Espen Eriksen Trio ‘End of Summer’ LP/CD (Rune Grammofon) 4/5

Last year, way before any kind of pandemic and the subsequent lockdown was even on the horizon, I travelled to Leeds Jazz Festival to see the Espen Eriksen Trio perform with saxophonist Andy Sheppard. The concert followed the release of their excellent Rune Grammofon collaboration “Perfectly Unhappy”, and I still remember the gig very fondly. The album itself was wonderful, yet seeing and hearing it in a live setting was even better. Eriksen has a wonderful charisma on stage… with good humour and banter exchanged between him and Sheppard. It serves as yet another reminder of what we’re missing in life at the moment. “End of Summer” was recorded in Oslo this April during the lockdown. After getting all their concerts cancelled due to the pandemic, the pianist says it was very inspiring to still be able to meet in a recording studio to make new music and keep it all alive. This is their first recording solely as a trio for five years.

As always with Eriksen’s music, the tunes on End of Summer are beautifully balanced, with a sparse, Nordic lyrical quality shining through. Delicate folk tunes blend seamlessly with sensitive jazz melodies to create an unhurried, charming and captivating album. The trio combines in an almost hypnotic way, obviously benefiting from their ten years together on the road and in the studio. One might describe the trio’s music as somewhere between the “less-is-more” atmosphere of a Tord Gustavsen album, and the deeper, more adventurous music of Bobo Stenson. The reflective nature of the music will spark such comparisons, yet there is an originality and an honesty to Eriksen’s writing that makes it a fully immersive listening experience.

The album opens with “Where the river runs”, reminiscent perhaps of a latter-day Nordic Jan Garbarek piece. Beautifully written, its poise and melodic openness allow us to drift downwind with the river, taking in the luscious surroundings along the way. The natural flow continues with the lyrical “Back to base”, its Keith Jarrett European Quartet influences sparkling like a sun rising above the rippling waters of a gently flowing river. “Dancing Demons” lets out an omnipresent energy that emanates from the trio’s intuitive playing. The title track has more of a Latin feel to it, with Eriksen’s melancholic, suspenseful touch taking the listener to a long-forgotten sunset bathed in its own reflection. The yearningly gorgeous “Transparent Darkness” sounds like a piece you might have heard somewhere before… a distant memory revisiting the mind. “A long way from home” could be an anthem for our troubled times, and the aptly titled “Reminiscence” closes the album with an emotion that conveys a certain sadness, yet with an uplifting hope that prevails.

“End of Summer” is another lovely, heart-warming album from Eriksen’s trio. Thoughtful and contemplative, laced with melodic adventure and lyrical subtlety, it’s definitely one of those albums to just sit back and drift away to wherever the music takes you.

Mike Gates

Read also:
Espen Eriksen Trio with Andy Sheppard ‘Perfectly Unhappy’ LP/CD (Rune Grammofon) 4/5

Rob Mazurek / Exploding Star Orchestra ‘Dimensional Stardust’ LP/CD (International Anthem / Nonesuch) 5/5

‘Dimensional Stardust’ is the brand new release from the ever prolific Rob Mazurek and his Exploding Star Orchestra released jointly through Chicago’s International Anthem Recordings label and Nonesuch records.

With Mazurek’s ‘Alternate Moon Cycles’ boasting the distinction of being the very first release from International Anthem, it’s truly incredible how far the label has come since 2014 with stunning releases from some of contemporary jazz’s finest including albums by Makaya McCraven, Angel Bat Dawid, Junius Paul, Carlos Niño and so many others. But while ‘Alternate Moon Cycles’ launched the Chicago label, Mazurek’s trio project – partnering him with Matt Lux on bass and Mikel Patrick Avery on the organ – was already one amongst a long line of Rob Mazurek projects which have seen him helm an incredibly diverse array of ensembles and collectives.

With consistently varying tags ranging from piccolo trumpet player, producer, composer, multi-instrumentalist, Mazurek’s work ranges from the revered Chicago Underground project, Isotope 217, Alien Flower Sutra, Pharoah and the Underground, São Paulo Underground… and then there are the solo projects which plunged Mazurek’s style deep into the realms of electronica like ‘Desert Encrypts, Vol. 1’ and ‘Psychotropic Electric Eel Dreams IV’ (both releases through Astral Spirits, 2019), and ‘Vortice of the Faun’ (2015).

