Category Archives: Album Reviews

Idris Ackamoor ☥ the Pyramids ‘Shaman!’ 2LP/CD (Strut) 5/5

The first thing that strikes me about Shaman! is that it doesn’t sound like a new record. In fact, I thought I was listening to a reissue until I read the press release from Strut. It’s like the band have distilled the sound of the early 70s and somehow captured an atmosphere and aura of that period. I’m only too keen to lap up this stuff. It’s got to be in part due to the talents of Malcolm Catto who recorded the album at Quatermass Sound Lab. By using recording and mixing equipment that was state of the art in 1974 or thereabouts he’s created an authentic sound which gives this definitely new album a continuity with spiritual jazz releases of the 70s.

Saxophonist and multi-instrumentalist Ackamoor originally founded the Pyramids at Antioch College, Ohio in the early 70s as part of Cecil Taylor’s Black Music Ensemble, a track on this release has been dedicated to Taylor. Lalibela, The Pyramids’ first album was self-released in 1973 followed by King of Kings in 1974 and Birth/ Speed/ Merging in 1976. The albums were sold in relatively small numbers at the band’s live shows. The Pyramids split in 1977.

The world had to wait almost 40 years for a rejuvenation of the band which finally came in 2015. Shaman! is the third Pyramids release on Strut following We Be Africans in 2016 and An Angel Fell from 2018. Ackamoor’s mood he says is introspective on this release, touching on “some of the issues we face as individuals in the inner space of our souls and conscience”.

The record is considerably more polished than the Pyramids 70s releases and not so far into the realms of space jazz, sounding of that era but looking back very much through a contemporary lens, presenting the past in a reimagined way. Maybe giving the Pyramids a chance to make the record they could have made had they chosen a different route on their earlier journey. The personnel for this incarnation of the band are Ackamoor (alto and tenor sax, keytar, vocals), Dr Margaux Simmons (flutes and vocals) Sandra Poindexter (violin and vocals) Bobby Cobb (guitar, mbira, effects and vocals) Ruben Ramon Ramos (acoustic and electric bass) Guile Pagliaccia (drums) Jack Yglesias (congas, percussion).

The album covers plenty of ground in its almost 89 minutes and is split into four acts. The first song ‘Shaman!’ sets off with guitar and a vocalisation reminiscent of the Blackbirds before Ackamoor comes in with his own distinct style, the thing then moves into an Afro-beat groove with a Pharoah Sanders infused sax and wonderful violin from Poindexter.

‘When will I see you again?’ asks one of the albums most memorable tunes, a list of murderous shootings, some notorious US high school incidents others terrorism-related. ‘Freak Storm comes, you better hide, you better run’ Ackamoor sings with urgency. ‘A hole opens in your heart when too soon a loved one departs’. As our minds are now preoccupied with the Covid-19 freak storm the song gains another layer of resonance.

‘Theme for Cecil’, features a heavy and funky electric bass and guitar theme and introduces some fine sax work from Ackamoor. The absence of a keyboard on the album apart from the sporadically featured keytar becomes suddenly noticeable here but perhaps Cecil Taylor, who mentored Ackamoor is represented in the rhythms of the music instead, absent but not forgotten.

‘The Last Slave Ship’ forms the first part of the final act, ‘400 years of the Clotilda’ it riffs on the theme of the final known slave ship to land its illegal human cargo at Mobile Bay, the Gulf of Mexico in 1859. The end of the final act comes with the ‘Dogon Mysteries’ it’s a take on the flavours of Mali with a fabulous Ali Farka Torré style guitar theme.

This ambitious and very listenable record comes in a sleeve adorned by the work of Japanese artist Tokio Aoyama who paints in a style akin to Mari Klarwwein’s Bitches Brew illustration. His striking imagery perfectly compliments the music of the Pyramids.

