Label: First Word Records
With ‘Weightless’, their second LP, London-based soul/jazz ensemble Teotima are celebrating friendship, creativity, love, meditation, progress, and the work of being happy.
As musical director and guitarist, Greg Sanders, explains: “You create your own happiness. It’s a discipline and a practice, learning what works and then remembering to do those things. So that’s how I try to approach the music as well, bearing in mind moods and happiness. The work of being happy — like learning an instrument or a language — feels like something you need to maintain and do regularly.
In the music there’s a lot of times where people are following the written music, but I also try and make sure that there’s plenty of space for improvisation and solos and interaction. So you’re creating the space and conditions for spontaneity and joy by using structure. It’s how I write, but it’s also how I try and live.”
What exudes are 7 tracks that take full advantage of the remarkable breadth and depth of talent within the band’s core members. “One of the most important things about Teotima is that the music is written with the specific players in mind – each player’s voice on their instrument is an essential part of the group’s sound”.
This tradition of large-ensemble music written for the characters in the ensemble has a rich history stretching back to Ellington and Strayhorn. After the release of their debut LP ‘Counting The Ways’, First Word label boss Aly Gillani suggested that Greg should try writing for a smaller ensemble, to tour with.
Greg took up the challenge and focused on writing pieces which could work in differing arrangements/instrumentations, and workshopped ideas with other band members to develop the songs’ sound and atmosphere.
Musically, the sounds span the Atlantic from the African continent to Brazil, the Caribbean, the USA and London, while sounding completely fresh and singularly captivating.
Album opener ‘Suddenly’ sees the Chakacha rhythm of coastal East Africa blended with the song-writing sensibilities of close friends and sometime collaborators Flying Ibex. ‘If Every If’ is the sound of Radiohead recording a samba with Bjork in Nashville, while ‘From A Distance’ sets Gil Evans style orchestration and a vocal performance reminiscent of Kadhja Bonet to a heavy Steppaz reggae riddim. Meanwhile, ‘To Friends’ is a joyful homage to South African township jazz legends Abdullah Ibrahim and Brotherhood of Breath, composed in the Ijexá rhythm of North-Eastern Brasil.
In the 6 years since ‘Counting The Ways’, the members of Teotima have been making waves with their own projects as leaders, as well as playing with contemporaries such as James Blake, Jordan Rakei, Waaju, Riot Jazz, and this wide-ranging experience in the band’s joyful and sensitive performances.