Album Review: Cassowary – Cassowary

Following hot on the heels of the new Thundercat album ‘It is what it is’ it just in terms of timing but style as well (and quality as well, let’s get that out there), with a new name, Cassowary, aka 25 year old Miles Shannon.

He’s got form though, from playing piano on Childhood friend Earl Sweatshop’s 2015 album I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside (part of Sweatshirts ‘Earl’ video was filmed in Shannon’s house), to receiving a high class jazz education at that musical melting pot Los Angeles, playing with the likes of Gary Smulyan, Eric Reed, Gerald Clayton and Terrell Stafford. From there he cut his teeth on the New York jazz scene, before retreating to play guitar in the places he was holed up.

With his new self titled album, out today on Fat Possum Records, brought all hose influences – the hip-hop beats, the jazz stylings, the Los Angeles of Kamasi Washington, Flying Lotus and like, and the classic rock/songwriting he retreated to in NYC and has made a stylish and memorable jazz fusion record.

Pulling the album together is the 114°” series, essentially excerpts from a single take of a funky, simmering jazz instrumental recorded during 2018’s record-breaking heat wave. Explains Shannon, “It was 114 degrees in the studio ’cause the A/C was fucked. In fact, it was hotter in the studio – 114 outside.” It’s at times pulsating, rhythmic, loose, cool, but it always has this intrinsic cool about it.

Elsewhere it’s easy to get lost in the album, it’s of such attention demanding quality from beginning to end, whether that’s in the gluey dancefloor funk of ‘She Funked Me’, the late night hip-hop R&B of Starlight, or the blurry soul of Price Went Up.

It’s when he plays with the listeners expectations that things work best, the polyrhythms of the fluttering ‘Moth’, time signatures wobbled and trodden over in ‘Roach’, and seemingly long complex melodies that drape all over Belt Notch! (brillliant piano solo as well) are all more than worthy of mention – “I want people to go in there and be surprised.“ said Shannon Of the record. Job (more or less) done.

The album as a whole is a terrific, brilliantly performed, imaginatively written, atmospheric, cool jazz funk/fusion record. Cassowary and Miles Shannon have set a marker, and it looks like a game changing record isn’t too far down the road.

Cassowary’s debut album is out now via Fat Possum Records

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