Katalyst, Adrian Younge, Ali Shaheed Muhammad - Katalyst JID013 (Purple Vinyl)


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Over the last decade, the Los Angeles-based band Katalyst has carved out a name for themselves as bearers of the community driven jazz scene, popping up on major releases while remaining an integral incubator for outstretched corners of the emerging sound. The group members have become favorites of Jazz Is Dead, appearing on stage with legends like Ronnie Laws and Lonnie Liston Smith, and backing Gary Bartz and Roy Ayers on their respective releases with the label. Here, the nascent superstars convene with maestros Adrian Younge and Ali Shaheed Muhammad to document their chameleonic pallet and ever-growing profile as one of the most exciting emerging groups in the genre. The web of influences that ties Katalyst together immediately leaps from the headphones on tracks like “Daybreak” and “Corridors”, which channel the Soulquarian energy of James Poyser and the late Roy Hargrove, as well as Jazz-Funk astral travelers like Lonnie Liston Smith and Norman Connors. Fluttering in and out of gravity, the drums and keys oscillate between contemplation and exuberance. The album’s first single “Juneteenth” is a triumphant celebratory number, a commemoration of a history that has long been obscured and outright denied, featuring swooping horns and stomping percussion. On “Summer Solstice”, the group channels the distinct smell of ocean breeze. “Dogon Cypher” is taut and precise, while maintaining the group’s spontaneity, the kinetic percussion and supernatural synthesizer reminiscent of fellow contemporary Angeleno jazz innovators the West Coast Get Down. There may be no better introductory track to the group than album opener, “The Avenues”, an inspiring four minutes that captures the ensemble’s wide influences and makes an unimpeachable case for their ascendancy, with flourishes of DJ Premier and Pharoah Sanders. That same energy is bookended by album closer “Reflections”, a dreamlike summation of the album’s entire sonic and thematic journey through billowing cymbals, shimmering synths and a mantra like horn hook that straddles the listener between inner peace and outward release. Despite their incredible talent and artistic vision, Katalyst is not here to save jazz. To position the multifaceted group and its multi-talented members as such would be to discredit the tremendous accomplishments and acclaim that they have garnered collaborating on stage and in the studio with some of the world’s biggest stars. Rather than preserve any such outdated notions of what is and isn’t, the collective’s music is a mission to pollinate, and reposition jazz for a new generation while paying respect to the giants whose shoulders they stand on. In which case, JID013 is the ideal mission statement, a rallying call for curious listeners, as well as an open invite to anyone new to the party.