MYLES SANKO - A SOUL-SUITE WITH STRONG JAZZ ACCENTS

MYLES SANKO JUST BEING ME ( CD & Vinyl 2016)

 

With his third album "Just Being Me" Myles Sanko has made an excellent achievement. The album does not seem so "spectacular" at first listening - perhaps because it shows "only" this classic soul quality, so: "old school". In order to capture the really high quality, it is necessary to hear several times. On Sanko's first album "Born In Black & White" (2013), it was mainly his incredibly expressive vocals, which broke into the British soul scene like a bang and gave him sensational critiques.

With the new, elaborately produced album "Just Being Me", the artist, who grew up in Ghana and later moved to the Cambridge in UK. is now creatively a few steps further. The eleven new songs contain search and recognition / confession of his identity.

The key song for this and also the guideline for the entire album is the thematically and musically grandly contoured title song: "Just Being Me". In this song, all the virtues and creative intentions of this album are condensed into a unity, a musical formula: Soul, Groove and R & B merge seamlessly to Jazz and vice versa.

In addition to the search and the desire for identity, Myles's lyrics deal with other elementary themes such as love, hope, truth and even politics in the widest sense. All eleven songs are embedded in the wide, effectively arranged sound of strings and horn section. Through the dense, soulful jazz orchestration and the thematic sequence of the songs - also through the presence of such melodic compositions, the entire album proves to be a kind of "suite" - I would like to designate this work as a "soul suite with strong jazz accents”.

In the musical focus - like as his previous two albums, is of course, Soul, Funk and R & B. Great, revered Idols such as Donny Hathaway, Bobby Womack, Bill Withers and Gil Scott-Heron influenced Sanko's artistic path. His current album illuminates and confirms this in subtle refinement and concentration to a high pretensions rather than just in stormy vocal outbursts.

As for the rich instrumentation of the album, Myles Sanko was never closer to his idol Donny Hathaway. If you listen to the first song "Freedom" - an instrumental prolog that works like an introduction to the suite - you will remember the strings sound of the Hathaway album "Extension Of A Man" from 1973. However, at all the songs that follow, communicate with the strings a lot of jazz accents: soft blues, funk & jazz-oriented piano, gentle guitars, pointed trumpet or saxsoli, and powerful drums - and that's for the first time on a album of Myles Sanko!

Also soulful choirs are integrated with "For You", "Empty Road" or "Land Of Paradise", the most politically most significant and most interesting song in the artistic performance. (Myles writes in the booklet: "Someday we will find peace, but we must wake up now"). There is a virtuoso mourning trumpet solo in a "Miles Davis manner" and in the short sequences of chanting one thinks of course to the great Gil Scott-Heron. But in his specific tone, his phrasing, his overall performance, Myles Sanko is unmistakable as a singer.

He sings so magnificently with his tonal baritone that it is hard to understand why he has not yet gained the enormous popularity of a Gregory Porter.

                                                                                                                                             

"Sunshine" sounds like a poem, like a homage to the sun, which for him has embodied the good from the beginning. (Sanko: "I long to be in your light") The song is dominated by the piano, the song is kept very quiet until almost the end, but then towards the end, he will reaffirm his confession in an vocal increase loudly .

Very impressive, very emotional is the more "jazz-than-soul ballad" "This Ain't Living". Here, the singer asks whether we are really "free" or ultimately not only slaves. Myles sings with great intensity of a "revolution of the mind" that is needed, because "it's about time"! The beauty of the lyrics of Myles Sanko is the clarity, the simplicity, the unmistakability. Even "between the lines" there is nothing to read. His longed promising future rooms and future dreams contain no encryption, but are presented in the style of his singing, the words and in the congenial arrangements.

The mid-tempo songs "For You", "I belong To You" and "Forget Me Not", which are simply narrated of love and longings, turn once again to the soul idiom. With the more exiting song "Promises" his intonation develops more dynamically. Myles says about the song: “Do not believe the hype, look what is behind empty promises. And dance to it” . Or with other words: look exactly behind the surface....

With "Empty Road", the album receives a kind of modern prayer or ode in which a plea is steadily directed to God: "Just give me hope on this empty road". After minutes of repeated repetition, the music ends abruptly and leads into a classical string ensemble. Whose music-making sounds as inspired by Debussy or Ravel. Just as at the beginning, the suite ends up instrumental. A self-contained homogeneous work.

"For me, music is the key to communication between people"! Hereby Myles Sanko certainly does not say anything new - but his new album "Just Being Me" - this bow, appreciation and revival of the most important soul icons underpins this truth with every note. Especially when we listen very carefully.

The unpolished rough diamond of "Born In Black & White" became not really a stylistic innovator, but a subtly iridescent and mature artist. He presents us with "Just Being Me" an album of timeless quality and beauty - for me one of the most beautiful from 2016!

 

(c) Werner Matrisch, Cologne, Germany, December16, 2016

Addendum: This is a translation of my german written album review. Please be lenient because of some mistakes  in words  or  grammar! English is not my mother tongue.