#12: Aziza - 'Aziza featuring Dave Holland, Chris Potter, Lionel Loueke, & Eric Harlan'
hear the track where they got their name
Ok, so each year a jazz album or two really grab my attention as standouts of the genre, which has been one of my favorites since around 1999, or 2000. I used to live by the Green Mill historic jazz club, and also studied jazz a bit in college as part of a recording arts program focused on the more envelope-pushing side of things. So I was exposed to both the classic and the avant garde forms of jazz not long after moving to Chicago in some of my formative college years.
I continued with that tradition of going to Green Mill for years, and still love checking out live jazz when I can. It is not the most pronounced genre anymore, but it still has plenty of energy and a few more tricks up its sleeve. Aziza do the trick of masterful musicianship as well as do it creatively and with much love and care for each and every note and detail.
Aziza gets to the roots of jazz and music in general by incorporating a wisened world theme but keeping it high energy and easily digested. It is just full of melodic hooks, playful changes, superb drumming, and interesting communication between the instruments. They all are in their own world but the way they overlap is very lifelike and flowing. Dave Holland is one of my all time favorite bassists, and he ties it all nicely together.
If I was a bit more mature I would probably rate this higher on the list. It is certainly a much more mature album than some of the ones coming up. And it is also very sophisticated and subtly complex, even for a jazz album. The recording is wonderful as are the performances which create a breathing fabric of sounds interweaving upon each other, with drums that display just about every angle possible during each track (with utmost precision).
Bass, drums, guitar, and saxophones is such an exemplary template to work with that has been traveled often, but they make it sound highly identifiable to their own musical voices. Each musician is allowed full reign and they have the abilities to take the experience just about anywhere. The band's name came from one of its own songs, the eponymous "Aziza Dance" linked above named by African bandmember (Lionel Loueke) and it means "a supernatural race of forest dwellers giving practical and spiritual advice".
Aziza is fully capable to take a standard 4 man jazz band and go many places with it. They showcase the joy of having 4 music nerds in one room summoning something more than their singular identities could ever make. If anything this album is about friends and teamwork and variety and the love of their craft. These are 4 advanced level musically gifted individuals making timeless music that references decades upon decades of well documented cultural history yet sounding unmistakably their own.