Here we are then at the arse end of the year, so the least we can do in 2016 is try and go out on something of a high. Sydney’s Mister Ott – signed to the exemplary Art As Catharsis label and led by the titular Matthew Ottignon are just the right kind of antidote you need for a year that has – in the opinion of all great thinkers and philosophers – gone tits up.
Flippant I may be – but in times when insularity, suspicion of ‘the other’, hate crimes, and racism all seem to be on the increase, Ottignon and his band of hip cats have recorded an expansive album that embraces world music and culture, that looks forward positively to a global society where unity, rather than division, are the main virtues of humanity. Positive, buoyant, Single Shot slides easily from Mulatu Astatke inspired Ethiopian Jazz through the relentlessly compulsive Afro-futurism of Head Hunters/Sunlight period Herbie Hancock.
This in itself would be enough for many, but the seven tracks on this record also take in Nik Turner style space-jazz (particularly his Space Fusion Odyssey which we reviewed last year) and the regimented fastidiousness of Fela Kuti or Steely Dan. Yes, there’s a touch of acid-jazz – that much maligned and mostly forgotten movement of the late 1990s but – god damn – you really want to get up and dance to this record. Stick it on at New Year’s Eve after a few drinks and see what happens (and send me pictures).
Starting with the musicianship – it’s near faultless – the interplay between Ottignon’s saxes and Ellen Kirwood’s Trumpet is a wonderful thing to hear when they go at it full bore – recalling, if you will, the heady jazz-funk experimentalism of Eddie Henderson. Daniel Pilner’s organ and Ben Panucci’s guitars provide plenty of spaced-out effects and trickery to keep the most jaded space-head happy, while Eden Ottignon’s bass is rock-solid throughout, providing not just the foundations of each track, but imbued with a great amount of P-Funk flare. There are a number of Bootsy Collins albums, no doubt, nestling in his collection somewhere. Finally, on more than one occasion do percussionist-drummers Carlos Adura and Dan Kennedy prove that they have a touch of the Billy Cobhams about them, there’s no doubting that they know their way around a kit – and then some. While these musicians are giving us a masterclass we should also give a nod to the production, making full use of the aural space with a terrific wall of sound.
Each track is upbeat and drenched in cosmic energy – from the hedonistic promise of the night in the opener ‘Blood Sky’ to the syncopated reggae blitz of ‘Dragon Majesty’ through to the closing Sun-Ra hat-tip ‘Space Will Win’, we’re drawn very willingly into a world where jazz-fusion rules, and where it becomes very difficult to believe that this album was made in 2016 rather than 1976. Standing out for me are the epic-workouts of ‘Snakebite’ and ‘Shakedown’, powerhouses of tracks that hit light speed early on and suck you along with them.
It’s all too short, and over too quickly in my opinion – but you won’t wear it out from repeated listening. I’d also say you really mustn’t pass by the opportunity to hear this music. Single Shot is certainly a strong contender for one of this year’s better jazz releases, has a great deal of crossover appeal, and transcends the genres from which it was born, and by which it was influenced.
I think you’ll love it.