Do not be put off by the cover. It might suggest inaccessible, up itself, bone-dry cerebralism, but the reality is contrariwise. Around a third of the music is vaguely reminiscent, in spirit if not in execution, of the 1949-1950 Birth Of The Cool sessions conducted by Miles Davis with arrangers Gil Evans, John Lewis, Gerry Mulligan and Johnny Carisi. Much of the rest sounds like a sci-fi twist on traditional Senegambian music.
The protagonists herebassist Pino Palladino and producer / arranger / guitarist Blake Millsare infrequently seen on All About Jazz pages. Mills, the younger of the two, gained notice in 2020 with his co-production of drummer Ted Poor's You Already Know (Impulse!), which shares some of Notes With Attachments aesthetic, though it realizes it with a smaller lineup (Poor and alto saxophonist Andrew D'Angelo with an occasional string section and the odd flourish from Mills' guitars). Mills' production touch is subtle and understated and in this respect he reminds one of Daniel Lanois in his early years.
Palladino is a London-based session musician who has spent forty years touring and/or recording with high-end rock, funk and jazz artists, including The Who, Keith Richards, Erykah Badu, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Questlove, Elton John, John Mayer and Herbie Hancock. One of Palladino's best known associations has been with neo-soul singer D'Angelo on the latter's Sly and the Family Stoned-out albums Voodoo (Virgin, 2000) and Black Messiah (RCA, 2014). On the face of it, Palladino's partnership with Mills is an unlikely one, but, like they say, opposites attract. On Notes With Attachments the duo are seamlessly on the same page.
The diverse group of thirteen musicians, who are heard in various combinations over the eight tracks, include drummer Chris Dave, saxophonists Sam Gendel and Marcus Strickland and keyboard player Larry Goldings. The aforementioned Ted Poor pops up on one track playing prepared piano, as do You Already Know string players Rob Moose and Andrew Bird. The range of instruments to be heard is particularly rich in saxophones (a wide range of acoustic versions plus a Poly-Sax and a Mellotron simulation), keyboards and synthesizers, Senegambian percussion and string instruments, and, of course, basses. Low-end frequencies are to the fore, from Palladino's various acoustic, electric and synthesized instruments through a bass saxophone, a bass clarinet, a baritone guitar and a bass harmonica. Check Personnel below for details.
Notes With Attachments straddles several genres including art rock, library, jazz and West African music without slotting neatly into any of them. The playing time is disappointingly short at 31:24 minutes, but too-short is preferable to too-long.
Just Wrong; Soundwalk; Ekuté; Notes With Attachments; Djurkel; Chris Dave; Man From Molise; Off The Cuff.
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Chris May is a senior editor of All About Jazz. He was previously the editor of the pioneering magazine Black Music & Jazz Review, and more recently editor of the style / culture / history magazine Jocks & Nerds.