Dave Holland: bass; Chris Potter: tenor and soprano saxophones; Lionel Loueke: guitar; Eric Harland: drums.
Aziza is the name of a brand new jazz supergroup of snappy influence that includes the bassist Dave Holland, the guitarist Lionel Loueke, the saxophonist Chris Potter, and the drummer Eric Harland.
Their self-entitled debut album is a remarkable artistic pearl that exhales both collective creativity and crisp individual improvisations.
It opens with the groundbreaking funk of “Aziza Dance”, a semi-robotic jubilation that features Potter and Loueke in sharp unisons and affirmative solos on top of the groove laid down by the grandiose rhythm section. The inventive guitarist, and author of this piece, whose quirky approach never lets me down, stands out by improvising with aplomb and originality while using a mesmerizing guitar effect.
The predominance of African and exotic rhythms are observable throughout the record. “Summer 15” is emulsified by Potter’s soprano during the initial melody and then tenor for the final theme; “Finding the Light” is peppered by the saxophonist’s in/out concept and Harland’s intelligent rhythm patterns; in “Sleepless Night”, Loueke shows his enormous influence and versatility, singing and opting for guitar distortion to exchange compelling phrases with Potter.
Even if the title suggests a walking bass, don’t expect to find it in “Walkin’ the Walk”, which thrives with an effervescent groove that obeys to a complex meter. Holland, simultaneously leader and team player, clarifies why he is the most desirable bassist on Earth. Potter and Harland channel their energy to provide unflagging verve.
In “Aquila”, the quartet changes the tempo, passing from a 6/8 to a 4/4 in the final section. Most of its flavor comes from Loueke’s aromatic comping.
An alternative approach was used in the rhythmically acrobatic, “Blue Sufi”, which grabs influence from rock music while occasionally scatters eastern innuendos translated by Potter’s steadfast phrasing.
Using the jazz language as an intermediary, Aziza celebrates different cultures through a consummate liaison. The brilliance of these top musicians translates into a rewarding, nimble album. Indubitably, this is one of the year's best.
01 – Aziza Dance ► 03 – Walkin’ the Walk ► 08 – Sleepless Night