It Don't Mean A Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)
'Poured Gently'—the debut album of Aimua Eghobamien—combines fresh and unusual arrangements of jazz and pop standards from Ellington, Monk, Gershwin, Stevie Wonder and Bon Jovi with haunting and melodic original compositions and thoughtful lyrics. In collaboration with New York-based pianist, composer and arranger Glafkos Kontemeniotis, Eghobamien ensures that 'Poured Gently' produces a concept that sets a definite mood, entertains and quietly tells a story. Recorded and mixed at Avatar Studios in New York and at Strongroom and AIR Studios in London, Poured Gently features the internationally known and highly regarded percussionist Bashiri Johnson and stellar musicians bassist Ed Kollar and drummer Scott Neumann.
09/06/2011 Peter Bevan, the Northern Echo
Born in London, but trained in New York, singer Eghobamien brings a wealth of experience and tastes to this debut CD. Strong performances on jazz classics by Thad Jones, Monk and Ellington, plus Bon Jovi and Stevie Wonder and a suitably quirky EE Cummings poem are set against his own distinctive work. Beautiful accompaniment by pianist Glafkos Kontemeniotis and others.
06/12/2010 Christopher Loudon, JazzTimes
Aimua Eghobamien: Jazz Vocals with Absolute Gentleness London-born jazz singer releases debut album
Among 2010 jazz pairings, the nominal winners in the tongue-twister category are surely vocalist Aimua Eghobamien and pianist/composer/arranger Glafkos Kontemeniotis. The euphoniously challenged pair united in New York in 2008 to co-produce the London-born singer’s debut release, “Poured Gently” (Quaesitor Music). But, the marketability of new jazz artists being what it is, the album didn’t appear until this year. Eghobamien was raised on an eclectic mix of British pop, American soul, jazz, gospel and, courtesy of his mother, Edo folk songs. His boyhood and adolescence spanned three continents — Europe, Africa and North America — furthering the globalization of his musical tastes. Add training from both Sheila Jordan and Mark Oswald, the Metropolitan Opera’s foremost vocal coach, and it’s easy to understand Eghobamien’s multi-hued vibrancy.
Listening to Eghobamien it is difficult not to be reminded of Kurt Elling. They are kindred adventurers, determined to discover freshness in the familiar and venture bravely into unchartered territory. Stylistically, there’s also the strong suggestion of Ian Shaw. In other words, Eghobamien synthesizes the two finest male jazz singers on the planet. Which is not to suggest any derivativeness. He is a true, thoroughly exciting, original.
With able assistance from Kontemeniotis — who shaped the arrangements, wrote the music for the album’s new compositions and plays piano throughout — plus bassist Ed Kollar, drummer Scott Neumann and percussionist Bashiri Johnson, he opens with “Estlin’s Dream” a solemn, hymn-like interpretation of a deeply romantic e.e. cummings poem. The augustness continues through Thad Jones and Alec Wilder’s tenderly joyous “A Child Is Born.”
Eghobamien’s nomadic early life surely influenced the creation of “Migration,” a grandly passionate, asymmetric ode to strangers in a strange land. The fervor continues with “Passion Poured Gently,” an earnest discourse on living one’s dreams. Then, upon escalating waves of Afro-Caribbean drums, comes a gloriously imaginative reinvention of “Fascinatin’ Rhythm” that is equal parts chant and calypso-fueled dervish. Ellington’s “In A Sentimental Mood,” dressed in somber grays, is taken at a near-dirge pace, perversely heightening its dreamy romanticism.
The meeting of Eghobamien and Monk on Jon Hendricks’ “Listen to Monk” (built upon “Rhythm-A-Ning”) arrives fittingly at the playlist’s midpoint, for it is surely the album’s apex, forceful and fervent in its other-dimensional ingeniousness. Stevie Wonder’s woeful “Never Dreamed You’d Leave In Summer” seems shadowed by dark clouds, cleverly suggesting a touch of vengeance amid the bleakness. “So Many Stars,” propelled solely by Kontemeniotis’ piano, is effectively expansive, Bon Jovi’s “It’s My Life” is reinvented as a resolute ballad, and a second Ellington selection, “It Don’t Mean A Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)” ebbs and flows with marvelous shimmer.
Eghobamien exits much as he entered. This time unaccompanied, he shapes a powerfully minimalist “Benediction,” based on an Edo lullaby, its beautifully simple message of peace and protection indeed poured with absolute gentleness.
06/11/2010 Bill Donaldson, EJAZZNEWS
The success of a first album consists not just of a performer’s presentation of his personality, drawing attention from listeners with originality and spiritual kinship, but also of the work of collaborators who believe in the leader’s talent and enhance it with their own. Such is the case for British singer Aimua Eghobamien, who, yes, interprets songs with an intriguing voice, but who also records with four musicians who understand his artistic intentions. Eghobamien’s individualistic musical characteristics, to be immediately recognized as his own as he becomes better known by the public, involve a mixture of styles converging into a singular approach. Most prominent is Eghobamien’s careful attention to words as discrete elements to be investigated for their sound, meaning, continuity, vowel extensions, emotional evocation and usually soft vocal decay. Previously a student of mentors as disparate as Sheila Jordan and Mark Oswald, Eghobamien, by the evidence available on “Poured Gently,” appears to have absorbed their influences as well as a plentitude of others. On the one hand, Eghobamien evinces a jazz sensibility when, on “It Don’t Mean a Thing,” he indeed swings, not to mention inserting an element of funk, as he and his accompanists accelerate and then slow the tempo on a dime throughout this varied arrangement. However, the singer’s imprecatory introduction, of staccato stuttering piano notes and falling vocal pitch, serves notice that Eghobamien will interpret the song on his own terms. And, say, do I hear a twitter? A Monkish two-note dissonant twitter before bassist Ed Kollar starts the arrangement’s signifying vamp? Well, yes, it’s there. And appropriately enough, for sure.
