Thursday 7 April 2022

'The Guide' by Jake Leckie

'The Guide' is the new album release from upright bassist Jake Leckie as he unveils his exciting new trio project through Ropeadope Records.

When considering Leckie's phenomenal catalogue of releases and collaborations, it's incredible to think that this is only the second time the LA resident has assumed centre stage on a project following his debut with 'The Abode' in 2019.  

The highly educated and highly decorated artist is driven by a passion for playing that quite literally knows no bounds - having played amongst ensembles and collectives that run the gamut of contemporary jazz and beyond including having studied chamber and baroque music in Montreal, having played with tango, Latin and salsa bands (Susan Alcorn, The Pacific Mambo Orchestra), gospel ensembles as part of church bands in Baltimore and the Bronx, hip-hop collectives (Baltimore Boom Bap Society), The String Orchestra of Brooklyn... this entire article could simply comprise a lengthy list of names that Jake Leckie has either recorded and performed with, produced for or having served as an invaluable studio resource from engineering and mixing albums for.

It's an incredible resume that makes the prospect of a Jake Leckie project an incredibly exciting concept as there's a multitude of various styles, experiences and approaches available at his disposal.  And 'The Abode' was very much that - a project that presented Leckie helming his own quartet which included Kenny Warren, Nathan Ellman-Bell and Sebastien Ammann as well as further benefitting from a range of guest musicians from string players, saxophonists, vocalists, etc.  It was very much an album that celebrated Leckie's journey up to that point - a musically rich album that incorporated elements of soul, blues and twinges of Latin and neo classical styles throughout.

'The Guide' however was very much a project indicative of the time it was created in.  Released in 2022, the world has become a very different place than it was in 2019 and while this album's predecessor was able to bask in the range of collaborations befitting to those circumstances, 'The Guide' was developed during recording sessions in 2020 when performances were still only restricted to outdoors, with face masks and designated distances between the musicians.  But, just to be clear, 'The Guide' is in no way hindered by these conditions - this is a fantastic album, perhaps one that is even strengthened by the kinship developed between the artists having to record under such unusual and uncertain circumstances.

'The Guide' sees Leckie reimagine his sound from 'The Abode' this time embracing the trio structure and recruiting drummer Elizabeth Goodfellow and guitarist Nadav Peled.  A recording artist in her own right, Goodfellow released her debut album 'Silly Sun' in 2018 and can boast a fascinating career which has seen her in-demand skills recruited for projects alongside artists as varied as Roxette's Per Gessle, Iron & Wine, Madison Cunningham and The Hot Sardines and grace countless stages across the world.  

The inclusion of Nadav Peled amidst the line-up here marks a welcome reunion with Leckie following their Roll$ Roy¢e project (2020) which saw the two, along with drummer Shawn Baltazor, venture into the dusty realms of analog soul.  As the founder, guitarist and band leader for the phenomenal Anbessa Orchestra, Peled's passion project celebrated 60s and 70s Ethiopian styles and compositions with a series of singles and EP releases to their name and a strong reputation as fervent live performers.

The music throughout 'The Guide' is a real testament to Leckie, Goodfellow and Peled - three musicians with vastly different backgrounds, styles and experiences that have come together to create an exquisite record bolstered by songs like the rousing 'The Gatekeeper' and 'Adobe' or the sublime, scene-stealing and somewhat magical 'The Place Between'.

It's a compelling thought, to consider whether this record would exist in this context at all had it not been due to imposed pandemic restrictions.  While quarantine life has certainly led to some life-changing and desolate moments for many, there is still joy to be found in these moments of timeless creativity and art which continue to carry us all through these ongoing uncertain times. 

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