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Azhaar & Global Wave - Original Love Rating: 4 out of 5 Azhaar Saffar has come up with a personalised musical hybrid that is very much her own. As predicted, an album well worth waiting for.

Azhaar & Global Wave

“Original Love”

(FAR003CD)

While researching for my recent review of the live performance by Sheek Quartet at Black Mountain Jazz, Abergavenny my attention was drawn to the presence in the ‘to do’ file of this new release from another BMJ favourite, the vocalist, violinist and songwriter Azhaar Saffar.

Saffar visited BMJ in April 2017 with her quintet Global Wave, performing much of the material that was subsequently to appear on “Original Love”, the album financed by a successful Indiegogo crowd funding campaign. My review of that Abergavenny performance can be read here;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/debs-hancock-duo-azhaar-saffar-global-wave-black-mountain-jazz-abergavenny-/


The North Wales born Saffar studied classical violin at the Royal Northern College of Music before a series of pub and restaurant gigs saw her abandoning the classical tradition and embracing a jazz and world music career., beginning with the acid jazz group Wildflower.

Saffar has travelled widely, visiting and performing in the Middle East, West Africa, South America and Central America, absorbing the music of these regions and incorporating them in her own sound. She has a particular affinity for the music of Brazil and Latin America and for many years fronted the ‘Brazilian fusion’ band Sirius B which released a total of six albums and was a popular live attraction, notably on the Stroller programme at the old Brecon Jazz Festival.

In 2008 Saffar released “Out There”, a slightly more conventional jazz album, on the 33Jazz record label, the line up including former Wildflower and Sirius B collaborator Joe Cavanagh plus big name guests Iain Ballamy (saxophones) and Jason Rebello (piano).

In 2012 an ambitious multi-media project “Footprints”, a jazz dance ballet, had to be abandoned due to funding issues. Now based in Frome, Somerset, she has bounced back with Global Wave, a group featuring the Bristol based musicians Tom Berge (keyboards), Paolo Adamo (drums) and Ivan Moreno (percussion). Bass duties on “Original Love” are shared between Guillaume Ottaviani, Jacob Myles Tyghe and Tosh Wijetunge.

The album also features contributions from a number of illustrious guests, namely flautist Gareth Lockrane, guitarists Mac Seka and Tristram Cox and percussionists Snowboy and Andy Fuller.

Saffar says of the album;
“Writing ‘Original Love’ is my response to journeys in Central and South America. Set adrift on a new continent I accepted that Life isn’t always straight lines. I learnt to accept the journey and enjoy the ride! I met people from all over the world on, land and sea. We are all just different colours of the same global wave! Music is a wave…We all are are! Pura Vida!”

The album opens with the semi-autobiographical song “Gypsy”, a piece celebrating Saffar’s nomadic lifestyle. Combining Latin elements with conventional jazz swing the song features Saffar’s coolly assured vocals plus a breezy flute solo from guest Lockrane. Berge contributes a sparkling acoustic piano solo, Saffar cuts loose on Grappelli-esque violin, and the line up on this particular track also includes Ottaviani on electric bass and Fuller on additional percussion.

Snowboy appears on, and also produces, the title track with Tyghe assuming bass duties. This is another song featuring Saffar’s voice and lyrics. Soulful, and at times funky, the arrangement includes electric keyboards and bass with Berge taking the first solo on electric piano. Saffar’s violin also features while her vocals express a plea for love and hope in an imperfect world.

The breezy Brazilian stylings of “Down to Earth” sees Moreno’s percussion featuring prominently in the arrangement as he shares the spotlight with Tyghe’s piano and Saffar’s violin as Ottaviani returns to the bassist’s chair. Meanwhile Saffar’s voice sings about the vagaries of romantic love, albeit from a third party standpoint.

“Popoyo” is named for a bay in Costa Rica where Saffar developed a love of surfing. A gentle introduction features violin and piano with subtle percussion shadings approximating the sound of distant surf. The band, with Wijetunge on bass, then kicks in with Saffar’s lyrics extolling the virtues of one of her favourite places as she sings in a combination of English and Spanish. Adamo and Moreno combine to give the necessary rhythmic impetus for instrumental solos from Berge on piano and Saffar on violin. The atmosphere is jaunty and relaxed, one can almost imagine oneself on the beach.

The percussion heavy “Songlines” explores the theme of musical inter-connectiveness across time and geography, the lyrics suggesting that the song may have had its genesis in the aborted “Footprints” project. Saffar also shines as the principal instrumental soloist while Adamo and Moreno impress with an extended drum and percussion workout.

