The NJE: Afloat – album review
NJE: The Near Jazz Experience deliver brass-led instrumental improvisations with a free approach, on their debut album Afloat. From blues to afrobeat and some funky electronica, inspirations fuse in vibrant and innovative arrangements; prepare your ears for Hendrix jazzification on a rebirthing of Voodoo Child.
Two-parts Higsons (Terry Edwards; alto and tenor sax, and Simon Charterton drums) and one-part Madness (Mark Bedford; bass), set sail aboard The Near Jazz Experience. Afloat is an album they say they’d not really intended to record, reflective of their focus on live, improvisational performance. That being the case you could call this a happy accident that demands one’s attention. Horn section at the helm, blousy sax, bongo beats, and root base rhythms abound. Hot Chip’s Alexis Taylor contributes sweeping synthesiser and post-apocalyptic sound effects with vintage analogue quality; putting the listener in mind of transistor radio days, intermittent connections to international frequencies and happening upon unexpected treasures.
An interference soundscape with imperceptible message opens St Leonards’ Suite, squiggly synth leads into funk sounds, drum brushes set locomotive pace, galloping percussion keeps a steady beat, brass evokes a sense of proclamation; a sci-fi flavoured synth shut down ends. On Diamonds for Breakfast instruments collude in a call and response exchange, taking on the feel of a 1960’s TV soundtrack. Songo, eases into calm waters; under currents of mellow keyboard reverie evoke St Tropez seascapes, adding 80’s influences into the mix. Title track, Afloat, drifts easily, as lingering strings, languorous sax and ethereal piano pitch serenity.
Moving into absurdist Bongo Cut Ups, dirty brass and menacing intent build to a muffled indignation sound effect and frenzied angst. St Mary’s Suite opens with a cold war, scratchy numbers station intro. Ensemble playing, featuring flute, live background ambience and finger-clicking, escalates to carnival and a low frequency fade-out chatter, reaching a frenzied finale. Sailing into calmer seas for Beachcomber, sunlight sparkles on rippling waves, descending to an in utero, melodic calm, before splashing back to the surface.
Voodoo Child, is distinctly Hendrix yet distinctly an NJE take; drawling saxophone takes focus with thundering intent and driving blues feel. The track rocks the cradle of familiarity whilst navigating new territory. Live cut Acoustic Pts 1&2, swings along buoyantly in the surf; pulsing rhythms vibrate with castanet percussive backing. Knife Edge rides the waves as bleeding edged notes ebb and flow to a triumphant end, complete with live applause. Festive We Three Kings swings along, offering shades of Brubeck and expanded bass lines: the adventurers return to land, laden with oriental riches.
You can see Voodoo Child here
All words by Bryony Hegarty. More writing can be found at her Author Archive