This is my first meeting with London based Bass guitarist and composer Shez Raja and his collective. A quick check confirmed that he has another recording on his account done some four years back. Other guys in the crew however sound much more familiar: Sons of Kemet reedsman Shabaka Hutchings, saxists Soweto Kinch and Gilad Atzmon are well known brass players to whom I am listening a lot and also reviewed their music here ,so that will be a good point to start.
Shez’s music is very vivid and rich. Driven by Funky bass walking and energetic heavy rock-ish drums sound-scape, like in an opener Adrenalize, is a perfect background for those fearless individuals. They are personally far from pure jazz idiom and very often expressing themselves in many multi- kulti projects rooted deeply in folk music from all over the world. So we have it all here having such a line up put together. Additionally the fact this is a live recording makes it even more vigorous and “viagratic”! All those musicians are truly “stage creatures” and they just love to jam , challenge and respond to the music as it changes.
Karmic Flow with its oriental scale marriage to Rap vocals supplied by Kinch and vocalist Monica Lidke are both refreshing and very propulsive and an audience response clearly shows an enjoyment.
The next two pieces FNUK and Quiverwish featuring Gilad Atzmon at the front hence an energy flows a bit from already existing influences more into the Balkan -Klezmer territories.This section slows down a bit here when the drive realise on horns in pure Funky tradition, but here again Gilad’s Slovene nature blends with more tribal Hutching’s expression flawlessly.
Here leader’s bass lines are almost backing up Marcus Miller’s ones with their soft tone and roundness. Overall aesthetics of this concert gains a lot from Hancock’s Headhunters like propulsive energy which is present there all the time and J.Blood Ulmer’s bluesy influence which are definitely well known to Shez given the way he plays his bass.
Eastern Influence takes us even further Orient. Tune, like Karmic Flow sits on nice dark bit of psychedelic brasses which are flying around like mad witches. Rhythm section works here almost like pure tribute to Amin Ali – Grant Calvin Weston team from mentioned above Ulmer’s Black Rock recording. Exceptional solos of Pascal Roggen’s electric violin are feeling the space with rich and thick harmonic tissue.
Following Chakras on the Wall are still living in Ulmer’s sonic universe ,but Lidke’s vocalises are reminding a bit of New York String Quartet’s projects. That moves the balance into other direction. Funkadelic like keyboard playing from Alex Stanford makes a nice plot to land on for her and for the leader backing her lines with its bass.
Junk Culture is like getting back to Planet Hancock . Only modesty of rapping phrases and constant presence of the violin remind you that it have to be different approach, with a bit of “ techno bit” overlap and the beautiful rape on keyboards.
Closing Freedom, in the same dance like and melodic nature, is an fantastic outro . More Caribbean and wavy with wonderful brass unisons flying all over around. This album is pure fun and it is easy to hear and feel. That’s what makes it so fantastic. It is the one to which people will love to get back to. A sense of a great fan is so strong present there and so addictive.