Carlos Niño and Friends: More Energy Fields, Current

Set of ambient moods and spacey improvisation from LA percussionist and friends is rendered somewhat jazzy by guest Shabaka Hutchings


Let’s call Carlos Niño a mellower LA counterpart to his Chicago labelmate and sometime collaborator Makaya McCraven. Both are percussionists who invite guests for improv sessions, which they splice and dice, Teo Macero-style, for electronic-edged jazz (of sorts), though Niño tends more toward murky ambient depths. They even share soloists such as London saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings and multi-instrumentalist Miguel Atwood-Ferguson.

That said, there’s not much “jazz” per se on this album besides the two tracks featuring Hutchings, which are the album’s strongest. His tenor enlivens this otherwise sleepy yet pleasant flow of spacey improv on this ninth album released under the loose moniker Carlos Niño & Friends.

Less obvious than Hutchings, a more subtly dominant figure throughout the album is young LA keyboardist Jamael Dean, who’s been working with the likes of Kamasi Washington and Thundercat since he was 15 and released an impressive debut in 2019. He duets with Hutchings on the seductive opening track (and single) Pleasewakeupalittlefaster, please…

The dozen other musicians include ambient guru Laraaji, who has worked with Brian Eno and recently with BadBadNotGood. He adds ethereal zither to Ripples, Reflection, Loop. There’s more energy and tantalising tension on Salon Winds featuring Frippy guitar by Nate Mercereau and lively flute from Aaron Shaw, who plays sax on several other tracks. So does Devin Daniels, whose delicate alto sounds like a soprano on the Alice Coltrane-like Togetherness. The spiritual vibe flows on with Iasos 79 ‘til Infinity, a tinkling Niño solo tribute to a pioneer of California New Age sounds.

Without the occasional incongruous vocals and jarring genre shifts of previous albums, this is a moody, seamless downtempo set – a pleasant dream that you might wish would never end despite the closing track’s invitation to please wake up, underpinned by Hutchings’ elegant circular breathing.

Pleasewakeupalittlefaster, Please…; The World Stage, 4321 Degnan Boulevard, Los Angeles California 90008; Nightswimming; Now The Background Is The Foreground.; Thanking The Earth; Salon Winds; Ripples, Reflection, Loop; Togetherness; Iasos 79 ‘til Infinity; Please, Wake Up (44.58)
Niño (pc, syn, chimes, collage, sound design, field recordings); Jamael Dean (p, org, syn); Aaron Shaw (f, ts); Adam Rudolph (drum machine); Devin Daniels (as); Dntel (syn); Jamire Williams, Randy Gloss (d); Laraaji (zither, v); Nate Mercereau (guitar syn); Sam Gendel (vib, as, pedals); Shabaka Hutchings (ts); Sharada Shashidhar (v); Jira (beats). Los Angeles, 2019-20.
International Anthem IARC0040