Jazz is remarkable because it allows a plethora of musical genres to fit wonderfully under an extremely large umbrella. You’re in a field, surrounded by a sense of space travel, yet you need to grab a few chamber musicians, a jazz pianist, and your copy of The HItchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Enter: Hello Future, the brilliant new album from a collective led by New York-based pianist and composer Jorn Swart, featuring original compositions that explore the past, present and future; each track a story with its own accord.
Malnoia also features award-winning composer Lucas Pino, of the No Net Nonet, on bass clarinet, and jazz violist Benni von Gutzeit of the Grammy-winning Turtle Island String Quartet. They’re truly an example of the classically trained turned jazz trio, echoing the improvising and versatile styles of cellist Yo-Yo Ma. Hello Future is a stellar, cinematic work of art, with stories that will make you think, dream, ultimately reimagining a world in which we wished we lived in.
One should start by mentioning that the unorthodox jazz trio are such because of the absence of a drummer. This does not by any means define them as lacking rhythm; in fact it allows for the band’s impressive abilities to use piano, tenor saxophone and viola to their fullest potential.
The opening track, “First Ocean” aptly display’s Gutzeit’s ‘chopping’ viola technique, set against the 7/8 arpeggiated piano of composer Swart, with Pino swooping in at the right breathing spaces with bass clarinet. You can hear the subtle Radiohead influence in “Paultjuh”,works in tandem with a short story written especially for the album by Leah Sarbib about a robot who awakes after a long time in standby to find the world overgrown, in disrepair, and filled with small mammals. “Even though it might sound post-apocalyptic I think it’s quite a sweet story,”she says. Building on the tension with swift glissandos and improvisational clarinet loops the track changes direction to a more frenetic energy, reflective of the evident two-sided viewpoint that each track or ‘story’ has to offer. It’s almost as if the trio wants us to recognise that there are two sides to every story.
From the witty and satirical “Democrapp”, echoing a dystopian present and future, to the more hopeful possibilities of ‘ “TimeSave3050” it is astounding to hear such versatility in each player’s own narrative, reaching across the universe to remind us of what we need to explore, having experienced all that we have as mere mortals.
“It’s more like we’re asking questions, and asking people to think about some of this,” Swart says. “We’re embracing a future that’s increasingly digital, but we’re playing a form of music that’s uniquely human: improvisations are like a little look inside a human’s brain.”
Indeed. “New Religion”‘s more improvised, almost sardonic sound paves the way for the sweetened nostalgia of “The Ghost”. I especially enjoyed the way each musician respects the other with their playing; each gives breathing room for a crafted call and response, whilst providing an almost oceanic myriad of harmonic support.
“Choro Humano” brought me back to East London, sitting around a traditional ‘choro’ table with a feast of musicians. You can tell this track was about making art for joy’s sake, straightforward in form and intention. T
he album follows in this dance around the themes of humans here, past and future with the lighthearted “Tubifoot”, feeling almost like a ragtime bar during the 20s’ prohibition. “Prelude To Singularity”, almost a kind of angsty ode to Thelonius Monk’s later work, signals the beginning of the end. For humanity? For the album? For the inquisitive mind? I find that the answer lies in the heartbreaking “Tears in Rain”. Like all the great poets of our time, grief and joy are intertwined as one voice; one cannot live without the other.
Such is the story of Hello Future. A beautiful gift to the inquisitive artist, an ode to the dreamers.
Malnoia’s Hello Future is out now on all digital streaming platforms; find out more here.