Happy Note 2016
The Xman’s experiments in oxymoron continuum of retrograde avant-garde.
Berklee graduate Charles Xavier has been around for four decades now, playing in and out of jazz circles, but it wasn’t until he’d settled down in San Francisco and established Happy Note Records that this artist’s career went beyond imaginative percussion schemes. In the course of six albums released since 2005 and with another one looming large on the horizon – all of those represented here – the polymath’s compositions span a plethora of genres which amount to an adventure full of unpredictable twists and turns. Look at the boats on the sampler’s cover, and you’ll glimpse a prospect of either regatta or picnic in The Xman’s varied programme.
There are splashes of prog-rock uncertainty in “A Year’s Past” which rip the number’s otherwise serene soaring to pieces, and spaced-out abstractness in the voiceless “Into The Beyond And Back” – yet the melancholy of “You Know You Know” is crystallized by piano and vibraphone whose slow dance feels mesmerizing. More so, there’s something endearing in these songs, from the acoustically driven, bubbling bossa nova of “We Talk” to “Silent Night” that should bring home eternal values in a cosmic form, vocals weaving out of sax waves and guitar flights, but the overall lyrical mood will welcome both bliss and drama in its embrace.
“Christmas Day Is Almost Here” may be soulful and spiritual, yet most of the tracks on display are romantically retrofuturistic, as illustrated by “The Dreamer” whose instrumental lines and motorik groove are shot through with unexpected sound effects. Elsewhere, “Stomp’n At Round Midnight” is spiked with musique concrète to turn chaos into aural cinema, before the bass-shattered improvisations of “After Hours” take refined jazz to the fore, but for all the serious experiments on offer, it doesn’t come without a smile. And while the merry reggae of “So Alone” can’t negate the tribal satire of “The King Has Come” which is rather acidic, if catchy, it adds another aspect to Xavier’s oeuvre. Not being intrigued by Charles’ work is impossible, so “sample” isn’t the right word for this disc – “appetizer” would be spot-on, though.