Label: Dare2 Records / Yep Roc / H’art
Aziza Brings Together Four Modern Jazz Masters With A Compellingly Singular Voice
Dave Holland, Chris Potter, Lionel Loueke and Eric Harland unveil their newly-minted collaboration with self-titled debut out October 14, 2016 via Dare2 Records
Sure, you could call it a supergroup, but Aziza is much more than that. The quartet brings together four of the most insightful and influential voices in modern jazz to form a true band, one with a wholly distinct and intriguing sound of its own. Bassist Dave Holland, saxophonist Chris Potter, guitarist Lionel Loueke, and drummer Eric Harland are all renowned bandleaders in their own right, and together offer a staggering breadth of experience and depth of inspiration.
For the jazz aficionado, those four names alone will suffice to compel a listen to the band’s self-titled debut, due out October 16, 2016, on Holland’s Dare2 Records imprint, while the spectrum of emotion and diversity of approach in the music will spur obsessive repeats.
Holland is a universally respected, Grammy-winning 2017 NEA Jazz Master inductee whose storied career includes work with Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, Gary Burton and John McLaughlin, as well as his own groups from Circle to Prism.
Chris Potter’s ceaseless originality has established him as one of the leading saxophonists of the last couple of decades, whether leading his electric group Underground or playing with artists like Pat Metheny, Dave Douglas or Paul Motian. Lionel Loueke has forged a unique bridge between the musical tradition of his native Benin and a highly individual take on contemporary jazz guitar, creating an utterly alluring and exceptional blend that has attracted admirers from Terence Blanchard to Joe Lovano to Herbie Hancock. Eric Harland’s deeply felt and dynamically sophisticated approach to the kit has made him one of the most in-demand drummers of his generation, leading to fruitful partnerships with Charles Lloyd and Kurt Rosenwinkel as well as his own group Voyager and the collective quartet James Farm with Joshua Redman, Aaron Parks and Matt Penman.
The group’s name comes from the mythology of Dahomey, the African kingdom that would become Loueke’s homeland of Benin. Aziza is the god of inspiration, a small, elusive woodland creature that lends its magic to artists and hunters in the woods. It’s an apt name for a quartet that so deftly blends the spiritual and the earthy, the organic and the mystical.
Assembled for a 2015 summer tour, the foursome very quickly discovered that together they conjured something special – perhaps unsurprisingly, given the various connections of the members. Potter has played in Holland’s groups for nearly 20 years, while Harland has been the bassist’s drummer of choice in recent groups Prism (with guitarist Kevin Eubanks and pianist/keyboardist Craig Taborn) and the unrecorded Overtone Quartet (with Potter and pianist Jason Moran). Harland and Loueke played together in Terence Blanchard’s band, while Loueke toured with Potter and Holland in Herbie Hancock’s band touring behind his Grammy-winning album River: The Joni Letters.
“The premise was that we would all write some music that came from our impressions of what we might be able to do with this collection of musicians, and to create settings for what we thought could happen,” Holland says. “It organically evolved out of the experience that we all have playing together.”
The album comprises two compositions apiece by each of the members, from the knife-edged groove of Loueke’s “Aziza Dance” to the breezy Afro-Caribbean lilt of Potter’s “Summer 15,” from Harland’s soaring “Aquila” to Holland’s deeply personal “Finding the Light.” Each piece has its own perspective while being stamped with the collective identity of the band’s four very different members.
“What’s interesting to me,” Holland says, “is the dynamic that’s formed by where all of us are coming from musically, the different backgrounds we all come from and the different experiences we’ve had. We all share a respect for the tradition but at the same time the drive to try to create something personal and new out of it. We’ve all done that in slightly different ways, but there are enough points of convergence to create a cohesive language."
Regardless of where inspiration comes from, be it a supernatural woodland creature or simply years of creating music in collaboration with some of its most inventive and virtuosic artists, Aziza captures and manifests its spirit at a rarefied and scintillating level.