azz often requires a discriminating ear to fully appreciate all of its complexities, and moreover, the emotions that even its simplest of harmonies represent, but in the case of Envisage Collective’s new LP Reach Out, novice listeners curious about this storied genre needn’t feel intimidated by the record’s eight-song tracklist; in fact, quite the contrary indeed. In Reach Out, Envisage Collective illustrate the magnificent mechanics of the jazz genre through conceptual compositions like “Step on a Crack,” the bittersweet “Envisage” and “The Closer” without getting too wrapped-up in cosmetic frills which, in today’s sonic climate, makes their new material quite the rare treasure for fans and critics alike.
“The Closer” and “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” had my attention right out of the box, and it doesn’t take much more than a cursory analysis of their framework to understand why. In both of these tracks, Envisage Collective employ a great manipulation of tension in the broken harmonies comprising the song’s most climactic moments, all the while utilizing nothing more than the organic instrumental components set before them (as opposed to incorporating the sort of soundboard fluff that scores of their contemporaries would just as soon have leaned on when making a new album).
The mild swing in the percussive section of “Wish” isn’t quite as deliberately plodding in stylization as “Malta House” is, but the two definitely don’t make for odd bedfellows in this tracklist at all. On the contrary, I think that in both songs, the crude contradictions within the shifting tempos are necessary to bring out the color in the heavenly harmonies they each boast with pride, making them – at least compositionally – a lot more alike than they are different. Envisage Collective made quite a diverse LP in Reach Out, but although they weren’t shy about experimentations, they were careful to follow a singular style of attack with regards to making the music here flow seamlessly from start to finish.
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“Habitat,” “Envisage” and the title track would all make for incredible live numbers, and after listening to each of them, I couldn’t help but think of the classic jazz performances I’ve personally taken in within the walls of small smoky clubs on the west coast. There’s an additional luster that songs like this accumulate when they’re performed in front of a crowd, and if I have my way, Envisage Collective will treat their listeners to a full-length tour in support of this record sooner than later.
If you’re any degree of jazz fan, from the newcomer to the longtime aficionado, I think you need to consider Envisage Collective’s Reach Out required listening this spring, as it undeniably brings a colorful melodicism to the fold that has been oddly absent from the genre’s underground output in recent years. There’s a chemistry between these players you just can’t fake, and with any luck, they’ll be offering up more material like that which we find in these eight songs before the next year is out. I’ll be keeping an eye on their work, and I highly recommend you do the same.