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Sean Khan Presents The Modern Jazz & Folk Ensemble

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    Posted: 26 May 2024 at 11:49pm

recording of the week,Sean Khan - Presents The Modern Jazz & Folk Ensemble

by Barney Whittaker 

Never one to follow any well-trodden path, the Londoner has routinely criss-crossed his way between the city’s alternative musical scenes since first emerging as part of its underground broken beat (or ‘bruk’) movement at the turn of the century. Fusing electronic dance music with jazz-funk influences as a figurehead of the scene, you’d have been more likely to find him appearing back then in some dingy West London basement rave than at Ronnie Scott’s.

Having come of age predominantly outside the ‘traditional’ pipeline of institutional jazz settings which the capital has to offer, his musical predilections range beyond those of the most gilded degree holder. As a busy saxophonist and multi-instrumentalist, his eclectic vision was given a lift when, in 2011, he signed to Far Out Recordings, a label known for its cutting edge artistry that often enters the slipstream of Brazilian music and the many heterogeneous worlds it encompasses. This led to the opportunity of recording with avant-garde polymath Hermeto Pascoal on Palmares Fantasy (2018), before branching out with BBE Music to explore the cosmic side of one of his jazz heroes on Supreme Love: A Journey Through Coltrane (2021) – a creative period many of us admire, but one that few would actually have the stones to tackle, let alone succeed in making their own. 

With his latest new signing (this time to the deliciously quirky Acid Jazz) comes another inventive left turn and an equally fresh sound. The brainchild of Irishman Colm Carty, a former music manager who helped seal the deal with the label on Khan’s behalf, the musician was tasked for his latest album with creating new arrangements of songs by legendary ‘70s UK folk rock groups in a contemporary jazz idiom. “I haven’t got this kind of hierarchical sense… if it’s good and it moves me, I don’t care what it is,” Sean told me, in response to a question about how he appears to float so comfortably between different genres. It’s no wonder the music of this era resonates strongly with Khan’s spirit – it owes not just to the fact that icons of the folk revival such as Bert Jansch, John Martyn and Nick Drake were all influenced by Black American jazz and blues musicians, but on account of his own maternal Irish heritage as well.

Part of The Modern Jazz & Folk Ensemble's appeal is the modest fashion in which Khan plays second fiddle to his musical accomplices, shunning the spotlight and ensuring his guests receive the attention they rightly deserve. Sure, he’ll be waiting in the wings, ready to rush on before delivering a jaw-dropping solo, but apart from his taking a scintillating lead on ‘She Moves’, ‘Who Knows Where The Time Goes’ and ‘Ode to Nick Drake’, it’s the trio of female vocalists who largely steal the show. Singer-guitarist Rosie Frater-Taylor and Laura Kindelan smartly interpret a tender pair of songs from Pink Moon (1972) – the brooding Drake’s magnum opus. The former also lends her silky tones to a prescient rendition of ‘Solid Air’, John Martyn’s hazy tribute to the elusive figure who died aged 26. These young musicians are encouraged to blossom via the sagely presence of Jacqui McShee, co-founder of jazz-influenced folk rock group Pentangle. She reminisces on two of her old band's hits: ‘Light Flight’, whose rhythmic oddities the ensemble retrace with aplomb, and ‘I’ve Got A Feeling’, which pinches its harmonic framework directly from Miles Davis' ‘All Blues’.

For other high points, look no further than the freewheeling musical dialogue that arrives in the form of an unfurling ‘She Moved Through the Fair’ (dubbed here simply as ‘She Moves’). This traditional Irish tune has been co-opted over the years by everyone from Van Morrison to Wayne Shorter, but under Khan’s direction it becomes a mysterious reclamation of folkloric wisdom. By remodelling the dark and melancholic sounds he was first drawn to as a young listener into an intelligent setlist of ear-pleasing numbers, the Londoner leaps across timespans to concoct his winning formula – sublime lyricism, and dedicated musicianship.


Barney Whittaker

from www.prestomusic.com

Edited by snobb - 26 May 2024 at 11:51pm
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