Emma Rawicz: Incantation

Impressive reminders of 80s hard-bop and fusion spring from the debut album of the young sax virtuoso and BBC Young Jazz finalist

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Jazz swept into Emma Rawicz’s life when she was just 15, and she played her first notes on the saxophone the next year. Four years later, in 2022, Rawicz was a finalist for BBC Young Jazz Musician. This, her debut album, hit the shelves the same year.

Incantation presents 11 original compositions played by a quintet featuring fellow youngsters Scottie Thompson on piano, Hugo Piper on bass and Finn Genockey on drums, plus experienced guitarist Ant Law. Rawicz adds her talents on tenor and soprano sax, and chucks in a flute and some vocals too. It’s an album marked by varied influences and youthful swagger, often reminding (e.g., in the opening Voodoo) of the 1980s hard-bop and fusion crossover associated with Michael Brecker and others.

Clapping hands and rolling piano announce the opening passage of Omen. The rhythm hints at Afro-Cuban ideas, while Rawicz’s tenor sound recalls Dexter Gordon’s ballad voice. Her light vocal scatters dreamy syllables before saxophone and guitar play solos over a stripped-down background. To wrap things up, Rawicz pulls off the neat trick of singing and playing saxophone at the same time.

The title track lurches with a dipping-shoulder strut. There’s rock and funk, indoor sunglasses and upturned collars here. The drums are thumpier, the sax talks a little tougher and Law’s electric guitar is old-school cool.

Orison begins with panpipe-ish flute against a backdrop of wind-chimey percussion. The title refers to a form of prayer. It’s a track of desert-plain landscapes and big skies, unhurried and panoramic.

Incantation takes an open approach by mixing styles and atmospheres. Rawicz’s compositions suggest a ravenous hunger to explore and embrace musical possibilities. A second album is expected in 2023. By then, Rawicz will possess nearly a decade of jazz experience – collecting inspiration and illumination with each lap of the sun.

Discography
Voodoo; Omen; Intro To Rune; Rune; Incantation; Orison; Intro To Vera; Vera; Intro To Mantra; Mantra; Wishbone (54.39)
Rawicz (f, ss, ts, v); Scottie Thompson (p); Ant Law (g); Hugo Piper (b); Finn Genockey (d, pc). London, 2022.