Mark de Clive-Lowe’s eleventh studio album, Church begins in a Robert Glasper-like expansive space on ‘The Mission’ that makes you immediately sit up. Taking its name from the Los Angeles-based Japanese/New Zealander de Clive-Lowe’s club night, “equal parts jazz club, live remix experiment and dance party”, as the keyboardist who was a long time part of the London beats-y jazz scene before moving to the States describes it, this Kickstarter-funded album, a blend of the jazz tradition with what de Clive-Lowe sees as “forward thinking hip hop, breaks, bass and club music” the pianist emphasising his jazz chops in producing an album that features mostly his own tunes and on which he plays piano, Rhodes, synths, synth bass, live samples, and feeds in electronics.
Joined engagingly by, among other vocalists and MCs, soul/R&B singer Nia Andrews on three tracks, and a New York band that includes saxophonist/flautist Tivon Pennicott, trombonist Robin Eubanks, trumpeter Duane Eubanks, bassist Tim Lefebvre and drummer Nate Smith as well as an LA crew, Church goes some way to join the dots between old school 1990s acid jazz, the broken beat of the last decade and, crucially, reaching back, modal and Blue Note flavours from the 1960s, arranged with an ear reset and newly attuned to global beats.
There is a real sense of the tradition in transition here from the vantage point of the dance floor and its jazz interface taking in the view from the bandstand as well as the DJ’s booth. Touches of Alice Coltrane-like spiritual jazz on ‘The Processional’ coalesce, Low Leaf’s rippling harp cascade while summery trumpet smears add a lot of atmosphere. So different yet compatible with Takuya Kuroda’s Rising Son in the sense that it’s also clubby-jazz Church uses dance textures and scintillating rhythm as well as hip hop inspirations in a refreshing way that actually provides plenty of content. Andrews adds a certain loose R&B energy to ‘Now or Never’ and responds well to de Clive-Lowe’s cosmic keyboards intro prompting on ‘Hollow’ nudges into soul territory backed by horn accompaniment stacked up behind her for an appealingly salty slightly dissonant wash, ‘Distractions’ later upping the beats per minute exponentially.
The crackles at the beginning of the initially elegiac ‘Prayer’ have an appealing vintage authenticity the track wading deep into balmy Blue Note waters, de Clive-Lowe, like so many dance floor jazzers, immersing himself convincingly in these lively currents that are still inspiring a new open minded jazz-dance generation in different ways down the years. The infectious opening to ‘Imam’ sees the drummer break loose, while the Ornettian rewrite in the opening melody of ‘Sun Up, Sun Down’, like a broken beat-ified ‘Lonely Woman’, is very clever and one of the catchiest tracks with a flood of rhythm pouring through and some astute production. An album that refuses to stand still stylistically or rhythmically. SG