JD73 Electrio - Pyramids (Atjazz Record Company, 2021)
One of the modern age's most formidable jazz fusion key players brings together two equally talented musicians to give us a live recording of supreme versatility and groove, on one of the finest examples of its kind going today.
There are many genres that still persist to this day from eras gone by, and it's no surprise that jazz fusion remains one of those movements that still lights fires within the hearts and minds of contemporary musicians. The genre began life during the late 60s, where groups who learnt within the tenants and standards of jazz branched out to infuse the iconic genre's stylings with electrical funk, rhythm and blues and rock tones, creating a genre that was vastly open to interpretation and in turn created some of the finest albums of the era. The groove remained open to interpretation, the keys and drums the driving forces behind it all, the feel one of liquidity and open ended improvisation, at its core jazz fusion and its associated movements championed the notions of dexterity and inventiveness, with much of the music found within its universe intensely dense and overly laden with brilliance. Not only was its overall structure one to celebrate, but it was the tone that mesmerised, as many tracks moved between sweeping chordal highs and intricate key laden segments that emphasised the concept of jumping in and moving the track to new places and spaces. Its no surprise that many of the musicians who pursued its sounds are so revered today, not only for their compositional and technical qualities but for their creativeness, their willingness to take the open endedness of jazz and truly push it to its most structured and rhythmic edges. The genre would persist in many forms throughout its history, taking the world by storm in the 70s in particular before seeing many incarnations occurring throughout history, with its influence taking root in Japan and their jazz fusion funk scene, the UK via the wondrous sounds of Brit Funk and with the current South London scene, and into electronic music via jazz house and downtempo, amongst others. Its a movement that from the off embodied the ideals of creativeness and inventiveness, pushing artists who dwelled within its realms to truly push the boat out and further the concepts of jazz within new places and environments. As a result, jazz fusion has crafted one of history's most enduring musical legacies, evident today in how many are still in awe of its legendary records and iconic producers who in turn make spell binding music of their own. Today, we have a plethora of excellent that continually comes our way, whether it be from live or improvised recordings, through to masterminded long plays, or explosive singles or EPs, the diversity and potential of the genre remains alive and kicking, its influence found in not just the more purest jazz fusion groups and individuals but also heavily imbedded into contemporary house and broken beat settings. We are left somewhere in the middle of it all, transfixed by the many eras of excellence that have flowed from the genre's origins right through to the trend setters of today who carry the torch high and wide, championing the concepts of funk fuelled breaky compositions that live in long in the memory after a listening session, beating along in the heart as well as the mind. An audial cocktail of delight, the genre and all it inspired are truly a never ending banquet of sonic riches, as a dip into the well becomes a full on plunge through the annuals of jazz driven chordal brilliance.
Found deep within the current sound that dominates the contemporary interpretations of jazz fusion and funk is the UK producer and musician Dan Goldman, who releases music primarily under the JD73 name alongside appearing and supporting many of the golden eras icons. Goldman has quite the pedigree, working on and arranging on numerous modern day boogie, jazz fusion and dance records that see his keyboard work shine through constantly, playfully delving between rigorous chorus riffs and flurries of solo orientated sequences. His abilities are found constantly throughout his own music and on records for others he has worked on, showcasing not only his technical style but an ability to shine through on differing genres within the fusion realms, which include forays into jazzdance, P-Funk, soul and house. Goldman is certainly a product of the deep potential and musicality of jazz and jazz fusion, where the possibilities for inventiveness and musical expressionism ran through the core of all compositions, with his works delving deep into the varying grooves found within funk and jazz and bringing forth a sound that is refreshingly contemporary and historically reflective at the same time. His works are a tantalising spread of all that has come before and all that has existed since, bound together by a musician with a supreme talent for solidifying grooves with expert key playing and showcasing a knack for the extraordinary, demonstrating a deep passion for the genre that many practise but don't quite execute on the same level. Under the JD73 name, he has released a supremely tight and concise collection of records, all of which highlight his talents and creative vision, with our favourites including his excellent 2008 debut LP 'Zeros and Ones', that showcased to the world his burgeoning talents and arranging abilities in making the finest contemporary funk going; the boogie injected feel good audial experience that is the 'Pure Gold' LP, that arrived in 2010; the melodic and funk fuelled grooves that abound from the superb 'Neon' record, that arrived last year; the indefinitely groovy and genre blending 'Ascension' single, that landed in 2007; and finally, both the Acid Mondays records he contributed to, 'El Recorrido' and 'Chi Ka Pasa', which arrived in 2013 and 2015 respectively, showcase Goldman's ability to lay it down in an entirely different manner to his usual jazzy exploits. In all, Goldman has traversed not just his own defined musical universe but very much beyond into new realms and places, lending his application and touch to all manner of excellent projects and releases that are elevated by his musicality and feel. Its no wonder his discography reads like a brilliant meandering through the past, the present and indeed the future, where a superb blend of the tenets of jazz, jazz fusion and funk meet up with stylings we associate with only the finest contemporary interpretations of electronic and groove based music. Goldman set the bar far and wide within his sound, and as a result has honed his craft to be delightfully robust and diverse, endlessly entertaining, and expertly implemented with heaps and heaps of rhythm and inventiveness. Its no wonder he's in such demand, and from his own works its hard to think of a group or individual who he couldn't work alongside and give over some of that sweet sweet jazz funk too. If you need a bit of spice in your life, then look no further than his back catalogue, trust us when we say you're in for a funk fuelled masterclass.
