Phi-Psonics sophomore album ‘Octava’ is out now via Matthew Halsall‘s Gondwana Records.
Longtime friends of In Sheep’s Clothing, Phi-Psonics is a rising jazz group from Los Angeles, led by bassist Seth Ford-Young featuring Sylvain Carton on woodwinds, Mitchell Yoshida on electric piano, and Josh Collazo on drums. Deeply meditative, the group’s contemporary spiritual jazz not only swings, but floats, with influences ranging from Charles Mingus and Duke Ellington to Chopin and Satie. Their sound is one that’s quietly transportive reminding us a bit of the relaxed, but deeply spiritual planes reached on Henry Franklin’s “Soft Spirit” from his classic album The Skipper at Home on Black Jazz.
Octava is Phi-Psonics’ sophomore release on Manchester-based DJ, bandleader, and trumpeter Matthew Halsall’s Gondwana Records. Some moments on the album, the woodwind melody on “Green Dreams” and the floor tom drum groove on “Where We’ve Been,” casually bring to mind Sun Ra’s classic “Tiny Pyramids,” though both tracks reach for a more meditative state than Ra’s cosmic strut. “Lunar Reflections” beautifully quotes a melodic idea from the late-great Ryuichi Sakamoto’s “Merry Christmas Lawrence.”
Seth Ford-Young: “This album is about change and evolution to a higher version of ourselves. Understanding this journey through the idea of ascending a musical scale and arriving at a new, higher octave is natural especially for a musician. We move, struggle, and work through the various steps or tones and arrive at the octave a new version of ourselves, still the same person, but vibrating at a higher frequency.”
Next Wednesday, July 12th Phi-Psonics will be celebrating their album release at Zebulon with Liberate Elemental Forces, an Indian classical/psychedelic music collective from the eastside of Los Angeles. The show is free and In Sheep’s Clothing’s Phil Cho will be playing records between sets. Check out a video from Phi-Psonics last show at Zebulon.
In anticipation of the show, Phi-Psonics’ Seth Ford-Young selected five favorites + writeups including a few iconic jazz albums and new releases from close friends.
Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus, Max Roach – Money Jungle (1963)
Recently, I was preparing for a project interpreting a few Duke Ellington pieces, and as I was researching I re-listened to ‘Money Jungle’ in full for the first time in years. It was a joy to reconnect with this beautifully raw and very personal document of three absolute giants of music. The session was famously not the smoothest and the tension is palpable even as the three maestros work through a meditative piece like “La Fleurette Africaine” , and comes front and center as the band gets downright pugilistic on the title track “Money Jungle.” The album is a journey through gut bucket swing, Uptown Romanticism, avant wailing, and gauzy minimalism but all with a distinct Ellingtonian feel. That has as much to do with Duke’s very distinctive (and underrated) piano as it does with his undeniable compositional voice. Mingus is largely the inspiration for my journey with the upright bass and I’ve studied his work extensively. This recording stands out as the trio setting provides a great opportunity to hear all the colors of the palette he is painting with. I was once transfixed by a Max Roach solo concert in San Francisco and I have no doubt that this drum performance, somehow isolated from the bass and piano, would have the same effect. Roach swings, speaks, and supports in a show of vibrant excellence throughout the album. There are a lot of great piano trio records out there though many of them sound very similar sonically and stylistically, love it or not you cannot deny the singular sound of ‘Money Jungle’.
Takuro Okada – Betsu No Jikan (2022)
I had the pleasure of meeting and making music with Takuro Okada recently in Yohei Shikano’s garden nestled in a canyon in Los Angeles’ Mt Washington neighborhood. The three of us explored semi-structured improvisation and traced some beautifully rough edges together, an approach I hear Takuro using to great effect on Betsu No Jikan. This largely instrumental album shimmers as it leads us along a journey through meditative tableaus, each a world unto itself. At moments Okada seems to be exploring a musical voice as fresh for him as it is for us, which lends the music a searching feeling that invites you to join the quest. Cinematically lush, unexpected moments abound on this LP featuring appearances by Carlos Niño, Sam Gendel, Jim O’Rourke, Nels Cline, Shun Ishiwaka, Marty Holoubek, and the legendary Haroumi Hosono.
Hanakiv – Goodbyes (2023)
This is a fresh and adventurous piano-centered album from Estonian artist Hanakiv. Strings, electronic treatments, creative production, and the breathy vibrato of Alabaster dePlume’s tenor sax help this record stand out from the tidal wave of piano-led neo-classical/minimalist/ambient music of the last decade. But it’s Hanakiv’s compositions and her piano voice, often prepared or tastefully manipulated and with the ‘asmr-esque’ sounds of keys and pedals, that lends this album such an immediate and personal sound. For an album that is as relaxing and meditative as ‘Goodbyes” is, it is also quite forward looking, playful and even a bit quirky and dissonant at times, none of this breaks the spell or threatens to wake us from the dream. Perhaps it’s those unconventional moments that make the dream so alluring…
Jeremiah Chiu & Marta Sofia Honer – Recordings from the Åland Islands (2022)
I stopped in my tracks when I first heard ‘On the Other Sea’ from the gorgeous ‘Recordings from the Åaland Islands’ by Jeremiah Chiu and Marta Sofia Honer, this warm blanket of sound struck my ears as something very familiar and yet totally fresh. Recorded in and inspired by the natural beauty of the remote Åaland Islands, an archipelago lacing between Finland and Sweden in the Baltic Sea. This album feels very organic and nature-inspired with an inviting ‘field recording’ or ‘ASMR’ aesthetic at times that encourages the listener to lean in. Even as synthesizers play a large part in the soundscapes here, they are balanced with acoustic piano, chimes, flute, and Honer’s viola. This album inspires a delicious yearning to return to a place I’ve never been, perhaps it’s the Islands or maybe someplace in myself I’ve yet to visit.
John Coltrane – Coltrane (1962)
“Coltrane” is the first studio recording with the “Classic Quartet” of John Coltrane, McCoy Tyner, Jimmy Garrison, and Elvin Jones, beautifully recorded by Rudy VanGelder and released on Impulse! records. Coming on the heels of the triumph and controversy of “Live at the Village Vanguard”, this album finds Coltrane settling into his new, adventurous approach but more relaxed than “Live at the Village Vanguard” or later albums like “Interstellar Space”. This puts “Coltrane” in a sweet spot for me, with all the emotion and spiritual power of the later releases but in a more meditative, melodic, and swinging mode that keeps me coming back to it 30 years after my first listen. Released in a critical environment that was hostile to the new direction the music was taking, ‘Coltrane’ was overshadowed by harsh and at times personal attacks from the press and is surprisingly little talked about to this day. The title also makes it a hard album to find in his vast catalog, but I assure you the rewards to the listener that “Coltrane” offers are worth the effort.
The Gondwana Records boss shares five essential favorites. Manchester-based trumpeter, bandleader, and composer Matthew Halsall has a new album coming out tomorrow! Inspired by the breathtaking sea views […]