Album review – Hackney Colliery Band

Hackney Colliery Band – Collaborations: Volume One

It’s now twenty years since the Fast Show with its mockery of the jazz scene ‘Niiiice.’ etc etc. But if that’s affecting how you view jazz, never mind or listen to it, then you need to get a different take on it.

Of course, the big name over the last twelve months has been Kamasi Washington, whose album Heaven And Earth did well in the rock press end of year polls, and there’s been a fair bit of focus on British jazz groups too – Sons Of Kemet and Ezra Collective- that makes it seem jazz is being covered in a way not seen since Courtney Pine released his acclaimed Journey To The Urge Within.

So let’s focus on the Hackney Colliery Band. This year they made their Glastonbury debut and celebrate their tenth anniversary. This album is an exciting mix of jazz styles that is accessible and welcoming, without ever stopping being special.

The first music to do the rounds was the single ‘Netsanet’ featuring Mulatu Astatke. This is an exploration of Mulatu’s trademark Ethio-jazz, which he pretty much invented. The album opens with ‘Mm Mm’ featuring Angélique Kidjo, who was once described as Africa’s premier diva.

The longest track within is ‘Climbing Up My Own Life Until I Die.’ A spoken word collaboration it can be extremely hard work (this listener would prefer it as an instrumental), but it still fits into the album.

Sure there have been Nirvana and Prodigy covers in the past, but this sees the Hackney Colliery Band step into the light, with collaborations but no compromise. A thrill from start to finish.

Collaborations Volume One is out now

A song for today #43: Hackney Colliery Band

I’ve long been a fan of unusual covers. And the Hackney Colliery Band’s cover of Nirvana’s ‘Heart-Shaped Box’ certainly ticks that box.

It’s by no means a novelty cover. What it does is to transform Nirvana’s 1993 hit single into a dark jazz track. Though it loses the vocals, it maintains the spirit, mystery and angst of the original.

It’s taken from the Hackney Colliery Band’s forthcoming live album, entitled, umm, Live. This will also include cover versions of Blackstreet’s ‘No Diggety’ and Toto’s ‘Africa.’ The album is released on May 12, and two weeks later, the band will headline London’s KOKO.


…and in case you thought this was a one-off, their version of Amy Winehouse’s ‘Rehab’ is pretty special, too: