Future Fusions: Hear and Now
“ Either that, or 'Mayonnaise' sounds like Randy Newman working out horn charts with Tom Waits in a room full of laughing gas... ”
Many artists have been reaching toward truly fusing jazz with soul, hip-hop, trip-hop, electronic, and other non-jazz forms of music. And it's tempting to think that this fusion will happen, but happen eventually, sometime in the future. It seems more and more apparent that there may no longer be a need to wait for it. If you keep your eyes and ears open, you may discover this future fusion in the here and now.
Trumpeter, composer, and producer Pascal Ohsé serves with producer Ludovic Navarre as French trip-hop hipsters St. Germain. A Conservatoire trained trumpeter (and former Tito Puente sideman), Ohsé recorded this solo debut in his home studio just outside his native Paris, honoring his Guinean roots by assuming the West African name Soel.
Memento is an old-school soul jazz record. It is not a soul-jazz record like the classic Atlantic sides cut in the 1970s by Eddie Harris, Les McCann, Herbie Mann and others. It is an old-school soul record first new "old 1970s sounds from the likes of Isaac Hayes, cinematic and romantic, sexually healing potently laced with jazz trumpet, saxophone and keyboard solos. "I have always been a huge fan of American R&B, soul and jazz. To me, it is the closest thing we have to a universal musical language, Ohsé explains. "But it's a language that needs to be updated every so often. You have to treat the sources with respect but still make room for the new idioms and expressions.
Ohsé updates these American styles with thick and repetitive hip-hop grooves. Like any great soul record, he fuels the funk from the bottom up, with an amazing bassist (Mike Clinton), razor-sharp guitarists Frantz Cancul and Alex Legrand, and percussion and keyboards shading in the grooves. The horns Edivandro Borges on trombone, Edouard Labor on saxophone and flute and Rachid Mouna on saxophone, plus Ohsé on trumpet add jazz style with swinging, soulful solos and support.
The opening "Le Viconte kicks off a jazz-hop groove that bounces on a sample of Kenny Burrell's "Chitterlings con Carne performed by Pucho & His Latin Soul Brothers, joined in the melody first by flute, then organ, then horns, assuming the form of ferocious new dust-up of Herbie Mann's classic flute groove "Memphis Underground, but updated into Ohsé new (old) soul music.
"Shining Pains busts off more jazz-hop: Walking bass coupled in lockstep with funk drums kick a groove way too hard for a jazz record, saxophone wraps the melody up tight, introducing a more open middle passage where Ohsé shows off his most expressive playing, strong in melody AND rhythm, genuinely modern yet old-school jazz-funk trumpet. Later, in the smooth ballad "The Way You Are, Ohsé lowers hushed romantic shades like Miles Davis playing Romeo soft outside the window balcony of Juliet.
"My Singing Soul and "Black Woman are more soul than jazz, simmering stewpots of classic 1970s Isaac Hayes and Barry White sound, thick and steamy with bass and rhythm guitar, slippery sweet strings and soft brass, everything harmonizing to conjure up powerfully evocative and sexy music. (The female vocal on "My Singing Soul synchs up perfectly with Donna Summer's lascivious "Love to Love You Baby, that's how deep and hot its groove.)
Ohsé introduces even more styles by pulling samples from the spoken-word aggregate The Last Poets into "Black Woman and "We Have Died Already, and by honoring an American Indian poem "Earth Mother in bongos, tabla and dub.
British-based composer / multi-instrumentalist / producer Ben Lamdin, who released his first album as Nostalgia '77 last year, describes his style as "a combination of soul and jazz composition with computer-based production techniques.
The Garden delivers Lamdin's fusion of electric British jazz with slippery trip-hop, boasting first-rate chops from the principal on guitar, piano, and drums; trumpet player Kelsey Jones; saxophonists John Shenoy and Tessa Lewin, and John Styles on bass clarinet; and especially bassist / double bassist Riaan Volsoo, member of British free jazz group Electric Dr. M. and recent collaborator with drum & bass pioneers Spring Heel Jack.
Extended trumpet, saxophone and other solos will help jazz fans feel quite comfortable in this Garden, where, among Lamdin's other jazz influences, Sun Ra and the genre-busting collective AACM prominently bloom. It is a well-organized and layered garden, with jazz instrumental solos blossoming upon the top while trip-hop, hip-hop, and other electronic rhythms provide the fertile rhythmic soil below.