Jazz Kamikaze: Supersonic Revolutions
Seven Seas Music
Jazz Kamikaze fairly exploded onto the music scene in 2005 by winning the Young Nordic Jazz Comets. Its first album, Mission 1 (Stunt Records/Sundance Music, 2006), featured high energy hard bop-meets-rock for the new millennium, and pianist Morten Schantz's memorable tunes were peppered with searing solos from the dual spearhead of saxophonist Marius Neset and guitarist Daniel Heloy-Davidsen. The band's second album, Traveling at the Speed of Sound (Stunt Records/Sundance Music, 2007,) saw guest trumpeter Matt Schulman widen the sonic palette, but two standout tunes, "Everest" and "Until the Sun Comes," with a progressive edge that lay between Genesis and Radiohead, hinted at greater changes to come. And boy, Jazz Kamikaze have indeed rung the changes this time.
Supersonic Revolutions is an apt title given that all 12 songs feature Schantz's vocals, a first for the previously instrumental band. The rip-snorting solos have largely taken a back seat to well-crafted, melodically pleasing songs which have more to do with sophisticated pop than jazz or jazz-rocknot that these labels will mean a thing to the guys in Jazz Kamikaze whose flight path is proving to be as unpredictable as it is entertaining.
The catchy "That Way She Drives Me" could almost have escaped from the Ah Ha songbook, but for metallic guitar-riff punctuation, Neset's chirping soprano and Schantz's rolling piano exclamation. Several of the songs have serious commercial possibilities as singles, not least the beautiful "Across the Palisades," with its irresistible vocal hook and Davidsen's hypnotic guitar coda which fades rather teasingly. A strong melodic vein has always run through Jazz Kamikaze's compositions and this is still the case, though Schantz's vocals are now the focal point.
Another unexpected change is the altered role of Davidsen. His electrifying solos were a highlight of Jazz Kamikaze's previous two CDs and his adrenalin-fueled duels with Neset a distinguishing feature of the band's identity; on Supersonic Revolutions he barely solos, but for a brief interjection at the tail of the driving opener, "Bring Back Spring." Now his role has become rhythmically more defined, turning out heavy riffs and Black Sabbath-like power chords, though there is plenty of unobtrusive subtlety in his playing as well which color the songs. Often in unison with bassist Kristor Brodsgaard, Davidsen brings a heavier bottom end to the music than before, which contrasts strikingly with the inherent melodicism of the songs. Drummer Anton Eger for his part is as energetic as ever, the real powerhouse of the band.
Lyrically speaking, these are pop songs pure and simple, though the music has depth and muscle aplenty. The bad-ass funk of "Music is my Heroin," which contains only these four words repeated like a mantra, has an infectious riffing sax and guitar of great intensity. This darker, heavier side to Jazz Kamikaze is heard especially in the outstanding "The Return of Al Bab Ehr and the Future Raiders," a heady, riff-based instrumental which serves as intro to the beautiful "Mournful Storms Have Passed Tonight." A killing vocal melody entrances before the return of the "Al Bab Ehr" riff which evokes the powerful rai of Algerian Rachid Taha. Neset makes a short but stirring statement on soprano, before the melody returns once more in epic manner, fading out slowly in an ethereal blending of sax and synth.
Both "m.e.c" and the album closer, "Acropolis," combine the band's uncommon ability to carve out a lyrical, memorable melody whilst maintaining a driving power. At eight minutes, "Acropolis" is almost twice as long as most of the other tunes and closes the CD on a typically epic Jazz Kamikaze note, complete with choir buoying Schantz's soaring vocals. With Supersonic Revolutions, Jazz Kamikaze has really lived up its name; it may have lost some older fans on this latest daring mission, but it is likely to find an entirely new and enthusiastic audience, and one for whom labels don't mean a thing.
Tracks: Bring Back Spring; Arch; That Way She Drives Me; Across The Palisades; Mystery Maze; Music Is My Heroin; Skies For You; The Return Of Bab El Ehr And The Future Raiders; Mournful Storms Have Passed Tonight; Half Of Me; m.e.c.; Acropolis.
Personnel: Morten Schantz: vocals, piano, keyboards, synthesizer; Daniel Heloy Davidsen: guitars; Marius Neset: saxophones; Kristor Brodsgaard: bass; Anton Eger: drums; Asia Lucky: vocals (7, 9 ); Tore Nissen: synths (1, 7, 11); Ana Sara Lundgren: violin (2-5, 7-9, 12); Tave Carlissan: viola (2-5, 7-9, 12); Daniel Eklund: viola, (2-5, 7-9, 12); Karin Andersson: cello (2-5, 7-9, 12); Mathilde Kirknaes; Mette Iyshol Urikkeholm; Kristine Ringsager; Jacob Skjoldborg; Valdemar Villadsen; Emil Ritter; Jacob Soelberg: choir (2, 12).