James Read

Read also:
Idris Ackamoor ☥ The Pyramids ‘An Angel Fell’ 2LP/CD (Strut) 4/5

Floating Circles Quartet ‘Humble Travelers’ CD (Self-released) 4/5

“Humble Travelers” is a bit Ronseal, in that it is an apt title. Confidently understated, I found myself thoroughly enjoying this loose, easy-going collection of simple-yet-complex tracks. Clicking the huge go button on my Pentium 486, the first title “Brockley N Peas” gave me concern. It felt like one of those jazz titles. You know the ones; “Minestrone Enigma”, “Mystery Refried Beans”, “Calamari and Catherine”. Glancing over the rest as a snippy break was honked over, I relaxed, feeling that Floating Circles were taking a more jovial angle. They’ve cast a wide net pulling in all sorts of textures and styles, resulting in something both ambient, driving, purposeful and meandering all at once.

There are constantly strong motifs and heads poking up amongst the tracks that give the listener an anchor. More akin to more modern folk-fusion-jazz like Cinematic Orchestra or Portico, but for me served a deeper experience than those two outfits. Leaning into technicality rather than trying to mask it in “atmosphere” serves Floating Circles well. The third track “Caravan Curtains” has a desert staccato guitar, metallic violin and an urgent double bass, providing all the description without being flooded with an overt field-recording sample to hammer it home. “Caravan” is one of the highlights for me, counter-pointing Arabian textures with a chamber feel. There is a deep character to it. Rather than staring at Omar Sharif emerging out of the shimmering heat with grandiose aplomb, it’s more like the human relatability of the booze at the end of Ice Cold In Alex.

Another standout is “Wading Through The Mist” that unfurls and reveals itself like a really anxious Penguin Café Orchestra track. Again, the guest violin by Johanna Burnheart is stunning. The drums open and contract the mood skilfully, while the guitar tries its best to unpick itself, and the bass hoping to hold it all together. It’s a cracking little journey that never tests my patience.

The finale of “Galactic Pedalboat Rescue Trip” is, to me, a classic travelling track. Obviously, nothing will ever usurp “Tijuana Taxi” as the Lord Regent of the descriptive travelling music, but this can be a strong contender. And it manages it without pummelling one’s ears with a car horn (admittedly). There are even strains of “Ipanema” hidden within, and that’s fine by me. I’m with them by this point, trying to hold it together after too many gawdy cocktails in the sun.

“Humble Travelers” is the right sort of not-quite-relaxed-but-still-very-relaxed tone for me. It’s not asking for too much of your attention, but if you give it you get a lot more than you think. Pitched beautifully and played with class.

Thomas Pooley-Tolkien-Sharpe

Tomoko Omura ‘Branches Vol. 1’ CD (Outside in Music) 5/5

Making her debut for Outside In Music, Japanese violinist, composer, producer and arranger Tomoko Omura presents us with six compositions on this, her fourth album as leader. And rather exciting it is too, with her band; Jeff Miles on guitar, Glenn Zaleski on piano, Pablo Menares on bass and Jay Sawyer on drums, “Branches Vol.1” achieves a wonderful balance and harmony between all of the instruments to create a highly compelling contemporary jazz album.

Omura’s compositions are inspired by Japanese folktales and popular songs and her music is refreshingly dynamic and inventive. There’s a crispness and vitality running through this album that in my listening experience is often hard to find among violin led jazz ensembles. Omura seems to have a clearly defined feel and presence to her writing and performing, suggesting a very natural understanding of her cultural and jazz traditions, which brings an intuitive warmth and freedom of expression to the music recorded here.

In 2004 Omura relocated to America to further her studies, gaining many accolades along the way. Since moving to New York in 2010, the violinist has released several albums and gained a large amount of experience performing with many well-known musicians across many different musical genres. It’s clear to me, listening to this album, that she has successfully integrated much of this experience into her music, with a masterful creativity and originality now flowing from her bow. The mind, body, heart and soul appear to be as one as she rewards the listener with an effortlessly virtuosic performance.

