Compás – Jules Faife creates out of what he left behind. (Music Review)

front cover

When an artist, fresh and new to humanity, is learning a craft, they make their way in the world on a kind of Odyssey to self, the search directed outward is in order to find a path inside, to spiral down to that place uniquely theirs, not reactionary, not admonishing, but fully expressed, the word, sound or artifact that stops, even for a small time, that burning ache in the pit of all pits that drives the desire to create beauty. It is a strange time in the artist’s life, something every artist goes through even though each journey is as unique as each artist themselves. Eventually instinct takes over influence, but there is never an end to the exploration of technique, shared through the engagement with like artists and their work. This is never more true than for the musician, and within that world, it is rarely truer than for the jazz musician. As a kind of homage to his early years, a nod to his influences, his mentors and his friends, Jules Faife has compiled twelve jazz infused tracks, heavily influenced by flamenco, various world sounds, and most of all his own explorations into his at home recording and re recording of the beauty he and he his friends share each when their performance takes them to the place where the wells connect.

It’s a London locale, after all that’s where Faife is based, and in many ways the album sounds like a who’s who of a jazz scene over the last fifteen years, an homage to more than Faife’s influences, also a specific sound of a specific time and place. Compás is the capturing of time, the use of music as more than evocative of emotion, by combining the history, influence, and intuitive connection to beauty, Faife acts as a conduit for his time, filtering a variety of experiments into a cohesive whole through the use of modern digital techniques that act as a kind of support system for the musicians skills. In the package, Faife includes a series of designer notes, introductions and companions to the complex tracks, that detail a narrative of a journey into the best possible sound in the best possible manipulations, the intention to bring the enormous pleasures Faife obviously feels when he plays, records and composes with and through his friends. Compás is a perfect title, for this meandering, heart-felt album, as it traces through key moments in Faifes evolution as a musician, to bring us into the journey that brings him back to himself.

Track one, ‘Buscando’, (excerpt above) sets the tone and pace for the album, and according to Faife is the track he most uses to introduce himself at performances. Its combination of stirring catchy melody combined with roots in the easily identifiable Flamenco, ‘Buscando’ has a spirited life of its own with Faife leaping into his own interpretations immediately and using the 6:10 minutes to prepare the listener for the experimental aspects of the forthcoming tracks. Regular performer on the album is Fernando Pellon, drawn in on track one through his Bulerias style hand claps that enter around the 1:43 mark by way of intro to the second refrain, however Faife injects his own narrative over the top of Pellon’s tradition by manipulating the hand claps later to another part of the beat , creating a different sound underneath the ardent Rob Lavers flute solo starting at 2:05 and the introduced new melody performed by Ross Hughes, taking the track to another fresh sound at 4:30. It brings the 6:10 minute offerings to several new places, providing the listener both traditions for recognition as well as the thrill of the avant guard Faife likes to call his own.

After the stylised experiments of track two  ‘Niño’, featuring Ross Hughes this time on an energetic Sax, the tracks move to the stunning ‘Awake’, (excerpt above) an eclectic moulding of disparate sounds, including a flamenco styled electric guitar that come together nicely to give a sense of Jazz fusion. It’s a gorgeous track, one of the best on the album, primarily because it seems to repeat one refrain, but for the most part is more emblematic of the contrasting feel of the album, and the self-styled electronic improv Faife creates in the privacy of his own memory.

flamenco hand

It’s on track four, ‘Barcelona’ that the wonderful gravelly voice of Fernando Pellon first comes into the album, distinctly Cuban, wholly celebratory, Barcelona is a party track that brings more a traditional feel to the previously highly experimental album. Faife plays his way through some neat little quieter tracks than hits up hard, changing focus again with ‘World’, that rocks with a distinctly African jazz heart, and as it turns out has roots in Faife’s own experimental efforts within the Zimbabwean band Harare.  Kenny Chitsvatsva provides the vocals that even spend a little time in comic reflection on the American charity song, ‘We are the world’ making a plea for respect for the impoverished and disenfranchised. The jazz roots then come back with a relentless force through Lavers tenor sax, that frolics its way into the enormity of its own message. Along with ‘Awake’, it’s one of the stand out tracks on the album – one I could, listen to over and over.

Continuing on the global influence theme, the cymbal heavy ‘Tihai’, deliciously laden with Indian influences, it evolves into a funk infused chill fest that started out with something quite lyrically gentle, a surprise given the rolling wave-like relentlessness of the cymbals. Track nine, ‘Esperanza’ beautifully combines the unlikely elements of Russian accordion performer Igor Outkine with a super strong Caribbean influence of all things, set off again, by that Flamenco guitar electronic style. It’s a lovely little track, not quite packing the punch of other recordings, but a fascinating listen none the less. On track ten, Faife brings the whole back to jazzier roots, playing a Zimbabwe inspired bass against a softly reaching Duncay Mackay trumpet. It’s another one of my favourites (you can see where my prejudices lay) as it heads into another lilting jazz set, breathy and light – total red wine music! At 7:19 minutes long its a sensory pleasure fest. The jazzy theme continues with  ‘Buscando’ (the second), a light playful track with a kick ass flute solo, that seemed too busy for the introduction. It is a full set, but by the eleventh track you’re ready for it, happier to let it float over and embrace all the sounds, rather than picking at it as one does in an introductory track. The final track, aptly named Compás is a recording partially completed in Faife’s history and rounded out with the companion work of both Ross Hughes and Rob Lavers, bringing the exploratory journey full circle, back into the heart and soul of Jules Faife and the music that makes him and the music he makes.

Jules Faife pic

Compás isn’t just a Flamenco inspired jazz record, nor is it only an experimental hard liner, but it is a personal journey, a sojourn of sorts, a recording of a fifteen years history of a musician in the making, a music writer in the making and a highly experimental talent driven by a hunger for the deepest of beautiful sounds he can possibly find.

Compás is available through Jules Faife’s website.