… and in today’s [inaugural/introductory] edition of the infamous series, “What do you mean, World Music…?”
The new [debut full-length] album from MEZCLA is a prime example of what “World Music” is and should be… as well as yet another prime example of why the term really doesn’t quite suit in most cases.
Certainly, MEZCLA is a “World Music” band. They absolutely exist out there in ‘the world’, as it were. The sextet is based in and out of Glasgow, Scotland, and – since most of THE NONSEMBLE live in various areas across the states… we suppose Glasgow, Scotland would and should qualify as “World Music”.
Further, it would stand to reason that each of the members of the Scottish band has reach and reverence for the true sources of their musical inspiration. From points all over the map.
More to the point, MEZCLA bassist, founder and lead composer David Bowden and the others in the band are seemingly very much inspired by beats and pieces of music all across the globe.
Myriad influences out of Africa, as well as sounds sought from both North and South America and elsewhere, are intimated throughout the nine-track follow-up to their amazing self-titled, MEZCLA, 4 track extended-player from 2017.
Back, as strong as ever, with the push and partnership of the magicians over at UBUNTU Music, MEZCLA has put together an album that might on many levels stand shoulder to shoulder with the projects of their contemporaries in other parts of the planet.
The moment we saw that there was a new track on deck, we excitedly [and immediately] reached out. Aside from our love of their earlier project, we have long had MEZCLA on our watch list… both for new releases and live shows.
Their latest was well worth the wait, SHOOT THE MOON is due 07.FEB on UBUNTU Music.
The Sonics, The Sounds
We’ve been blessed with an advance copy of the album… Oh, and we do mean BLESSED! [Many thanks for the share, gentlefolks!!!]
We won’t give away much… except to say that having gone through this tremendous effort track by track, this is an extraordinary work product, from the complex and soulful compositions and incredible musicianship right down to the sonics of the mix and mastering.
What did we hear? Well…
01. SHOOT THE MOON Our introductory title track comes in strong, with a pseudo-semi-somewhat-slightly seventies Latin jazz fusion feel that nips at the edges and hides in the hedges throughout. With a very hard-hitting drum-driven drone provided by drummer and percussionist, Stephen Henderson along with the addition of seemingly simple, yet subtly complex and layered, clean and uncluttered arrangements, we know from the word ‘Go’ that this is going to be a World/Fusion excursion.
The second track on the album is also one of the advance lead singles [available now] offering a sneak peek of the coming full-length release.
Rhythmic key chords supplied by Alan Benzies and guitarist, Ben MacDonald’s nimble fretwork mix and mesh into the tune – a track with melodies so lush that one might imagine a new Sade track creeping in and out. It is almost 3 minutes into the track that we take a direct turn to South Africa. Trumpeter Joshua Elcock and Saxophonist, Michal Butcher provide the double horn play that takes us across the breaks, building up to something lovely before we drop back down into the groove and out.
03. SAMI’S TUNE
Bold horns open the tune-up and into a bit of cool guitar – yet those horns don’t let up. By the time we reach our guitar and muted trumpet solos we are in an Afro-Latin-Carribean love affair! Once Joshua Elcock’s trumpet has stepped up and into the ‘pep’ and takes us out, strains and refrains of Cubano elder Arturo Sandoval and his near-perfect ‘Funky Cha-Cha’ may come to mind.
04. AUKLAND HILL
Imagine – if you will – a world where international World Smooth Jazz is a movement. That dream-state moment where Mr. Metheny meets a band in Jo-Burg, South Africa and takes them on tour. Except that this is clearly not Pat’s guitar.
This is the guitar of none other than MEZCLA alumni [and leader of his own band, the ANIMUS Quartet], Mr. Ben MacDonald. When the change comes in at or around 4 minutes in, the song takes a rather dramatic – and delightful – turn back to the Dominican side of the island. Not literally… however the Afro and Latin mix it up quite nicely – again – while the sax solo and what lies beneath are distinctly and decidedly tres Afrique.
...And It Gets Better
05. DINOSAUR JUMP
Apparently an earlier single that has found a home on the new album, the leader of the MEZCLA pack, David Bowden provides a bassline build-up and ensuing shuffle drum groove add a sub-Saharan texture to another full-scale big horn arrangement.
We of THE NONSEMBLE found ourselves jazz-dancing around the house – from the kitchen, down the hall, through the window, round the wall. [We do that every now and again]. A nice sustained keyboard solo allows us enough time with Alan Benzie and his musical imagination that [by the time he drops us off into another groove] we are pleasantly surprised to be reminded of exactly where we started.
06. WINTER WALK
The super mellow Elcock trumpet that walks us into this one is so relaxing that by the time the saxophonist arrives, we are at a down-right lull. Never dull. No sleep. Here, Ben MacDonald’s guitar takes on a ring and twang that wanders between Italian Spaghetti Western and an ECM ethereal soundscape. The very same lovely little lilt continues to tilt right up to and through the vamp.07. APKE
Many of us that are familiar and loving of African guitar styling may well fall immediately into this one. As the tune continues to grow and to lively up – the imagery of a film or television show might come to some of our minds. The song continues growing – bigger, better and badder by the beat. We rode right along with this one. Styles abound.
The coolness of key chords comes through – again. The light touch at the top. Ah – the maestro, John Klemmer’s ‘Touch’ would have been done proud. Any such connection quickly shifts and shimmers as soon as the bass hits the bottom and the guitar comes in – not to mirror, more to mix and match strings. This is yet another track that is so melodic and musical that it seems ready for a song to be sung… Soon enough, the trumpet work comes in and across the top to do the trick. Truly a[nother] terrific tune.
09. KNOCKCAN CRAG
Named for an area in the Highlands of Scotland, the song rises on a lofty drone. There is a very specific song that comes to mind, if not the song title. Its a tune once presented by the late, great Esbjorn Svensson and his trio. This… is not that song. As the sax rides in on that wave and – just at or around two minutes in – a nice, tender bass truly takes the lead… when yet another song seems to take over [it isn’t a different song at all – only a fantastic addition].
Cinematic Africa in audio. When the guitar steps in and jumps up… we begin to imagine an Afro-inflected, World Fusion Jazz album out of the guitar genius Robert Fripp King of the Crimson Court… and snap back to get re-grounded back into the absolutely incredible album that MEZCLA has delivered.
In FEB.2020 the album will be released to us all on UBUNTU Music… at all of the usual retail music spaces, you can expect something unexpected. Listen. You’ll thank them. For more information follow them and us across the social media landscape.
The MEZCLA Social Circle
Michael Butcher – Tenor Saxophone
Joshua Elcock – Trumpet
Ben MacDonald – Guitar
Alan Benzie – Keyboard
David Bowden – Bass and Compositions
Stephen Henderson – Drums and Percussion