The Philadelphia based collective, Ode to Omni's debut album October Fire
is heavily influenced by the 1970s spiritual jazz recordings, particularly those on the legendary now sadly defunct label, Strata East. A couple of gem's that instantly come to mind are The John Betsch
Society's Earth Blossom
(Strata East, 1972) and Billy Parker's Fourth World's Freedom of Speech
(Strata East, 1974). Much like Betsch and Parker, the leader of Ode to Omni, Marcus Myers is also a percussionist and under his deft direction, the dynamic ensemble lays down ethereal and vibrant intricate sounds.
The centerpiece of the record is the three-movement "Kneb" (abbreviation for the biblical King Nebuchadnezzar whose humbling by God, Myers considers a metaphor for his own divine enlightenment after a serious injury). "Movement I (Arrogant Reign)" opens with Myers' boisterous, martial thunder ushering in silky, agile glimmering mallets and Latin tinged guitar swells. Electrifying fury characterizes the orchestra's multi-textured, expansive harmonies with Myers' thunderous beats leading the galloping charge. Pianist Alex Ayala's quietly pensive, sparse piano lines create a somber ambiance on "Movement II (Stripped)." Myers' stately, rolling beats lead a marche funebre
over the rolling, dark waves of the group. This opposed to the bright and uplifting mood that permeates "Movement III (Restored Kingdom)" with funk infused vamps buoying guitarist Josh Nussbaum
's energetic and soulful rollicking solo.
A more intimate vibe marks the cinematic "Fighting Through It." Trumpeter Rick Rein's solemn tone soars clear and wistful over the rhythm section's earthy rumble. Saxophonist Brian Blaker's warm, thick and mellifluous tenor follows in a series of short, poetic phrases giving way to guitarist Andy Calabreese
's sonorous strums that echo with a bluesy theatricality. Trombonist Matt Fischer growling, simmering improvisation brings proceedings to a close with the perfect balance of the empyrean and the organic.
The disc concludes with the folksy, lyrical "Winters Abyss." Singer Alita Moses' pure, rich voice and crystalline articulation is like a cascading, cool spring falling on the band's undulating sway. Trumpeter Joe Anderson's unaccompanied horn enhances the mysticism of the piece with its vivid yet mellow long notes.
The song stands in direct contrast to the deep wisdom of the fusion-esque "All I Have" with vocalist Maricia Danielle enunciating the contemplative words in her honeyed, smooth and emotive delivery. The fiery passion of Myers drums and Nussbaum's wailing guitar bring an ardent exuberance to the tune
Although a tad derivative in their creative outlook, Ode to Omni makes up for its raw tenderness and paucity of innovation with a thematic unity and an unbridled, infectious enthusiasm. If they stay this course, Myers and his cohorts in this delightful collaborative ensemble, all have bright futures full of promise.
Amiss; All I have; Fighting through it; Kneb Movement I (Arrogant
Reign); Kneb Movement II
(Stripped); Kneb Movement III (Restored Kingdom); Winter's Abyss.
Marcus Myers: percussion; Alex Ayala: piano; AJ Luca: piano; David
Hardy: organ; Andrew
Nittolli: glockenspiel; John Smith: bass; Micah Jones: bass; Andy
Bree: guitar; Josh Nussbaum:
guitar; Clay Stiles: bass; Rick Rein: trumpet; Joe Anderson: trumpet;
Brian Blaker: tenor
saxophone; Matt Fischer: trombone; Alita Moses: vocals (7); Maricia
Danielle: vocals (2,6).