Wednesday 9 December 2020

'Reflections of Self' by SARASON


'Reflections of Self' marks the debut solo album from Mike Sarason released courtesy of the Brooklyn-based Dala Records.

The notion that this album is actually credited as being Sarason's "debut solo" release can come as quite the shock especially when you weigh up the staggering body of work boasting his indelible contributions over the course of nearly twenty years.  Whether he has served as a lead vocalist or as a contributor to ensembles on piano, organ, keyboards, flute, saxophone or even as a writer and composer for groups including The Pinstripes, Combo Lulo, The Far East, The Ignobles, Brooklyn Attractors... a debut solo record may actually be the one distinction that has evaded Mike Sarason all these years.

Perhaps it's fitting that 'Reflections of Self' finds Sarason in a reflective mood as the project not only finds the artist taking stock of his incredible achievements over the course of his years in the industry but also now looking ahead having undertaken a new, unchartered path.  

And the idea of looking ahead in general is something the world as a whole is finding itself struggling to do - in the midst of a global pandemic which has had a significant impact on the music industry and touring musicians, Dala Records certainly wouldn't let a small thing like that stand in their way when it comes to releasing some fantastic music out into the world.  This year has seen some excellent projects unveiled under the Dala banner including the full-length offering from Sweet Megg & The Wayfarers ('Under The Moonlight'), along with single releases by label founder and producer Billy Aukstik ('Love Is The Way In') and vocalist Camellia Hartman ('The Moment Your Eyes Met Mine').  Sarason's 'Reflections of Self' not only rounds out a comparatively successful year for Dala but also delivers it one of its most exciting projects.

The album is brought to life by an awesome array of musicians including Max Shrager (The Shacks), Charlie Ferguson (Hurray for the Riff Raff, Zongo Junction), Evan Heinze (The Shacks, The Still Brothers), Andrew LeCoche (The Still Brothers), Morgan Price (Antibalas, Duke Ellington Orchestra), and fellow Dala recording artists, vocal duo Mel Johnston and Kim Foxen.  

While past Sarason-affiliated projects have often found themselves more upbeat affairs, 'Reflections of Self' is that proverbial blank slate where a whole host of new techniques and musical styles are incorporated throughout.  The album opener, 'Simple Insecurities', is perhaps more telling of Mike's own trepidations of ascending to centre-stage as he sings:

"I'm feeling nervous,

Don't wanna mess up this good thing,

Beneath the surface,

There's a child that's lost his way" 

But confronting those fears head on results in a passion-filled, sincere and confident opener that leads on to even greater heights as the album progresses.  There's the quintessential Brooklyn soul aesthetic of 'No Time Left For Wasting', the genuinely luxurious single release of 'Let's Make Room' and the album's centrepiece, 'Conceal & Carry', which boast a series of evolving movements to the song that starts like a walk in the park on a summer's day and ends with a psychedelic trip on the rainy, cold streets at midnight.  It's glorious! 

We've often credited Dala as affording its artists the creative space and freedom to evolve and to try new things; to subvert any expectations the artists may have been beholden to in the past.  With Dala's new partnership with Sarason, they've done it again.  And while he may have taken this new path with a degree of uncertainty - like a child that lost his way - Mike Sarason can continue knowing he's actually made it home.

To buy or stream 'Reflections of Self', please click the lnk:

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