Scott Jeffers Traveler 2015
Eastern adventures of ensemble from Arizona evoke the spirit of ancient past and post it to the present.
“Parochial” might be the worst word to describe Scott Jeffers’ approach to music, the very name of his ensemble implying movement from place to place, yet while albums like "Winds Of Ksar Ghilane" are rooted in tunes from around the world, records like its follow-up tend to concentrate on a particular region, “Symphonia” seemingly focused on Maghreb. The American artist’s choice is hardly surprising, for Southern Africa feels abuzz with mesmeric melodies which fill the air where simooms from Sahara meet Mediterranean breeze, and that’s the essence of what Scott captured in creative net during one of his trips there. Don’t be misled by the disc’s title, though, nor find this title deceptive: “symphonia” was an ancient instrument rather than a large form known as “symphony” many of the listeners will think of joining Jeffers on a new journey.
It begins in a classical style, though, the album’s titular opener seeing Scott’s violin venture over piano-painted panorama and stick drama in the record’s vein – only to stutter and let the sound bulge, become belligerent and march, propelled by drums, towards an orchestral battle, before “Morocco – Always Dreaming Of You” relocates the still heated sonics to a different continent and sends delicate drone of saz and Jeffers’ soft voice to calm down the drift. Yet the strum and twang of the equally unhurried “Kadyanda” turns the woodwind-swept serenity into sturm und drang, and time-travel trance too, for “Our Yesterday” to introduce electric rock textures to this exotic brew – intoxicating and dance-inducing as the Celtic swirl and groove of “The Victorious” suggest.
But the creeping meandering of “The Sun Will Rise” should get one’s pulse going again, Edric Aziz’s percussion deliberately stalling the song’s momentum so that many a stringed instrument and multiple vocals have a stronger impact, until the serenade of “Beautiful Night” washes away all the worries, and the various strands of “Kabak” stage a sunset play. Strangely, the passage from there to the mighty sway of “Taman Negara” with its crystalline Malayan miracle appears to be rather logical – unlike the finale, because “Might As Well Be On the Moon” reaches for power-balladry which, the piece’s allure notwithstanding, doesn’t belong here… yet somehow does fit the context. There’s wonderful harmony in this flow – in a grandiose symphonic, if down-to-earth, way.