Cosmic Vibrations Feat. Dwight Trible ‘Pathways & Passages’ LP/CD (Spiritmuse) 4/5

Vocalist Dwight Trible describes his latest project, Cosmic Vibrations as an ‘experiment in love’. Following instructions received in a dream, he invited five musicians and former collaborators to join him as part of the band: John B Williams (acoustic bass) Derf Recklaw (congas, percussion, flute) Pablo Calogero (tenor sax, bass clarinet, woodwinds, flute) Christopher Garcia (indigenous percussion) Breeze Smith (drums, percussion, loops).

Trible says, “I was singing before I realised it” referring to unselfconscious childhood vocal experiments in the bathroom; his goal now to “get back to the freedom of a baby”. He describes an ideal musical scenario when “everything crystallises and becomes one energy when you feel you are serving your purpose”.

Trible’s vocal style has been compared to the likes of Leon Thomas, Andy Bey and Terry Callier. I can hear some of those influences in his earlier recordings perhaps in the hopeful ‘Love Is The Answer’ from 2005. But this album is sonically different altogether, emphasising soulful introspection combined with low register offbeat and complex rhythms. If you think that sounds like heavy going, rest assured there’s a rather beautiful sonic harmony to the record which gels musically in some unexpected ways.

Trible says of his voice “I want to explore my spirit, my sound” and when the “spirit opens it starts blessing”. Though Pathways & Passages was recorded back in August 2018 its mood seems to anticipate the introspective and low key vibe of 2020 rather accurately.

The album begins with ‘Nature’s Vision’, which sets off on an ambient pathway before evolving into a sax led spiritual jazz piece; the familiar territory is given a pleasingly different twist by the vocal performance of Trible. He narrates his lines like a prayer, speaking of “challenge and responsibility” and using his voice as an instrument to jam around the sax as an insistent beat lifts the tune.

The majority of the songs here are original compositions but there’s an interesting take on the Irving Berlin tune ‘Blue Skies’. It’s deconstructed and almost divorced from the original melody leaving us to focus on the structure of the words alone. Trible seems to be drawing great satisfaction from simply forming the words in his unique vocal style.

Later we arrive at ‘Olbap’ – yes that’s Pablo spelled backwards, acknowledging the contribution of sax player Pablo Calogero. There’s a kalimba intro and bluesy guitar by special guest Scott Fraser. It’s also where the Callier comparison really holds water, with some beautiful vocalisations without lyrics.

The only instrumental in the album is ‘Water Flow’ a pleasing interlude with cello, flute and a very fluid percussive sound. It’s brief but slots in just perfectly.

The final track, ‘Some Other Time’, is a wistful goodbye to a lost opportunity but with a hope of being reunited with that loved one somewhere along the way.

The vinyl issue of the record was important to the band, all of whom are old enough to be surprised by the revival of the format. They hope the LP will encourage active listening so the music doesn’t become a mere backdrop to another activity. Trible describes the choice of Spiritmuse records as crucial, the ‘vibration’ he got from them making the label almost feel like an extension of the group itself. He also hopes what’s on the record is the tip of the iceberg as far as the band’s creative potential goes. “Maybe the music is creating its own genre?” he adds. As a group they’ve certainly raised the spiritual jazz bar a few notches higher at the very least.

James Read