British bassist Shez Raja is back with a fantastic, innovative jazz fusion album, Gurutopia, which is out now on US label Dot Time Records.
“I believe the ultimate goal for a musician is to follow a guru-like path. A journey of personal growth to a utopia of total musical self-expression. This recording represents a major milestone on my own journey as a musician and I’m overjoyed with what we’ve created together as a band” (quote from Gurutopia’s inner album sleeve).
I couldn’t agree more, it takes talent, courage and an incredible amount of creativity to write an album like Gurutopia. Eight tracks, perfectly formed, all composed by Shez Raja with the presence this time round of trumpet and guitar veterans, Randy Brecker and Mike Stern, plus some equally talented musicians.
The album opens with Rabbits, a fast, bouncy beat slowing slightly in the middle of the piece which sees Mike Stern excelling with some mesmerizing playing. Stern, who has played with Miles Davis, the Brecker Brothers, Blood, Sweat & Tears, to name but a few, is on top form on the album.
Maharaja, which is also the longest track on the album, is a classic example of pure Indo-jazz fusion. With clear influences of raga (traditional South Asian music), it is reminiscent of a summer afternoon escapade to the countryside, lying on a green field watching the clouds go past. It has a funky violin, courtesy of Pascal Roggen, with wicked keys by Alex Stanford.
The Polish singer, Monika Lidke, performs on a couple of tracks on the album, including Song For John; the piece is dreamy, calming and Lidke’s vocals are beautiful, accompanied by the moving violin by Roggen.
Sketches Of Space sees the über versatile trumpet player, Randy Brecker, perform with style and a modern panache. Brecker, a monster of the trumpet, has played with the likes of Billy Cobham, Stanley Turrentine, and one of my heroes, the great Horace Silver, as well as Blue Oyster Cult!
This track together with Shiva Mantra, the final tune, are my favourites. I love the dulcet tones of Monika Lidke on the last track especially, as well as the playing of saxophonist Vasilis Xenopoulos. A superb track, worth noting for its elegant simplicity and masterful creativity.
Shez Raja is back with a wondrous album which will be officially launched at the 606 Jazz Club in London on 21st April (featuring John Etheridge).
Jazz fusion has never been so alive!