Stepping your game up from making jazzy house and hiphop-influenced downtempo joints to come up with a fully-fledged high quality jazz album is no mean feat, but Byron the Aquarius has done just that with ’Ambrosia’.
Jazz has always been a major influence in house music when it comes to key patterns, percussion and song structure, but on his new album for Jeff Mills’ mighty Axis Records the Birmingham-born house don is not content to merely use it as a main ingredient, opting for a fully organic sound with a touch of house instead.
Recorded in his native Atlanta over a couple of days with the help of a select crew of musician friends just before COVID-19 shut down large parts of the country, the heartbeat of this accomplished double album is provided by veteran drummer Lil John Roberts and Brazilian bass player Chocolat Costa giving the whole project a distinctly funky feel, with trumpeter Dashill Smith and flutist Rasheeda Ali adding extra colour and flavor.
Herbie-ish keys, raw sounding bass and shuffling percussion interact beautifully with Rasheeda Ali’s spirited flute playing on opener ‘New Beginning’, before going for a more streamlined discofied jazzfunk sound on ‘Space & Time’.
Things get a bit deeper on the loosely-knit improvisational eight minute jazzdance stepper ‘Edgewood Ave’, followed by the funky latin-infused ‘Spirit Of Juju’, that’s the perfect showcase for Lil John Roberts’ impressive drumming skills.
The New Jersey garage-inspired ’Timeless’ proves Byron hasn’t completely forgotten about the househeads after all, even if they have to wait until the very end. ’Ambrosia’ is a creative triumph for Byron the Aquarius - one that also marks a new direction for Detroit techno titan Jeff Mills’ monumental Axis imprint (RO).