Something beautiful this way comes as Honolulu-based Aloha Got Soul once again come up trumps with their keen-eyed pick of Jason Gay’s rather wonderful self-released tracks from 2018. Saxophonist Gay took a four year-long deep, deep dive into traditional Chinese folk songs: reworking, re-imagining, re-interpreting, alongside a host of Hawaii’s finest musicians, including pianist Tommy James, Dean Taba on bass, DeShannon Higa on trumpet, drummer Noel Okimoto, and featuring er-hu musician Tsun-Hui Hung, plus taiko master, Kenny Endo. Together the ensemble sit back, relax and spin some superlative flavours, such as on opener Jasmine Flower: all hushed chords and tickled pink percussion, flights of fancy from Gay given room to soar. The folk feelings transmuted into a yearning jazzual journey that’s crammed full of emotion and soul.
In amongst the folk pieces, Gay reworks Little Dragon’s Twice into an album highlight: slow and low the musicians flex their chops, Gay’s sax meandering and mournful, musing over life’s highways and byways, a soundtrack to a thousand lonely nights staying up way too late with only the stars as witnesses. Beautifully judged, poised and eloquent. A quiet storm classic.
Aloha Got Soul are one of those imprints that are always checkable, doing their own thing, following a philosophy and a way of working that foregrounds music that’s always interesting, always vibing, that seeks different ways of expression. Gay’s title cut is another gem. Its soft focus beginnings coalesce into almost seven minutes of questing runs and stripped back chordal underlay: Gay blowing harder – shades of Pharoah Sanders sliding in – the musicians interlocking and falling apart.
Dance Of The Yi People closes proceedings, returning to the source – simple melodies fleshed out, expanded, re-harmonised with skill and love. A loping, elegant finish to a stand-out set for jazz lovers, chilled cats and all those who appreciate the wondrous talents of great musicians. Highly, highly recommended.
Jason Gay`s The Present and the Past can be ordered directly from Aloha Got Soul.