Nori ‘Bruise Blood’ CD/DIG (Private Press) 4/5

Nori is a quintet from Austin, Texas. Akina Adderley handles vocals, Erik Telford plays trumpet, Nick Litterski is on Fender Rhodes piano, Aaron Allen played upright bass and Andy Beaudoin is behind the drums. The quintet’s press release describes their music as being “one-part jazz, one-part folk and one-part world”. The quintet “playfully weaves together a myriad of global influences giving rise to a seamless synthesis of sound”.

This is the band’s second release. This release continues where the first ended, pursuing their various influences. Importantly, it also seeks to address the strong emotions many are feeling in their US homeland. The name ‘Bruise Blood’ is a reference to Steve Reich’s 1960s composition ‘Come Out’. Reich’s composition includes a tape-loop based on the spoken words of Daniel Hamm, a young man from Harlem who was wrongly accused and convicted of murder. It is said that after Police officers tried to brutally beat a confession out of him, Hamm made a desperate attempt to show his need for immediate medical treatment – “I had to, like, open the bruise up, and let some of the bruise blood come out to show them.”

The band members believe that Hamm’s words still resonate today and the album is an attempt to “cut that wound wide open and let the blood out.”

Given the foregoing description, the album opens in a contemplative, yet somehow pensive mood with ‘The Dream’ and features a powerful vocal from Adderley and the whole steadily builds in intensity with all band members giving everything that they have.
‘Wildfire’ is next and the vocal paints more emotional sound pictures. Despite the theme of the song, the music seems quite uplifting to me.
‘Crash and Burn’ includes more difficult subject matter in the vocals and yet despite this the tune is rather graceful. ‘Undertow’ follows a similar path. On this piece as on others throughout the album, strings are added which contrast pleasantly with the core quintet.
‘The Walk’ is a protest song, but is again a thoughtful piece of music and quite elegant in its execution. A short free-form version of ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ was certainly unexpected. This is followed by more uplifting fare with ‘Amends’ and here we have more strong playing from all and more forthright vocals. Throughout the album I felt that the sound of the Fender Rhodes piano lifted the rather gloomy ambience of the vocals.
‘Prelude’ for a string trio alone is a lovely piece of music which stands up on its own irrespective of the subject matter of the album.
The album concluded with ‘Ballad’. Again, there is more difficult subject matter in the vocal. However, the musicianship of all concerned is exemplary, as it is time and time again during the whole session.

This is not an easy album to digest and certainly would repay repeated listening. It is a “searing account of trauma, survival and power explored through intoxicating, fervent and elaborate instrumentation alongside pertinent, poetic lyrics.”

Alan Musson