Pianist Glafkos Kontemeniotis, whose respectful and shrewd accompaniments grace a growing list of singers’ albums, no doubt attained some of that musical insight from studies of Monk, as indicated on “Rhythm-A-Ning” (or “Listen to Monk,” as Eghobamien renames it). Defying expectations, though, Kontemeniotis backs the singer, not with punchy accents and quirky glissandi, but with rubato low-register rumblings and upper-keyboard plinks and rootless chords and suspenseful pauses. Eghobamien’s version of “Rhythm-A-Ning” is as unconventional as was Monk’s composition when it was new. Eghobamien’s theatrical studies combine spoken repetition of the lyrics, as if under constant consideration of meaning, and quarter-tone eeriness. The start of “Poured Gently” allows Kontemeniotis to establish the mood of “Estlin’s Dream,” more reverie than reveling, with a spare (dare I say beautiful?) presentation of melody on piano before Eghobamien comes in to sing words describing the feeling, voice and piano being in mutual haunting response.
As thoughtfully as “Poured Gently” begins, it just as reverently ends with “Benediction.” The song, a wish for security, peace and reassurance, is based on an Edo lullaby Eghobamien’s mother sang, and its English lyrics bookend the original Nigerian lyrics of “Jesu Oro Okakuomwen.” Unadorned by accompaniment and uncomplicated by progressive chord changes, the “Benediction” shares more with plainsong than jazz in its simplicity.
However, Eghobamien uses accompaniment for appropriate effect as the occasion warrants, especially on “Fascinating Rhythm,” which indeed is a celebration of rhythms. Bashiri Johnson’s hand drumming sets up his own call and response patterns—not to mention irresistible rhythms—at varying pitches. Instead of a show tune presented as an exercise in syncopation, “Fascinating Rhythm” creates the occasion for cultural immersion in drumming, and Eghobamien’s emphasis on lyrics like “I get up with the sun” suggests natural connections between the fascinating rhythms of life and music.
The mutual understanding among Eghobamien’s performers, obviously one involving respect and canny appreciation of their potential contributions, is apparent in their approach to the music. Kontemeniotis’ arrangement of “A Child Is Born,” for example, takes into consideration the singer’s accustomed elongations of notes/words. Eghobamien wrings emotion from the song’s very first word, “Now,” as he swells and contracts its volume for effect before leading into the words that follow, “out of the light.” But note Kontemeniotis’ creative, minimalistic accompaniment, which in effect acknowledges his Bill Evans influence with its light two-note major ninth prods and rootless reharmonizations, even at the end of the chorus when resolution is expected. Such floating harmonies dovetail with Eghobamien’s toying with pitch, teasing the listener with suspense, never hinting at his melodic direction.
All of the selections of “Poured Gently” appear to have been selected carefully for numerous reasons, such as variety of styles, infinite moods and in the end a musical portrait of a singular singer, Aimua Eghobamien. His sympathy for the sojourner of “Migration” (“He waves farewell to his sky…. / To cities grey—lacking sky—… / Blurred faces pass—not an eye— / Nor a smile”); his expression of passionate artistic commitment and wisdom’s historical scope in “Passion Poured Gently”; and Eghobamien’s expansive sense of wonder and search for direction in “So Many Stars” add to a composite description that future albums will complete.
04/10/2010 Chris Parker, Vortex CD Reviews
London-born, but steeped in music ranging from his father's highlife and calypso and his mother's Edo (Nigerian state, capital Benin City) lullabies, not to mention his siblings' Tamla Motown, soul and pop, Aimua Eghobamien has produced, in the appropriately named 'Poured Gently', a wide-ranging, heartfelt album with its roots in jazz but also drawing on a rich variety of other sources, musical and literary.
It begins with an intense, intimate visit to an e. e. cummings poem, and ends with an Edo-language blessing, but it also contains material that will be entirely familiar to jazz listeners: a touching version of the Thad Jones/Alec Wilder classic 'A Child Is Born', a warm and languorous visit to Duke Ellington's 'In a Sentimental Mood', and peppily adventurous workouts on Thelonious Monk's 'Rhythm-a-Ning' (lyrics by Jon Hendricks) and another Ellington staple, 'It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)'.
Eghobamien's voice is rich and sure, relying for its considerable effect on its resonance and timbre rather than on vocal pyrotechnics, and with spare, unfussy but sharp backing from pianist Glafkos Kontemeniotis, augmented by bassist Ed Kollar, drummer Scott Neumann and percussionist Bashiri Johnson, 'Poured Gently' is an absorbing and original set, intelligently programmed and elegantly performed.
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