the exhilaration of catching a wave, while Deco features Carlos-Real digging deep. Quicksilver has a certain funkiness with Cavaciuti’s cowbell pulse again adding a Latin feel.

The title track flows and eddies gracefully, while Clouts saves his South African groove for the final tune, Commotion in C.

The Jazz Breakfast Peter Bacon

Philip Clouts Quartet “Sennen Cove” (Point Records PCD025) 4 stars (out of 5)

Pianist Philip Clouts is an unusual figure on the UK jazz scene, a nationally known musician who has chosen not to base himself in London. Clouts now lives in rural Dorset and his new album is in part inspired by the beauty of the coastline of South West England.

Born in South Africa Clouts has lived in the UK since early childhood but elements of Africa still permeate his music. Clouts is probably best known for his work with the long running band Zubop a popular London based jazz/roots combo with a particular affinity for the music of Gambia. The group made a series of enjoyable albums for the 33 Records label and I remember seeing and enjoying them live back in the day (Ludlow Assembly Rooms, 30th January 2003). I wonder if Philip still remembers that one.

Clouts was always one of Zubop’s main writers and his compositional skills come to the fore on this new quartet record which comprises of ten original compositions. The mood is often joyous and celebratory and Clouts has assembled a fine band to bring his pieces to life. Saxophonist Carlos Lopez-Real, a member of the F-ire Collective, attracted considerable praise last year for his own début album “Mandorla” (see review elsewhere on this site) and the quartet is completed by bassist Alex Keen and the experienced drummer Paul Cavacuiti. These last two have an impressive list of credits including work with Jim Mullen and Tim Whitehead (Keen) and Dave O’Higgins, Steve Williamson, Jonathan Gee and David Gordon (Cavacuiti). Both rhythm players have worked with saxophonist Theo Travis, a composer who, like Clouts, often brings a cinematic quality to his work with compositions inspired by locations or nature.

“Sennen Cove” is the natural successor to Clouts’ earlier trio album “Direction South”. The new album was recorded at Derek Nash’s studio and the indefatigable Nash brings his customarily excellent engineering skills to the date helping to give “Sennen Cove” a clean, crisp sound throughout. Also making an important contribution is Jazzwise Magazine’s Selwyn Harris who has contributed an informative set of liner notes that I’ll attempt not to paraphrase too closely here.

The album takes off with “Bird’s Word”, a nod not only to Charlie Parker but also to the avian life of the South West coast. It’s celebratory in tone with a rootsy, funky groove that Clouts admits to basing on the early compositional style of the young Keith Jarrett. I’ll go with that, there’s something of the joie de vivre of “The Windup” here with enjoyable solos coming from Clouts and Lopez-Real as Keen and Cavacuiti lay down the beat.

“Dizzard Point” (in North Cornwall, incidentally) ranges more widely as Clouts’ attempts to express the “different moods of the ever changing coastline”. It’s still pretty funky though with a strong theme that frames expansive, joyous solos from Clouts and Lopez-Real.

“Three For May” relaxes the pace, breezy and ballad like it conveys something of the mood of an early summer’s day. Clouts’ piano ripples gently in the upper registers and Lopez-Real’s airy alto also captures the air of balmy optimism.

The upbeat mood continues throughout the samba “Aqua Glide” with Lopez-Real’s sax gliding above the busy, chattering undertow of Cavacuit’s drums. Clouts also solos impressively, the notes just tumbling out of him and Cavacuiti enjoys an extended drum break.

“Deco” harks back to the soul jazz of the Blue Note era with Lopez-Real blowing bluesy alto over a subtly funky bass and drum groove. Clouts’ own solo retains the funky edge but essentially this is a feature for the saxophonist.

Hitherto the mood has been resolutely upbeat but Clouts shows his versatility as a composer with the lovely “Nine Tales”, a gradually unfolding ballad with a gorgeous theme that features both Clouts and Lopez-Real at their most lyrical, sympathetically supported by an equally adaptable rhythm section. Keen is given a brief moment in the limelight with a beautifully resonant bass solo.

