Panacea by Tam de Villiers
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2. Plato’s Cave
3. Morse Code Fantasie
4. As Above, So Below
5. Totem Tona
6. Tona Totem
9. Wolf (in Sheep’s Clothing)
Official worldwide release date - March 16, 2015
For the the best part of a decade, the quartet of British-born guitarist Tam de Villiers (now firmly established in France) has been striving for musical authenticity, compositional originality and honest group interplay. Avoiding pastiche of the past and present, and deftly side-stepping the fleeting musical trends of the moment, their aim has been to explore a personal take on the human experience, defying genres and period.
Resolutely idiosyncratic, the music of Tam de Villiers surprises the listener with a melting pot of influences seamlessly combined into an original voice. What starts out as a jazz piece leads into a contrapuntal baroque fantasie, then veers off into abrasive progressive rock, skimming past rockabilly twangs before plunging into a trance inducing minimalist motif. Yet despite the apparent eclecticism, there is a carefully crafted archetypal balance underpinning the form that brings a sense of classical coherence to the notes, both written and improvised.
de Villiers continues working closely with this regular team of musicians, Karl Jannuska (drums), David Prez (tenor saxophone), and Frederic Chiffoleau (double bass), on Panacea, his debut for Whirlwind Recordings. This new opus expands upon the quartet's body of work following the critically acclaimed albums Alba Lux (2008) and Motion Unfolding (2011). Described as "amazing, acrobatic, mind-poetry" by Jazz Thing Magazine, song-writing was explored on his last album which featured singer David Linx. Now with Panacea, de Villiers pushes the poetic song writing aspect of his music even further, and this time invited Hungarian singer Gabor Winand, whose baritone voice and unique approach to scat improvisation bring an exceptional lyricism to four tracks of the album.
A core aim of Panacea was to build upon the long-standing musical relationship of de Villiers' quartet and use this as a vehicle to exploit a new, challenging repertoire of compositions he wrote over the course of the previous two years. This repertoire explores many approaches to form and improvisation not regularly utilized in a jazz quartet context. Many compositions are through-composed, exploring motifs and melodic material in different ways and using them as a rhythmic and harmonic basis for improvisation. In order to develop melodic material, twelve-tone 20th century classical composition devices were used, notably in the suite 'Totem Tona - Tona Totem', and 'Wolf' where trichords are used and inverted to form the themes and harmony. This focus on composition and structure (juxtaposed with the sounds of electric guitar and multiple effects), paired with a fluid, organic execution creates a unique combination of modern music styles and sounds mixed with the subtle melodic and rhythmic complexity that characterizes the quartet.
In parallel to this, and in some ways as counter-balance, inviting the flexibility of Winand's vocal technique into the mix brings a universal coherence to the auditor. de Villiers desired to continue his exploration of poetic song-writing (first started on the last album Motion Unfolding), using the consonants and syllables of the text as a rhythmic framework for the articulation and sound of the themes. The texts examine symbolic archetypes found in European esoterica, alchemy and Jungian writings. The literal concepts explored also lay the foundation of the song forms, using numerological figures as a basis for tempo, form and meter: notably in 'Panacea' and 'As Above, So Below'. In other songs, 'Morse Code Fantasie' and 'Freedom' (Winand's own composition), the voice is instead used as an instrument in its own right, using scat syllables for articulation.
The end result is a collection of varying pieces, instrument and vocal, that takes the listener on both a cerebral and visceral voyage, where the natural feel and organic execution of the material draws the listener in while allowing appreciation of the band's exuberant interactions without its compositional depth and complexity burying their musicality.
"Here is an album that stand out from the crowd. From the first listening, one is struck by the sheer unpredictability of the routes laid out in each piece."
Given the "CHOC" Award for Album of the Month - Jazz Magazine + feature article (FR)
"Straight off the bat, an exhilarating conversation."
Jazz News (FR)
"Panacea is a fluid and powerful album. Certainly the most accomplished yet, of the quartet. Not to be missed, the prescription is universal."
ELU Award by Citizen Jazz (FR)
"From the outset it was apparent that de Villiers is a player with an enormous technical facility, the kind of musician who is able to make even the most complex music look relatively easy."
★★★★ The Jazz Mann
"The final result is a collection of richly varied instrumental and vocal pieces, performed by an excellent band in exuberant interaction with incredible musicality."
"The group interaction is constantly apparent; this is musical communication of the first rank."
Music an Sich
"Tam De Villiers is a highly talented guitarist, composer and creator hermetic poetry."
"The music of Tam de Villiers is decidedly idiosyncratic. They surprised and astonish the listener with a melting pot of different influences that are seamlessly combined."
"De Villiers smoothly intertwines art rock structures to classical counterpoint, and uses haunting motifs."
"Left-handed, cream-colored Fender Strat. Pedals. All compositions, bar one, were those of de Villiers. Playing with a plectrum, and frequently without, the amiable guitarist had the fret board covered from the off. Powerful, shredded woodshed riffs, de Villiers had a well-developed creative partnership with tenor saxophonist David Prez."
Bebop Spoken Here
"A very strong musical unit... They have played an awful lot as a unit and that they have strong and characterful jazz chops means that the resulting sounds are full of lithe movement, energy and passion."
The Jazz Breakfast (live & album review)