by Ian Mann
December 19, 2013
Pan-global sounds on a well crafted album packed with some impressive playing and some great moments.
This self released album features the music of the London based guitarist, composer and educator Jules Faife, an experienced performer on the capital’s jazz and world music scenes. The music draws together several strands of “world” music with flamenco a particularly strong ingredient. Faife grew up listening to the sounds of Jimi Hendrix and B.B. King but ultimately it was the music of flamenco guitarist Paco de Lucia that proved to be the most lasting influence. Faife’s fifteen years on London’s world music circuit has also resulted in him absorbing other musical styles from India and Africa and thus “Compas” is a pan-global album with Faife accompanied by a myriad of guest performers including world music expert Alex Wilson at the piano.
Faife’s liner notes offer welcome illumination into the scenarios behind each of the twelve tracks beginning with “Buscando” which features Faife playing flamenco style open chords to a rhythm similar to the bulerias pattern. The piece is given an authentically flamenco feel by Fernando Pellon’s hand claps (or “palmas”), these supported by the flexible rhythms of Elias Gargallo Aguilella at the drum kit. The overall mood is bright and breezy with Faife’s guitar picking supported by the lightly dancing flutes of Rob Lavers and Ross Hughes and with the ensemble sound filled out by Terry Collie on electric piano.
Pellon, Aguilella and Hughes are also present on the following “Nino”, another joyous piece this time deploying a rumba rhythm. Faife states that his aim was to reproduce something of the playfulness and unpredictability of a young child. Faife’s expert guitar picking is at the heart of all the arrangements and here he’s augmented by the lithe and lively soprano sax of Hughes, the two exchanging ideas in delightful fashion.
“Awake” has more of an urban feel, the title a reference to the difficulty of getting a good night’s sleep in noisy London. Faife takes delight in taking unusual chord voicings (taught to him some years earlier by guitarist Gael Bilger) and deploying them in strange rhythms. The piece is driven by Vancho Manoilovich, a new figure at the drum kit, and Faife shares solos with Dave Lieffertz on Fender Rhodes and Rob Lavers on tenor sax. There are also some funky bass lines, presumably played by Faife himself.
“Barcelona” was co-written by Faife and Pellon who adds his voice and lyrics to the sound of his hand clapping. The piece is named for a city that embraces and encourages musical fusions, these mainly based around the four beat rumba rhythm which merges well with other Latin rhythms plus Western pop and dance music. The music itself is a sizzling mix of flamenco and Latin styles propelled by the rhythms of Pellon’s hands, Satin Singh’s percussion and Manoilovich’s drum kit. Sparkling solos come from Faife on guitar and guest Alex Wilson at the piano with the ensemble augmented by Duncan McKay’s trumpet and Pellon’s passionate vocals.
“Need For Love” features Faife playing in the style of Vicente Amigo, a musician Faife clearly regards as the natural successor to Paco de Lucia. Faife makes reference to Amigo’s “arpeggios and rhythmic hits” and his own playing is a tour de force accompanied by the mellifluous sound of Laver’s flute and the insistent rhythms of drummer Jamie Trowell with Collie again rounding out the group on Rhodes.
As the title suggests “Solo” is a piece for unaccompanied guitar with Faife adding both classical and African guitar styles to the underlying flamenco. It’s tantalisingly brief but very lovely.
The following “World” takes the African connection further. Faife has worked with a number of Zimbabwean musicians including the former Bhundu Boys drummer Kenny Chitvatsva. Co-writer Chitvatsva adds both drums and vocals to this groove driven piece that grew out of Faife’s blues influenced bass line. Incorporating both African and James Brown style funk grooves the piece includes features for Faife on guitar, Hughes on flute and Lavers on earthy tenor sax. Chitvatsva’s appealing bi-lingual vocals are a call for respect and world unity, hence the title.
Faife’s highly productive world music career has also seen him working with Indian musicians. He worked with tabla player Sulekh Ruparell in the band Nirakar and learned much about Indian music and rhythms, this knowledge reinforced by frequent listening to the recordings of Remember Shakti featuring guitarist John McLaughlin and tabla master Zakir Hussein. The Indian Tihai rhythm is woven into this atmospheric piece featuring Faife on guitar and bass, Hughes on soprano sax, Aguilella on drums and Collie on Fender Rhodes.
“Esperanza” (whether it’s a dedication to Ms. Spalding isn’t made clear) mixes many sources with Faife citing township jazz, country style guitar picking and rumba rhythms among others. An ingenious arrangement is a tour de force for Russian born accordionist Igor Outkine brilliantly supported by Faife on guitar and Satin Singh on percussion. Faife also mentions the sunny Caribbean feel that inveigles its way into the tune, it’s a joyous piece that’s sure to leave you smiling.
“Serpent” explores the similarities between flamenco and African rhythms, beginning with the Spanish bulerias and mutating into a Zimbabwean style groove shown to Faife by London based singer and musician Netsayi Chigwendere. For myself I thought I detected a hip hop influence in Jamie Trowell’s drum groove with Duncan McKay’s Miles-ian trumpet and Terry Collie’s Fender Rhodes evoking “In A Silent Way” era Davis.
“Buscando (Reprise)” is an extension of the opening track which was initially edited for the recording. Faife decided that Hughes and Collie’s solos on flute and Rhodes respectively were too good to be consigned to the out takes bin and so they appear here as a separate track.
The album concludes with the title track, ironically the first to be written for the album. As Faife explains the “Compas” is the rhythmic cycle in flamenco and for this piece the rhythm came before the melody, a trait common to much of Faife’s writing. In time the rhythm evolved from straight flamenco into something more obviously jazzy with Faife citing the influence of Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters. Propelled by Aguilella’s relentless grooves there’s some great soloing on this piece from Faife on guitar and Lavers on soprano sax.
The album was recorded over the course of two years (hence, presumably, the variety of different line ups) with Faife acknowledging the expertise of producer Fabrice Quentin and engineer Jon Astley. Faife himself plays Spanish, classical, electric and bass guitars and there’s obviously a fair amount of skilled overdubbing on an album that has clearly been a labour of love.
“Compas” isn’t a jazz album per se and to my untrained ear the feel is primarily of world music and particularly of flamenco. However there’s much here for any discerning listener to enjoy on a well crafted album packed with some impressive playing and some great moments.
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