Before we dive into the main focus of this review, we really should take a moment to shout out the incredible efforts of First Word Records this year – no sooner have we celebrated the awesome ‘For My Sanity’ release from 14KT that new projects have been announced from drummer/producer Myele Manzanza (‘A Love Requited’) and Children of Zeus (‘Excess Baggage’)… and then there’s the long-awaited sophomore album release ‘Weightless’ from the UK’s premier jazz orchestra, Teotima.
And it has in fact been a fairly lengthy wait. As the brainchild of guitarist and producer Greg Sanders, Teotima’s debut record ‘Counting The Ways’ – again released through First Word – was unveiled in 2013. Teotima’s Bandcamp page describes the collective as “drawing on the music of West Africa, Cuba, Brazil, American funk & soul, folk, jazz and cinematic music” – with Sanders at the helm, the multi-musician ensemble delivered a timeless project celebrating this amalgamation of genres and styles underpinning them with exquisite orchestral arrangements.
Recorded live direct to tape, and with the tirelessly prolific Tru Thoughts recording artist Ben “Nostalgia 77” Lamdin on recording, engineering and mixing tasks, ‘Counting The Ways’ was succeeded by its stunning compositions including ‘Gloves Off’, ‘Counting The Ways’ and ‘Darbari’.
The years in between albums however have certainly been productive – while Sanders refocused and plotted Teotima’s new direction, the other musicians tackled a wealth of additional projects: vocalist Ellie Rose Rusbridge released her solo outing ‘Night Becoming’ in 2014, multi-instrumentalist Kareem Dayes provided bass on Yussef Kamaal’s ‘Black Focus’, percussionist Fabio De Oliveira has since chalked up session work for George Ezra, bassist Lester Salmins has appeared on releases by pianist/composer Alfa Mist and Jordan Rakei, saxophonist Leo Richardson has since fronted his own Quartet on Ubuntu Music… these just serving as a brief selection of the creative doors that have subsequently opened.
All of this brings us to 2019’s ‘Weightless’ and the musicians comprising Teotima’s ensemble each now returning to the fold as more experienced and well-rounded artists in their own right. With the talents of Lamdin recruited once again for this album’s engineering and mixing, Teotima once again delivers on the incredible scope set out with this album. It’s also welcome to hear vocalist Rusbridge secure a more central role within ‘Weightless’ appearing on five of the album’s seven tracks (as opposed to two from the album’s predecessor).
After having delivered their second, awe-inspiring release, already ranking against this year’s best, Teotima are more than welcome to take all the time they need in between projects going forward as the results are undeniable.