“Raining In My Life” introduces guitar (Seka, who also produces this track) into the ensemble for the first time and as a result the piece has more of a singer/songwriter feel about it, albeit still within Saffar’s established Latin/ Brazilian musical framework. Here, as suggested by the title, both the lyrics and the music are more reflective and introspective with Saffar’s wistful vocals enhanced by her own violin, Seka’s guitar and Moreno’s gentle percussive undertow.

“Too Much”  restores the energy levels and introduces another fresh instrumental sound as Berge switches to organ, his Hammond sound augmenting the leader’s violin on a song warning about the possession of “too much stuff”. Asamo, Moreno and Fuller lay down an infectious cha cha cha beat as Saffar, on violin, and Berge, on Hammond, exchange instrumental solos. Again Saffar sings in both English and Spanish (or maybe Portuguese) and there’s also a brief face off involving the three percussionists.

“Gaia” opened the show at Abergavenny and is a lively piece that mixes jazz, Brazilian and Latin styles as Tyghe, Adamo and Moreno combine to create a propulsive groove in support of Saffar’s voice and violin with the leader taking the first instrumental solo, followed by Berge on acoustic piano.

The album concludes with the gentle bossa nova sounds of “Aproador”, a song inspired by the city of Rio de Janeiro. Saffar sings in both English and Portuguese, her hymn of praise to Rio aided by the contributions of flute soloist Lockrane, guitarist Cox and guest percussionist Fuller. Relaxed and joyous the piece ends this highly enjoyable album on a suitably uplifting note.

 “On this evidence the début album from Global Wave should be well worth looking out for” I remarked at the time of the Abergavenny performance and I’m pleased to report that this is indeed the case. Saffar’s original songs skilfully blend Latin, Brazilian and jazz influences with a highly personal viewpoint. There’s a strong autobiographical feel about these songs which gives them a convincing authenticity. This is far more than a ‘by the numbers’ run through a batch of Brazilian and Latin standards. Instead Saffar has come up with a personalised musical hybrid that is very much her own.

Saffar’s assured singing and accomplished violin playing is a constant throughout the album and the record is very much hers, but it’s also an excellent team effort. All the members of Global Wave play well and the various guests all make significant and distinctive contributions.

As predicted, an album well worth waiting for.

“Original Love” is available from http://www.azhaarsaffar.com

Original Love

Azhaar & Global Wave

Friday, May 25, 2018

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Album Review

4 out of 5

Original Love

Azhaar Saffar has come up with a personalised musical hybrid that is very much her own. As predicted, an album well worth waiting for.

Azhaar & Global Wave

“Original Love”

(FAR003CD)

While researching for my recent review of the live performance by Sheek Quartet at Black Mountain Jazz, Abergavenny my attention was drawn to the presence in the ‘to do’ file of this new release from another BMJ favourite, the vocalist, violinist and songwriter Azhaar Saffar.

Saffar visited BMJ in April 2017 with her quintet Global Wave, performing much of the material that was subsequently to appear on “Original Love”, the album financed by a successful Indiegogo crowd funding campaign. My review of that Abergavenny performance can be read here;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/debs-hancock-duo-azhaar-saffar-global-wave-black-mountain-jazz-abergavenny-/


The North Wales born Saffar studied classical violin at the Royal Northern College of Music before a series of pub and restaurant gigs saw her abandoning the classical tradition and embracing a jazz and world music career., beginning with the acid jazz group Wildflower.

Saffar has travelled widely, visiting and performing in the Middle East, West Africa, South America and Central America, absorbing the music of these regions and incorporating them in her own sound. She has a particular affinity for the music of Brazil and Latin America and for many years fronted the ‘Brazilian fusion’ band Sirius B which released a total of six albums and was a popular live attraction, notably on the Stroller programme at the old Brecon Jazz Festival.

In 2008 Saffar released “Out There”, a slightly more conventional jazz album, on the 33Jazz record label, the line up including former Wildflower and Sirius B collaborator Joe Cavanagh plus big name guests Iain Ballamy (saxophones) and Jason Rebello (piano).

In 2012 an ambitious multi-media project “Footprints”, a jazz dance ballet, had to be abandoned due to funding issues. Now based in Frome, Somerset, she has bounced back with Global Wave, a group featuring the Bristol based musicians Tom Berge (keyboards), Paolo Adamo (drums) and Ivan Moreno (percussion). Bass duties on “Original Love” are shared between Guillaume Ottaviani, Jacob Myles Tyghe and Tosh Wijetunge.

The album also features contributions from a number of illustrious guests, namely flautist Gareth Lockrane, guitarists Mac Seka and Tristram Cox and percussionists Snowboy and Andy Fuller.

