“We started with the principle – the cosmic idea that we were taught by our father from a very young age – that the stars and planets make a sound, that deep in outer space there is audible harmony.”
With its cathedral-like, richly resonant acoustics, the new HBE album is a brilliant expression of this interplanetary principle. The album is by turns urgent and contemplative, funky and reflective, varied in
its textures; but entirely of one piece. Underpinned by concepts of our earth’s place in the cosmos, held in place by meditation, swirling with notions of history, science, theology, ancestry, there is a rich
conceptual brew here. But always, what talks loudest is the music. The album rings with what back in the 1950s the jazz critic Whitney Balliet called “the sound of surprise”. At a time when the phrase Spiritual
Jazz threatens in some quarters to become a tired cliche, this is a record that makes you believe again in the genre’s validity.
Talking to Cid, one of the Ensemble’s two trombonists, one phrase recurs: “back to the beginning”. “We wanted to go back to the beginning, when we were kids, real young, and our father would wake us up at 5 AM to practice for two hours before breakfast.” One outcome – initially unplanned but subsequently embraced – is that unlike their two previous albums on Honest Jon’s, this is an album without a drummer.
“When we started, as Wolf Pack, just brothers on the street with our horns, there wasn’t a kit in sight.”
Book Of Sound retains plenty of rhythmic heft, but the absence of a drummer opens up space for a notably varied instrumental palette. Acoustic guitar, piccolo, synthesiser, alto sax – none of them typical
HBE Instruments – all have their place on the album. Most striking perhaps are the vocal lines that thread through the album and .......