Jan 22 2013
The is music to roll the car windows down on the first day of Spring and play it loud. This is music with a big heart. This is music of the present echoing the music of the past. And this music is yet another sign that the Spiritual Jazz sound is still alive and kicking.
The Menagerie ensemble was put together by producer/songwriter Lance Ferguson, who has made his mark in Soul, R&B, and Funk genres. With Menagerie, he’s doing the same, but with a Spiritual Jazz release that is ridiculously catchy. Heavy music, but fun as hell.
Your album personnel: Lance Ferguson (guitar, vocals), Christin Deralas (vocals), Fallon Williams (vocals), Phillip Noy (tenor & soprano saxes), Eamon McNellis (trumpet), Cario Barbaro (flute), Mark Fitzgibbon (piano, Fender Rhodes), Michael Meagher (bass), Phil Binotto (percussion), Rory McDougall (drums), and guest: Roy Ayers (vibes).
A fiery trumpet solo atop vocal harmonies and R&B groove start things out on the opening tune (and title-track). Interludes of piano and percussion that speak of Pharaoh Sanders’ Thembi. The grooves are very much in the modern day, whereas the harmonies speak to jazz of the past. The solos could exist comfortably in any decade.
That’s followed by “The Chosen,” where keys refract notes like blurred glass does sunlight. While congos maintain a steady cant, vocals harmonize about “what you already knew” as soprano sax gift wraps them up with twirled bows. The entire song is wrapped tight, which, conversely, gives the performance its sense of freedom.
Third track “Jamahlia” brings reflective piano notes in low and ethereal flute in high, with drums and bass staking out a Hard Bop middle ground that ties it all together. When tenor sax strides into the picture, it lights up the room. Piano steps up next with swift lines, speaking big words in a soft voice.
Fourth track “Leroy and the Lion” gets its party on with a thrilling vibraphone solo (from guest Roy Ayers) and percussion accompaniment that fits snug as a bug with the vibraphone dance steps. Electric guitar then steps up to the plate with its own rhythmic ideas, and adds some fire to the vibes ice.
Fifth track “The Quietening” is a funk tune with spoken word portending of a doomsday apocalypse and the fight to tear it down. A thick weave of percussion drives the tune, with bursts of horns to coax the rhythms and words on further into the headwind.
The album ends with the strongest track. “There Will Come Soft Rains” reverberates with the Impulse Records New Thing sounds of Pharoah Sanders and John Coltrane. A piano-led rhythm section etches out an indelible pattern of contemplative ferocity. Sax drifts languidly atop, occasionally crashing through and splashing notes everywhere. Vocal harmonies bring some brightness to an otherwise shadowy tune.
In many ways, this is the kind of album that I’d preemptively claim not like. I’m not a fan of vocals on Jazz recordings. When it comes to Funk and R&B influences, I prefer them subtle, especially with woodwinds and brass. And when it comes to Spiritual Jazz, I’m wanting something deep, something heavy… and nothing that floats like a feather. But even though They Shall Inherit possesses all of these traits I typically avoid, I am absolutely taken with this recording. The thing of it is, preferences are a generalized form of decision-making… the type of thing that can be overcome one specific example at a time. In this instance, Menagerie does exactly that. They’ve got me enjoying an album that crosses several of my lines of preference. This thrills me to no end.
Released on the Tru Thoughts Recordings label.
Jazz from the Melbourne, Australia scene.
Download a free album track courtesy of the artist and label, either by hitting the download button on the embedded player above or from the label bandcamp page.