Jelly Cleaver: The Dream Jazz Manifesto – LP review

Review by Cassie Fox and Molly Rider

Jelly Cleaver is a firm favourite here at LOUD WOMEN HQ. An absurdly talented musician and songwriter, she’s also got lovability in spades – she’s friendly and self-effacing despite being A-list beautiful and having the voice of an angel (an angel who can also do loads of really clever stuff with a guitar). And she’s got bags of proper punkrock scene integrity – you’re as likely to see her working the door of a LOUD WOMEN gig as playing on stage*. But Jelly’s music isn’t punkrock, per se. Hold on to your hats: Jelly plays jazz.

There, I said it. Jelly plays jazz, and I really, really like it.

My simple punkrock ears aren’t accustomed to such complex sounds, so I asked music student and jazz musician Molly Rider to give me her opinion of the album, and she said:

This album brings out the personal and political surroundings in every listener with drama and flair. The clever choices made create comfortable but engrossing tracks with full sounds and talent interweaved throughout. Its definitely one to give a listen if you’re a bit wary of the jazz scene – not too intense and never boring!”

Molly Rider

A few stand-out tracks for me …

‘Ego’ crunches through a couple of minutes of rock guitar, before shimmering through the jazz curtain to deliver the by now more familiar sequences of complex melody, vocal harmony, and a squillion layers of instruments.

‘Angela’ appears through a 1970s haze of rhodes organ, muted brass and wahwah guitar, before crashing us up-to-date with a big fat distorted guitar solo.

With ‘Yarls Wood’ Jelly shows her feminist activist credentials, with an accompanying video of her own footage taken at protests at the racist UK detention centre.

The album has been a huge labour of love for Jelly, and it shows. She’s collaborated with a whole heap of musicians on the London jazz scene, met via Tomorrow’s Warriors, including Roella Oloro, Isobella Burnam, Loucin Moskofian, Lorenz OkenoOsengor and Kaidi Akinnibi. It also features spoken word from activists like Renny (Renny’s Poem) who was a hunger striker at Yarl’s Wood detention centre.

You can see Jelly Cleaver live on 10 July at the launch of our new Unplugged night at the Old Queen’s Head!

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