Primarily based in Leeds, The Lewis Express is comprised of many of the musicians that have graced previous ATA releases: George Cooper, Piano (Abstract Orchestra) Neil Innes, Bass (The Sorcerers, The Magnificent Tape Band, Tony Burkill), Sam Hobbs, Drums (Dread Supreme, Tony Burkill, Matthew Bourne) and Pete Williams, Percussion (The Sorcerers, The Magnificent Tape Band, Tony Burkill).Recorded over an intense two-day session, ‘Clap Your Hands’ is heavily influenced by the classic soul jazz recordings of The Young Holt Trio / Young Holt Unlimited, and Ramsey Lewis, from who this group take their name. As with many of the classic Ramsey Lewis cuts this album was recorded live, capturing the rich inter-relationship between the players and leaving in some of that chunky room noise.
‘Clap your hands’ builds on the template set by their eponymous debut album and further explores the 60’s soul-jazz of Ramsey lewis, Young-Holt and Ray Charles as well as the latin boogaloo of Eddie Cano and Pete Terrace. The band’s intention was to produce an album of dancefloor friendly, uplifting, funky soul-jazz with a stripped back line up of Piano, Bass, Drums and Percussion. The LP kicks off with the title track, a pure boogaloo burner just built for the hand-claps that punctuate the whole record, courtesy of the Headingley Hand Choir. Neil Innes’ bass nails ‘Clap Your Hands’ to the floor, starting as he means to go on, while George Cooper’s piano gets to play over the top, just warming up. This is one for the Djs and it’ll do the business in the clubs for sure, but, also perfect for a late night, sweaty house party – shoes off and beer in the sink. ‘Danca De Duas Maos’ is more reminiscent of the first Lewis Express album and has some of the strongest ivories action of the whole LP. Sam Hobbs displays a feathery touch with his skippy, insistent, drumming pushing the track along just right before he brings in the timbale heat, pretty much tying a bow on the whole thing.
‘Is It This?’ kicks off with a stomach-lining tempo, spooned into the ears courtesy of Bassist Innes and Pete Williams’ pin-sharp percussion. This is one of the slower tracks on the record, and the piano tone is deceptively dark but who says you can’t groove and be a little sinister at the same time? Hobbs opens up ‘Stomp Your Feet’ in fine style, and The Lewis Express start to swing with a Ramsey-esque groover that’s just made-to-measure for dancers. Everything comes together here, with a mid-60s Cadet record feel that’s so frantic you don’t even have time to have to lace your shoes. A slightly warped bassline serves as the foundation for ‘Moola Umemo’ and the perfect cushion for Cooper’s Eastern-tinged piano, creating something sand-worn and hypnotic to the ear, sporadically broken by jarring stabs all reminiscent of Duke Ellington’s ‘Money jungle’. The rhythm section in this is understated to the point of humbleness, emphasising the piano. ‘Tico Tico’ is soul-jazz gravy, peppered with the most righteous bassline of the whole LP. This is cocky track all the way, and that’s a fabulous thing to be, with some pure pleasure drumming from Hobbs and the piano banging off the walls, ramping up and up as it nears the end. Pure groove goodness.
The Lewis Express dish up a serious slice of mod jazz with ‘Flat Palm Avenue’, still on a Latin tip but you’re going to want to come correct and dress right when you hit the floor to this. Like many of the tracks it builds subtlety in tempo, luring you in and then luring you on to your feet! Album closer ‘Out From The Rock’ is an absolute mod corker with an intro that will take you off at the knees (just listen to that piano roll).
“Clap Your Hands” is certainly a more contained album from The Lewis Express, whose debut moved around different camps. It’s a tighter, more focussed record that wears it’s inspiration proudly on it’s sleeve.