Reviewing albums is quite straightforward, you listen, you try to pick out things you like (and don’t like) and then try to connect the music to some other band or artist so readers of the review can decide whether or not it’s worth their time and money to hear more.

After having heard Phil Dawson play at a jazz club, I wondered what direction his album would go in, and the first thing that jumped out was the lack of tracks, its reminiscent of a 1990s cd single where you would commonly find remixes and radio edits of the song you bought. Here the album is made up of two songs, firstly in their original mix and then in different versions.

It might sound complicated, but it isn’t because the various versions hold just enough variety to hold your attention.

So the tracks in question are ‘It’s Time’ and ‘Gnostic Hilife’.

The second thing that jumps out is how unselfish Dawson’s playing is. Being a jazz guitarist could mean that the music will centre around the six-string, holding five-minute solos and appealing to other guitarists but leaving typical listeners cold, but this isn’t the case.

Like all good musicians, Dawson understands the role of his instrument, and the songs shine because he allows the rhythm to be king.

African music is clearly a source of inspiration, from the cd packaging to the musicians themselves. Khadijatou Doyneh brings the lyrics to the spoken word version of ‘It’s Time’; usually, I’m not a fan of spoken word jazz, I just don’t get it (aside from Charles Mingus’ ‘The Clown’, which is brilliant) but it fits perfectly and sits nicely after a flute-led version of ‘Gnostic Hilife’.

It’s difficult to pick out a favourite version, but I will say that I prefer ‘Gnostic Hilife’ over the title track; there seems more variation what with the flute edit and Nag Hammadi edit, and it has such a grounded rhythm that it’s very difficult not to like.

For an album that essentially consists of only two songs, it holds its own, and I lived with this cd in my car for over a week, each time picking up on a new detail in the percussion or the vocal delivery. It’s an album that doesn’t get old quickly.

If jazz is your thing, or even if percussion and well-played music is your thing, check this out because it’s small but perfectly formed.

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