Shahin Novrasli ‘Emanation’ CD/DIG (Jazz Village) 5/5

“Emanation” is essentially a trio-plus album, with pianist Shahin Novrasli at the helm, bassist James Cammack and drummer André Ceccarelli. A wonderful feature of this recording is the addition of percussionist Erekle Koiva, who’s intuitive playing really adds something special to the proceedings. Violinist Didier Lockwood also appears on two tracks. All compositions are by Novrasli, and mighty fine they are too. This album has just about everything going for it, the strength of the writing, the incredible musicianship, and the stunning way in which all of the performers work together. By taking Novrasli’s tunes, and through an apparent interconnectedness, the five musicians have created something quite beautiful with this recording.

Born in Azerbaijan, Novrasli draws both on Caucasian culture and classical European music and jazz beats to carve out his own unique brand of music. His playing is incredibly refreshing to hear. There is a true sense of joy and freedom in the way that he performs and one can’t but help marvel at and admire his virtuosity. Yet his strength is undoubtedly in his breathtaking sensitivity. Even when playing the quickest riff or solo, there is something very special in the way that the notes are played, breathtakingly eloquent.

If one was to try to compare Novrasli’s music and style, a couple of reference points would be Tigran Hamasyan and Esbjörn Svensson. With these two musicians he shares a gentle wave of exotic melodies, powerful and sharp harmonies, and a glorious, majestic grace and speed of hand. Novrasli’s music ebbs and flows like a meandering river with thoughtful, reflective ripples often building up pace until they cascade and dance with passionate fervour.

“Emanation” was recorded at Studio Sextan in France, and co-produced with Ahmad Jamal. The quality of the sound is excellent and allows the warmth, subtlety and sublime nature of the music being performed to shine through. This is not only apparent on the more sensitively played tunes, such as the title track, but also when the band throw abandon to the wind as on the scorching “Jungle”. Whether it be the click of the woody bass or the brush of a percussive instrument, the recording picks up every nuance beautifully.

Tunes like “Jungle” and “Tittle Tattle” benefit greatly from a straight-ahead jazz approach, simply brilliant in their execution. Tracks such as “Yellow Nightingale” and “Saga” are more of a journey of discovery, where the musicians share an awareness of what goes on around them, their instruments blending together East and West musical heritages in perfect harmony. And whether it be the cool vibe of “Misri Blues” or the intrigue and splendour of “Land”, there’s always something new and wonderful for the listener to discover in each and every piece of music.

This album highlights the exceptional talent of Shahin Novrasli. His art of storytelling within his compositions and improvisational playing is inspiring. “Emanation” is a stunning album that not only deserves international recognition, but also emphasises what a wealth of talent there is in this world, highlighting the pianist as an artist and composer at the top of his game.

Mike Gates