Initially having started life as far back as 2005, the Exploding Star Orchestra was created by Mazurek to demonstrate the diversity of Chicago’s emerging and innovative talent within contemporary jazz. What was, at that time, a fourteen-piece collective saw its evolutions over the years – including a Berlin-based rendition in 2018 – but the line-up amassed for this 2020 project is beyond thrilling as it once again is indicative of a fantastic array of contemporary talent many of which serving as long-time Mazurek collaborators, many of which waving that Chicago flag and many of which standout superstars amongst International Anthem’s own roster. Guitarist Jeff Parker, trumpeter Jaimie Branch, vibraphonist Joel Ross, vocalist Damon Locks, cellist Tomeka Reid serving as just some of the awesome talent assembled throughout the album.

While we’ve mentioned Mazurek’s propensity for creating music within disparate realms from jazz to electronica, the joy within ‘Dimensional Stardust’ is its just-the-right measures of each style which really come together to create something incredibly special. While songs like ‘Sun Core Tet’, ‘Galaxy 1000’ and ‘The Careening Prism Within’ celebrate these otherworldly excursions, strings by Tomeka Reid (cello) and Macie Stewart (violins) alongside Joel Ross’s vibraphone really add some beautiful depth and warm textures to songs like ‘Parable of Inclusion’ which almost ground the album at times, again, striking that perfect balance.

While Mazurek’s Exploding Star Orchestra will surely undergo further evolutions during its life span, I imagine both he and listeners will certainly look back at ‘Dimensional Stardust’ as just a wonderful and inspired incarnation of the project.

Imran Mirza

Ganesh Geymeier ‘Kailasha’ CD (QFTF) 5/5

We all have to meet expectations. For some of us, it is easier to deal with this, for others, they struggle. But we all reach a point where we ask ourselves: What expectations should we meet? What to thrive for and who to ignore. What is true in life is true in art.

As a musician, composer and human, Ganesh Geymeier for sure had many things expected from him. By others and by himself. His second album arises with him becoming a father. A time of change, struggle, expectations and hope. ‘Kalisasha’ is a very personal piece of music. Geymeier dedicates songs to his family, which is obviously personal. But far more intimate is his connection to Kailasha, a mountain in the far Himalayas. Kailasha carries deep religious and spiritual meaning in both Hinduism and Buddhism. The mountain holds tales and myths. Geymeier’s compositions and sound draw from that spirit. All songs are rich in storytelling and colour. Dramatic and demanding. Impactful and deep. The ensemble consists of a rhythm section, Geymeier on tenor saxophone and strings.

Geymeier avoids all cliches. No dull or cheesy string arrangements. He also keeps a content musical-intention during this concert recording – which might be the only thing to nit-pick. This lovely designed and recorded Vinyl at times lacks unpredictability. And here is the twist. What would you expect a jazz critic to write?
That! Criticising style, rather than intention. Talking about sound and not about music… ‘Kailasha’ is a cinematic escape, alive in a timeless moment. Set in motion through a deep and personal approach to music. Listen to this and ask yourself: What did you expect? What do you expect?

SG

Read also:
Bänz Oester and The Rainmakers ‘Ukuzinikela [Live in Willisau]’ (Enja Yellowbird) 5/5

Rob Barron ‘From This Moment On’ CD (Ubuntu Music) 5/5

The late broadcaster David Jacobs characterised his daily lunchtime programme on BBC Radio 2 as presenting “our kind of music”, in his case much of it consisted of popular tunes from musical theatre.

This tagline could equally be applied to the music produced by the enterprising Ubuntu Music label. Here, yet again, they have produced more of “our kind of music”. The label has quickly become synonymous with all that is good in jazz. I, for one, always look forward to each new release and this is no exception.

Rob Barron may not yet be a ‘household name’ in the jazz world but his star is certainly in the ascendant. This is his second album as a leader, although he is no stranger to the recording studio having featured on albums by Jamie Cullum, Alexander Stewart, Joe Stilgoe, Paloma Faith and the Skelton Skinner All-Stars, to name a few. In fact, his discography extends to no fewer than forty-two releases. In a live context, I was particularly pleased to see him featured in the debut performance by the Simon Spillett Big Band in February.

