Emanative’s latest release is an incredible, full-on, world beats meets jazz collaboration with some of the finest musicians on the scene at the moment, performing a collection of what amounts to nothing less than some of the very best spiritual jazz ever composed. This whole double album was conceived from the outset as a way to raise both money and awareness for Gilles Peterson’s Steve Reid Foundation. The Foundation commemorates the life and legacy of Steve Reid and aims to help people working in music who are in crisis, especially those suffering from illness. As Gilles Peterson explains, “In 2009, Steve was diagnosed with throat cancer, and it was during one of my visits to New York that I became aware of the extent of his suffering. I was horrified by the conditions he was living in during his last days.” He continues, “I can’t think of a better way to celebrate Steve Reid’s life than to start a charity to help other musicians in his name.” The Foundation provides grants to non-profit organisations that help people working in music.
Orchestrated by Nick Woodmansey aka Emanative, but not without the generosity, help and contribution of every musician and collaborator involved, “The Light Years of The Darkness” is a limited edition release of 500 2xLP on 180gsm heavyweight vinyl. Released on Brownswood Records, Gilles Peterson adds; “I couldn’t be more thrilled to have Emanative’s album as our first release for the Steve Reid Foundation. In keeping with Steve’s open-ended approach and his musical history, Nick Woodmansey has delivered a knock out jazz and beyond album.” And he isn’t wrong there. Featuring, among many others, the talents of Tamar Osborn aka Collocotor, Jessica Lauren, The Pyramids, Finn Peters, Earl Zinger, Idris Ackamore, and Kieran Hebden aka Four Tet, this is a hypnotic, organic, cosmic body of work. It is a celebration, as Gilles Peterson puts it, of “the wealth and depth of the art of black musicians, magicians who have given us so much; as well as a joining of forces with an emergence of new and present time talent to co-create new versions of music of this era.”
The album opens with a serene, dreamy, laid-back take on Alice Coltrane’s “Om Supreme”. This acts as a fine introduction and leads the listener gently into the mind-bendingly awesome “Hum Allah”. Written by Pharoah Sanders, this is undoubtedly one of the many highlights of the album, with its wonderful out-there saxophony and meditative, harmonious vocals cutting through the cyclical nature of the keys and drums. Don Cherry and Ed Blackwell’s “Makondi” is a percussive masterclass in rhythm with its seductive synchronicity and timeless simplicity. An ebullient melody ensues on Joe Henderson’s “Fire”, summoning the light from the dark with its sparkling arrangement. As the flames die down and the smoke rises, we find ourselves way out in orbit for the melancholic beauty of Sun Ra’s cosmic poem of love; “Love in Outer Space”; a chant and solo delivered to us by trumpeter Ahmed Abdullah, veteran member of The Sun Ra Arkestra. The double vinyl includes two very different versions of this, both from the same session. Arthur Blythe’s “As of Yet” rumbles, tumbles and grumbles its angry tones with expressive fortitude and a steadfast authority. Now bring on the horns, two drummers, two percussionists and a flute flight of fancy for Sun Ra’s celestial “Rocket Number Nine”. Neneh Cherry’s band, Rocketnumbernine, are joined by the brothers of United Vibrations who supply Sun Ra’s chant, vocals and message on this blast through the outer regions of space and time. This decadent and diverse album closes with Albert Ayler’s signature piece “Music is the Healing Force of The Universe”. And so it ever was, and so it should always be. A spiritual sun sets on one of the finest musical journeys to have been released this year. “The Light Years of The Darkness” is a gift, a joy to behold and cherish. The production and musicianship heard throughout this recording is jaw-dropping. It’s clever, it’s natural and ultimately it’s incredibly inspiring. May your smile Emanate from the radiance of its beauty.