It’s evident from the outset that the composer has a vision for her music that encourages a collaborative approach from all of the musicians involved. Most noticeable throughout this session is the intelligent use of instrumentation, especially the partnership between the two lead string instruments, Omura’s violin and Miles’ guitar. As the opening piece, the classic 1944 “Moonlight in Vermont” unfolds, Omura pays particular attention to the lyrical structure, which interestingly follows the ancient traditional form of a Japanese haiku poem. “Three Magic Tales” combines a lovely Japanese traditional feel with modern jazz aesthetics, putting the listener somewhere in the middle of a beautiful Japanese water-garden with drifting musical notes skating the waters. The exciting “The Revenge of the Rabbit” mixes some classy, energised soloing with a rich, rhythmic eloquence. The intro to “Return to the Moon” has an incandescent beauty that flows eloquently into the main tune itself. This is a simply gorgeous piece of music, reminiscent perhaps of a Bill Frisell piece. “Konomichi” is a well-known Japanese Folk Song, originally written by Kodak’s Yomada. It sounds familiar somehow, like a long-lost memory making its way back into the present day.

“Branches Vol.1” is an excellent album that shows in many ways the skill and maturity of a wonderful writer and musician; Tomoko Omura. On this evidence, I very much look forward to hearing Vol.2.

Mike Gates

Norman Williams and The One Mind Experience ‘The Bishop’ 180g Vinyl (Pure Pleasure) 5/5

Rooted in Bebop, Norman “The Bishop” Williams’ alto is a swinging affair “in the Kansas City Charlie Parker tradition”. This debut 1976 recording with The One Mind Experience was to be the first release on the Californian Theresa label – their Pharoah Sanders’ releases being widely recognised – with some 44 years passing before lovingly remastered by Ray Staff and reissued by Pure Pleasure Records. A Theresa partnership that would have Williams working alongside Hadley Caliman, Babatunde Olatunji and Dave Liebman in 1978 on the Bay Area Music Award-winning Theresa album ‘Bishop’s Bag’, for which he is perhaps better known, before a third release, ‘One For Bird’ in 1979 with Pepper Adams.

As we approach the tenth anniversary of his passing it is with celebration that we now unwrap this, his first release, and encounter two original songs penned by the leader, four by pianist/band member Paul Arslanian and one Hal Galper composition from 1971 which opens side A. Together with Pierre Obadi Baynes on drums, Michael Formanek on Electric Bass and Allen Pittman on Flugelhorn, the sextet unleashes the full weight of their energy on the opening Galper piece ‘Figure Eight’, a non-alto sax original that excels here as Williams soars through with Paul Arslanian’s keys lifting each passage to a majestic place. A stand-out piece indeed and with only one drummer!

Arslanian’s ‘Terry’s Song’ is funkier than a Mosquito’s Tweeter and a wonderful platform for the leader to dazzle, although there is no mistaking whose song this belongs to and pains this writer to discover there are very few releases with Arslanian featured. His writing skills return with ‘Don’t Go ‘Way Mad’, a jazz samba dance-floor monster [did I say this hasn’t seen a rerelease before now?]. We then close the first side with Arslanian’s ‘Christina’, a swinging ballad propped up by Williams’ alto. Delightful.

Flipping the disc over for Arslanian’s last composition, ‘Mr. Peabody’, I’m further convincing myself this is a showcase for Paul Arslanian and question then why there wasn’t more for us to discover. This compelling piece, supported by stunning bass playing by Michael Formanek is on par with Gary Bartz NTU Troop sprinkled with the reverence bestowed on The Headhunters. It’s already a five-star album…

The final two songs are those of the leader; ‘Trane’s Paradise’ nods to the foundation for The One Mind Experience as his own progressive church, the One Mind Temple Evolutionary Body of Christ (renamed St. John Coltrane Church) highlights his devotion to Coltrane, although very much a pity Alice Coltrane herself filed a $7.5 million lawsuit against the church in 1981 for “misrepresentation” – he would go on to write songs dedicated to Lee Morgan, Eric Dolphy and Charlie Parker – before ‘Ole’ Brown’ plays the encore. Make no mistake, Williams knew how to pull a tune together, notably having worked alongside Max Roach and Phineas Newborn Jr. The experience and energy truly unfold through the entire album.

