Sungenre Album of the Month – June 2019
Following a period of hibernation, there seems a new wave of Chicago Jazz flying around the Windy City. Building on Nat King Cole and Bud Freeman’s blending of blues and jazz, contemporary counterparts Resavoir are bearing the genre’s torch.
Coming together as a collective of instrumentalists, Resavoir represents a Chicagoan collective headed by the group’s arranger and producer Will Miller, of Whitney fame. Borne from a technical proficiency and collective breadth of styles, having worked with Noname, Chance the Rapper and Mavis Staples to name a few, the core sextet have combined to create elegantly orchestrated lo-fi jazz, peppered with samples and a tropical sense of contemporary nostalgia. Confining itself to a concise 30 minutes, Resavoir nail the formula to compel a modern listenership.
Album opener “Intro” pairs Akenya Seymour’s rounded keys with smooth vocal harmonies reminiscent of Amber Coffman, Angel Deradoorian and Haley Dekle of Dirty Projectors. Splashes of chords and keys are cast across an organic ambience like bright pastel colours hewn across a canvas one by one. Strings and bass further add texture before a vintage pre-flight safety prep sample wishing us a “pleasant flight” closes the cinematic scene-setter.
The title track moves into a tropical aesthetic via detuned keys amid beachside gulls and buoys. Drummers Peter Manheim and Jeremy Cunningham’s intricate percussive grooves add a sense of purpose to the tranquil flute solo. The second break, building behind backing vocals and strings, is a more seductive pivot with Irvin Pierce’s interjecting sax jamming over another ambient backdrop. Flourishes of jazz drumming act as a mediator, both unleashing and restraining the surrounding instruments before it and the sax unite for a final concerted passage. Only steel drums and a harp remain afloat for the conclusion to this wonderful track.
Opening as its predecessor closed, “Taking Flight” unites an arpeggiated harp with Lane Beckstrom’s raw double bass. Strings and flute varnish the rough edges before a shuffling beat ushers in a whimsical samba. Pharoah Sanders and Makaya McCraven collaborator Brandee Younger features among an arrangement that marries a sense of nostalgia to the present day. With a primary hook running throughout, this less abstract recording offers an olive branch to listeners that would otherwise be overwhelmed by the genre’s technical eclecticism, its smooth sax solo only clawing you closer.
“Plantasy” is astounding in its arrangements that meander among intimacy and grandiosity, without ever alienating the other. Grainy piano first offers this first sense of closeness before horns and double bass swing the track in the other direction. Dynamic delay and reverb applied to the wind section perpetually mutate over the course of the song, never showing one true face. More acoustic arrangements cut to the listener’s core whilst grander combinations of instruments are full of overwhelming sincerity. Miller hereby takes the fluid and free-form intentions that permeate any jazz piece and applies it, not merely to the construction of the music, but its psychedelic distortion of the listener’s sense of emotional reality.
It’s comforting then that “Clouds” feels little more than a palette cleanser, running at 1:11. It’s a welcome respite following a loaded first half. Electronic toms and percussive claps contribute to flutters of horns and keys before leading into the back half.
The electronically-driven “Woah” combines synths and percussion that mimic insects, scuttering relentlessly. As these elements are supplanted for Wurlitzer keys and sauntering sax, a racing bassline matches the steady splash of cymbals. It all feeds into a cosmopolitan pace that sounds like someone’s hasty pursuit through a busy New York. Trumpets and keys punctuate the steady two-chord progression before the arrangement is reduced to its quirky, clapping origins.
Phased guitar opens “Illusion” amid a Garden of Eden replete with coo’s and crickets at dusk. Synths garner more attention here before trumpets announce a mid-section transition into a more astral territory. Not unlike Mildlife, edgy synths and spacey horns embody a remote attachment to Earth that both pushes and pulls as respective instruments come and go. The closing keys that come full circle round a beautiful psychedelic jam.
Quantised keys set the pace on “Escalator”. Rapping amid trippy keys and flamboyantly funky trumpets, Sen Morimoto features to offer the first lyricisms on the record, “Ask me what I learned in a year, I’ll tell you what you wanna hear… It was all for the fear”. The South American beat builds without slowing before a final preamble sees a female vocal scat do battle with bongos in a conclusion where the fun is entrenched in the protracted tension.
“LML” closes things with a stirring blend of grand piano and distorted vocal movements imbuing a sentiment of presence; “I love my life, and it’s not over”. The drums and sax burst through the front door to floor the listener as a perfectly apt conclusion to an album that pushes and pulls in its technical proficiency and colourful compositions.
Resavoir open their account with a stunner. In accumulating a team of talented musicians proficient in a smattering of styles, Will Miller and co. have produced a piece of art that moves and mystifies any listener willing to come along for the ride. Through rejuvenating, manipulating and welcoming others into the realm of jazz, Resavoir prove their creative pool runs far deeper than any dam.
Resavoir is released Friday 28th June via International Anthem