Saffar says of the album;
“Writing ‘Original Love’ is my response to journeys in Central and South America. Set adrift on a new continent I accepted that Life isn’t always straight lines. I learnt to accept the journey and enjoy the ride! I met people from all over the world on, land and sea. We are all just different colours of the same global wave! Music is a wave…We all are are! Pura Vida!”

The album opens with the semi-autobiographical song “Gypsy”, a piece celebrating Saffar’s nomadic lifestyle. Combining Latin elements with conventional jazz swing the song features Saffar’s coolly assured vocals plus a breezy flute solo from guest Lockrane. Berge contributes a sparkling acoustic piano solo, Saffar cuts loose on Grappelli-esque violin, and the line up on this particular track also includes Ottaviani on electric bass and Fuller on additional percussion.

Snowboy appears on, and also produces, the title track with Tyghe assuming bass duties. This is another song featuring Saffar’s voice and lyrics. Soulful, and at times funky, the arrangement includes electric keyboards and bass with Berge taking the first solo on electric piano. Saffar’s violin also features while her vocals express a plea for love and hope in an imperfect world.

The breezy Brazilian stylings of “Down to Earth” sees Moreno’s percussion featuring prominently in the arrangement as he shares the spotlight with Tyghe’s piano and Saffar’s violin as Ottaviani returns to the bassist’s chair. Meanwhile Saffar’s voice sings about the vagaries of romantic love, albeit from a third party standpoint.

“Popoyo” is named for a bay in Costa Rica where Saffar developed a love of surfing. A gentle introduction features violin and piano with subtle percussion shadings approximating the sound of distant surf. The band, with Wijetunge on bass, then kicks in with Saffar’s lyrics extolling the virtues of one of her favourite places as she sings in a combination of English and Spanish. Adamo and Moreno combine to give the necessary rhythmic impetus for instrumental solos from Berge on piano and Saffar on violin. The atmosphere is jaunty and relaxed, one can almost imagine oneself on the beach.

The percussion heavy “Songlines” explores the theme of musical inter-connectiveness across time and geography, the lyrics suggesting that the song may have had its genesis in the aborted “Footprints” project. Saffar also shines as the principal instrumental soloist while Adamo and Moreno impress with an extended drum and percussion workout.

“Raining In My Life” introduces guitar (Seka, who also produces this track) into the ensemble for the first time and as a result the piece has more of a singer/songwriter feel about it, albeit still within Saffar’s established Latin/ Brazilian musical framework. Here, as suggested by the title, both the lyrics and the music are more reflective and introspective with Saffar’s wistful vocals enhanced by her own violin, Seka’s guitar and Moreno’s gentle percussive undertow.

“Too Much”  restores the energy levels and introduces another fresh instrumental sound as Berge switches to organ, his Hammond sound augmenting the leader’s violin on a song warning about the possession of “too much stuff”. Asamo, Moreno and Fuller lay down an infectious cha cha cha beat as Saffar, on violin, and Berge, on Hammond, exchange instrumental solos. Again Saffar sings in both English and Spanish (or maybe Portuguese) and there’s also a brief face off involving the three percussionists.

“Gaia” opened the show at Abergavenny and is a lively piece that mixes jazz, Brazilian and Latin styles as Tyghe, Adamo and Moreno combine to create a propulsive groove in support of Saffar’s voice and violin with the leader taking the first instrumental solo, followed by Berge on acoustic piano.

The album concludes with the gentle bossa nova sounds of “Aproador”, a song inspired by the city of Rio de Janeiro. Saffar sings in both English and Portuguese, her hymn of praise to Rio aided by the contributions of flute soloist Lockrane, guitarist Cox and guest percussionist Fuller. Relaxed and joyous the piece ends this highly enjoyable album on a suitably uplifting note.

 “On this evidence the début album from Global Wave should be well worth looking out for” I remarked at the time of the Abergavenny performance and I’m pleased to report that this is indeed the case. Saffar’s original songs skilfully blend Latin, Brazilian and jazz influences with a highly personal viewpoint. There’s a strong autobiographical feel about these songs which gives them a convincing authenticity. This is far more than a ‘by the numbers’ run through a batch of Brazilian and Latin standards. Instead Saffar has come up with a personalised musical hybrid that is very much her own.

Saffar’s assured singing and accomplished violin playing is a constant throughout the album and the record is very much hers, but it’s also an excellent team effort. All the members of Global Wave play well and the various guests all make significant and distinctive contributions.

As predicted, an album well worth waiting for.

“Original Love” is available from http://www.azhaarsaffar.com


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