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Ancient Infinity Orchestra: River Of Light

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Ancient Infinity Orchestra: River Of Light
Since 2008, when he released his first album, Sending My Love, Yorkshire-based trumpeter and Gondwana label founder Matthew Halsall has been the catalyst for the emergence of a regionally distinct, Northern English sound in which spiritual jazz is the primary ingredient. This is unusual in England, a small country where most roads lead to London. The latest beneficiary of Halsall's energy is bassist Ozzy Moysey's Ancient Infinity Orchestra, which, like Halsall, is based in the city of Leeds.

It is quite some band. On River Of Light there are six reeds and woodwinds, including two tenor saxophones and a smorgasbord of other instruments (see Personnel below), a harp, three strings, a piano, two double basses, drums and percussion. And, on half of the tracks, a vocal ensemble, singing wordless lines a little less ethereally than Kamasi Washington's heavenly choirs.

The album opens with two tracks—composed by Moysey, as is all the material—which summon up the mellow vibe of Pharoah Sanders during his late 1960s / early 1970s purple period with Impulse!. Having two tenors, Matt Cliffe and Will Howard, at least one of whom is a broken-note adept, pays off here. Subsequent tracks feature oboist Khemi Shabazz, clarinetist Oliver Dover, pianist Hugh Vincent and cellist Michael Bardon. The overall sound avoids, most of the time, cultural particularity, though "Arc Of The Sun," on which Moysey plays the guzheng, a Chinese plucked zither, wears its GPS location on its sleeve, as to a lesser extent does "Equanimity" featuring Shabazz, with its Hindustani-influenced solo voice which enters around halfway through (see the video below).

Moysey makes bass ostinatos the foundation stone of his composing, and he writes good ones. His toplines are not as memorable as his basslines, however, and there is also a certain sameness to his arrangements. This does not work to the advantage of River Of Light as it progresses over its 62 minutes (it has been released both as a CD and 2xLP).

These are relatively minor quibbles, however, and overall Ancient Infinity Orchestra is good news, of which one hopes to hear more.

Postscript: Moysey pulls a blinder with the closing track "Pharoah Sings." It is the only non-modal tune on the album and also the only one on which the choir sings actual words, a sweetly innocent (in the best sense) manifesto, including "freedom...unity...love...joy." The song sounds like a show tune, perhaps a reflective ballad sung by the company before the final belter brings down the curtain. It does not, anyway, sound like Pharoah Sanders unless you count his occasional, delightful performances of "A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square."

Track Listing

Greeting; Rejoicing; Niyama; Michael & Zelah; Equanimity; Spring Break On Trappist-1; Arc Of The Sun; Love Song; River Of Light; Pharoah Sings.

Personnel

Ozzy Moysey
bass, acoustic
Oliver Dover
saxophone, baritone
Jake Rider
saxophone, alto
Willl Howard
saxophone, tenor
Elliot Roffe
bass, acoustic
Toma Sapir
percussion
Additional Instrumentation

Ozzy Moysey: double bass (1-3, 5-9), conduction (4, 10), percussion (6), guzheng (7); Oliver Dover: g clarinet (1, 6-9),kaval (2, 4, 5), baritone saxophone (3, 10); Khemi Shabazz: oboe; Joel Stedman: flute (1-3, 6, 8, 9), bass clarinet (4, 7, 10), congas (5, 6); Jake Rider: alto saxophone, percussion (6); Matt Cliffe: tenor saxophone (1, 3, 5, 6, 8-10); alto flute (2, 4, 7), cowbell (6); Will Howard: tenor saxophone; Evan Rhodri Davies: violin (1-6, 8-10), mandolin (7); Megan Jowett: viola; Michael Bardon: cello (1-3, 5-9), double bass (4, 10); George Buchanan: harp (1-4, 6-9), vocals (3, 5, 6, 8-10); Hugh Vincent: piano; Elliot Roffe: double bass; John Arnesen: drums; Toma Sapir: percussion; Ella Russell: tambourine (2); Isobel Jones: rain stick (2), bells (2); Phil Smith: conduction (7); Choir: Phil Smith, Ruby Taylor, Adam Ash, Alice Spearman, Isobel Jones, Ella Russell, Rose Io, Marwyn Grace, Kamran Amin, Lau Ro, Rubem Aaronovitch-Bruce, Harley Johnson, Alex Bates (3, 5, 6, 8-10).

Album information

Title: River Of Light | Year Released: 2023 | Record Label: Gondwana Records


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