“Quicksilver” has a Latin vibe with Lopez-Real’s suitably mercurial sax followed by Clouts sprightly piano leading into a playful percussion feature for Cavacuiti. Keen’s fat, slippery bass grooves anchor it all together.

“Arle Mill” is inspired by the tranquillity of a water mill in Hampshire. It’s effectively the album’s second ballad and retains a pastoral air throughout with Clouts’ piano suitably flowing on some of his best playing to date. This is the only trio performance on the album and Keen also features as a soloist.

“Sennen Cove” (Cornwall again) is lively and bubbly with Lopez-Real’s alto fairly flying above Keen’s fat bass grooves and Cavacuiti’s neatly energetic drumming. There’s almost a Cuban feel to Clouts’ solo, the world music elements on the album perhaps a legacy of his long tenure with Zubop. Lopez-Real’s involvement with the similarly inclined F-ire Collective may also be a factor.

Clouts brings his past and present together on the closing “Commotion In C”. Although inspired by “the exhilaration of the surfers in Lyme Bay” the music goes right back to Clouts’ South African roots. Good natured township jive forms the basis for the piece and the mood is joyous and infectiously danceable throughout. Clouts and Lopez-Real respond to the furious pace set by the rhythm section with some wonderfully unfettered and happy playing thus ending a largely relaxed and happy album on a gloriously sunny note.

Clouts cover an impressive range of styles in an infectiously enjoyable manner. The playing, particularly from Clouts and the extraordinarily fluent Lopez-Real is excellent throughout.

Clouts’ themes are strong and despite the relaxed vibe that pervades the album it could never be accused of being bland. This is a hugely enjoyable record and bearing in mind it’s coastal theme you could do a lot worse than making this the soundtrack for your summer.

Ian Mann

Philip Clouts Quartet - Sennen Cove

Released on Point Records, the Philip Clouts Quartet's Sennen Cove follows on from pianist Clouts' previous trio album, with which it shares bassist Alex Keen. The rhythm section is completed by drummer Paul Cavaciuti. Both latter players have a list of respectible credits, and of course Philip Clouts hardly needs any introduction and has been principally known as a member of Afrobeat band Zubop Gambia, aka Zubop. Rounding off the quartet is saxman Carlos Lopez-Real, best known as a member of the F-IRE collective.

Clouts' distinctive style is principally informed by Afro-Latin jazz, the vivacious grooves of West African Afrobeat and the vibrant music of South Africa, where he was born, although he grew up in Britain. His inspiration is the coastal area of the English South West, where he has lived in recent years. A most inspirational area indeed with a fascinating landscape. The ten originals that make up Sennen Cove reflect all these influences and inspirations in a subtle, pleasant blend of jazz, funk and world music.

It should, however, be noted that apart from the two ballads on this album and the closer, the dominant style of this delightful album is a mostly gentle Afro-Latin one, with some excellent grooves that have Clouts swinging exquisitely. The closer, Commotion in C, is easily the most infectious piece on this highly infectious album and wonderfully reflects the vibrancy of the music of South Africa's townships.

Sennen Cove is a lively and mature delight, driven by a very lively, even vigorous rhythm section that perfectly complements Philip Clouts' exuberant and highly rhythmic piano and Carlos Lopez-Real's lively, fluid yet cool sax. Their excellent playing and inspired improvs make Sennen Cove a joy, exuberant yet laid back, and above all, highly accessible. This is good, solid jazz that is easily recognisable as such.

Clouts' compositions are strong and mature and always hold the interest. The jazz, funk and world music blend works well, and the overall up-beat nature of the album helps make it as enjoyable as it indeed is.

Consistent throughout and compelling, Sennen Cove is a pleasurable experience, and with its (predominantly) latin grooves works unusually well for a UK based band. Above all though perhaps it is Clouts' outstanding piano that makes this album irresistible.

The Philip Clout Quartet's Sennen Cove clearly should be essential in any good comprehensive contemporary jazz collection. I'll certainly look forward to hopefully catching them at a gig sometime soon.

Rainlore's World of Music/Rainlore