From the opening notes of its introductory overture, "At the End of the World, Where the Lion Weep" which leads to the improvisatory "Pathos/Logos," Volk
feels like an important record with a seriousness of intent, precision of execution combined with emotional depth and breadth. A vast sound scape is opened into which we peer, quickly followed by the realization of the music's geographic/cultural diversity.
There is no need to read the notes, or to learn of how or why this album came to be made, because tenor saxophonist Ochion Jewell
possesses that rarest of gifts: the ability to speak through his horn and to directly communicate from his heart to ours. His band mates, pianist Amino Belyamani
, bassist Sam Minaie
and drummer Qasim Naqvi
(along with guitarist Lionel Loueke
on two tracks) share in Jewell's passion, creating a band with a single musical mind that works as a unit; it is almost unimaginable that the personnel could change while maintaining the same musical personality.
Jewell, born and raised in southeastern Kentucky, has a deep connection and respect for folk music, not just of Appalachia, but that many different societies all over the world. These musics, while being creative art, do not exist alone but are part and parcel of the daily lives of the people, and hence is part of their culture. Irek Wojtczak, in the notes to Folk Five
said the same thing, but specifically about Polish folk music. Volk
, however, is not "world music," but rather "music of the world" that is used as the basis for something that is new, while retaining the essence of its source. Belyamani is Moroccan, Minaie has Persian roots, while Naqvi's are in Pakistan and Loueke was born in Benin; each player adds his own being to the mix.
The opening section is based on Andalusian pentachord music, the second pulls from various parts of Europe Finland, Ireland, Scotland and the Ukraine, the third from Africa (North African Gnawa music and Ewe drumming), and finally the fourth returns home (for Jewell at least) with two familiar American folk tunes.
The music is never short of thrilling; each track is filled with exhilaration, pathos and energy; there would great difficulty in picking a favorite track since the album is so strong from beginning to end. The musicological trip is intense and emotionally deep; Volk
is most definitely a Best Of 2015 candidate.
At the End of the World, Where Lions Weep; Pathos Logos; Kun Mun Kultani Tulisi; Give Us a Drink of Water; Pass Fallow, Gallowglass; Radegast; Gnawa Blues; The Master; Oh Shenandoah; Black is the Colour (of My True Love’s Hair).
Ochion Jewell: tenor saxophone/composer; Amino Belyamani: piano; Sam Minaie: bass; Qasim Naqvi: drums; Lionel Loueke: guitar (7, 8).