May 27 2013
This is music with an old soul and eyes to the future. Transcendence, the stunning debut album by drummer Jaimeo Brown, brings in a daring mix of jazz, spirituals, electronics & effects, East-Indian music, and the most important element, the blues. It’s why this album ultimately culminates in a successful concoction of disparate ingredients. The ever-present Blues are always there to offer a stabilizing hand as the tumult of influences swirl about, providing a perspective from which to absorb the varied musics calmly, unabashedly, and in the fullness of its expansive vision.
Your album personnel: Jaimeo Brown (drums), JD Allen (tenor sax), Chris Sholar (guitar, electronics), and guests: Geri Allen (piano), Dartanyan Brown (bass), Marcia Miget (flute), Kelvin Sholar (keyboards), Andrew Shantz (harmonium), Gee’s Bend Quilters, Marisha Brown, Selah Brown, Falu (vocals).
This is a trio at its core. With Brown’s drums, the tenor sax of JD Allen, and the guitar and electronics of Chris Sholar, the trio adds guests when needed, and enmeshes their live interplay with the recorded voices and sounds of music of the past, transporting the voices of Gee’s Bend Quilters from the previous century into an environment that fully embraces the technological advances of the present and its associated music approaches.
And, thus, you have “Mean World,” where the soulful voice of a spiritual comes together with a tumultuous display of ferocity via sax, drums, and effects, and the quavering presence of “Somebody’s Knocking,” with a soaring East-Indian chant, a guitar like the sea, a sax like rocking waves, and the crash of cymbals battering the shore… which leads right into “Patience”… a lumbering bass line, a spry sax, the rustle of percussion, and a guitar that begins as a murmur and ends as an electrical live wire.
The guitar ferocity continues on “You Can’t Hide,” but again, it’s the blues that dominate, with soulful vocals belted out in collaboration with JD Allen’s equally expressive, equally soulful saxophone accompaniment. As they do throughout the album, Brown’s drums illustrate the music’s willingness to fight for life, to grab it and not let go. More evidence of this is on “Accra,” a torrential drum solo enhanced by some subtle electronics from Sholar.
Sholar’s deft hand at instilling the music with ambiance and soundscapes can’t be overlooked. The ethereal presence of “Be Free” carries the individual instruments on its back, elevates it up to something lofty, a heavenly expression that goes beyond “song.” This type of contribution to the production of a music piece is the water that fills in the seams and makes a perfect whole of what might otherwise seem fragmented and incomplete.
Also not to be overlooked is the fluid lyricism provided by JD Allen on sax. Whether displaying the combustible side of his instrument, like on “Baby Miesh” or the instrument’s comforting nature, like on “I Said,” Allen shapes his notes in a way that allows emotions to fully manifest without ever getting swept away by them. Like any good storyteller worth lending an ear to, Allen spends more time showing imagery than just talking about it.
“Power of God” is another lovely spiritual, though even this is eclipsed by the even lovelier playing of pianist Geri Allen, who first provides an undercurrent of evocative accompaniment, and then, when everything else drops away and it’s just Allen’s piano, a remarkable expansion of the hauntingly beautiful presence set by the Gee’s Bend Singers… voices from the past, composed of the eternal creative substance with which to improvise to in the present day.
And that is what defines the entirety of this exceptional recording. It’s not an easy thing to bring together past and present, while simultaneously maintaining a forward-thinking attitude. But on this thoroughly entertaining, supremely engaging album, Brown has done just that. It’s a remarkable accomplishment.
Released on the Motema label.
Jazz from NYC.