Nigel Aubrey Thomas: Restless Soul

Brighton-based singer and bassist presents a set of tuneful, mid-tempo soul-funk originals decorated with jazz solos

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In a post of 01/22 I praised Danish singer and saxophonist Mads Mathias’s I’m All Ears session on Storyville, especially for the refreshing quality of the original lyrics. The same must be said for this most attractive release from English bassist, composer and vocalist Nigel Aubrey Thomas, who wrote all the music and lyrics here and also contributed the arrangements (with some extra textures, courtesy of pianist Mark Edwards, on Be The Change You Want To See).

This is the same Nigel Thomas who a while ago cut the excellent albums Yoichi and Hidden, both favourably reviewed in JJ in its pre-web days. I can’t believe that it’s getting on for half a century since we first met. This was when Nigel was playing electric bass for the Brighton-based Ten Men, the legendary quartet with Geoff Hearn (s), Josh Griefer (kyb) and Steve Harris (d). He’s long been a staple member of the ever-popular Brighton Blues Corporation, where he features on vocals. And having become a fine exponent of both the electric and double-bass instrument, over the years Nigel has come to work with an ever-expanding array of top-class musicians.

These include Tony Kofi, Jim Mullen, Byron Wallen, Winston Clifford, Julian Nicholas, Dave Hastings, Mark Edwards and Claire Martin. Here’s what the esteemed vocalist Martin thinks of the present album, where Edwards, Nicholas and Hastings feature and where the welcome positivity of Thomas’s Buddhist beliefs subtly infuses (rather than dominates) his lyrics: “Beautifully produced, here are well crafted songs rooted in the deep intersection of Soul, Jazz and Blues, with genuine messages and, as ever, gorgeous bass work.” That bass work is mostly electric: relish also the tellingly stepped pizzicato double-bass meditation which concludes the lovely Jewel, where Edwards’ organ solo also hits the spot.

Think of the sublime, floating sax-led opening passages of Marvin Gaye’s classic What’s Going On from 1971 or a definitive Crusaders track like the title piece of their 1975 Chain Reaction – and you’ll have some idea of what’s going on here. Long a Gaye and Donny Hathaway man, Thomas phrases in a soulful and engaging manner across both mellow grooves (sample Unseen, with its fine trumpet spot from Jack Kendon and Believe, both with adroit backing vocals) and the occasional steaming burn-up (Call My Name, where guitarist Dave Hastings and saxophonist Julian Nicholas stretch out). Despite any prefiguring contextual reference one might wish to consider, the consistently creative quality of the writing and arrangements, singing and playing here makes Restless Soul no re-tread item, but rather, music for the ages. Enjoy!


Discography
Unseen; Believe; If Your Heart Isn’t Mine; Respond With Joy; Be The Change You Want To See; Always There; Jewel; Call My Name (40.42)
Thomas (lead v, elb, b); Mark Edwards (p, org, kyb); Dave Hastings (elg); Julian Nicholas (ts, as, ss); Jack Kendon (t); Mark Bassey (tb); Darren Beckett (d, tamb); Jon Newey (conga, pc); Joanna Alice Cooke, Sarah Gardener (backing v). Echo Zoo Studios, 2019–2022.
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