Chris Dawkins ‘Hero’s Journey’ (Released) 4/5

Although a new name to us here at UK Vibe HQ, musician, composer and producer Chris Dawkins has previously had a diverse and successful career as a session and touring musician including working with the likes of Adrian Sherwood, David Holmes and Nightmares on Wax, with this being his debut album on the confusing named Released record label from the UK. Broadly speaking, this is a jazz album that takes various nuances and influences from other genres, namely soul, hip hop and electronica but all with jazz as the overseer.

The album’s first full track after the introduction ‘#onelove’ is the most vocal lead but the vocals are virtually chant like in their sensibility creating a post-club soundscape experience. ‘Want To Get Something Off My Chest’, which is probably the jazziest number also includes touches of Afro beat and high strings parts for a very original piece that took this writer a few plays to fully absorb. ‘Signs’ with female vocalist Jorgie moves into neo soul territory with its lush chords and pads and sultry vocals and is very reminiscent of Moonchild, with Jorgie definitely a name to check in the future.

‘Get It Right’
increases the tempo of the set and uses a 1970s breakbeat (‘Yellow Sunshine’) to underpin the rhythm track while the repeated vocal phrase presents a hypnotic quality. ‘Do It Slow’
again uses some trademark hip hop references with its ‘70s breakbeat drum samples and MPC style chops as does ‘Nightingale’s Secret’
with its boom bap framework, and ‘Atmos Funk’
also further utilises hip hop drum programming and editing but here, layers of keys and synths replace the audio samples from vinyl.

‘Rootsman In Space’ is much more spiritual than the actual title suggests and is another deep downtempo affair and features the eternally consistent and criminally underrated Jimi Tenor. Textures are the focus here, with its loose Rhodes piano, guitar, light percussion and memorable bass line with supplementary synth runs added. ‘New Reign’ moves away from the more 1990s hip hop influence and into a contemporary electric styling and title track ‘Hero’s Journey’ embraces an almost ambient characteristic and maybe the reason why the album cover doesn’t scream ‘jazz’ with its new age yoga playlist design.

‘Hero’s Journey’ sees Chris Dawkins emerge and evolve as a solo artist in his own right with this being a fantastic introduction from the Bradford/Leeds based musician. There is definitely room to grow and develop but for a debut this is a positive start. Possibly the use of additional musicians would provide a different perspective and could be something to examine in the future as would the use of more key changes and more complex arrangements – but I’m being overly critical for a debut as this is still very strong.

Damian Wilkes