Josephine Davies: How Can We Wake?

Chris May By

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Josephine Davies: How Can We Wake?
Compared to many of the other premier-league bands on the new London jazz scene, tenor saxophonist and composer Josephine Davies' Satori has attracted relatively little noise. There has been high praise from specialist critics, but little of the social media ballyhoo that has surrounded, for instance, bands led by fellow tenors Nubya Garcia and Binker Golding (who deserve all the praise they get). This may be because, unlike many of its contemporaries, Satori's style, though rhythmically rich, is not infused with dancefloor-friendly grooves: Davies looks instead to Zen philosophy for part of her inspiration.

But make no mistake, Satori is among the best young bands in London and How Can We Wake?, its third album on Whirlwind since 2017, is among 2020's most striking releases.

A semi-free group which eschews harmonic structures but is laden with exalted melodicism, Satori is, as it were, yin to the yang of the similarly constituted Binker and Moses, Binker Golding's duo with drummer Moses Boyd. Binker & Moses is visceral and loud and edgy. Satori is cerebral and nuanced and meditative. Which is not to say Satori lacks sinew. Davies, for a start, has an exhilarating grasp of mid and low-end multiphonics, broken notes and other tonal distortions which touch on the corporeal without severing her leaning towards the ethereal (although one track, "Klesha: affliction," gets close to Binker & Moses' trademark turbulence). It is hard to nail Davies' tenor influences down but Sonny Rollins sounds like he is in there, particularly so on "Mudita: joy," the album's midway point.

Davies is deep into Eastern philosophy, but the listener will not have to share that interest, or even be aware of it, in order to enjoy Satori. All that is needed is a willingness to slow down a little, savour Davies' seraphic lyricism, and enjoy the interaction between her, acoustic bassist Dave Whitford and drummer James Maddren. How Can We Wake?, beautifully recorded live at London's Oxford Tavern and Total Refreshment Centre on consecutive dates in January 2020, will repay the investment tenfold.

Track Listing

Ananda: bliss; Sutra 1; Duhkha: pervasive dissatisfaction; Sutra 2; Nirodha: the possibility of liberation; Mudita: joy; Daya: compassion; Sutra 3; Klesha: affliction; Ananda: bliss (reprise).


Josephine Davies: saxophone; Dave Whitford: bass, acoustic; James Maddren: drums.

Additional Instrumentation

Josephine Davies: tenor saxophone (1-6, 9, 10), soprano saxophone (7, 8).

Album information

Title: How Can We Wake? | Year Released: 2020 | Record Label: Whirlwind Recordings

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