And now we arrive at Goldman's latest project, 'Pyramids', a live recording session that features Hamlet Luton on bass and Gordon Kilroy on drums, thus forming the Electrio. In an age where many are enthralled by the sounds of 70s jazz, fusion and funk, there's something of a cutting edge to the Electrio, a level above the rest that relies on absolutely nailing the switches in density, the movements in groove and the fast paced transitions in rhythm, all of which are pulled off with an expertise and passion. The three musicians act in absolute synergy with one another, taking the time to accommodate one another in the structures as we are greeted by some of the finest new age jazz fusion funk you can possibly wish to engage with. Passionate, undulating and deeply funky, its a journey into the deepest possible potentials of the contemporary funk sound, and it sounds unbelievably glorious. So, without further delay, lets get into this dense 8 tracker filled with wonderment.....
Up first comes 'From Tine 2 Time', and it begins in the most vibrant and mellow way possible. The Rhodes ring out on top, riding between a wonderfully swinging beat that crafts an undeniably inviting rhythm underneath, as backdrop synths sweep across the pan on both sides, as the bass crafts its own melodic line underneath the keys with meaning and purpose. After going through the main line a few times, the moment to switch it up occurs, and its absolutely glorious, with the keys switching up their arrangement and feel to showcase a big and brash lead line as the drums and bass respond to this injection of energy with a more structured rhythm section. The energised chorus quickly descends back into the melting pot of melodies and percussion, a warm and highly inviting segment that could continue playing until the end of time if it wanted, and before long we arrive once more at the highly energised chorus, where the lead key line grabs the initiative by the horns and leads us in the groove. The movement back into the spaced out segment sees Goldman showcase his chops with some gorgeous key work overlaid on top of the bass and drums, with this verse segment extended in order to allow us to really engage with all those keys on display. As the key solo wraps itself up, there is time for one final foray into the chorus, with its tone and instrumentalism not loosing any of its brilliance, in fact it gets furthered here with an explosive application where you can really picture the musicians behind it all getting truly into it. A brilliant start. 'Steppin Up' comes next, and this one begins with the keys leading the way. Their structure and application is one of an understated groove, eager to see more elements bind around it in order to take the track to the next level, and this is achieved when the drums and bass come into view, and their arrival heralds in a new soundscape of expertly conceived groove and feeling. The drums and bass are particularly emphasised on this one, the keys receding into the groove from time to time to provide spaces for the other instruments to really shine, with the three elements moving around a lot in the mastering which only gives us more of a balanced and enriching experience. The flurries in-between segments provide such joy, with the expressionism on display second to none as the tightly knit trio spread themselves out far and wide in search of the most impeccable transition, which is seemingly achieved with every single passing movement and sequence. There's moments of individualised brilliance from Goldman, who really hammers the rhodes at times, playing with pure enthusiasm and meaning as the track hits the 5:30 mark or so, with its extended feel leading the other two musicians to come along and enjoy the ride. After that climatic surge of energy, the track descends into the warm soothing calm of the singular chords reaching out across the foundations, a pure bliss laden sequence that is such a wonderful comedown after that explosion of energy. Glorious stuff.
