Kairos 4tet - Everything We Hold (Review)
Review by Jack Foley
I’VE long been of the view that jazz can sometimes sound like a mess. Kairos 4tet’s new LP, Everything We Hold, furthers that belief. Yet ironically when it’s good, it’s also great.
The third album from Adam Waldmann and company explores in great depth the art of song in a bid to challenge themselves a little more. It also sees Waldmann collaborating with lyricist, filmmaker and actor Rupert Friend (Pride & Prejudice, Young Victoria, Homeland), a writing partnership first hinted at on Kairos 4tet’s second album, Statement of Intent.
With one half of the album featuring vocals, Everything We Hold is Waldmann’s most unapologetically diverse album to date and comes alive whenever those songs appear.
Primary among these is Home To You, a terrifically cinematic experience that reflects a soldier’s story (it opens with the line, “on a battlefield many miles from here”), and which is guided by the husky, emotive vocals of Irish singer-songwriter Marc O’Reilly.
It’s an utterly beguiling piece, beginning with sombre piano chords and vocals, before slowly ushering in the saxophone for which Waldmann is renowned and other instrumental layering. It’s the sort of song that stops you in your tracks and makes you want to hear what it has to say.
O’Reilly crops up twice more: firstly, on Narrowboat Man, which also features vocals from Emilia Martensson, and which is both haunting and beautiful, and then on Ell’s Bells, a lullaby for Waldmann’s niece that charms.
Soul star Omar, who Waldmann met at 2011’s MOBO ceremony while collecting his Best Jazz Act trophy, appears on another highlight, Song For The Open Road, a song about finding ones’ true self – and which again brilliantly combines piano arrangements with sax and cinematic elements.
Framing the album is the instrumental suite, The 99 Parts 1, 2, 3 and 4 in recognition of the Occupy Movement and the phrase “We are the 99%” that references social and economic inequality.
But ironically, this is where the album departs from being entirely appealing. The jazz arrangements are sometimes thrilling but sometimes allowed to wonder aimlessly. And it’s notable, too, that many of the ‘weaker’ tracks clock in at self-indulgent lengths.
J-Ho From The Block, for example, is just over seven minutes, as is Reunion, and both will potentially alienate anyone other than jazz purists who like the free-form style of the medium.
Hence, when concentrating on songs, Everything We Hold boasts the potential for universal appeal. In pure jazz form, however, it’s a genre piece. Enjoyment can therefore be found accordingly, although there is much to admire.
Download picks: Home To You, Narrowboat Man, Ell’s Bells