Video of the Day: Equal Spirits share 'Jo'burg' from debut album ahead of UK live dates

Friday, April 19, 2024

The multi-talented band releases its new album on 26 April on Ubuntu Music with live dates at Rich Mix on 4 May and Tobacco Factory in Bristol on 5 May

Equal Spirits
Equal Spirits

Over the past two decades trombonist-composer Raph Clarkson has proved to be one of the most dynamic figures in British jazz. Leader of the critically acclaimed orchestra, Dissolute Society he has put together a new band, Equal Spirits, that makes its debut with a stunning album Wise and Waiting. The music reflects the open-minded and inquisitive approach to making music that has characterised Clarkson’s career to date and draws on many rich sources, from South African spiritual jazz to electronica to dance grooves. There are also sung choruses and passages of spoken word that showcase the beauty of the Zulu, Xhosa, Sotho, Yoruba, Arabic and English languages. The record is joyously global in nature and universal in outlook.   

As he has shown on previous releases such as This Is How We Grow, Itself and One, I Sing with The Earth and Ada Lovelace, Clarkson makes strong personal statements through his music, which can reference education, community and environmental issues. Equal Spirits, with its self-evidently fraternal and democratic sentiment, is a celebration of the fearless musicians of South Africa, who endured the evils of apartheid and made a worldwide impact. Icons such as Bheki Mseleku, Abdullah Ibrahim, Dudu Pukwana and Mongezi Feza are all noted inspirations for Clarkson’s writing, as are the great British jazz artists who played with them, notably Django Bates and Keith Tippett. Clarkson, a Bristol native who studied with Tippett at Dartington International Summer School, developed a more personal connection with South Africa when he started working with another one of its respected expatriates, pianist-harmonica player Adam Glasser. There then came a tour of the country in 2018, a deeply immersive experience that saw Clarkson play with musicians from Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban. A recording was the next logical step, and the project became yet more exciting when the renowned producer Sonny Johns (a Grammy nominee admired for his work with Tony Allen, Fatoumata Diawara and Hugh Masekela among others) came on board.

Equal Spirits is an international combo that features no fewer than 24 musicians from across Britain, Europe, and Africa. They include Johannesburg players, drummer Siphiwe Shiburi, bassist Amaeshi Ikechi, pianist-vocalist Yonela Mnana, vocalist Nosihe and spoken word artist NoZaka. Among the noted British musicians in the fold are saxophonist Mark Lockheart and trumpeter Chris Batchelor, who was part of the legendary 1970s South African-British big band, Brotherhood Of Breath.   

Never one to lack ambition, Clarkson has created an enviably rich palette on Wise and Waiting, which, in addition to the aforesaid South African and British players, features strings, percussion and a church organ, as well as sampling and processing by the inventive pianist-keyboardist Elliot Galvin. The myriad layers of sound make for a captivating listen that vividly evokes ‘shared humanity and connectedness’. Equal Spirits wear their name well. Their music is the beauty of many becoming one. 

For more info visit Rich Mix, London (launch concert) and Tobacco Factory, Bristol



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