Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Ochion Jewell - First Suite For Quartet

What's most interesting when writing about music is that you don't always get to choose what you listen to. The choices we make about what's on our turntable or in the CD player at any moment are based on what we like, when we like it. However the advantage of listening to music not chosen by oneself has the advantage of discovering new music and sounds. Some music is very difficult to describe and so write about (*), other times the records are easily digestible over and over again. Of course there are a few which somehow never really catch your imagination and so lay in a pile of 'what could I say about this', but you can't like everything even if you except (and I do) the John Cage philosophy that everything is music (**).

Dawn of Midi
 The other nice thing is that you occasionally get updates from musicians who's records you reviewed or mentioned on earlier posts. One post from Dawn of Midi seems to get many visits on my blog, which doesn't surprise me as the groups first album was an excellent (very accessible) free jazz record which deserves to be heard by a wider audience. Two of the musicians in Dawn of Midi, pianist Amino Belyamani and drummer Qasim Naqvi, have been working recently with saxophonist Ochean Jewell and so when Ochion recorded a CD they immediately suggested that he send a copy to Cardboard Music. And that's where you get lucky ... unknown records from unknown musicians.  

Ochion Jewell's - First Suite for Quartet.
Ochion Jewell's CD titled First Suite For Quartet released on David Binney's Mythology label, seems already one step ahead of your 'average' first CD release that I often get to hear. With such a grandiose title I was curious to see if a through composed piece of 48 minutes could hold my attention, and especially for a first album! Many first albums often attempt negotiating tricky chord progressions combined with displays of multiple time signatures and out of control technique, making for awkward and often unsatisfactory listening. Here Ochion Jewell has written music which is immediately spiritual in outlook and very mature in content. The fact that Ochion seems to be working with some of the Dawn of Midi hints that he must be interested in working in a more open area of improvisation. On First Suite For Quartet there's a fine blend of 'improvised' music and structured improvisation on the album, it seems the compositions are open ended enough to allow for each player to express himself. The music is however not 'free jazz', but certainly related to the modern school of 'melodic-free'(***) ... if such a school exists yet (LOL). There's plenty of interesting directions taken within these tunes which keep you guessing, tempo changes, rubato sections, modal ostinato riffs,  romantic melodies that gently unfold, and even some driving post Coltrane(ish) ideas that give the soloist time to blow hot and cold. The musicians work within the suite format letting the tunes unwind at their own pace, giving the music a sort of natural flow that links the sections together organically.

Ochion's arrangement of the material is central to the success of this project. The tunes are played in solo, duo, trio or quartet formats, with much attention given to dynamics, giving the music relief and so maintaining interest throughout. As for individual tunes there seems little need to comment as the music flows from the start with the opening soprano sax/piano duo, through to the closing minutes with a re-harmonised version of 'You are my Sunshine', bringing the album to a close with a (lovely) piano trio! In fact the music is best heard as the suite that it is meant to be, with the tunes being carefully ordered to allow each tune/track to flow effortlessly into the next. Finally, I should add that the playing (from the musicians) on the album is impeccable, played with just the right amount of solo space, in/out playing and no waisted notes.

A Snakeride Through The Fog (Tk 2)

Footnote : I'm not sure that this is Ochion's real first record as the article here seems to say there is another record to be found elsewhere. However if First Suite For Quartet is anything to go by it would be well worthwhile checking out his other work.

The Band : Ochion Jewell - saxophones, Amino Belyamani - piano, Sam Minaie - double bass, Qasim Naqvi - drums.
The Tunes : 1. from dust 2. A Snakeride Through the Fog 3. "...but that there goes the baddest lone-ass wolf I ever did know.." 4. ()zero -1() 5. nectar 6. Atonement 7. You are my Sunshine

Mythology Records MR1012.

(*) = I can think about an amazing Michael Moser record Resonant Cuts that I still haven't plucked up the courage to write about as the music is so difficult to put into words. However it's a real pleasure to listen to!
(**) I suspect that John Cage never heard Star Academy or X-Factor!
(***) What's 'melodic-free'? Well, I suppose what I mean is the more modern area of improvisation which keeps melody as it's central idea, but experiments with rhythm and tonality. Some examples of this range from Keith Jarrett's classic 4tet (with Dewey Redman, Charlie Haden and Paul Motion) to more modern groups such as Mujician, Dawn of Midi, Clusone Trio, Atomic or Cecil Taylor's earlier work even. I will try to blog about such groups at a later date!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...