Turn to Clear View is the second Brownswood offering from Ezra Collective keyboard wizard and genre-blurring auteur Joe Armon-Jones. It follows his acclaimed Starting Today by nearly 18 months, and features a similar lineup that includes drummers Kwake Bass and Moses Boyd, trumpeter (and fellow EC member) Dylan Jones, saxophonists Nubya Garcia and James Mollison, guitarist Oscar Jerome, and bassists David Mrakpor and Mutale Chashi. The set's vocalists include Asheber, Georgia Anne Muldrow, rapper Jehst, and Afrobeat singer Obongjayar. Longtime collaborator Maxwell Owin is also here assisting Armon-Jones with production.
Turn to Clear View is quite similar in sound and feel to its predecessor, perhaps because it was cut almost immediately afterwards. These songs were penned quickly with basic tracks cut over two days. Armon-Jones spent months overdubbing and in post-production. The album is steeped in South London's nearly boundary-less jazz aesthetic, 21st century California-influenced funk and neo-soul, exploratory IDM, dub, sunny hip-hop, and, to a lesser degree, Afrobeat. Opener "Try Walk with Me," featuring Asheber, offers a juxtaposition of a dubwise bassline, simple but spidery Rhodes (that possesses the feel of a RZA mix), bumping snares, and a horn chart that sounds like it came from arranger Gerald Wilson after a baked night of sativic indulgence. Asheber's tenor singing floats through rather than above it, absorbed in the space-jazz mix until he becomes one with it. Muldrow appears on the set's single "Yellow Dandelion." Its horns caress as synths twinkle through a multi-tracked backing vocal chorus, and swaggering, electric piano grooves that recall the spirit of Herbie Hancock's Fat Albert's Rotunda. "Icy Roads (Stacked)" is another highlight; it's an instrumental fusion of dub, skittering IDM, and propulsive jazz-funk. It's followed by another instrumental in "Know Who You’re Followed By," whose groove is set deep in the fissure between South London's nu-fusion school and the spiritual soul-jazz of Kamasi Washington, complete with sprawling vocal choruses and a killer solo from Armon-Jones. "Gnawa Sweet," with its casual loping horn section and Rhodes vamps, slithers through jazz-funk exuding a humid vibe. Garcia is featured on "You Didn’t Care," whose beats sputter, swagger, and kick to the inside from a post-drum 'n' bass universe. Her canny tenor sax solo, saturated in blues and modal post-bop, soars. Closer "Self-Love," featuring Obongjayar, weds Afrobeat, souled-out funk, and hip-hop in a trippy mélange. Its abundant positivity is infectious. Turn to Clear View isn’t as ear-opening as other dates Armon-Jones played a large role in this year -- namely, Ezra Collective's You Can't Steal My Joy, and the unbapologetically straight acoustic jazz that saxophonistr Binker Golding delivered on his completely inspired Abstractions of Reality Past and Incredible Feathers. That said, it's througholy enjoyable, uplifting, and a fitting "part two" addendum to the sound explored on Starting Today.
© Thom Jurek /TiVo