Barron’s first album under his own name was with a quartet featuring Colin Oxley on guitar. The repertoire consisted of swinging mainstream interpretations of songs taken from what is commonly referred to as the Great American Songbook together with some well-chosen jazz classics. The formula proved to be successful and is replicated here with Jeremy Brown on bass and Josh Morrison at the drums, returning from the prior album. The rapport between the trio members is immediately evident and is another reason why the whole performance is so enjoyable.

Everything about this album is almost perfect. From the enticing artwork displayed on the album cover to the quality of the sound recording. the choice of music and the performances. The repertoire consists mainly of familiar ‘standards’ including ‘Loverman’ , ‘My Foolish Heart’ and ‘As Time Goes By’. For me, it’s always a joy to hear ‘Pure Imagination’ from the film ‘Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory’. Yes, these are almost all routine pieces. but it is the quality of the playing and the unhackneyed arrangements that tell you that you are hearing something different. Alongside the tried and tested material there are a couple of pieces from the leader’s pen, both of which stand up well in such august musical company – elegant and sophisticated.

Any piano trio recording will almost certainly draw a comparison with that of the great Bill Evans and Evans’ shadow looms large. But there are other influences at play too – Sonny Clark and Wynton Kelly, perhaps. For me, I’m reminded of another wonderful British pianist; David Newton. One thing that both Barron and Newton have in common is their fabulous facility when accompanying vocalists and I wouldn’t mind betting that Barron knows the lyrics of each of the songs that he plays. It certainly shows in his playing.

This is certainly an album to accompany you during the long winter nights to come. Buy it now, whilst stocks last.

Alan Musson

Lyman Woodard Organization ‘Don’t Stop The Groove’ 180g Vinyl (Pure Pleasure) 3/5

Pure Pleasure Records are happy to release this classic live recording of the Lyman Woodard Organization featuring the highly acclaimed trumpeter Marcus Belgrave. Recorded in 1979, ‘Don’t Stop the Groove’ features five tracks. The music epitomises the depth and soul that has long been associated with the Motor City sound with an infectious blend of disco, soul and contemporary jazz all uniquely wrapped up with an inclusive feel and warmth towards the audience on the night.

The album was performed at the popular Detroit jazz venue Cobbs Corner and recorded on Corridor Records; a label set up by both Lyman Woodard and Marcus Belgrave and named after the Detroit neighbourhood Cass Corridor. As well as Marcus Belgrave, Lyman Woodard’s Organisation also features the esteemed saxophonist Alan Barnes who was the founding member of the legendary Blackbyrds group. He most recently featured on Carl Craig’s excellent Detroit Project album back in 2002; a project which pulled together some of the best musicians, past and present, with highlights including the re-interpretation of Donald Byrd’s classic ‘Think Twice’ recording.

Percussionist and vocalist Lorenzo Brown was an integral part of the definitive Bohannon sound throughout the ’70s and his energy and style adds a real spirit to the proceedings. During the 1970s he featured on some memorable soul and jazz albums, including those by The Dramatics, The Detroit Emeralds and Wendell Harrison. More recently he was featured on Amp Fiddlers ‘Waltz of a Ghetto Fly’ album.

The album opens with an introduction of the band before the title track warms up the crowd with a mid-tempo catchy groove reminiscent of the familiar timeless Roy Ayers’ sound. There’s a slight similarity in Lyman’s Hammond B3 style to that of Brian Auger, which emanates throughout the album adding a strong rhythm and blues feel to the track. Guitarist Robert Lowe wrote the song and he also adds some sparse and punchy vocals to the track.

The psychedelic funk groove of ‘Disco Tease’ and ‘Theme in Search Of a Sportspectacular’ are both lively uptempo grooves showcasing the band’s dynamic side, and the latter is a real highlight from the album with drummer Leonard King and percussionist Lorenzo Brown setting the tone for Marcus Belgrave, who leads the way throughout the track with some sparked solos which received warm feedback from the audience on this live recording.

‘Down Lowe’ is a solid midtempo funk strutting groove with a heavy bassline that could easily slot onto some of the quintessential Daptone releases of more recent times. It’s easy to imagine the whole place hooked and reeled onto any dance space with this memorable effervescent number.

