11 June 2021 (released)
20 May 2021
Remote collaboration has become much more commonplace these days. The technology has become ubiquitous and the ability for integration is at such a high level now. Teaming up with musicians around the world has never been easier. Yet even with the simplest of projects, the distance provides an added disconnect in terms of communication. Musicians feed off of quick glances and micro-cues to determine where to go on a particular passage. Tempo, dynamics, and feel are all best communicated in the room. For a pop singer coming in to record vocals over a simple four-chord tune with all the usual formulaic section changes, that lost communication is negligible. However, for a group dealing in off-beat jazz structures with a minefield of odd-metered tempos and chaotic melody lines, the challenge of distance must be immense.
Aman Jagwani is an inspired jazz musician who fuses new textures of electronica, r&b, and soul into his compositions creating a hybrid of the musically complex with the soulfully simple. The Berklee-trained protege is a drummer first, making his compositions rhythmically evolved and deeply fascinating. His fusion of the live essence of drumming with synthesized melodies and programmed textures brings the form into a new age in which artists like Kamasi Washington or The Comet is Coming are operating. Jagwani wrote and produced the album from his home in Goa, India during the lockdown then reached out to various soloists to add their flare to the record remotely. The collaborations are deep, intricate, and seamless and are a testament to the ability to push musical boundaries via this worldwide web. Featured are trumpeter Jason Palmer, pianist Ron Cha, Spanish flugelhorn player Milena Casado, and each song is graced by the vocals of Anubha Kaul.
The title track (a pun on displace) opens the record with the casual neo-soul of creamy trumpet over a nimble rim and ghost note-filled backbeat. Kaul's voice cascades in waves over Jagwani's silky electric piano. A wistful trumpet solo is backed with imaginative, drum lines that drive the story as well as keep time. 'Elastic Slumber' notches the rhythmic complexity up a gear while maintaining that unctuous feel that makes you forget he's running circles around you with polyrhythms. The woozy up and down key modulations place the track in a dreamy haze encouraged by Kaul's siren-like coo. The track is a feat of combining A-level jazz trickery and chaos with a pristine warm blanket delivery.
'Palm Tree' exhibits a more standard lounge fare. Flickering euphoric keys dance around Sam Smith's bobbing and weaving standup bass emulating the sway in the breeze of a palm tree's leaves while its trunk and roots remain firmly planted in the ground. Ron Cha joins Kaul for the song juxtaposing vocal duet. 'Rain On my Shelter' a composition by Kaul, uses her sultry delivery to convey the exasperation of this ever-accelerating modern world and the need to take moments away from the frantic pace to ground yourself again. These themes of finding balance and fluidity amidst the cacophony of this age are prevalent throughout the lyrics and are echoed symbiotically in the music.
The album's showpiece is the stunning 'Glow'. A wildly inventive odyssey that pairs moonshot synths with frenetic drumming energy, melting pads, and Kaul's angelic guiding light vocals. A mid-song lift occurs and Ralph Menenzes' electric bass takes off on a glorious continuous run that drives the track to its climactic end. Jet-streams of air breathe through the synths lifting the piece above the stratosphere. The finale 'Breakthrough' also showcases Jagwani's incredible chops along with the incredible keyboard lines of Ron Cha. A final meditative rumination with Kaul providing layers of vocal coverage gently implying chords as the instrumental impresarios work their magic below.
This Place is spellbinding, electric yet organic, and free. You can fully enjoy the album as Jagwani and co putting on a clinic of intricate rhythms and melodies pushing the boundaries of meter and form. Or you can lie back and soak in a beautifully soulful album without giving a second thought to its execution. That is the true talent here. Keeping it light and breezy even when doing the heavy lifting. It all integrates into the album's themes of being adaptable while keeping strong roots. The fact that this harmonious album was put together remotely makes it all the more impressive.