What does it sound like?:
I first saw Emma Rawicz at my local jazz club in September 2021 in that fleeting moment where lockdown seemed to be easing and seeing live music was such a treat. She had been shortlisted for Jazz Instrumentalist of the Year by Jazz FM and the breathless news was that she had only been playing tenor sax (or any sax for that matter) since she was 15 and we were watching her at the advanced age of 19… Whatever, she was really good, and I saw her a year later and she was even better.
After a period of intensive study at Chetham’s school in Manchester she went to the Royal Academy (where she still is…) then spent lockdown with her head down practicing and investigating the classic jazz repertoire to fill in her knowledge – growing up in North Devon she’d never really heard jazz until a touring big band visited and she was hooked. Needless to say, all that wood shedding paid off and she sounds like a veteran with high multiples of years under her belt.
I bought her first album, “Incantation”, off Bandcamp where she announced she had 100 CDs available – it wasn’t on Amazon! It’s a cracker too and she’ll need more CDs this time, I think.
The new album, on ACT, is a triumph of contemporary jazz (carefully avoiding the word modern here). There is furious riffing on the opener “Phlox” around motifs which sound more founded in rock than what might usually be thought of as jazz, then languid ballads such as “Middle Ground” which you might have found back in the early 60s. Vocalist Immy Churchill doubles sax lines adding to the texture, and the presence of a guitarist is very welcome. Ant Law is a real jazzer not a jumped-up rocker but he can turn on the fusion chops as required which adds some grit to the proceedings. The piano/bass/drums rhythm section are tip top too. Emma shows versatility playing tenor, flute, bass clarinet and, though uncredited, I’m sure I can hear soprano sax too.
What I really like about the album is that while it is clearly jazz with a capital J, it doesn’t pretend it’s 1959 or any other era; it’s a lovely blend of moods and influences. Interestingly Emma declares a great love of Joni Mitchell, and I can hear strong flavours of Tom Scott, Joni alumni of old, in some of the tracks which display a distinctly 70s fusion vibe, Ant Law’s guitar blazing away like Robben Ford. Great stuff.
What does it all *mean*?
Well, I think with young players like Emma coming through who can take the rich tapestry of jazz and reinterpret it bringing in rock, world and folk influences, jazz is in a good place.
Goes well with…
Wherever you enjoy your jazz. There’s so much to enjoy it’s an album I like to put on and actually really listen too. And I don’t seem to do that much these days.
Might suit people who like…
Anyone with anything more than a passing interest in jazz of any school.