Towards the Hill of Joy is a jazz album that was released back in 2011, but like a fine wine, it is an LP that has aged well. It was the debut outing for George Brandon, who also plays trombone on the record, as a band leader. Brandon arranged and composed these tracks and they are performed triumphantly by the Blue Unity Ensemble – the band name is a philosophical nod to the teachings of Yogananda Paramhansa (“slaying the blues of suffering with the sword of wisdom”).
Little Fox sees the brass section working together like a well-oiled machine. Over a laidback swing beat, they run through the main theme a couple of times before alto-sax player, Jorge Sylvester, takes the first solo break and delivers a nice balance of rhythmic hooks and lightning-fast scale runs. Josh Evans then takes the reigns and conjures up some tasty phrases on the trumpet; pushing into the upper range of his instrument. Solo breaks by the trombone, piano, and double bass ensue, before the brass section rejoin the fold, bookending the piece with that beautiful main theme.
Do Something is a standout, and is the first cut where we hear Nora McArthy, the project’s featured vocalist. McArthy sings directly to the audience on this one, asking them to take a long, hard look at themselves, and the world around them. She implores the listener to do something about the problems that they face, be it personally, or as a part of society as a whole. Politics, discrimination, and capitalism all get a blast in this thought-provoking track, and it also features another brilliant trumpet solo by Evans.
Towards the Hill of Joy is the work of a group of extremely talented musicians. Brandon’s songs are cerebral and sophisticated, and there is a nice sense of cohesion from start to finish. The tracks which feature McArthy’s vocals are a real highlight, as are the highly technical and virtuosic improvisations by the rest of the band. This is a jazz album that will continue to stand up, swing, and knock your socks off for years to come.
BELOW: Listen to Towards the Hill of Joy and connect with their website and social media platforms. Please support George Brandon & the Blue Unity Ensemble by visiting them online, and playing, downloading, and/or purchasing their music, or attending a live show! And, as always, thank you for supporting real music!
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