The last track on the album is a downtempo reflective piece featuring Kerry Campbell’s soprano saxophone. Check out his track ‘Underground Express’ from his only album release in 1988 titled ‘Phoenix Rising’. The track featured on the BGP compilation ‘Jazz Today volume 1’ back in 1989 alongside tracks by Hank Crawford, Sonny Rollins and others.

In 1975 Lyman Woodard recorded the seminal ‘Saturday Night Special’ album on the independent Detroit based label Strata that was formed by Kenny Cox in the late 1960s. The album was then reissued by both Wax Poetics in 2009 and BBE Music in 2017 and it’s an out and out classic. The live recording of ‘Don’t Stop The Groove’ was recorded five years later and whilst it may not have the same level of appeal as ‘Saturday Night Special’, it’s a strong album and a welcome release.

Mark Jones

Nimbus Sextet ‘Dreams Fulfilled’ LP/CD (Acid Jazz) 4/5

‘Dreams Fulfilled’ marks the debut album from the Glasgow-based collective, Nimbus Sextet, released through Acid Jazz Records. With UK jazz seeing many of its artists continue to ascend to increasing heights of success, including the continued prominence of names including saxophonist Nubya Garcia (currently celebrating the success of her debut solo album released through Concord Jazz), pianist Joe Armon-Jones, drummer Moses Boyd, bassist Daniel Casimir… Nimbus Sextet’s ‘Dreams Fulfilled’ presents their vision of contemporary jazz as a project warranting a seat at the table.

Comprised of musicians including band leader Joe Nichols on piano and keyboards, Alex Palmer on drums, Mischa Stevens on bass guitar, Euan Allardice on trumpet, Martin Fell on saxophone and Luca Pisanu of guitar, Nimbus Sextet are comparatively an incredibly young band, only really becoming fully formed in 2018. And in stark contrast to the last album that was released through Acid Jazz this year – the trippy, psychedelic funk of Lightning Orchestra’s ‘Source and Deliver’ – Nimbus Sextet’s brand of engaging and accessible jazz is a real win for the label.

The album opener of ‘Trap Door’ is perfect – buoyant, playful, explosive at times and a great introduction to so many of the varying influences that lay ahead on ‘Dreams Fulfilled’. Of the six tracks present on the album, many of them take this spirited approach throughout as the musicians are wisely afforded ample time in which to explore their own compositions with each member securing notable solo slots and tracks wholeheartedly benefitting from being given the room to find its true self. Another of the album’s singles, ‘Lily White’, benefits greatly from the inclusion of another Glasgow-based artist (and Todd Terry and Union of Knives collaborator), vocalist Anthony “Ant” Thomaz whose soul-drenched vocal adds a genuine level of authenticity to ‘Lily White’s intended muse (“I just want to see you smile”).

And then there’s ‘Klara’ – an exquisite, reflective number that really showcases Nichols’s piano as a focal point and frankly is a difficult track to move on from: at times it can masterfully walk that fine line between being a song languishing in melancholy or basking in a joyous state.

Although ‘Dreams Fulfilled’ serves as the group’s debut album, there really is quite an exciting amount of Nimbus Sextet music to get to grips with outside of that – dating back to 2018 and the single release of ‘Seance’, which does find a home of the album (albeit through a shorter version of the original single), there is the near eleven minute b-side entitled ‘Arabesco’ awaiting your attention along with the 12″ Nuovi Fratelli Extended Remixes of ‘Trap Door’ and ‘Lily White’ available through separate releases as well. The revered compositions of Matthew Herbert are even enlisted for an eight-plus minute “Dub” version of ‘Lily White’ which provides a thrilling reinterpretation of one of the album’s highlights.

With a steady slew of singles and remixes already on offer, there’s the hope that Nimbus Sextet won’t leave it too long before following up on this excellent album. Either way though, a seat at the table certainly awaits.

