Exposé Online banner

Ochion Jewell Quartet — Volk
(Bandcamp no#, 2015, CD)

by Jon Davis, Published 2016-04-20

Volk Cover art

Saxophonist Ochion Jewell’s newest quartet recording is a fascinating, wide-ranging affair that encompasses source material as diverse as folk music from Finland, Ireland, Ukraine, and Appalachia, blues from North Africa, and more. The group itself is nearly as diverse: Jewell himself hails from Kentucky, pianist Amino Belyamani is Moroccan, bassist Sam Minaie is Persian-American, and drummer Qasim Naqvi is Pakistani-American; two tracks feature appearances by West African guitarist Lionel Loueke. While all are outstanding musicians, Volk is about group cohesion, communication, and interplay. No doubt they could play the heck out of jazz standards, but their scope isn’t limited by that kind of tradition. The Finnish song, “Kun Mun Kultani Tulisi,” is one I’d heard before by the group Loituma. Here it becomes a moody epic, starting wistfully with a sad saxophone and what sounds like prepared piano, building slowly until the piano is playing insistent, dissonant chords. After an interlude similar to the opening, the second half of the track wanders into heavily improvised, very free playing from the ensemble. The Irish tune “Give Us a Drink of Water” is given a very interesting treatment, with the melody on sax and piano in unison, punctuated by dissonant stops on the bass and lower register of the piano. Later there are some very interesting advanced harmonizations. Other pieces are given similarly creative interpretations. When Loueke’s plaintive, bluesy guitar comes in, backed by mournful arco bass, we get a new take on the much-recognized similarity of North African music with American blues. When Naqvi’s rhythmic part comes in, the group settles into an easy groove that honors both traditions. The following track is “Gnawa Blues,” which features a stunning, unpredictable arrangement with hints of Béla Bartók in its rhythmic breaks. The set finishes off with a pair of American tunes, the last of which, “Black Is the Colour (of My True Love’s Hair),” is given a solo treatment for Jewell’s sax. Volk is a bold statement of entry for a major new artist in jazz, sure to garner accolades far and wide if it can reach the right ears.


Filed under: New releases, 2015 releases

Related artist(s): Ochion Jewell

Latest news

2019-01-11
Jazz Composer Mark Lomax, II Releases Epic 12CD Set – In addition to being a fine jazz drummer, Dr. Mark Lomax, II is a composer in residence at Ohio State University, where he has been very busy on the compositional front. The year 2019 is the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first ship bringing African slaves to North America, and in commemoration of this, Lomax has produced 400: An Afrikan Epic, a 12 volume set of CDs featuring a variety of different musical ensembles. » Read more

2019-01-02
Chicago-Based Surabhi Ensemble Tours the World in January – Surabhi Ensemble was formed more than a decade ago in Chicago with the aim of bringing together musicians from varying traditions to make music. Saraswathi Ranganathan, who plays veena, assembled a cast that includes Arabic oud, Spanish guitar, and percussion from Africa and India. This month, the group will be sharing their sounds with concert-goers in Southeast Asia, Europe, and Africa. » Read more

2018-12-23
Seaprog Festival Seeks Donations – Seaprog is a small festival in Seattle that highlights creative music from many genres with artists from around the world. It's also a US non-profit organization. They're seeking donations to help keep the ball rolling. Starting in 2013, the organization has been growing, and has featured such artists as Free Salamander Exhibit, Jack o' the Clock, Nik Turner, Cabezas de Cera, Miriodor, Thinking Plague, and many more. » Read more

2018-11-16
The Seventeenth Dream of Dr Sardonicus Festival Tickets Now Available – Fruits de Mer Records and their merry crew of psychedelic explorers are getting set to present the next The Seventeenth Dream of Dr. Sardonicus Festival. The dates are set for August 2-4, 2019 at The Cellar Bar in Cardigan, Wales. They've also announced that the legendary Groundhogs will top the bill. » Read more

2018-11-02
Charles O'Meara (C.W. Vrtacek) RIP – A true musical original has left us. Charles O'Meara, who recorded under the name C.W. Vrtacek, was a wild-card musical talent, ranging from complex progressive rock to introspective modern compositions, with stops at many places inbetween. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Mahavishnu Orchestra - Mahavishnu – I don’t think anyone would argue against the idea that the Mahavishnu Orchestra’s peak was long past by the time John McLaughlin put this version of the band together. McLaughlin probably...  (2003) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues