Wednesday, 3 October 2018

Camilla George - The People Could Fly, album review

Tales Retold

Hot on the heels of my seeing Quentin Collins at the Blue Vanguard Jazz Club [reviewed here] it has been a pleasing discovery to follow-up onto this latest release from Camilla George – new to me, but made known by Collins’ arrangement of the album’s closing Curtis Mayfield cover Here But I’m Gone and, as I have also discovered, Collins is co-founder of the Ubuntu record label on which The People Could Fly appears.

That Mayfield track is an upbeat and positive jazz cover, fine vocals with especially the opening sultry sax and voice amalgam leading into the main melody’s descending line. There is a fine ensemble playing on this but also a neat solo from Collins on trumpet, echoed briefly by George – the perfection of restraint. I love the repeating trio of lines in the lyric, made resonant by the band’s playing:

How did I get so far gone?
Where do I belong?
And where in the world did I ever go wrong?

If I took the time to replace
What my mind erased
I still feel as if I'm here but I'm gone

Elsewhere, the musical journey is bright and at times afro-centric, as with opener Tappin, the Land Turtle, an African American fable set to a percussive groove where the recited line

Bakon coleh
Bakon cawbey
Bakon cawhubo lebe lebe

leads in the story to food for feeding children – though it moves on to a darker end [from my new and quick reading, but another discovery] – and this also prompts instrumental patterns based on the punchiness of the lines.

Indeed, the tracks on this album interpret musically the tales from Virginia Hamilton’s telling of American Black folktales in The People Could Fly, as George says “I knew from the moment I decided to write music for these amazing stories that I wanted to expand the sound of my band in order to realise the sounds that I had been hearing in my head”.

A ‘softer’ jazz groove is conveyed with the title track, though this too is noticeably percussive, and George’s soloing on this is gorgeous. Love the dance of her playing on Carrying the Runnings Away.

Penultimate The Most Useful Slave is a bluesy dirge on the deeply ironic title of this story.

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