Clear Path Ensemble: Solar Eclipse

New Zealanders aim to fuse the 'expansive and astral elements of electric jazz [Weather Report], with an introspective dynamic [1970s ECM]'

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Clear Path Ensemble are based in New Zealand and have strong overtones of jazz-fusion band Weather Report. From electric jazz to ambient, experimental, house and funk, they take a DIY, jam-session approach towards composition; band members seem to cherry-pick from a vast array of influences.

Also citing inspiration by the 1970s ECM catalogue, the ensemble claims to channel the “expansive and astral elements of electric jazz, with an introspective dynamic”. At times the music is fused with catchy synth hooks, smooth basslines and shuffling beats, while other tracks seamlessly morph into moody electronic soundscapes.

Led by percussionist Cory Champion, the band released their eponymous debut album with HHV in 2020, followed by a headline performance at the 2021 Wellington Jazz Festival. It had been Champion’s ambition to record this album traditionally (i.e., perhaps in a conventional analogue studio) but was swayed to record it electronically because “electronic music production techniques are (now) fully integrated in the recording and production of great new contemporary music”. That is a moot point, and many recording engineers and producers would beg to differ. Nonetheless, high-quality (non-studio) digital recording is now available to musicians at a fraction of the cost and for many it has been a liberating and career-changing opportunity.

Paradoxically, this is a modern-retro album. The recording quality is very now, but the music remains deeply rooted in the 1970s. It is probably a good example of what is currently referred to as “nu jazz”. Essentially, it is a blending of the improvisation and harmonic concepts typically found in jazz with funk, electronica and improvisation. I could have listened to this album in the 1970s and I can happily listen to it today.

Discography
Kihi; Drumatix; Revolutions; Absolvo; Interlock; Solar Eclipse; Sunrise Motif; Plasma Plaza; Talking To Water; Tennis Ball (32.58)
Cory Champion (pc); Details of other musicians not supplied. The Carvery Studio, London, 2022.
Soundway Records SNDWLP154