As I ponder on how familiar this album sounds, evidence of previous encounters proves embarrassing. There are no tracks featured on any compilation I own, there is no reissue by Evidence Music during their 90s take-over to be found on CD and therefore a proven example of how important this release is, in the music, the mastering and the sense that this needs to be part of our respective collections. I applaud everyone along the journey from the San Fransisco recording date in 1970 to today with even one-time band member, Eddie Henderson, stamping his approval with liner notes. Essential listening feels like an understatement.

Steve Williams

Oneness Of Juju ‘African Rhythms 1970-1982’ 3LP/2CD (Strut) 5/5

‘African Rhythms 1970-1982’ marks the new anthology compilation by Oneness of Juju – originally released in 2001 by Strut Records, the revered label have repackaged this stunning compilation to once again introduce listeners to the forward-thinking and progressive sounds of this timeless collective with a refreshed Frank Merritt / The Carvery remastering makeover.

Founded in San Francisco in 1971, and spearheaded by saxophonist, James “Plunky” Branch, the initial incarnation of the band saw them score releases on Black Fire Records and Strata-East originally under the name of Juju before evolving into Oneness of Juju, and later, Plunky & The Oneness of Juju. Already an eclectic and diverse outfit, Plunky’s affection for “African rhythms” ultimately proved to be the driving force behind the band’s concoction of R&B and funk. But it was more than just Africa’s rhythms that served as the inspiration for what Oneness of Juju were striving to achieve through their music – Plunky and the band gravitated just as much towards Africa’s essence of rebellious music; music that depicted a stance against war and a desire for independence.

While the Oneness of Juju would go on to make music spanning over three decades – leaving the door open perhaps for future volumes of this potential reissue series – ‘African Rhythms’ explores those early years of the band’s history that saw them making a name for themselves in New York before relocating to Branch’s home of Richmond, Virginia. With a compilation boasting 24 songs, including a selection of album tracks and their most notable single releases like ‘African Rhythms’ and ‘Every Way But Loose’, there are a hefty amount of treats enclosed in the form of alternate mixes and previously unreleased tracks including the eleven-minute masterpiece that is ‘Bootsie’s Lament’. And the highlights really aren’t hard to find here – the otherworldly brilliance of ‘Space Jungle Funk’ contrasts beautifully with the mellow groove of ‘West Wind’ that I could personally listen to on a loop for hours.

Strut Records have become this incredible – and pivotal – bridge when considering their ability to connect these vastly different eras of world class music to each other. This concept of understanding where the music has come from – its past, its roots, its history – and how that understanding can, while still paying homage to the past, can pave the way for the music’s future. This year alone, Strut’s release of new projects by pianist Greg Foat (‘Symphonie Pacifique’), new singles from Nubiyan Twist (check out their 2019 ‘Jungle Run’ release as well), along with original releases from ONIPA (‘We No Be Machine’) and Idris Ackamoor & The Pyramids (‘Shaman!’) are inspired and innovative projects with a vision for the genre’s future. It’s an ideology perhaps shared by James Branch, himself, all those years ago when simply percolating on the notion of what the Oneness of Juju could represent in the years going forward. While the Oneness of Juju could have been perceived to be a project ahead of its time, it’s reissues like this one that celebrates Branch’s bold approach and the awe-inspiring music that was born as a result.

“Both formats feature a 12” sized 4pp booklet featuring rare photos and a comprehensive interview with Plunky Branch within liner notes by Chris Menist.”

