All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review

4

NICOLE JO: 20

Ian Patterson By

Sign in to view read count
A most versatile and hard-working musician, Nicole Johänntgen can be heard in a variety of ensembles, embracing elements of India and the Middle East in her ethno-jazz quartet, adopting a contemporary approach to New Orleans jazz as witnessed on the marvellous Henry (Self-Produced, 2017) or tearing it up with guitarist/vocalist Peter Finc in a duo that fuses the languages of pop, rock, jazz, blues and soul to thrilling effect. The German alto saxophonist's longest-standing band, however, is the quartet NICOLE JO, which celebrates its twentieth anniversary with this, its seventh release. Jazz-funk is the predominant currency, with Johänntgen's passionate, soulful playing a constant delight on originals of varying tempo, mood and character.

For the most part these are groove-based tunes, built upon electric bassist Philipp Rehm and drummer Elmar Federkeil's no-nonsense foundation of insistent pulses and unwavering beats. Keyboardist Stefan Johänntgen also plays a predominantly rhythmic role, though comes steaming into his own on "Steve's Organ Groove" -a James Taylor-esque groove-fest of meaty riffs and sinewy solos. It's one of several eminently danceable tunes, along with the head-bobbing "Easy Going—featuring a fine, measured solo from the leader—and the sensuous "Step," which boasts about as sexy a jazz-funk vibe as any out there.

Less steamy, though no less persuasive, is the mellifluous "Peaceful Three," where mellow saxophone gets sympathetic support from dreamy synthesizer, spacious bass lines and Federkeil's blue point steel harp (a cross between a hang and a steel drum) which, when in conjunction with Johänntgen's alto, evokes the atmosphere of the late great Arthur Blythe's percussively nuanced Night Song (Clarity, 1997). More reflective still is the hymnal "Sunday Morning Ceremony"—where the fusion of saxophone and organ hints at European and North American church music -at once sombre and uplifting. The slow-burning ballad "Pearls" unfurls with cinematic élan, guided by Johänntgen's softly lowing alto.

There are few extended fireworks on display though the quartet's playing is no less passionate for that. Instead, the emphasis is placed firmly on collective groove and soulfulness. This duality is encapsulated in the atmospheric set closer "New York Nightlife," which combines synthesizer-driven pulse and the leader's ever-beguiling, gently coursing alto. Brimming with seductive melodies and infectious grooves 20 is a fine document with which to mark NICOLE JO's first two decades together. An early front-runner for jazz-funk/jazz-soul record of the year.

Track Listing: B-Day; Easy Going; Peaceful Three; In Movement; Step; Steve’s Organ Groove; Sunday Morning Ceremony; Kestrel Love; The Mars; Pearls; New York Nightlife.

Personnel: Nicole Johänntgen: alto saxophone; Philipp Rehm: electric bass; Elmar Federkeil: drums, percussion, blue point steel harp; Stefan Johänntgen: keyboards.

Title: 20 | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: Self-Produced

Tags

Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

CD/LP/Track Review
  • 20 by Ian Patterson
  • Henry by Rosarita Crisafi
Live Reviews
CD/LP/Track Review
Read more articles
20

20

Self-Produced
2018

buy
Henry

Henry

Self Produced
2016

buy

Related Articles

Read Seymour Reads The Constitution! CD/LP/Track Review
Seymour Reads The Constitution!
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: May 24, 2018
Read Half Light CD/LP/Track Review
Half Light
by Karl Ackermann
Published: May 24, 2018
Read The Groove Hunter CD/LP/Track Review
The Groove Hunter
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: May 24, 2018
Read Powered by Life CD/LP/Track Review
Powered by Life
by Geno Thackara
Published: May 24, 2018
Read Mephiti CD/LP/Track Review
Mephiti
by Mark Sullivan
Published: May 24, 2018
Read Seymour Reads The Constitution! CD/LP/Track Review
Seymour Reads The Constitution!
by Doug Collette
Published: May 23, 2018
Read "Music For Empty Halls" CD/LP/Track Review Music For Empty Halls
by Mark Corroto
Published: April 17, 2018
Read "Donora Autumn" CD/LP/Track Review Donora Autumn
by Jack Bowers
Published: July 29, 2017
Read "Say" CD/LP/Track Review Say
by Glenn Astarita
Published: January 30, 2018
Read "Beyond the Moon" CD/LP/Track Review Beyond the Moon
by Tyran Grillo
Published: August 12, 2017
Read "Clean" CD/LP/Track Review Clean
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: August 15, 2017
Read "Man No Longer Me" CD/LP/Track Review Man No Longer Me
by Chris Mosey
Published: November 27, 2017