John-Paul Shiver

John-Paul Shiver

SF Music Journalist who writes for @pulplab @sfsonicmag , likes more songs about buildings and food. He's written for several Bay Area Music publications over the past 15 years.

Future Classics

Natasha Agrama “The Heart of Infinite Change” (World Galaxy / Alpha Pup)

Jazz

From the intricate arrangement and soaring nature of the lead song ‘Black Narcissus’ from “The Heart of Infinite Change”, it becomes apparent that this debut release from Natasha Agrama is not her first time working with jazz masters.

On this Joe Henderson composition, Agrama uses her finely tuned vocal instrument to glide between the sinewy bass work by Thundercat. The unmistakable percussive indentation from his brother on drums, Ronald Bruner Jr. and the complementary chord colour work by the late piano prodigy Austin Peralta.

With such a dense and concentrated sound palette conducting its own chemical reactions amidst one another. Agrama is unfettered to roam the vertical and horizontal pathways that her all-star lineup sets a trajectory for. It’s a telling theme that runs throughout the 7 track LP. But having the presence of mind to allow herself the opportunity to be enhanced, not intimidated, allows for expansive opportunities to push her delicate and telling voice.

The conversational bounce and shuffle that locks in on ‘All Matter’, a stellar Bilal composition, finds Agrama in a plucky Minnie Ripperton sweet spot between George Duke and Stanley Clarke. These two masters, on what would be one of their last, continue to expand the limits of what jazz can be in contemporary form.

Agrama’s updated version of the Charles Mingus standard ‘Goodbye Pork Pie Hat’ morphs into a bittersweet history lesson that once again allows her light yet animated voice to pick and choose the moments to flutter and ruminate about. While Thundercat, once again, showcases his jazz-bass virtuoso skills. Deeper still, the acoustic‘Lover Man’ duet between Agrama and Clarke on bass, further solidifies how much of a veteran mindset the vocalist possesses. With her above average jazz IQ on display, Agrama sticks to the less is more philosophy, making her vocal choices illuminate with each measured preference.

Agrama, the stepdaughter to legendary bass player and co-producer of this release Stanley Clarke, has become a standout in the LA musical community over the last few years. Her live shows were flavoured for a time by Miles Mosley, who was her musical director while performing in residency at the now legendary Piano Bar.

“The Heart of Infinite Change” released September 8, 2017 on World Galaxy

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