Imran Mirza

Jon Armstrong ‘Reabsorb’ LP/CD (Orenda) 4/5

Bandleader and composer Jon Armstrong’s third album, Reabsorb, is a timely ‘meditation on our mortality’ exploring humanity’s relationship with our own mortality. The record comprises two contrasting suites of music performed by Armstrong’s sextet. Created with vinyl LP listening in mind each track spans a side of the record, the natural break enhancing the experience by drawing our attention to the contrasting nature of each piece of music. Armstrong describes it as ‘a journey from raging against the inevitable, to acceptance, towards transcendence, and the reabsorption of our spirit back into the universal consciousness of all life’. Nobody could accuse Armstrong of lacking ambition for the project which follows his well-received but somewhat ironically titled debut album Farewell from 2013 and his 2016 release Burnt Hibiscus which combined Hindustani music with poetry.

‘Hit It As Loud As Possible’, the first track does feel like a journey or a dreamlike film score to an imagined movie. It’s a multi-layered piece broken into two separately titled sections, ‘best case scenario’ and ‘they’ll mention the quiet when I’m gone’, the music is continuous and it’s up to the listener to decide where the shift is taking place. It explores a colourful sound palette by emphasizing some pretty dramatic dynamic shifts. The piece sets out with Benjamin Shepherd’s funky bass abstractions before the warm tone of Armstrong’s sax breaks away from the brass section for a very free passage showcasing the capabilities of the sextet. The brass structure just holds it together nicely keeping this listener fully engaged.

Armstrong describes his compositional technique as one where he sketches ideas out on an MPC 2000 sampler to get a sense of what might work. He wants the musicians to be ‘free to explore and take chances’. Armstrong says jazz is simply an approach to music rather than a genre which has a predetermined sound. He sees it as a way to expand the music on offer. Capturing the live sound of the band is important and they are recorded with a minimal setup. Another insight into his approach which I listened to is called ‘Cochlear Implant’, a track available on Armstrong’s website. It’s an atmospheric fusion of chamber music and ambient serial music with an uncanny living, breathing sense of being about it. Threads of this soundtrack-like music can be heard as an undercurrent on the new album.

Flipping it over now to take in ‘Loop Of Light’ which is also comprised of several passages, ‘released’, ‘light moves inside a green leaf’, ‘now I’m absorbed by green’, and ‘bouncing the loop of light’, the titles inspired by his wife Erin Armstrong’s poetry. This one builds incrementally, beginning with a passage that also has the distinctive rhythm of human breath about it. Each of the musicians come in with a satisfying precision followed by an ethereal sounding brass arrangement, I think this must be the transcendence that Armstrong was aiming for, it’s led by trombonist Ryan Dragon. The piece gradually returns to the initial setting and the loop of light is completed. At fourteen minutes it seems like a fleeting moment but that doesn’t matter because I’m going to play it again.

James Read

Emma-Jean Thackray ‘UM YANG 음 양’ 12″ Vinyl (Night Dreamer) 5/5

A Night Dreamer release is always an exciting prospect and this EP from London-based trumpeter, Emma-Jean Thackray, is no exception. As with the other records, it is a single-take live performances recorded with vintage equipment at Artone Studio in the Netherlands and cut straight to acetate. Keeping in the spirit of this concept, the septet, who also feature saxophonist Soweto Kinch, Lyle Barton on Fender Rhodes, bottom end from Ben Kelly on sousaphone, percussionists Dwayne Kilvington (aka Wonky Logic from Steam Down), Crispin Robinson (Congas) and Dougal Taylor on drums, exclusively use analogue instruments.

Thackray has reined in some of the electronic styles apparent on her other releases and has delivered two pieces of music that are dedicated to Taoist philosophy. Side A, “Um음” starts slowly with percussion and twinkling Rhodes as the horns lazily and intermittently form the three note motif. There’s more than a hint of influence from the fusion experiments of late 60s/early 70s Miles here. Cowbell and conga propels the track forward as trumpet and saxophone harmonise. Thackray’s chant is initially quiet but is increasingly assertive and culminates with the repeated phrase “All must balance”. It fades out with some exhilarating free form fieriness.

Side B, the other side, is “Yang양”. As “Um음” builds from quiet to loud, the lighter and groovier “Yang양” is a fiery start that calms. The sousaphone has quite a soft timbre which reminds me of bass doubled up with Hancockian left hand synth and its circular repetitive line builds the platform as Kinch’s leads with some robust but sensitive sax.

