CHELSEA CARMICHAEL — The River Doesn’t Like Strangers (review)

CHELSEA CARMICHAEL — The River Doesn’t Like Strangers album cover Album · 2021 · African Fusion Buy this album from MMA partners
3.5/5 ·
snobb
Chelsea Carmichael is a Manchester-born and London-based tenor saxophonist who plays with such leaders of the modern London jazz scene as SEED Ensemble, Theon Cross and Joe-Armon Jones (and - as a part of Jools Holland’s Rhythm and Blues Orchestra if you're less familiar with nowadays London's jazz scene). Still, the biggest influence on her debut's music comes from the album's producer and the London scene's leading cult personality, Shabaka Hutchings.

Soulful and dubby Jamaican spiritual jazz, often associated with different Hutchings' projects, is easily recognizable here. It wouldn't be a mistake to say that "The River Doesn’t Like Strangers" sounds like it has been recorded by a female version Shabaka Hutchings. Whereas Shabaka likes marching rhythms and attacking tempos, Chelsea plays slower, softer and and with more nuances.

"The River Doesn’t Like Strangers" is not battle hymns of Caribbean immigrants of Shepherds Bush and Peckham, it's more spiritual songs with strong reggae roots. On support, Chelsea has Sons Of Kemmet drummer Edward Wakili-Hick, Polar Bear bassist Tom Herbert and The Invisible guitarist Austria-born David Okumu. This strong band plays moody and catchy danceable music, really great at their best moments.

True, as with many of Shabaka's own albums, the music sometimes loses its direction or simply remains repeating rhythmic loops. Not a big fault for something that sounds like a ritualist soundtrack though. Strong debut on its own right, "The River..." makes one feel really curious what Chelsea will offer next.
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