Josephine Davies ‘Satori: How Can We Wake?’ LP/CD (Whirlwind Recordings) 5/5

‘How Can We Wake?’ is the new album from Josephine Davies and her Satori trio released through the excellent Whirlwind Recordings.

Marking the trio’s third project for Whirlwind, saxophonist Davies continues Satori’s celebration of improvisational jazz inspired by Buddhist teachings and philosophy. The Satori name itself having been derived from the Japanese Buddhist term for “awakening, comprehension, understanding” and through Davies’s musical interpretation of the Satori ideology, she seeks to continually explore her connection to the term through the full range of techniques afforded to her by her trio set-up.

Through past releases, ‘Satori’ (2017) and ‘In the Corners of Clouds’ (2018), Davies seeks to position the Satori trio’s aesthetic within a different framework for each outing. With an album recorded live in London over the course of two days, The Oxford Tavern (20th January 2020) and Total Refreshment Centre (21st January 2020), each composition explores a different Buddhist theory centred around a state of being thus encapsulating an incredible range of inspirations across the project’s ten tracks from “bliss” to “compassion” to “joy” amongst others. But there are also inspirations drawn from considerably closer to home, with the album’s title – ‘How Can We Wake?’ – having been taken from the first line of a poem written by Gwendoline Coates, Davies’s mother. Affectionately, the poem is included in full within the CD’s inlay card which makes the project all the more poignant.

Although perhaps not serving as a direct influence for Satori works, so much of Davies’s musical intentions are reminiscent of the revered multi-instrumentalist Yusef Lateef. Himself a keen improviser, his desire to continually learn and inspire helped him to introduce eastern styles into his own blend of – don’t call it jazz! – music. He, like Davies now, fully understood not just the discipline in being able to listen to the musicians around you and to respond in kind, supporting one another, but the freedom in it as well.

With Davies on tenor and soprano saxophones as well as production, the trio is comprised of the indelible talents of drummer James Maddren whose own burgeoning career has seen him grace stages with names including Kit Downes, Jacob Collier and Seamus Blake. Double-bassist Dave Whitford rounds out the trio himself with an incredible résumé including work with The Christine Tobin Band, Hans Koller Jazz Ensemble and Liam Noble Trio.

The scope of Satori’s driving force always seems to expand and become more encompassing of different techniques, ideas and inspirations throughout each album. But it isn’t through a never-ending quest for perfection – and if it is then ‘perfection’ for Satori wouldn’t be defined by traditional definitions of the term. Josephine Davies’s Satori project is becoming a joy to watch unfold through its projects over the years – it’s continued evolution has resulted in a truly immaculate project that positions itself as music of the here and the now, and an album that celebrates the “beauty of incompletion and imperfection”. In turn, Davies created something a little bit perfect in of itself.

Imran Mirza

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Josephine Davies ‘Satori’ CD (Whirlwind Recordings) 4/5