Album of the Week – Mister Ott ‘Single Shot’
Mister Ott’s second album ‘Single Shot’ sees the band expand their Ethiojazz sound to incorporate psychedelic guitars, reverb-drenched horns, intergalactic keys, and a crunchy drum/bass combo. The result is a mesmerising marriage of eastern sounds, tight jazz/funk instrumentation, and hypnotic dance grooves with a psychedelic edge. The music blends native melodies with improvisation for which Afro-jazz is renowned.
Flippant I may be – but in times when insularity, suspicion of ‘the other’, hate crimes, and racism all seem to be on the increase, Ottignon and his band of hip cats have recorded an expansive album that embraces world music and culture, that looks forward positively to a global society where unity, rather than division, are the main virtues of humanity. Positive, buoyant, Single Shot slides easily from Mulatu Astatke inspired Ethiopian Jazz through the relentlessly compulsive Afro-futurism of Head Hunters/Sunlight period Herbie Hancock.
This in itself would be enough for many, but the seven tracks on this record also take in Nik Turner style space-jazz and the regimented fastidiousness of Fela Kuti or Steely Dan. Yes, there’s a touch of acid-jazz – that much maligned and mostly forgotten movement of the late 1990s but – god damn – you really want to get up and dance to this record. Stick it on at New Year’s Eve after a few drinks and see what happens (and send me pictures).
Starting with the musicianship – it’s near faultless – the interplay between Ottignon’s saxes and Ellen Kirwood’s Trumpet is a wonderful thing to hear when they go at it full bore – recalling, if you will, the heady jazz-funk experimentalism of Eddie Henderson. Daniel Pilner’s organ and Ben Panucci’s guitars provide plenty of spaced-out effects and trickery to keep the most jaded space-head happy, while Eden Ottignon’s bass is rock-solid throughout, providing not just the foundations of each track, but imbued with a great amount of P-Funk flare. There are a number of Bootsy Collins albums, no doubt, nestling in his collection somewhere. Finally, on more than one occasion do percussionist-drummers Carlos Adura and Dan Kennedy prove that they have a touch of the Billy Cobhams about them, there’s no doubting that they know their way around a kit – and then some. While these musicians are giving us a masterclass we should also give a nod to the production, making full use of the aural space with a terrific wall of sound.
Each track is upbeat and drenched in cosmic energy – from the hedonistic promise of the night in the opener ‘Blood Sky’ to the syncopated reggae blitz of ‘Dragon Majesty’ through to the closing Sun-Ra hat-tip ‘Space Will Win’, we’re drawn very willingly into a world where jazz-fusion rules, and where it becomes very difficult to believe that this album was made in 2016 rather than 1976. Standing out for me are the epic-workouts of ‘Snakebite’ and ‘Shakedown’, powerhouses of tracks that hit light speed early on and suck you along with them.
It’s all too short, and over too quickly in my opinion – but you won’t wear it out from repeated listening. I’d also say you really mustn’t pass by the opportunity to hear this music. Single Shot is certainly a strong contender for one of this year’s better jazz releases, has a great deal of crossover appeal, and transcends the genres from which it was born, and by which it was influenced
Inspired by Ethiopian artist Mulatu Astatke and from touring to Ethiopia with Dereb the Ambassador, saxophonist Matthew Ottignon has assembled Sydney’s finest musicians together. Eastern mellismatic scales and hypnotic trancelike rhythms head to head with seriously solid funk grooves.
Everywhere he’s been, Matt Ottignon has soaked up the local music culture, collaborating with resident artists and creating new music. Not ‘world music’ in the accepted sense, Matt’s original compositions for MISTER OTT comprise an amalgamation of native melodies from many sources, blended with the free-form improvisation and syncopation for which African-pedigreed jazz is renowned. In particular, Matt has a keen interest and involvement with the very unique sounds of Ethiopian music. He toured Ethiopia in 2011 with Sydney-based Dereb The Ambassador.
With a sound originally rooted in the Ethiojazz, ‘Single Shot’ sees Sydney’s Mister Ott expand their sonic palette to incorporate psychedelic guitars, reverb-drenched horns, intergalactic keys, and a crunchy drum-and-bass combo that would make DJ Shadow envious.
The result is a marriage of mesmerising eastern sounds, tight jazz/funk, and hypnotic grooves with a psychedelic edge.