If Kamasi Washington is exploring the Albert Ayler/Coltrane connections in a modern landscape then Ghost-Note is doing something similar with templates created by Quincy Jones and Herbie Hancock…which is to say on Swagism they hint at the late-80s/early-90s hip-hop influenced and inflected funk and R’n’B jams of those masters whilst also adhering to the types of grooves Hancock and Jones made far earlier in their careers. You know, the ones that laid the foundations for hip-hop.
Formed by the percussionists from Snarky Puppy, Ghost-Note is jam-band music-school nerd-stuff. Yet again.
But the time is right for this. Players like Chris Dave and Thundercat and figureheads from Kamasi to D’Angelo have shown that you can be technical and “punk” all at once. And that there’s an audience for it. And – beyond that – if you dress up jazz in cool clothes, make it appealing to indie-rock concert-goers, you can really have two swipes at the cherry.
So it is with Ghost-Note and Swagism.
One annoying component of this album is the attempt to make it a ‘concept’ by including recording-studio banter and spoken-word pieces. As with the skits on hip-hop albums, these are the parts you wish were excised. Sure, there’s a political element to Swagism’s concept, to the narrative – but you’d wish, more often, you could just concentrate on the groove as it flows (Bawllz) or chill back in the worlds previously explored by the likes of Ronny Jordan (Funk You Muthafunka).
There’s some broken-beat instrumental hip-hop (Nod To Dilla) and reminders of when this type of music – the jazzy hip-hop feels – was not cool at all (the title track takes me back to Branford Marsalis’ Buckshot LeFonque project) but all of it works. Guests galore too – Snarky’s Bobby Sparks cuts in hard on Pace Maker, Kamasi Washington is there to blow across No More Silence and trumpeter Justin Stanton (yet another Snarky alum) funks up the Prince-esque Shrill Tones.
Look, there’s something for everyone here. And that will likely calm down on future releases. But this is definitely one to check out.
And they’re coming to Wellington’s Jazz Festival in June 2019!
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