Tamil Rogeon ‘Son of Nyx’ LP/CD (Soul Bank Music) 4/5

For his first full-length album in three years, Melbourne based violist/violinist and orchestral composer Tamil Rogeon has drawn on the modal jazz tradition to produce one of the few viola-led jazz albums of our time. Taking inspiration from the cosmic energies embodied within the music of John Coltrane, Yussef Lateef and Pharoah Sanders, Rogeon has successfully incorporated the feel of these legendary musicians into his own modal adventures.

Whilst often not an instrument typically associated with jazz, violin greats such as Jean-Luc Ponty and Stephane Grappelli have gone on to become iconic figures in the jazz canon. On viola, Rogeon uses the deeper tone of his instrument to stunning effect and with the compositions and performances on this recording sounding so naturally integrated, Rogeon’s own voice shines through with refreshing originality.

“I wanted to make a modal jazz record and there just aren’t that many on viola.” says the composer. “I wanted to speak with a heavier voice, more akin to a tenor saxophone. The viola is darker and thicker. It speaks slower.” As a frontline instrument, Rogeon brings the viola to life, beautifully capturing an almost bygone sound in a modern setting. This album is clearly not just about one instrument though. Rogeon appears to have a very well thought-out vision for this album, resulting in a soulful 70’s jazz sound that reminds me of albums produced in that era by the Mizell Brothers, Donald Byrd’s “Places and Spaces” being a prime example. Lush, soulful vocals add such a cool vibe to the already mouthwatering licks that are feverishly created from a combination of synths, string instruments, bass, drums and percussion.

Carrying a cosmic freedom that was embodied in so many spiritual jazz albums of the ’60s and ’70s, “Son of Nyx” is named after the Greek God of Satire, Momus, who is twin of Oizys and son of Nyx, Goddess of the night. Rogeon’s swirling, dynamic exploration of modal jazz ranges from the delightful, easy-going chilled-out sounds of “House No Wheels”, to the deep grooves and transformative energy of “Banished” to the full-on Spiritual musical enlightenment of the astonishing “Horns No Eyes”. Six tunes in total, all of them engaging and creatively adventurous, it is for me the “Horns No Eyes” track that captures best the true spirit of the masters, encompassing everything that is so beautiful, spellbinding and uplifting with music such as this.

Mike Gates