Album Review: Camilla George – The People Could Fly

Camilla George

The People Could Fly

(Ubuntu UBU0015)

 

Saxophonist Camilla George, who released her acclaimed debut album Isang early last year, often surrounds herself with musicians of a similar high calibre; pianist Sarah Tandy and bassist Daniel Casimir are regulars in her quartet. Likewise, for her new album the opening track, Tappin the Land Turtle, features the distinctive vocals of Cherise Adams-Burnett and the African Highlife infused guitar of Shirley Tetteh, together with the versatile drumming of veteran Winston Clifford.

The funkiest tune on the album, How Nehemiah Got Free features an infectious bass guitar line from Casimir, some tight funk drumming from Clifford and some subtle Rhodes playing by Tandy.

George’s ballad playing is exquisite, as evidenced on Song for Reds from her previous album. Here, on Little Eight John, she employs the interval of a perfect fourth to create a poignant melodic line that is repeated by Adams-Burnett before Daniel Casimir’s sensitive double bass solo.

This new album is inspired by the book of the same name, a collection of African folktales relating to slavery. Whilst the title track embraces this African theme with drummer Femi Koleoso, the haunting piece The Most Useful Slave is very much a lament that draws influence from spirituals and John Coltrane, and one of the highlights of an album with lots of variety and contrasts.

The final track is an arrangement by trumpeter Quentin Collins of the classic Curtis Mayfield song Here but I’m Gone, with guest vocals from soul singer Omar. Set at a faster tempo, with a more contemporary groove behind it, the piece works well with the horn lines combining with Omar’s impassioned vocals.

Overall the album displays a maturity both in George’s advanced arrangements, and her strong, self-assured sound on alto saxophone. This is a composer who has found her own voice and knows how to use it.

 

Charlie Anderson