Imran Mirza

Meraki ‘Meraki’ CD (Ubuntu Music) 5/5

Ubuntu Music is a relatively new record label, which in its short life has already built a diverse and enviable roster of artists from widely differing creative backgrounds. The label was established by businessman Martin Hummel and renowned trumpeter Quentin Collins. During 2019 together they issued no less than 29 releases and achieved six ‘Album of the Year’ awards for artists including Leo Richardson, Dave O’Higgins and Rob Luft, Paul Booth and Collins himself. Along with these established names, the label is also home to some of the brightest of the rising stars including ‘Wandering Monster’ and ‘Bonsai Club’. I was particularly pleased to see the American pianist and long-time Kurt Elling collaborator Laurence Hobgood has a home with the label.

It was therefore exciting to hear that the debut release from ‘Meraki’ was slated for release in 2020. ‘Meraki’ is a trio comprising Jacky Naylor on piano, Nick Jurd on bass and Jonathan Silk behind the drums. The trio have strong connections with Birmingham; Naylor is a graduate of the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire and is equally adept at big band work as he is trio work having been awarded the Dankworth Prize for Jazz Composition in the big band category. “He has a wonderful way of combining tradition with innovation……. and groove with lyricism.” Nick Jurd also has strong links with Birmingham and has shared the stand with Silk in the latter’s big band. Silk has worked with the likes of composers Vince Mendoza and Maria Schneider.

So, to the music, as the trio expertly “travel through the various moods, emotions and complexities of Naylor’s original contemporary music.” ‘Meraki’ is a word which describes what happens when you leave a piece of yourself (your soul, creativity, or love) in your work. The members of this trio have done just that. The shadow of the European stylists looms large and I’m reminded particularly of the work of EST. The music really does share some of the excitement of that much-missed group. There are also similarities with other Scandinavian piano trios. ‘43’ is a restless piece, pulsing and changing pace. The first ’Interlude’ is contemplative with wonderful washes of percussion and is all too brief and unresolved. ’Two Sides of the Same Coin’ is a lovely melodic piece, which like other pieces on the album will long remain in the listener’s memory. It includes a fine bass feature for good measure. Indeed, the keynote of this album is melodic accessibility. In contrast, ‘Sherpa’ is more insistent and isn’t afraid to swing. The influence of EST is evident again on ‘Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’. ‘Simple Things’ makes for a fine closing piece with crisp percussion work and more fine bass playing.

This is an album that reveals its pleasures slowly but will certainly repay repeated listening. I’m already looking forward to their next album.

Alan Musson

Allison Neale ‘Quietly There’ CD (Ubuntu Music) 4/5

In an era where jazz that doesn’t necessarily ‘push the boundaries’ is sometimes easily overlooked, it’s strangely refreshing to listen to an ‘old-school’ jazz record that’s straight-ahead, no-nonsense, and performed with such an understated skill. The aptly titled “Quietly There”, the latest release from Seattle born saxophonist Allison Neale, evokes the spirit of Paul Desmond, Art Pepper and Stan Getz, effortlessly capturing the feel and vibe of a bygone era.

This is Neale’s fifth album and features the renowned NYC guitarist Peter Bernstein, along with bassist Dave Green and drummer Steve Brown. Taking its title from a song by the late Johnny Mandel, “Quietly There” also features rarely performed tunes from The Great American Songbook and compositions by guitarist Jimmy Raney and pianist Horace Silver.

Despite the fact that this quartet are drawing largely on older material, it is pleasingly apparent that they appear to have forged an extremely warm and likeable identity of their own. There’s a lovely, natural feel to this recording that I like very much. Especially noticeable is the connection between Neale and guitarist Bernstein. Their intuitive musical relationship is clear for all to hear, with guitar and sax complementing one another with a charming grace and fluency.

Highlights include the infectious “Darn That Dream”, an extremely catchy “Split Kick”, the delightfully soft and engaging ballad “I’m Glad There Is You”, the classy and cool “Spring Is Here”, and the gorgeous “I Should Care”. Whilst the music throughout this album is quietly understated, one can still fully appreciate the skill of the soloing and the wonderful group interaction. There’s a clarity to the whole session that makes for easy, comforting listening.