Up next comes 'Subsonic', and this one begins very up tempo indeed. The drums are typically swinging, moving between the lines with ease and effort, as the bass moves very much within the spaces provided, worming its way into our hearts, as the keys start to move into the picture. Soft and gently applied at first, their layering becomes more and more intricate and interwoven, as the musical strata starts to multiply as the track reaches the chorus, before it switches back to the gentle caress of the verse segments. After a typically brilliant sequence following the second verse, the track takes a deep dive into its core regions, with the bass truly shining in this moment as the keys spin an audial narrative on top, but the drums aren't far behind, and when they arrive its a truly marvellous moment indeed. The solo key line sees some proper trippy injections into its swirling nature, moving around on top of the drums and bass with an impressive sense of urgency, with the rhythm section underneath keeping the fire burning endlessly. The track once again multiplies itself and digs deep into its creative vision, bringing forth some brilliant moments of complexity and depth, and before long the energy takes a dip once more to allow us to savour all that has come before. This extended down tempo time really sets the boundaries far and wide, as sweeping chords arrive in the backdrop to add weight to the occasion, with this moment seeing the most expansive usage of instrumentals to date. Beautiful stuff. Up next comes 'Swing Till Hurts', and this one is a beauty indeed. The groove from the off is mesmerising, with the drums and bass crafting a real sense of fill as the keys move on top of proceedings with meaning and vigour, endlessly sweeping within and on top of the grooves, motioning onwards and upwards to brighter things. The transition into the chorus is superb, leading us through differing densities and layers at a fluid pace, keeping us nodding along to the groove as synth lines move in and out of time amongst the rhythm. The track takes a dip downwards into the depths of the cut, taking the time to showcase all its melodic goodness before reaching right back up to the top as the drums and bass re-emerge, with the switch back through into the joyous full section one to really marvel at. All manner of cascading keys, thumping bass and excellent drumming come together with such synergy, grace and purpose, with the chorus sections where the spacious keys hang in the backdrop one for the memories. 'The Good Stuff' arrives next, and this one begins with the keys starting us off once again. The keys are choppy but well placed and conceived, with the drums and bass that join them in their new journey slotting in effortlessly into the mix, with the track now in full flow. The feel is certainly one of more jazz funk, where the layering is less intricate and rhythmically dense but full of swing and groove, easily moving through the lines with a breezy easy going nature that still contains all the sweeping transitions we have come to know and love throughout this record. The keys are crisp and sharp, the bass is driven and full, the drums gallop at a slowed rate, with the track hazily navigating the plateau of groove with ease and joy, its overall notion one of infectious euphoria that lifts the heart and soul to new heights. Brilliant stuff.
Up next comes 'Shapeshifter', and the vibes continue on from the previous cut in some style. The track begins in full flow, with the progressive feel of the track evident from the off, with all the instruments working around the core keyboard riff that resides deep within the middle, as the rhythmic elements work overtime to let the melodies shine. The bass in this cut is particularly excellent, matching the keys in tempo and mood to craft an ear worm of a melodic hook that does not leave the mind, no matter what you do. After all that excellence, the track takes a dip down in energy, but only for a moment before lifting itself right up to the top, leading the way into a new day filled with promise and hope. Superb! Up next comes 'The Tribe', and this one takes the energy back down low for a moment. Returning to the vibe that abounded from the first four cuts, the focus here is the weaving and delicate interplays between the three instruments, by now completely at ease in each other's company, happy to accommodate sweeping changes that are instigated frequently as time passes by. The switch into the choruses are a delight, moving the track from an intensely tight knit affair into an expansive mind melter of a groove, where all manner of opportunity and possibility feel within reach, constantly. And, to wrap things up on this incredible release, we have '4 on 4', and this feels like a big one. The keys lead the way, with the drums and bass arriving not too soon after, with their application elevating the keys with their impeccable groove, and before long the electric violin stylings of Benet McLean arrive to add to the weight and purpose of the main melodic driver in the track. The keys take a back seat on this one, adding depth to the rhythmic foundation of the cut as the violin is allowed to truly take us away to new spaces and places, with time found later on for one final key solo, and we don't need to tell you how good it is. A final reminder of the nucleus, the connection, the shared will and creative vision that is shared by these three musicians, who for a good 50 or so minutes have never failed in stunning us with their versatility and understanding of the groove. Its an absolute trip from start to finish, and simply one of the finest examples of modern day jazz fusion funk going.
Teasing the most from three instruments is quite a task, but these three make it look and sound so, so very easy. From the off, we are greeted with a formula that blends the stylings of jazz fusion and funk - in all its complex and spell binding glory - with atmospherical moments of sheer bliss, where the expansive terrain underneath feels unbelievably deep, a contrast that leaves you escaping your body before coming right back down to earth then the groove realigns itself. Its a record never short of ideas of how to maximise spaces and segments, always shifting between the lines in order to provide a highly balanced experience that is always leading and building, expanding and receding. The musicality, the experimentation, the passion is all above and beyond, and if you like your funk cooked to the perfect temperature, then this is the record for you. Stunning, stunning, stunning.
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