A new album by Compost Records signee Web Web is always something to be excited about. This, their third in two and a half years contains the same line-up with Roberto Di Gioia playing piano, keys and percussion, Tony Lakatos on tenor saxophone and flute, Christian Von Kaphengst on bass and Peter Gall playing drums, and in addition for this album, cellist Boris Matchin and Stefan Pintev playing violin and viola. And finally, Berlin born songstress Joy Denalane appears as a featured vocalist on four of the thirteen compositions.
The record begins with ‘The Upper (Part 1 & 2)’ which immediately moves into spiritual jazz mode with its short vocal introduction from Joy before the piano, drums, bass and strings interchange. ‘Two Faces Lost’ again starts with vocals, but this time jazz poetry while the gliding flute lines float over the intoxicating rhythm track and persuasive piano of Di Gioia. ‘Warlock’ with its swirling 6/8 rhythm demonstrate Web Web’s ability to sound rich and textured without the need for a large ensemble of players.
‘Free A.M. (Part 1)’ is an unashamedly hard bop jam with some loose electric piano, free saxophone and additional sparse vocals in the background by way of large room reverb. The vocals here are somewhat reminiscent of mid-1970s Urszula Dudziak. ‘Paranormal Question’ is a tale of two halves, with the first section being string instruments only before the second half becomes quite funky with its ‘in the pocket’ drumming. With regards ‘What You Give’, the female vocals again are a wonderful touch with the track being the closest thing on the album to being a ‘jazz vocal’ number showing that Web Web can also compose as well as improvise, although, the vocals were still improvised. Pity, it’s only 2’13” though.
I would argue that ‘Free A.M. (Part 2)’ is the most free of all compositions on ‘Workshippers’, a modal exploration by way of electric piano, drums and sax with some bass in the background, although, it’s very much pushed into the distance. ‘Enchanted Realm’, a 5/4 composition is as enthralling as it is hypnotic and is another personal favourite. ‘Inner Revolution’ possesses an almost 4 Hero quality with its funk-jazz drumming combined with string parts a la Charles Stephney, while, the use of upright bass is front and centre on ‘Mystic Flowers’, a melodic piece that makes heavy use of violin via Bulgarian legend Stefan Pintev. The CD and digital versions contain the bonus track ‘Free A.M. (Part 3), but luckily it’s only 2’13” in length so not a great loss for the vinyl lovers.
On a side note, the use of extreme stereo placement is prevalent on the album with whole instruments panned to one side or another in many of the pieces, something you rarely hear on modern jazz records but which was commonplace in the late 1950s and ‘60s when stereo LPs first became popular. Most studio engineers of the time hadn’t quite worked out how to use this new system, and thus, many of our favourites from that time have quite drastic uses of stereo but it became a sonic characteristic of the genre which was replicated here to great effect.
It’s difficult not to love Web Web and their releases. Their creativity, musicianship and willingness to grow from one release to the next is to be commended. Joy Denalane’s vocals added a different dimension to this third album (maybe Doug and Jean Carne were a reference point) as did the featured vocals of Majid Bekkas on their second ‘Dance Of The Demons’ (2018). The title ‘Worshippers’ refers to the group’s admiration and respect for the legends of jazz and their music especially the spiritual spectrum of jazz, but this goes way beyond just being a straight-ahead tribute record.
‘Worshippers’ is more arranged and composed than say their debut ‘Oracle’ (2017), but Web Web seem to relish the challenge of evolving for each album by not repeating themselves – but ‘Worshippers’ is something special. We do not hide the fact that we are massive fans of Web Wed here at UK Vibe. Totally essential.