Mike Gates

Bright Dog Red ‘Somethin’ Comes Along’ CD (Ropeadope) 5/5

‘Somethin’ Comes Along’ is the new double-disc album from the improv jazz outfit, Bright Dog Red, who can now boast their third album as part of Ropeadope Records.

Founded by drummer, Joe Pignato – a one-time student of the revered multi-instrumentalist, Yusef Lateef, and now a State University Professor in his own right – the Albany, New York, collective comprises of students who participated in extensive Pignato-led jam sessions over the years. A custom bestowed upon Pignato from those days under the tutelage of Lateef who was a renowned music improviser and was always committed to “changing the colours of the musical canvas”, as he once said. And that’s very much proved to be something of a mantra when it comes to the music of Bright Dog Red.

With their debut album, ‘Means To the Ends’ (Ropeadope Records, 2018), serving as a fascinating introduction to the band’s incomparable concoction of improvised jazz boldly mixed with elements of hip-hop and electronica, their follow-up record, ‘How’s By You?’, would come as soon as the following year. While Bright Dog Red’s debut masterfully dabbled within these different genres and styles, ‘How’s By You?’ incredibly seemed to plunge the band deeper within its own creation of psychedelic electronica but still managed to see them soar under these even more extreme conditions.

‘Somethin’ Comes Along’ sees Bright Dog Red revisit the rulebook once again for a two-disc album showcasing some stunning compositions brought to life by a line-up comprising of Pignato on drums, saxophonists Mike LaBombard and Eric Person, guitarist Tyreek Jackson, bassist Anthony Berman, rapper Matt Coonan and Cody Davies responsible for the electronic wizardry. With strong standouts on each of the two discs – ‘Somethin’ (disc #1) and ‘Something Else’ (disc #2) – the music runs a joyous gamut of music now synonymous with the BDR brand. While songs like the album’s title track ‘Somethin’ Comes Along’ and ‘Colors’ capture the band’s fervent energy, numbers like ‘Soft Hand’ showcase their ability within a more traditional New York, noir jazz aesthetic which, paired with Coonan’s freestyled verses, places you on those late night New York streets.

To outline the details and intricacies of Bright Dog Red’s music is a little like spoiling the ending of a great book. It’s best appreciated by listeners who like to have their conceptions of contemporary jazz challenged and who are willing to put those headphones on and bravely head off on that unrivalled adventure.

In 2019, Ropeadope Records boss, Louis Marks, sent out a tweet stating “When I was a kid and wanted to explore jazz I knew if I picked up a record with the Blue Note label it would be good. After 13 years at Ropeadope, I can safely say the same is true for this brand.” And he’s absolutely right. This year alone has seen some fantastic Ropeadope releases from N’Sawa-Saraca (‘Another Town’), Spirit Fingers (‘Peace’), Lakecia Benjamin (‘Pursuance: The Coltranes’) and the upcoming album from Christian Scott (‘AXIOM’). The continual efforts of Bright Dog Red, however, continue to challenge and inspire and are indicative of Marks’ vision for Ropeadope’s future.

Imran Mirza

Antti Lötjönen Quintet East / Aleksi Heinola Quintet / Oaagaada ‘Lonna 2019’ LP/CD (We Jazz) 3/5

Here we have the third in a series of live albums from Helsinki based label We Jazz. Each release showcases three of the label’s artists, this one with live performances captured at the island of Lonna, just outside Helsinki in July 2019.

As is becoming apparent with these releases, the label isn’t afraid to mix things up to keep the feel fresh and vibrant. Featured on this recording are performances by Aleksi Heinola Quintet, Antti Lötjönen Quintet East and Oaagaada.

Each act brings with them their own style and vibe and generally speaking there’s some interesting and engaging music to be enjoyed here. Drummer Heinola’s quintet and the Hämeenlinna-based quartet Oaagaada make their We Jazz Records debut here, while Lötjönen adds to this year’s debut release as leader for the label.

