by Ian Mann
June 15, 2022
A highly impressive début from Rawicz. This is a young musician and composer that we are surely destined to hear a lot more of. On this evidence she’s definitely a star in the making.
Emma Rawicz – tenor & soprano saxophones, flute, vocals, Ant Law – guitar, Scottie Thompson – piano, Hugo Piper – bass, Finn Genockey – drums, percussion
“Incantation” is the self released début album from the young London based saxophonist and composer Emma Rawicz, a musician who has been making waves not just on the capital’s jazz scene but also further afield.
Originally from North Devon Rawicz’s first influences were folk and classical music. She discovered jazz at the age of fifteen and acquired her first tenor saxophone a year later. Rawicz has clearly learned quickly, she was still only nineteen when “Incantation” was recorded in June 2021. She is still a jazz student at the Royal Academy of Music following previous studies at the Guildhall and at Chetham’s Music School in Manchester.
Rawicz was the winner of the 2021 Drake YolanDa Award and was recently announced as a nominee for ‘Newcomer of the Year’ in the 2022 Parliamentary Jazz Awards. The Drake YolanDa prize helped to finance the recording of Rawicz’s début album, a work featuring the young musicians Scottie Thompson, Hugo Piper and Finn Genockey plus the more experienced Ant Law. Law appears to have functioned as Rawicz’s ‘co-pilot’ throughout the making of this album, a fact that she acknowledges in her album liner notes. She has also worked with pianist and composer Ivo Neame.
Rawicz’s jazz influences include fellow saxophonists Wayne Shorter, Chris Potter, Joe Henderson and Kenny Garrett, plus pianist Chick Corea and drummer Ari Hoenig. But as the “Incantation” album demonstrates she has already established an instrumental and compositional voice that is very much her own and one which has rewarded her with considerable critical acclaim and a very busy gig schedule.
The powerful album opener “Voodoo” is a real statement of intent as Rawicz and her young band negotiate the complexities of the staccato theme with confidence and panache. There’s a similar assuredness about the soloing with both Thompson and Law providing dazzling solo statements before Rawicz finally unleashes her tenor, soloing with power and grace. Her playing has evoked comparisons with that of Chris Potter and Donny McCaslin, and rightly so. The opener also includes a feature for the excellent Genockey, a powerful and driving presence throughout. A rousing and attention grabbing start.
Rawicz says of this opening piece;
“I wrote Voodoo, the first track on the album, based on a crazy, abstract, colourful piece of art; I just experimented with sound and found the composition out of it. Then I chose other words based on this theme – like incantation, omen, wishbone, etc. – and used those words as prompts for composition.”
She is also a synaesthete, experiencing music as colours, something else that also informs her writing.
“Omen” is gentler and more lyrical with subtle Afro-Cuban flavourings. It also features Rawicz’s wordless vocalising, her singing attracting comparisons with that of Flora Purim. The leader also features as an instrumental soloist, probing deeply on tenor as the music gathers momentum. Law, a bandleader in his own right, follows on guitar, his soloing confident and fluent. The wordless vocal theme then returns before the close.
“Intro To Rune” is a passage of lyrical solo piano from Thompson, another hugely impressive young musician. Thompson’s playing is excellent throughout the album and his presence on this recording should serve to enhance his profile considerably.
“Rune” itself has something of a Celtic flavour and is another piece to place the emphasis on melody and lyricism. Rawicz’s tenor intertwines attractively with Law’s guitar on the theme before the guitarist steps out on his own to deliver the first solo. Eventually he hands over to Rawicz, whose tenor soars above the backdrop of her own overdubbed ‘choral’ vocals. Later there is more wordless singing of the Flora Purim variety, which is reminiscent of the earlier “Omen”.
The title track finds the quintet exploring rockier territory as Law cranks up his amp to generate a rawer, rock influenced sound. Guitar and tenor spar in muscular, bristling fashion, their hard edged sounds augmented by a dynamic drumming performance from Genockey. Both Rawicz and Law stretch out with powerful solos, the guitarist really rocking out.
The opening passage of “Orison” evokes swirling mists and features Rawicz on flute and Genockey on percussion alongside Law’s guitar effects and Thompson’s low end piano rumblings. Eventually a groove is established that provides the framework for expansive and richly inventive solos from Law and Thompson as Rawicz continues on flute, eventually concluding the piece much as it began.
“Intro To Vera” is a short passage of arpeggiated solo guitar, leading into “Vera” itself, which features Rawicz on gently lilting tenor and Piper on liquidly lyrical electric bass. Thompson delivers a flowing piano solo while Genockey turns in a richly nuanced performance behind the kit, often playing with brushes.
Rawicz features on soprano on the atmospheric “Intro To Mantra”, improvising above a soundwash featuring looped and layered wordless vocals. Thompson’s piano motif then leads into “Mantra” itself, a more forceful offering that finds Rawicz stretching out more expansively, followed by a coolly elegant solo from Law on guitar. Genockey gets to enjoy something of a drum feature in the tune’s closing stages.
“Wishbone” sees the album concluding as it began with a burst of energy as Rawicz introduces a funk element into the proceedings. Genockey’s sturdy beats fuel powerful, fiery solos from the leader’s tenor and Law’s guitar, with the latter again going into overdrive. Finally Genockey enjoys a dynamic drum feature as the piece draws to a close.
“Incantation” represents a highly impressive début from Rawicz, both as an instrumentalist and a composer. She is a highly accomplished saxophonist with a big, incisive tone and a remarkably mature fluency as a soloist. As a writer her compositions are full of exciting twists and turns and embrace a variety of musical styles and influences.
She is well served by a hugely impressive young band with Thompson and Genockey representing exciting new discoveries for me. I’d previously enjoyed seeing Piper’s playing with guitarist Tara Cunningham and with the band Brother’s Testament. The performances of all three are exceptional, as is that of Ant Law who makes a huge contribution to the recording. Engineers George Murphy and Peter Beckmann also deserve credit for the brightness and clarity of the sound mix.
But ultimately the triumph is Rawicz’s. This is a young musician and composer that we are surely destined to hear a lot more of. On this evidence she’s definitely a star in the making.blog comments powered by Disqus