April 24, 2024

Dwight Trible – ‘Mothership’ (featuring Kamasi Washington) – the most soulful jazz record this year

GEARBOX RECORDS 12th April 2019

Who or what is a Dwight Trible? Does the name conjure up thoughts of a Star Trek episode with cute alien critters? It’s no surprise, as Dwight has had to wait till his late-fifties to gain attention as an artist in his own right, digging away over the last fifteen years on cult labels like Ninja Tune with a different label for each release. This one’s on Gearbox Records, which is increasingly becoming a good enough indicator of quality to buy unheard.Dwight Trible is a jazz vocalist, bringing a soulful yet jazzed style to the songs. There’s a bit of excited scat but most of this is emotionally engaged and provides a frame to the excellent band work. You could contrast the speedy, winging-it quality of It’s All About Love to the almost musical-theatre nature of the singing on Oscar Brown Jr.’s Mother. Not that Mother has a showband behind it. This is high quality piano-led jazz from a mid-sized band. I’m here for the band as much as the singing, if not more. They bring a sort of jazz to the proceedings that you rarely get. They are in service to the song but it’s a full arrangement, with much of the tale told in the interplay as well as the sections where players get to break free.

Brother Where Are You is superb; quietly impassioned in vocals, with a deep and rounded pounding strength to the playing. But the next song, Standing In The Need Of Prayer just takes off, with wordless tenor / baritone vocals weaving in and out of a band apparently teetering on the brink of falling apart as the sax becomes a second voice. This is a stellar band: The headline of course is Kamasi Washington, who says Dwight’s “singing has inspired me since I was 15 years old. He has a way of bringing such a unique life and feel to every song that he sings. His voice has power, soul, and beauty”. Trible sang on Washington’s The Epic – the huge jazz album that won a sizeable crossover audience.I struggle with Tomorrow Never Knows – I find The Beatles’ psychedelic songs rarely reward covers and this one muddies the original. Other songs, like Desert Fairy Princess, highlight a voice massaging the words, stretching out every meaning and spiritual aspect. A key to this album is the depth of feeling, with a rich voice using it’s every emotional understanding to illuminate the songs. That is highlighted again on Walkin’ To Paradise, which swings hard through the blues on a walking bass and swirling Hammond organ tones while Dwight’s tones improvise and emote, working alternate beats and different approaches, digging into a deeply soulful groove. The gentle closer, Bernstein’s Some Other Time is creamy and elegant; bridging worlds and conveying the bittersweet duality of the song perfectly.

There is a warm richness to this sound that harks back to classic discs of the fifties and sixties, possibly thanks to the analogue recording, though that shouldn’t carry through to my mp3, should it? Real fans can, of course, buy this on vinyl.

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