Despite the extremely genteel, petal-soft title of this disc, Sound of a Flower, classical grace meets jazzy fireworks in the high-wire violin expedition of Ma*Jid, a consummate technician and highly imaginative composer. How else could he come up with a title reminiscent of record title evocative of something like “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”, after all? And how else could one explain the music that is often evocative of hallucinogenic sojourns into melodic and harmonic landscapes? The answer is in Ma*Jid’s ability to make impossible intuitive leaps from conception of sound that are bound by acceptable classical norms of mathematical reason to an outward-bound orbit that only someone who experiences the depths of musical possibility can translate into the sound of melody. Naturally this will drive the violinist’s improvising mind into a rarefied realm where few can even imagine being.
Not Ma*Jid, though; for he is like Eric Dolphy, certainly uncommitted to any modicum of convention, capable of applying a kind of electric shock to the bow as it glides across the violin’s strings the way Mr Dolphy’s fingers leapt across the keys of his alto saxophone, bass clarinet and flute. In Ma*Jid’s case too there are unexpected moments of effortless classical grace and architecture (listen to “Chance”) and these as often as not will collide with the agitated flames of Jazz. Ma*Jid’s writing (for any and all of the instruments featured here) is effortlessly idiomatic: embroidered, aria-like melodies and quixotic solo reflections give way to sinuous fugue-like pieces (“Thoughts Linger”), free-styling with a slow-drag glide to go (“Forever More”) and spirited dances (“Visage”). Textures are harmonically and contrapuntally rich, and in every stroke of the bow, his tone is burnished and varied.
Not only as violinist, but also as director, Ma*Jid leads this wonderful ensemble in performances of terrific flair and abandon. Both Mavis Swan Poole on “Chance” and Aleeia on “Forever More” emerge from the crepuscular music with vocals that shimmer like glinting lights in an urban forest. Guitarist Rafal Sarnecki, pianists Wilerm Delisfort, Conun Papas and Andrew Freedman, and electric bassist Alex Smith and contrabassist Ameen Saleem provide eagle-eared harmonic and rhythmic support, as do drummers McClenty Hunter, Darrell Green and the wonderful percussion colourist, Khalil Kwame Bell. Long-time trumpet-playing musical cohort, Charlie Porter’s rigorous technique makes light weight of Ma*Jid’s virtuosic writing, with its quick-fire flourishes, intricate live-wire figurations which Ma*Jid himself leads with tricky passages of multiple stopping.
There are, too, moments of eloquent dialogue between Ma*Jid and the remarkable Sfumato Symphony featuring another fine violinist, Curtis Stewart in “Sound of a Flower”. With monumental glissandos, rapid double stops and soaring arpeggios and with single-string high-jinx and a slender continuo group, ensemble is taut and the sound transparent, a generous acoustic adding warmth. To cap it all, appropriately intoxicating liner notes by Ma*Jid grace this truly significant release by a violinist who carries on the tradition playing an instrument made illustrious in Jazz by the likes of Stuff Smith, Svend Asmussen, Ray Nance, Stéphane Grappelli, Jean-Luc Ponty and Sugarcane Harris…giants who once walked the earth.
Track list – 1: Bundao; 2: Chance; 3: Black Star; 4: Thoughts Linger; 5: Forever More; 6: Visage; 7: Up & In; 8: All Sun; 9: Be What You Want; 10: Sound of a Flower (feat. Sfumato Symphony)
Personnel – Majid Khaliq: bandleader, compositions, violin, baritone violin and vocals; Charlie Porter: trumpet; Wilerm Delisfort: piano; Conun Papas: auxiliary keyboards; Andrew Freedman: auxiliary keyboards; Rafal Sarnecki: guitar; Ameen Saleem: contrabass; Alex “Busby” Smith: electric bass; McClenty Hunter: drums; Darrell Green: drums; Khalil Kwame Bell: percussion. Sfumato Symphony (2, 10) – Violins: Curtis Stewart, HyunJu Ji, Chelsea Winter; Violas – Dale Stuckenbruck, Leonor Faloon Pasquali; Cello – Loren Dempster; Brandee Younger: harp; Mavis Swan Poole: vocals (2); MRK: rap (4); Squala Orphan: vocals (5, 9); Aleeia: vocals (5); Netousha Monroe: vocals (8); Mr. Cheeks: vocals (9); Craig G: vocals (9)
Released – 2018
Label – Green Sofa Music
Runtime – 59:01