The River Doesn’t Like Strangers (Native Rebel Recordings)

Chelsea Carmichael

Released October 22, 2021

AllMusic Favorite Jazz Albums 2021

YouTube:

https://music.youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_n0S2mZUSm3OZbWxdSdr-Yd7oNg3plcEIc

Spotify:

https://open.spotify.com/album/0rMRVTA8NJBbQAa4FcFgpV?si=cZQpGFfcSiau3N-xxOS_kA

About:

The River Doesn’t Like Strangers from start to finish is jazz mastery at its finest. The title track was inspired by the words of Chelsea’s dad on the Rio Grande in Jamaica: the river that goes through the centre of his home village of Grants Level, in the parish of Portland.
The intertwining of skilled players invokes the movement of the Rio Grande throughout. Playful, unpredictable and masterful, it’s simply a sublime record. Album highlights include the pensive and beautifully expansive ‘Bone And Soil’, the mythical ‘Myriad’ and the transcendental ‘All We Know’.

Track Listing:

1. There Is a Place (It’s Not Here) (Chelsea Carmichael / Tom Herbert / Shabaka Hutchings / Dave Okumu / Edward Wakili-Hick) 03:31

2. All We Know (Chelsea Carmichael / Tom Herbert / Shabaka Hutchings / Dave Okumu / Edward Wakili-Hick) 07:26

3. Bone and Soil (Chelsea Carmichael / Tom Herbert / Shabaka Hutchings / Dave Okumu / Edward Wakili-Hick) 05:08

4. Myriad (Chelsea Carmichael / Tom Herbert / Shabaka Hutchings / Dave Okumu / Edward Wakili-Hick) 05:45

5. There Is You and You (Chelsea Carmichael / Tom Herbert / Shabaka Hutchings / Dave Okumu / Edward Wakili-Hick) 06:58

6. The Healer (Chelsea Carmichael / Tom Herbert / Shabaka Hutchings / Dave Okumu / Edward Wakili-Hick) 09:48

7. Noor (Chelsea Carmichael / Tom Herbert / Shabaka Hutchings / Dave Okumu / Edward Wakili-Hick) 06:08

8. The River Doesn’t Like Strangers (Chelsea Carmichael / Tom Herbert / Shabaka Hutchings / Dave Okumu / Edward Wakili-Hick) 10:52

9. Hiaro/Hadali (Chelsea Carmichael / Tom Herbert / Shabaka Hutchings / Dave Okumu / Edward Wakili-Hick) 04:44

Personnel:

Chelsea Carmichael: tenor saxophone

Tom Herbert: double bass

David Okumu: guitar

Edward Wakili-Hick: drums

Producer: Shabaka Hutchings

Engineer: Will Purton

Assistant Engineer: Felipe Gutierrez

Mixed by Dilip Harris

Mastered by Guy

Photography by Adama Jalloh

Art Design: Paul Flack

Review:

The River Doesn’t Like Strangers is the debut album by British saxophonist and composer Chelsea Carmichael. While it is the first release from the artist, it also marks the initial offering from Shabaka Hutchings’ Native Rebel Recordings label. Carmichael is member of Theon Cross’ and Joe Armon-Jones’ bands as well as SEED Ensemble. Hutchings caught her live and was so impressed that he signed her. Carmichael’s parents are from the Caribbean and her compositions here offer an Afro-futurist musical take on the Caribbean diaspora. Her quartet includes guitarist David Okumu, upright bassist Tom Herbert, and drummer Edward Wakili-Hick. The Hutchings-produced set was recorded in three days without prior rehearsal.

This music is deeply rhythmic and personal; it relies heavily on post-bop, modal jazz, dub reggae, space age calypso, and in places, Indian raga. Opener “There Is a Place (And It’s Not Here)” commences with shimmering ambience from rolling tom-toms, bright droning guitars, and a rumbling bassline. Carmichael adds long, low, brooding notes before airing the melody a little at a time, recalling Pharoah Sanders’ Impulse sides. It gives way to the bass-heavy “All We Know,” wherein her melody line traces calypso through smoky dubwise trap-kit rhythms adorned by spiky, reverberating electric guitars. She dialogues with Okumu in the midsection before soloing. Herbert and Wakili-Hick are endlessly creative throughout as they syncopate, groove, and frame her tenor lines with an elastic yet unshakeable pulse. The head in “Bone and Soil” is nearly majestic as Carmichael’s tenor offers a compelling repetitive phrase that she transforms into an expansive harmonic line as Okumu offers painterly atmospherics and contrapuntal phrases. Herbert’s solo offers lyric invention as she pulses the new theme just behind him. On “There Is You and You,” Carmichael is strident, accompanied initially by Wakili-Hick double-timing and improvising on her fat, expressive lines. When the band enters, they take the groove first to Afrobeat, then soca, then biting funk. “The Healer” begins with a circular calypso pattern that branches seamlessly into West African highlife, Afrobeat, and Latin cumbia before engaging dub reggae and post-bop. In addition to Carmichael’s glorious improvising, the tune offers canny cymbal and tom-tom work as well as a smoking yet mysterious guitar solo. The set’s title track is nearly 11 minutes long and traverses the world of modal and spiritual jazz while exploring a bluesy lyric line. It eventually expands into a labyrinthine journey through counterpoint, tonal inquiry, and harmonic expansion by Carmichael, and rhythmic extrapolation by the band. The saxophonist dialogues intensely with Okumu, then moves off-center as another line of harmonic possibility presents itself through blues, reggae, and Trinidadian calypso as the band gels behind her. The River Doesn’t Like Strangers is a showcase for a soloist and composer who emerges fully formed. Further, Carmichael’s quartet is capable of creating a bracing music that resists reductionist classification while dictating a bracing new direction that carries tradition inside its singular expression of innovation and invention.

Thom Jurek (AllMusic)