The debate on whether jazz musicians should use acoustic versus electric instrumentation has been going on since Miles Davis and others produced fusion in the early '70s. Yet thankfully, artists have continued to search and have found avenues to create music that successfully incorporates both traditional and modern ideas, and such is the case with Fear of Roaming
by the Sangha Quartet.
While the quartet's name may be unfamiliar, its members include the combined talents of saxophonist Seamus Blake, pianist Kevin Hays, bassist Larry Grenadier, and drummer Bill Stewart, each of whom is a prolific and noteworthy musician in his own right. But what quickly becomes apparent is the high level of musicianship and chemistry the quartet shared in creating this memorable recording.
Captured in the studio after a tour of Europe, the quartet recorded the eight selections in a single afternoon without the use of fixes or overdubs, resulting in spontaneous and open music. The skillful and balanced use of technology such as delay, loops, and other effects enhances the standard jazz quartet sound with creative energy.
This is evident on the opening piece "The Modern Things" by Euro-pop sensation Bj? which begins with an echoing saxophone intro joined by acoustic piano, bass, and culminates with open solos that make use of a variety of effects and textures. The contrast of these different musical timbres makes for a listening experience that is both traditional and forward-looking.
On the aggressive "What Survives" Hays uses over-amplified keyboards and a clavinet-like voice to color the music as the other members drive the melody which then segues into the dramatic "Du Pre," featuring some superb bass work and soloing by Grenadier.
Other points of interest include the wonderfully strange "Black Elk" with Hays providing a haunting wood flute solo, and some fine sax work by Blake on the title "Fear of Roaming."
Things end with a post-bop galactic ride on "Stellar," with strong drum work by Stewart, and the funky antics of "Grind," featuring some nice and nasty tones from Hays' keyboard. Regardless of the technical wizardry, in the end it is all about good music, and Fear of Roaming is a rewarding and pleasant experience that is highly recommended.
Personnel: Seamus Blake - Tenor Saxophone;
Kevin Hays - Piano & Keyboards, Wood Flute, voice;
Larry Grenadier - Bass;
Bill Stewart - Drums.