ALBUM REVIEW: JORODU by JORODU

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JORODU is the artistic moniker of composer, producer and multi-instrumentalist Jose R. Duque who is based in Miami, Florida but a native of Venezuela. Jose has been involved with numerous successful artists and projects of his own including being the drummer/percussionist for the Randy Armstrong Trio and leader of Jose Duque’s RELOAD.

He has written the score for two films released in Spain (2012 & 2013), released eleven independent albums and recorded/produced albums for artists including Corazon and Superpower. His biggest influences are great jazz and prog rock drummers such as Bill Bruford, Philly Jo Jones and Jimmy Cobb.

This eponymously titled album consists of nine instrumental tracks and musically an eclectic fusion of rock, jazz, funk, world music and electronica. Opening track, Fortuna non Omnibus Aeque, gets the album to a vibrant start. It’s an epic funk track with jazzy overtones, Jose himself putting in a stellar performance behind the kit. Built around a memorable lead guitar riff, the track features some remarkable musicianship from all involved.

Javier Espinoza contributes a superb bassline that works in perfect tandem with Jose’s crisp, incredibly fluent drumming. Smoky sounding Rhodes fills out the sound and the group take turns in expressing their remarkable virtuosity on their respective instruments. Jose himself does some mindblowing fills around the halfway mark, augmented by stunning lead guitar and electric piano solos. A great start to the album.

Second track Nulla habeo nomen is a slower, darker sounding track based around a slinky groove and an ascending low-end melody on guitar. As with the first track it’s full of musical detail and sophisticated nuance, such as the use of syncopations and accent shifts which keeps the music never less than riveting. The guitar gets crunchy and heavy in places, showing the influence of heavy rock and metal.

Ubi Umbra Vivit shows the more jazzy side to JORODU’S music, based around a quirky piano melody in a complex time signature. There is an exotic vibe to the whole track, especially the sitar-like keyboards that show the world music influence. This is one of the mellower pieces, clocking in at an epic eight and a half minutes. Jon Durant contributes fretless and cloud guitars on this one.

Verbum Dismissum is one of the album’s most funky tracks built on a punchy groove and a rolling, mellifluous bassline. This lays the platform for some Stevie Wonder-style Rhodes and some versatile lead guitar from Phil Sargent. This track is a powerful showcase for Jose’s drumming skills as he performs some breathtaking whirlwind fills around the kit and maintains the restless energy and momentum until the very end.

Victa lacet Virtus is the album’s centrepiece and biggest epic at over ten minutes long. It’s a languid and melancholy progressive jazz track featuring the evocative female vocals of Beatriz Malnic. Rather than singing lyrics, she uses her voice as an instrument in itself, often singing in tandem with the other instruments. The whole track has real atmosphere and feel, and Jose not only contributes drums but also uke bass, piano and a keyboard solo. Superb.

Ego Vade A Gades shows the Latin American influence both in the rhythmic and melodic elements. It fuses dance rhythms with jazz in a very clever and inventive way, with contrasting sections keeping the listener on their toes. There are wonderful passages of jazzy piano by Mike Effenberger and Phil Sargent plays a very exotic solo on a nylon string guitar, which adds authenticity as well as a unique musical flavour. Another highlight.

Tion, Uqbar, Orbits, Tertius is perhaps the most progressive track here music, with some fiendishly complex switches in time signatures yet accomplished with consummate ease by the musicians involved. It’s a brooding fusion that melds jazz, funk and elements of rock so you never quite know what’s coming next. This is perhaps a great track to introduce JORODU to someone as it encapsulates their wide ranging versatility and extremely high skill levels.

Eighth rack Ludo Duo is a real change of pace, a mellow, dreamy piece of bluesy jazz that makes clever use of harmonics and samples. It also displays the effectiveness of subtlety and restraint with tasteful, understated performances that gradually build in urgency, resulting in a punchy climax.

The final track on the album, Amor MCMLXXX, is by far the simplest musically but its a richly evocative and stately instrumental, with a haunting melody. It is composed and performed entirely by Jose, showing yet another side to his musical oeuvre and specifically his gift as a melodic composer and keyboardist. It’s an apposite way to conclude the album and bookends it perfectly.

Overall, this album is a tour de force of eclectic genre fusion and exceptional musicianship. Jose Duque is a phenomenal drummer, but is equally adept at several other instruments and is joined by several musical cohorts of peerless proficiency. The music itself is never less than hugely enjoyable, with a mercurial quality that keeps the listener coming back for more. This album will go down a storm with progressive jazz and rock fans but should appeal to all discerning music lovers out there.

 

VERDICT = 9.1 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

 

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