An early review. First of all jazz purists please note Knopperz ISN'T a jazz album in a strict sense or to some at all! However, as usual that sort of debate is a cul-de-sac because we all escape top-down imposed genre in our listening and there is a whole lot to gain from its very lean structures and by delving into all its rich tonal centres. The sounds exert a grip on you after the shock of the new. Of course, however, Okumu IS a jazz musician within his extraordinary musical identity as well as being an Old Wykehamist a product of one of England's most ancient schools, Winchester. Mercury-nominated for the hugely acclaimed electronica band The Invisible and yes he is something of an auteur who can make connections spanning multiple areas and fanbases. This album underlines that polymathic status again. The Invisible's Tom Herbert marlbank incidentally luckily caught recently playing in east London at the Vortex with the fine Austrian guitarist Hannes Riepler. Also born in Austria, in Okumu's case Vienna, the guitarist first surfaced with Courtney Pine as an unknown and was in a fabled band called Jade Fox that played venues such as Camden Town's Jazz Cafe. I never managed to see the band play to my burning shame. But I well recall hearing Okumu's incendiary very loud, almost as if he was playing the desert blues mixed with harmolodics, contribution to Courtney Pine's band when the great saxist played the important at-the-time BBC Jazz Awards in the QEH in the early years of this millennium.
Turning to Knopperz the sound is very pared back, lots of great grooves and shards of beats and pieces adding angles and curling points of entry. The odd siren squeal shoots from the night, some Afrofuturistic vocal swells at times careen and caress. Excellent piano licks and more feed in. A ritual of groove, laidback and absorbing, loungey in a way, like the cool of the evening after the heat of the day, there's a a chance to chill and time to drive when the flow gathers. At first you'll be thinking where's the meat? It's there in the tiny detail that loops in and out and constantly surprises in the accented beats, Okumu's incredible sense of feel and all the ducking and diving in the off-beats and layers of revelation. J Dilla's Donuts is billed as one inspiration as are samples from Duval Timothy's Sen Am. The track that I liked best overall is 'New Dawn', with its moan and ache and very groovy sense of propulsion and blissed-out keyboard testifying garnished with strings. But this is very much a highly stimulating long listen. You lap up the entirety and then telescope in to the memories and these will and do remain. SG
Out on 24 September
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