The Melody Exchange - Episode XVI

Words by Abhishek Ramdasan

In this week's episode of The Melody Exchange, we take a deep dive into five standout jazz albums that came out in 2020.

Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah - Axiom (Live Album)

Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah- visionary trumpeter, ingenious composer & pioneering bass instrument designer with the profile of a superstar, released his live album 'Axiom' in August this year, encompassing ninety minutes of pure jazz wizardry. Categorically one of the most passional & profound musical statements of his career in my opinion.

Scott's competence as an arranger traverses soul-jazz & avant-garde concept & a large number of people far outside the traditional jazz audience have found this music to be exactly what they want. He draws attention to the fact that each track in the album is an attempt at a new take on the genre with a futuristic aural approach, which is extravagant but proficiently done.

Weedie Braimoh's djembe & congo solos, the orchestral swing in sound design & Scott's dexterous harmonic trumpet solos & sequences is a cinematic adventure whose undulating exultation feels both magically ethereal & zealously earned.

Axiom feels like the next episode of a colloquy Scott intends to have with the jazz tradition & designed for anybody interested in extending their aural attention span & authentically challenging their presumption of jazz music.  

Pat Metheny - From this Place

Pat Metheny has manifested himself as a visionary technical wizard in the blossoming of the fusion movement, living a persisting mark in the way it is being interpreted in the jazz idiom.

In his album 'From this place,' he uses all his tools to create a cinematic narrative out of the melding of six strings and a perfervid imagination like nobody else. The album's tracks alternate between rapturous & refreshing turns with the strikingly modern interpretation of jazz guitar. 'America Undefined' is a trip into a sort of audial cinematic oblivion like the movie Spirited Away.

It evokes cinematic imageries of a world inside a world & the drama swarms you throughout the album. Tracks like 'You Are' asserts Pat Metheny's gift for locating the harmonious balance in a tune, painting pastoral pictures of human emotions & sentiments.

Much to the joy of the listener, each track in this album can be explored & deciphered in a thousand different ways & it honestly is the only right way of approaching a Pat Metheny album.

Tigran Hamasyan - The Call Within

Tigran Himasyan's adroitness with storytelling is apparent through the narrative quality of his compositions that seem to carry a pattern to some awe-inspiring truths about the universe. He is always in the quest for a boundless, ultramodern narrative, away from the traditional jazz strong structure of beginning with a head, moving into modulation & in due course coming back to the head.

'The Call Within' is full of visual radiance, a thematic ambition that paints lustrous images. 'Levitation 21' the opening track is a beguiling puzzle & even though the complexity is perplexing, it is strangely groovy. Despite its blistering, puzzling patterns & turns, tracks like 'Vortex' & 'Dream Voyage' is unexpectedly relaxing.

'The Call Within' is a brainy & beautiful chronicle to behold - a mind-bending rendition of fusion jazz music.

Nubya Garcia - SOURCE

On her extraordinary debut, the tenor saxophonist extends an entrancing tribute to her roots, nuances she's picked after performing so many years, and a sure & firm acknowledgment of the need for collective action in today's times.

'SOURCE' is a deep sweet listen on every level. In performance & concept, Nubya Garcia always brings us not only the music from her roots but also her eccentric narrative. She keens & careens with a stunning boldness & originality - strong & clear.

Cinematically the album welcomes you into its vastness, like in the 12 minutes long tune 'Source' Nubya's tenor sax solos soars off into some fascinating waters. The album finds time & space for her to make determinative statements of intent. You can feel that the music is coming from a very honest place & the intention is clear since it's a personal universe exploration, meaningful & full of potential.

The album truly is an affectionate, enthusiastic & masterful take on new age jazz.

Nduduzo Makhathini - Modes Of Communication: Letters From The Underworld

The driving force behind Nduduzo Makhathini's work has always been the highest state of consciousness through spirituality. A tried & tested deep improvised form of music made famous by Pharoah Sanders & Sun Ra. His music is the living example behind the idea that it still resonates today.

This is an exceptionally polished album encompassing Nduduzo's kaleidoscopic ideas & experimental traits. The lounging 1 hour 15 minutes length of the album requires a great deal of patience to fully process. But if willing to invest time with the right state of mind, you will find an enchanting extraction of sounds & styles blended to create an otherworldly experience.

Incorporating traditional jazz arrangements, meditative compositions & top-notch vocalizations, the album has an overwhelming scope that will provoke the most limitless imagination of the mind. It assaults the listener with tantalizing enigmas.