UM YANG음양 has clear fusion and free influences which are probably enhanced by the studio environment but there’s a modern sense of efficiency and coherence in the composition. The performance is exciting and energetic but there’s also warmth and beauty. A success and one of my favourites of the year.

Kevin Ward

Live shows:
Nov 18 Headrow House, Leeds, UK
Nov 19 Hare and Hounds, Birmingham, UK
Nov 20 Band On The Wall, Manchester, UK

Keith Jarrett ‘Budapest Concert’ 2LP/2CD (ECM) 5/5

Keith Jarrett’s European tour of 2016 seems to have been something of an Indian Summer for the great pianist/composer/improviser. ECM released “Munich 2016” earlier this year, a sparkling, life-affirming solo performance that ranks highly in a long line of live solo concerts that date back to the early 70’s. Budapest Concert, recorded at the Bela Bartok National Concert Hall, was recorded two weeks prior to Munich and is therefore the second complete show to be released from his 2016 tour. Jarrett’s family roots reach back to Hungary which would explain why he describes this concert as something of a homecoming – also with regard to his lifelong affection for Bartok, and how these factors inspired much creative improvisation.

I find it incredible that after all these years, and having listened to and enjoyed so many live recordings, that I can listen to a new release by the pianist and still be overcome with amazement. Budapest Concert is as inspirational as any of his solo outings, still sounding as fresh and spontaneous as if I had just been introduced to his music for the first time. There’s an energy, a power, a life-force that emanates out from the music itself, at times intensely beautiful, at times insanely dramatic, but always completely and genuinely incomparable.

As with Munich 2016, Budapest is split into parts, twelve in this case, plus the encores. Generally speaking, the first half sees Jarrett in deeper, free-flowing, experimental territory, while the second half and encores find the pianist in a more reflective, lyrical, accessible mood. The music twists and turns in astounding and incomprehensible ways, taking in styles and genres that typically cover a wide-ranging, far-reaching spectrum. But as ever, whatever road Jarrett takes us down, it is uniquely him, and unequivocally, compellingly mesmerising.

One might describe Part 1 as a no-holds-barred lengthy improvisation, with Jarrett seemingly flirting with almost incomprehensible ideas that skate on ice then plummet the depths, swimming with sharks and barely rising to the surface for breath. Part 2 is like watching the gentle ripples of the water whilst knowing there’s a darkness that lurks underneath, before revealing itself on part 3. Jarrett really gets into a groove on part 4, imaginatively leading us into the almost unexpected eloquence of part 5. As the bluesy shackles of part 6 are shaken off, the impressionistic romanticism of part 7 is beautifully soft and sweet, leading us into the incandescent elegance of part 8. The short, darting, slightly incongruous part 9 paves the way for the darker paths of part 10, with a reverential reflection at the heart of part 11. And why not round it all off with bit of boogie-woogie… yes that’d be part 12. As has become the norm with Jarrett’s encores, they are stunning, and the two tunes performed here, “It’s a lonesome old town” and “Answer me” are no exception.

Jarrett has lived an unprecedented musical journey and it is with great sadness that I have read recent news articles reporting that he has suffered two strokes over the last couple of years, leaving him unable to play piano with his left hand now. We can only send loving thoughts and hope that he remains positive, recovers as well as can be possible, and finds health and happiness in body and mind in the years ahead.

Mike Gates

Read also:
Keith Jarrett ‘Munich 2016’ 2LP/2CD (ECM) 5/5
Birthday profile: KEITH JARRETT AT 70 (including 10 Best Album Picks)
Keith Jarrett ‘A Multitude of Angels’ 4CD (ECM) 4/5
Keith Jarrett ‘Creation’ CD (ECM) 4/5
Keith Jarrett and Charlie Haden ‘Last Dance’ CD/2LP (ECM) 5/5
Keith Jarrett and Michelle Makarski ‘J.S. Bach Six sonatas for piano and violin’ 2CD (ECM) 4/5
Keith Jarrett Trio ‘Somewhere’ CD (ECM) 5/5
Keith Jarrett ‘Sleeper’ 2CD (ECM) 4/5
Keith Jarrett ‘No End’ 2CD (ECM) 4/5

Aquiles Navarro / Tcheser Holmes ‘Heritage of the Invisible II’ LP/CD (International Anthem) 4/5

Aquiles Navarro (trumpet) and Tcheser Holmes (percussion) are two parts of the much-acclaimed, rightly righteous, free jazz collective Irreversible Entanglements, with whom they released the excellent “Who Sent You?” album in March of this year. If you’ve not heard it yet, you should – especially the last track, “Bread out of Stone”. Yeasty.

