Wednesday 1 November 2023

'Celestial Suite' by Atlantis Jazz Ensemble

The Atlantis Jazz Ensemble mark a wonderful return with their latest full-length release that comes to us an incredible seven years following the group's sensational debut outing.

With 'Oceanic Suite' (2016), the Ensemble established their perception of the spiritual soul-jazz offerings of artists like John Coltrane, Pharoah Sanders and McCoy Tyner, delivering a seven-track release that placed the Atlantis Jazz Ensemble on the proverbial map for contemporary jazz brilliance.

A project initially helmed by multi-instrumentalist Pierre Chrétien and saxophonist and flautist Zakari Frantz, the Ensemble and their subsequent debut album were lovingly rooted within the mystique and mythology of Atlantis: the revered and fabled once-utopian society that was subsequently destroyed by the gods as punishment for its people having lost their way.  The Atlantis Jazz Ensemble is a project created to hold true to the city's once revered ideals with 'Oceanic Suite' delivering an exquisite testament to the ambitious nature of Chrétien and Frantz's vision for their music.

With the two artists also serving as collaborators and members of the celebrated Souljazz Orchestra - a group who have amassed an extensive catalogue since 2005 with the vast majority of their releases finding a home on the UK's revered Strut Records - the Atlantis Jazz Ensemble is afforded the freedom to pay homage and express their passions in thrilling new contexts, and with Marlow Records providing an exceptional base for them to do so.  

Last year, we celebrated the release of the fantastic 'Visions' album from the Pierre Chrétien-led Cinephonic collective whose sophomore release resulted in a project steeped within a fantastic cinematic soul soundscape, and we further marvelled at Marlow Records' gritty soul offering from Slim Moore & The Mar-Kays as another shining example of the label's dynamic roster.  Such an incredible array of artists and releases - each wholly different and unique from each other and each presenting inspired projects from their respective fields.

And with the Atlantis Jazz Ensemble set to wave the flag for Marlow Records once more, we see Chrétien's compositions steer the Ensemble from their celebration of the ocean's hidden depths to that of a more divine inspiration with 'Celestial Suite'.

With Chrétien credited for compositions and piano and Frantz for saxophones, the Ensemble quintet is further rounded out by trumpeter Ed Lister, drummer Mike Essoudry and new bassist Chris Pond.  The group's metaphorical new day is captured beautifully with album opener 'Breaking Dawn' which leads the way for a phenomenal series of songs capturing the Ensemble's search for spiritual peace and sanctity.

Much like Atlantis' own fall from grace due to its descent into sin, there's perhaps a parallel to be drawn with our own world which in recent years has seen us still struggling to recover from a worldwide pandemic, face an inconceivable amount of challenges that have sought to divide us politically, racially and environmentally and come to terms with the ongoing threat of war that consistently looms over us.  Perhaps 'Celestial Suite' is the acknowledgement of our own world's imminent and fabled end?  There may be solace however in the teachings of another cherished Greek mythological tale which finds Pandora - after having inadvertently unleashed all the evils of the world into our lives - notices the box's remaining item on which all salvation forever hinges upon... hope.

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