Monday 25 January 2021

'Aura' by Ambient Jazz Ensemble

'Aura' marks the latest album release from the ever genre-defying Ambient Jazz Ensemble courtesy of the fantastic Here & Now Recordings.

Following their previous releases, 'Suite Shop' (2014) and 'A J E' (2017), the third full-length effort from the collective continues in the vein of these exquisite past projects and their unrivalled approach to music-making.

The brain-child of multi-instrumentalist, producer and project founder, Colin Baldry, the Ambient Jazz Ensemble have garnered such a flawless reputation through an incredible body of work for listeners to immerse themselves into and, aside from the aforementioned album releases, there is also the 'Suite Shop Reworks' project along with the 'Breathe It In' and 'My Final Scene' reworks.

While we may never know where the Ambient Jazz Ensemble will specifically go with their compositions, that level of unpredictability has in itself become their trademark.  In the case of 'Aura', the music throughout masterfully presents Baldry's vision of jazz intertwined with elements of dance and electronica.  It's a testament to anyone with the foresight and skill to make these seemingly disparate musical realms fit so snugly together as part of a cohesive project.

Upon the album's release, Baldry has cited the album's title track as ranking incredibly high as one of the best songs he'd ever written and composed but, in complete honesty, there are several songs on 'Aura' that would enthusiastically compete for that distinction.  Everything from the rousing album opener, 'Rise', to 'Break The Night With Silence' and all three parts of 'Nataraja' - which are just the first three tracks - are all flawless inclusions.  

'Scars' delivers as a further strong album highlight - not only boasting an excellent vocal contribution from Donna Gardier on the brilliantly written number, the song's production seems to bask in this no-man's land of, at times, a quick-fire drum & bass production set against this lush orchestral backdrop.  It's just a joy.

And credit of course to the album's players that comprise 'Aura's Ensemble.  With Baldry credited for double bass, kalimba and keys, and Gardier for vocal duties, they are joined by the remarkable talents of Sam Crowe on Rhodes, Ollie Weston, Dominic Glover, Andy Ross and Nichol Thomson on horns, Sam Baldry on percussion and The Adderbury Ensemble on strings.  There is also the dream inclusion of Richard Spaven on drums - himself well-versed in his ability to showcase jazz within varying contexts and styles making him a perfect addition to the line-up.

While listeners rightfully should embrace this stunning new project, we'd absolutely also urge you to explore past Ambient Jazz Ensemble releases to fully celebrate the complete story so far and to truly understand why they are one of the most innovative and inspired names in contemporary jazz.  

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