When speaking of the fringes of Jazz, it need not involve music with crashing notes and screeching instruments and chaotic patterns that assault the senses, listenability be damned. If traditional jazz is the center, then there are any number of directions an artist may venture to get to the fringes. The Fringes are a circle, and some arcs on that circle are quite beautiful. For instance, Chambr‘s Freewheel.
A sextet that features stringed instruments for all but one ensemble member at percussion, Chambr shows no favor to any one particular genre, concocting a charming blend of jazz, classical, and folk musics, honoring elements of each genre without latching onto any one of them exclusively. The result is a lovely, sprawling landscape of compositional inventiveness. And it’s set masterfully out on the fringes.
Freewheel presents a nice mix of soaring atmospheric tunes and up-tempo ear-to-the-soil compositions. Those that are more of a classical bent more often take to the skies, whereas the folk-leaning tracks stick closer to the earth. When jazz becomes more prevalent, it’s a darting flight path that alters elevation between those extremes.
There’s a lot of comparability between Chambr and another genre-blurring UK ensemble… Threads Orchestra. Their respective sounds are distinguishable each from the another, but they’ve also certainly set up shop in the same part of town. They both create music that would be equally at home in a opera music hall as it would a movie soundtrack or outdoors in a pastoral countryside.
However, if one were to look back in time for influences on this music, old-school World Jazz ensemble Oregon immediately springs to mind. Chambr has that indelible mark of folky romanticism and chamber jazz austerity, not to mention a propensity for ambient classical passages that pull on the heart strings.
A track like “Olivia,” soars with bold strokes that speak to the classical music origins of this music, whereas tracks like “Bassekou” and title-track “Freewheel” flirt with Latin, tango, and gypsy swing. “Ant and Dec” exuberantly embraces the Oregon brand of World Jazz, illustrated most clearly via guitarist Tyson’s extended solo and that unmistakable meander-and-twang. And the “Full Horatio,” it brings some swing to the table.
But really, trying to suss out the strongest genre present in each song is almost to miss the beauty of this music, in that the combination of different musics doesn’t result in a nondescript sanitization of their various facets, but instead incorporates their best elements and creates something quite separate and unique and greater than the sum of their individual parts. On point, “Akikor” would likely be considered all over the map if measured by a regressive geography. Instead, it aptly displays what the Chambr landscape is all about.
Originality, inventiveness, musicianship, and, above all, a sprawling beauty that positions itself on a majestic little section out on the fringes.
Released on the F-IRE Collective label.
Jazz from the London scene.