Released: November 2022
Label: Urban Waves Records
In 2023, my relationship with jazz is a complex one. I spend hours fawning over its pivotal ages, predominantly be-bop. Over the last few years however, I have come to truly appreciate the 80’s fusion era of the not so distant past, in which established heavyweights Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, Jaco Pastorious, Wayne Shorter, Patrice Rushen and a host of others embraced the move from acoustic to electronic instruments. Sadly, the sexless nerdery, strange time signatures and synthesised sonics of this era have historically perturbed young disciples, who cast it aside as ‘lacking feel’.
That which in today’s market is labelled ‘jazz’, despite many achievements still exudes an air of ‘feeling in the dark’, never sure if it is electronica or hip - hop, often ‘jazzy’ but seldom ‘jazz’, and if it is jazz, generally meticulously imitating the past. In truth, if we are to have any period to evolve directly from, electrik fusion is it, and with the entirety of Chino Corvalán’s ‘Endless Era’ being led by fretless bass, the project is sonically inseparable from that time.
I was already acquainted with the musicians who primarily feature on ‘Endless Era’ - namely pianist Telemakus and saxophonist Ted Taforo. All three featured prominently on Telemakus’ breakout masterpiece, 2021’s ‘The New Heritage’ and from the moment ‘Endless Era’ leaps out the gate, the racing intensity of the furious improvised walking is instantly reminiscent of Pastorious’ ‘Crisis’. It gives way to a weighty pendulum of drums that underpin complex beds of synth harmony and blissful saxophone, to then launch back into an utterly live, compressed spattering of drums and warm fretless chords.
Whilst maintaining consistent instrumentation and thus sonic similarity throughout, it reaches into many areas of the fusion spectrum which in turn compliments the emotional. Within each track one may experience the driving frustration of indecision and the disorganised elation that comes with it. The great speeds express the moving of the mind between a myriad of ideas desperate to be born, especially seeing as each musician present has a highly evolved ability to express them. Soon after comes the gentle mist of contentment, still peppered with a grinning curiosity about our place in the universe. At no point will you witness soundscapes of ambience within this project, it sings every note and at will, drops effortlessly into changes of groove that ooze the hard earned cool of the Jazz legacy.
More confidently free than unhinged, the album is grounded in realism yet unable to deny the spiritual elation of beyond articulate music creation, which at its height may be one of the most freeing feelings in existence. In a similar vein, this exposure to the divine can conjure up feelings of unease, our return to life and encounter with the brutality of our still fractured societies inspiring deep contemplation and melancholy - all expressed with stunning grace and warmth in the album’s second half.
Between playful irony, defined enlightenment and the earth, lies ‘Endless Era’ for my money one of the finest, most genuine, inventive and original projects I’ve heard. Both it and ‘New Era’ have flown the flag for an under-represented era, whilst remaining utterly of the moment, breathing life back into the spirit of jazz, which anxious fans had wondered may have gasped its last. Thankfully, this is evidently not the case.