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For British guitarist/songwriter Ben Lamdin his Nostalgia 77 projects are all about swinging cosmic music. On Everything Under The Sun it's primary rhythm and sounds keeping the listener captive and pleasantly sedated, from the first track on.
"Wildflower" bursts open into an immediate mesmerizing beat, tastefully hurled by drummer Graham Fox who is soon joined by bassist Riaan Vosloo and vocalist Lizzy Parks. The three of them create a tapestry of rich patterns, forcing the listener to infuse a repetitive tapping of the feet and fingers while the head bops in a syncopated mood. Fox leads the journey into a subtle change of pace, which is a cue for trombonist Trevor Mires and keyboardist Ross Stanley to step into the spotlight, at least for a little while. Then the song moves towards its finale on slight higher ground, again blending a hint of Jonny Spall's saxophone as Parks' voice echoes like a Siren ignoring the fatality of her nature.
"Stop To Make A Change" is, in every meaning of the word, lyrically persuasive. Introducing trumpeter Tom Allan and percussionist Milo Fell, the song works like a mantra in its shifting passages, blending styles and instrumental ability to heighten the effect of its lyrics. A powerful message for sure, while Parks' singing triggers comparison to Nnenna Freelon's free styled way of phrasing. Composer Lamdin wrote most of the nine songs in collaboration with the Nostalgia 77 collective, and three are solely instrumental: "Dreamers Dance, the title track and "Arora. Whether these serve as interludes to recover from Parks' haunting Siren spells, or hold their own while luring the listener into the groovy shades of cosmic jazz, as a collage the nine compositions really do the trick.
"Eastwind is just as the lyrics suggest in clear and simple images, "blowing the clouds away, from the desert to the mountains to the city, with a scent of the Oriental humming alongside the slow waggling of an imaginary camel's tail. Stanley gives nothing away in the title's track intro, using the technique of glissando as a re-occurring element throughout the beginning and ending of the tune. The horn section dominates while taking turns interpreting "Everything Under The Sun in their respective colors, as they do on "Dreamers Dance."
Vocalist Beth Rowley surprises as soon as "Quiet Dawn mellows the mood, with a voice reminiscent of early Rickie Lee Jones or Norwegian songbird Silje Nergaard. Mark Hanslip also enters the scene with his tenor saxophone. He stays on for the album's final two tracks, evoking a sense of longing and cool nostalgia in the closing triptych of "Quiet Dawn, "Arora and "Steps Of The Sun, as if the music assumes the responsibility of guiding the listener from wild rhythmic entrancement into calmer places where one can return to self again. If there's something to regret about this album, it's the idea there's never a second chance for a first impression or the thrill of being surprised.
Track Listing: Wildflower; Stop To Make A Change; Dreamers Dance; Little Steps; Eastwind; Everything Under The Sun; Quiet Dawn; Arora; Steps Of The Sun.
Personnel: Lizzy Parks: vocals (1, 2, 4, 5); Riaan Vaslo: bass; Graham Fox: drums; Ross Stanley: keyboards; Jonny Spall; saxophone; Trevor Mires: trombone; Tom Allan: trumpet; Milo Fell: percussion; Beth Rowley: vocals (7, 9); Mark Hanslip: tenor saxophone (7-9).
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.