Aleksi Heinola Quintet swings freely with their natural ability of making no-nonsense hard bop sound fresh in a contemporary setting. The quintet’s music wouldn’t be out of place on a long-lost Blue Note album, with its sax and trumpet front-line working very well together and producing some nice solos. The vibe is cool, the mood relaxed, and the atmosphere engaging. Antti Lötjönen leads his star-studded Quintet East through a spirited rendition of Don Cherry’s “Art Deco”. In keeping with Cherry’s music, the band give a compelling performance, taking the ebb and flow of this piece in their stride. Oaagaada sit centrally in the ‘spiritual jazz’ camp. Whilst their first tune works effortlessly around a drone-like meditative sound, gradually building on a single theme, their second tune is much freer in nature, with some daring blowing from the horns bordering on the avant-garde.

“Lonna 2019” is my favourite release in this series so far. It’s an engaging mix of good old-fashioned no-nonsense jazz, with a liberally sprinkled dose of spiritual improv.

Mike Gates

Zen Zadravec ‘Human Revolution’ CD (Marmite) 5/5

Occasionally an album comes along that sums up what is great about jazz and simply sparkles with a zest for life. Pianist Zen Zadravec’s “Human Revolution” is one such album. Born in Canada, the 46-year-old jazz pianist, saxophonist and composer is something of a musical chameleon. Whether it’s jazz, R&B, funk, rock or pop, he plays each with a freshness and verve not often heard in any of these genres. His goal is to create music based on human experience, absorbing as much music as possible to develop through the lens of Humanism based on the philosophies of Buddhism. Ultimately, with this release, Zadravec has succeeded in making music that inspires, encourages and touches the heart, taking the listener with him on an extremely rewarding journey.

Contributing alongside the pianist for this session are Todd Bashore on alto and soprano saxes, Derrick Gardner on trumpet, Kenny Davis on bass and Mark Whitfield Jr. on drums. There are also guest appearances from John Douglas (trumpet), Mike Pope (bass) and Dylan Bell (vocals). The quality of the musicianship throughout the entire recording is stunning. With Zadravec at the helm, the band shine a brilliant light on everything that’s so enjoyable about this album, its compositions and the performances given by everyone involved.

Eight tunes, mostly originals, grace this wonderful album. Inspired by the music of Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock and Joe Henderson, “The Nature Of All Things” features some inspired soloing throughout, swinging fiercely with post-bop and Latin influences. “Mentor Disciple” is hard-hitting and benefits from a luxurious intensity as it glides and cascades with a beautiful freedom of collaborative spirit. The gorgeous “Jamiliah”, representing a husband’s love for his wife and best friend, along with the punchy and vibrant “Live!”, both feature the wonderful jazz vocals of Dylan Bell, adding glorious depth and lyricism to these two compositions. The undeniable awesomeness of “Climb” features incredible solos from trumpeter Gardner and saxophonist Bashore. This is such a strong piece of writing from Zadravec, and the two horn players really do it justice, enhancing the piece with their spellbinding contributions. The more introspective “Lilies and Roses” delves into another side of the composer’s influences; Kenny Kirkland. The title track “Human Revolution” is a brilliant composition, taking chances melodically, harmonically and rhythmically to produce a gem of a song. It flies with a surging magnificence, much like a person feeling the rewards of growing on a personal level. Mal Waldren’s “Soul Eyes” illustrates the influence of Kenny Barron’s musical mentorship, showcasing once again performances from Bashore and Gardner, along with the pianist himself. One very minor point, in the scheme of things barely worth mentioning, is that on this particular tune, I do wish someone would remind the saxophonist that sometimes less is more… but given his phenomenal performances throughout the rest of the album, all can be forgiven!

Great jazz can sound simple. Great jazz can sound complex. But sometimes you just don’t need to delve too much into the whys and wherefores, you just need to enjoy the ride. And that’s how I feel about this album. You can sit back, turn the volume up, and be blown away by what you’re listening to. The music is emotive, powerful and highly entertaining. Sometimes that’s everything you could want for, and all that you need.

Mike Gates