Album Review : Don Glori – ‘Don’t Forget To Have Fun’ : Fresh, funky and inspired soul jazz from the revitalised and relocated multi-instrumentalist.

The Breakdown

Key to the success of ‘Don’t Forget To Have Fun’ though is that for all the complexity and curve-balls the music never loses its frictionless flow.
DeepMatter Records 8.8

Now this is a bit different. An album of contemporary instrumental music shaped within the mundane pressures of the day to day, paying the rent, food on the table, making ends meet. Don Glori (aka Gordon Li) is a producer, multi-instrumentalist and composer originally out of Melbourne who has detached from Naarm’s vital scene to find himself amongst London’s art sprawl. Before the move Li’s debut as Don Glori, 2022’s ‘Welcome’, brought a rush of acclaim with its groove aware blends of jazz, soul and nu-samba. The syncopated mix of sultry, seductive and spiritual was sophisticated but also retained a freshness. An inevitable touring slog around Australia, UK and Europe followed then, on returning to work on the follow up, Li hit a creative dead end.

Facing difficult times personally Li admits he “was left finding it quite hard to enjoy the music” so he bravely drew the line and filed the partially formed tracks away indefinitely. A year later he had re-located to London, living in a shared house and making ends meet through occasional touring work. The one thing he did have though was spare time to get curious about the ideas he’d shelved, to reconnect with the music at his kitchen table in Whitechapel while his flat mates were at work. It’s a drastic way to set about a re-boot but it worked as now we have the second Don Glori album ‘Don’t Forget To Have Fun’, released via DeepMatter Records.

Surprisingly despite the unsettling journey Li has been through, he’s managed to keep the Don Glori spirit bubbling. ‘Don’t Forget To Have Fun’ has the airy optimism and lush funkiness of his debut. This time around though Don Glori has injected some more sonic twists and turns or as he says freed himself to “experiment with wacky, zany ideas”. Opening track Pause has a loose, drifting LA park-life vibe about it. A song which oozes dreamily through sighing smooth-jazz progressions while tingling with synths and necessary flute patterns. The quirkiness is in the beats, a mid-tempo samba mapped by live percussion and a popping digi-rhythm, plus the bridge which swells from a dubby interlude to a diva worthy, sax lead crescendo.

The psychedelic downtempo exploration continues on the smooching First Touch where a swooning vocal wash and squelchy slow funk take a fine Brainfeeder turn. The lyrics may not stretch far (there’s plenty of ‘spirits fly’ and ‘ease your mind’) but Don Glori reaches way above the nu-soul benchmarks with the intricacy and invention of the arrangement. Key to the success of ‘Don’t Forget To Have Fun’ though is that for all the complexity and curve-balls the music never loses its frictionless flow. On Emerald Li guides the song from a chunky eighties electro-funk opening through to a brisk disco strut with a pinch of latin salsa thrown in. The bass lines burble, Lachlan Thompson’s tenor seizes the mood brilliantly and the percussive chatter gets urgent as Steely Dan, Grover Washington Jr and even Brecker Bros reverberations mingle.

The Brazilian influences that were upfront on Don Glori’s ‘Welcome’ debut are generally more integral on this follow up collection. It’s only on the vibrant All Seeds that his samba leanings get thrown into the spotlight and shimmy with a natural fluency. It’s simply gorgeous, with Thompson’s fluttering sax again standing out with its breathy ethio – softness. At repeated points Tim Cox’s drum’s smashed hi-hat rachets the band up a gear as the song soars to its closing moments.

For thrills perhaps it’s only the ambitious three-part Theme For A Dream that impresses more. Slow waves of horns and whispering cymbals ease you into the piece, late night orchestration with a Mingus roll which drifts into the more expansive Swimming, Soaring. This second segment of the suite engages in some neat kidology as it shimmers from Kahil El’Zabar astral jazz into a nimble disco swing break, Josh Bennier’s trombone gusto setting the track on its upward trajectory. Time To Wake Up closes the sequence with a frisky, funky elegance which would readily sit within the Fagan/Becker song book. Clean, unhurried but confident and perky it sees Don Glori finding his own place at the pop-jazz intersection.

Given the circumstances ‘Don’t Forget To Have Fun’ could have been downbeat, frenetic even scrappy but it’s a credit to Don Glori’s musicality that he has arrived with an album that’s doesn’t sound salvaged but revitalised. He talks about the release being a “reminder” to himself of “How you can change the narrative by keeping a positive attitude, trusting the process and continually experimenting.” The result is a collection that has an inner warmth and a gentle regard to your well-being. As the final vocal of the album quips it’s ‘time to wake up’ and be ready for where Don Glori goes from here.

Get your copy of ‘Don’t Forget To Have Fun’ by Don Glori from your local record store or direct from DeepMatter HERE

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