All My Relations

After touring for 15 years with Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings, it’s possible that the group’s slick approach to songwriting rubbed off on saxophonist Cochemea Gastelum. On an album that sometimes can wander, the bandleader here uses cues from indigenous traditions to tie together this new work and his time in that funky ensemble.

On “Maso Ye’eme,” All My Relations’ opening track, Gastelum briefly rises above the ensemble’s interplay to articulate an emphatic, longing refrain. Then a cascade of staccato drumming jolts up in the mix. The bandleader exchanges bars with the drummers before the song abruptly segues into the title track, where group improvisation remains the focus.

A few tracks, though, flirt with the poppy, melodic appeal of smooth jazz. On “Seyewailo,” Gastelum does his best to get the electric saxophone to emote. It ends up sounding like the score to a lingering, soft-focus PG-13 movie scene of coitus between two big-haired actors partially obscured by silk curtains. Nonetheless, it’s really good, buoyed by a bright, memorable melody and more driving percussion.

The last quarter of the album feels scattered, unfortunately. “Asatoma,” “Sonora” and “Los Muertos” seem particularly incomplete, ambient percussion waiting for an enlivening idea. Thankfully, “Song Of Happiness” finishes the album strongly, its bridge building a potent harmonic tension—in welcome contrast to the preceding songs’ more static nature—which resolves into a joyous major-key hymnal melody.

On Sale Now
July 2022
Sean Jones
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