Navarro and Holmes were irreversibly entangled long before the collective though; they’ve been playing together since meeting as students at Boston’s New England Conservatory. Navarro, a Canadian Panamanian who came from Latin folk music via the tutelage of Victor “Vitin” Paz and Carlos Garnett and Holmes who bloomed out of Brooklyn’s tight, creative Pan-African community swiftly became brothers in musical arms. And it’s Brooklyn, at S1 Studios to be exact, where “Heritage of the Invisible II” started taking shape, resulting in 10 tracks where the duo expanded by adding layered samples; some Juno 106 and Moog Grandmother wizzery; contributions from vocalist, poet and instrumentalist friends; plus field recordings of NAVARROHOLMES dialogue.

Opener “Initial Meditation” immediately goes at it. Hard. And tense. It is a false trade description, nothing meditative about it. Not initially, middley or finally. It’s a metallic, sinusoidal, helicopter-bladed, rattlesnake throb of percussion and Moog that tees up an otherworldly Jeff Wayne foreboding that presses over and under the Spanish poet, Marcos de la Fuente’s wonderfully expressive voice.

“Plantains” is sometimes a matey, few-beers-in, chat between the fellas. But mostly it’s drums that cascade, chase and attack, attempting to demolish the hill from where a trumpet stoically, melodically, delivers its earnest, poetic message. The hillside may fragment, the hillside may crumble but the trumpet plays on.

“Pueblo” is gorgeous and uplifting. Sweet-sounding and love bringing. It’s a sultry, sensual, hip-rotating blend of trumpet, mejoranera and percussion; an adult’s urban Latin lullaby. Or as Navarro puts it: “Pueblo” is “a celebration of life, the coming together of the people, el pueblo, a celebration of who we are, where we come from, it’s our pueblo, our people, a feeling of openness, hope, and a future of unity from el pueblo, the people”

The free junglist pulse of “A Night In NY” initially speaks of the city’s energy and its comings and goings before Mother Humanity herself, the heart and soul of the community, Brigitte Zozula, reminds us of why we’re really all here. Tcheser Holmes is an absolute beast on this and throughout. “M.O.N.K (Most Only Never Knew)” is an unexpected, but glorious, closing-time-never, juke-jointy solo blues ramble by Nick Sanders on his appropriately upright piano.

The aptly named (no need for the TDA this time) “interlude interludio” is basically Navarro messing about on the Juno 106 and then shouting to Holmes “Ha. Listen! Ain’t Nobody by Chaka Khan. Right? Ha” It’s an audio amuse-bouche before the earnest, free-rolling meter that is “NAVARROHOLMES”. Damned right it’s one word. Damned right it’s in CAPITALS. Holmes takes no prisoners as he relentlessly plays cat and mouse with the Moog and Navarro’s light, impish, early 80’s computer game, single notes and detached melodies. It’s a thrilling duel as they predict each other’s next move.

“$$$ /// billete” is a bit of banter (featuring Carlos Garnett, no less), a tune-up and a tear up with cacophonous piano stabs and morse code percussion. “Father” starts with Holmes getting the deep fat fryer up to YEAH, THAT’S HOT temperature before creating a spiritual aisle for Sanders to elegantly Juno pad down. The fiercely electronic “Remix by Madam Data” is a distorted, pulsing, electrocuting, break beating climax.

This album has phenomenal energy. Its unspoken meters and overt rhythms constantly keep you on your toes. It grabs you and won’t accept anything other than your full-absorption in the stories it’s telling. And each track is choreographed and curated to make absolute narrative sense. Navarro and Holmes obviously get each other, get where each other come from and where they’re going to. They telepathically communicate in an intense and spirited shared voice.

So, NAVARROHOLMES. It’s one word, IN CAPITALS. And I hope to hear loads more from it (them)…in fact, I’m already looking forward to “Heritage of the Invisible X”.

Ian Ward

Astral Travelling Since 1993