Album Review of

Written by Joe Ross
January 18, 2022 - 3:44pm EST
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From Belgium, Black Flower is a hybrid jazz quintet that includes Nathan Daems (sax, washint, kaval), Jon Birdsong (cornet, conch shells), Karel Cuelenaere (keys), Filip Vandebril  (bass) and Simon Segers (drums).  The group’s musical vision draws inspiration from a number of sources. We hear the Ethio-jazz instrumental groove of Mulatu Astatke, Afro-Beat of Nigerian Fela Kuti, and perhaps some other influences of African musicians like Sunny Ade and Manu Dibango. Mixed with some psychedelia and Oriental influences, Black Flower’s ambient soundscapes become ones with new age glow, moody dynamics and shifting tempos. Since the release of their third album in 2019, Future Flora, the group continues to build a solid fan base for their innovative jazzy jaunts and improvisations. Now, Magma is a metaphor for their igneous music, liquefied until it ascends to the surface, takes shape and solidifies.

Extruded from deep depth, songs like “The Light,” “Half Liquid,” “Deep Dive Down” and “The Forge” flow with warmth and steady momentum. It would’ve been interesting to hear Black Flower develop something akin to an up-tempo pyroclastic explosion with volcanic bombs. Rather, their pulsating, trance-like groove is at times whimsical, almost playful, as they explore the interplay of sounds from the flutes, organ, clavinet, synth, percussion and bass.

Nathan Daems play the kaval, a type of wind-blown chromatic flute used by mountain shepherds in the Balkans. He also plays the washint, an end-blown wooden flute originally used in Ethiopia. “O Fogo” and “Blue Speck” are showpieces for his masterful fluting, just as “Magma” features the keys of the band’s newest recruit, Karel Cuelenaere. Of special note is “Morning in the Jungle,” with the lead vocals of Meskerem Mees and backing vocals of Pablo Casella. Offering adventurous and hypnotic world music, Black Flower generates considerable geothermal energy. (Joe Ross, Roots Music Report)