1 March 2020

Album Review: Levitation Orchestra – Inexpressible Infinity

Levitation Orchestra

Inexpressible Infinity

(Astigmatic Records)

A noteworthy feature of the recent upsurge of young London-based jazz musicians has been their re-engagement with the brief and critically rather overlooked era of experimentation that took place in the early 1970s, as jazz artists sought to modernise by incorporating all manner of contemporary influences, from rock rhythms and electric instrumentation to fashionable eastern psychedelia, and from politically charged Afro-futurism and free blowing to lush orchestral textures popularised by the likes of CTI records. Axel Kaner-Lidstrom’s gang of young players take aim squarely at this recently re-excavated tradition, and have the right combination of energy and enthusiasm required to succeed in hitting their mark. The tunes are long, with plenty of extended modal solos over sturdy bass ostinatos and powerhouse drumming from the excellent Harry Ling, interspersed with lush arrangements for strings, horns, harp and vocals that reach out to such suitably modish reference points as Alice Coltrane, Sun Ra, Strata-East Records, Polish violinist Michał Urbaniak, and other touchstones of the retrospectively identified ‘cosmic jazz’ tradition. Solo duties are well discharged by Roella Oloro, whose voice on Rhodes builds from mellow tinkling to gnarly two-handed intensity on Music Is My Sanctuary’(the title, borrowed from Gary Bartz providing one of several direct tributes to their stylistic influences), and the twin tenors of James Akers and Deji Ijishakin who contribute some lusty and well-structured free-bop blowing to Odyssey and A Small Truth. Violinist Saskia Horton gives a good account of herself on Twin Serpents but the leader’s trumpet is modestly confined to the ensemble sections. The press release refers to collective composition, which might imply long, formless jam sessions, but in fact there is ample evidence of considered compositional input on tunes like Clairvoyance, with its multiple sections showing a nice handling of texture and mood and some attractive melodies shared between the vocalists and instrumentalists. In fact, it is the attention to detail in the writing as much as  the exuberant energy of the performances that lifts this album above the level of a piece of fashionable retromania and makes it a satisfying listen on many levels.

Eddie Myer

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