The true mark of an exceptional jazz ensemble is their ability to achieve tight, flawless unison whilst ensuring balance and clarity. Mark Isaacs’ latest offering from ARIA nominated Resurgence, “Duende” manages to consistently to achieve this with a rare mix of sophistication and impressive honesty.
In terms of original material, the Australian composer’s pieces are sleek and polished. Rather than falling into a ‘search for musical revolution’, these pieces are certainly innovative and definitely fresh, but somehow they still retain the roots of good jazz.
The album itself is diverse and provides ample opportunities to demonstrate the immense talent of the artists involved. Isaacs stays away from featuring the vocalist too prominently.
You Never Forget Love is smooth and sultry, with just enough dissonant crunch to keep the listener interested. It makes a surprisingly mature showpiece for 24 year-old vocalist Briana Cowlishaw, her voice effortless with absolutely no tension in the sound. Aside from this piece, Cowlishaw is as much an ensemble member as the rest of Resurgence. That said, it would be nice to hear more from her in the future – maybe the next CD?
First Light is a rare gem. It is heart-wrenchingly understated and possesses a profound stillness that conveys a sense of immense love, passion and respect for the music that is being performed. This results from the obvious communication between the ensemble. Saxophonist Max Keegan and Cowlishaw perform the opening scat together in unnervingly perfect unison, so much so that the timbral distinction between voice and instrument is almost dissolved.
One of the fantastic things about this album is the rawness of the mixing. It’s delightfully natural – so much so that you can hear can hear every hum, buzz and click. This earnestness and sincerity of sound continues throughout the rest of the album.
The Beloved has a distinctly Latin flavour – a soft, sweet bossa nova with a gentleness in tone from the entire ensemble. New Lives and Gnosis both provide ample time to hear the talent of Resurgence in a series of virtuosic and complex improvisations by Isaacs, guitarist James Muller and drummer Tim Firth. The final track, an extended version ofYou Never Forget Love is a nice addition yet feels just a little unnecessary – some more vocal material from Cowlishaw earlier in the album would have been better.
This genre of soft jazz is often dismissed as simply background noise. With each track beautifully crafted this album actively fights against this and demands to be put into the spotlight. A breath of fresh air, it’s sure to become the next jazz standard.