Album Review of
NU-JIVE: Nations United

Written by Joe Ross
July 17, 2022 - 1:21am EDT
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A two-time Grammy nominee, saxophonist Troy Roberts has become a standard bearer for a strident, soulful style of smooth jazz that is lush and easy on the ears.  With 14 albums in his discography, the prolific Roberts now presents Nations United with his band of brothers, NU-JIVE, formed in 2009. Besides Roberts, the players are Tim Jago (guitar), Silvano Monasterios (piano, keyboards), Eric England (bass) and David Chiverton (drums). The quintet’s fourth release represents a collective spirit from the band members’ countries – U.S., Australia, Venezuela, India, United Kingdom, France, Ireland and Portugal. NU-JIVE’s Nations United also draws influences from Indian, West African, Venezuelan, classical, gospel, reggae, jazz, soul, funk and R&B music.

Roberts was born in Australia but now makes his home in New York. After starting a band called VOID, Roberts formed NU-JIVE to continue compositional efforts in the U.S. with friends who have become his musical family. The collective shares a common vision for deep, funky dance grooves in a kaleidoscope of fusion that effortlessly and convincingly merges the straight-ahead with contemporary. A soulful “Funkafarian” has reggae-inspired instrumental commentary to address today’s injustices and inequities. “Tribes & Tribulations” is a moody piece with a clarion call for recognition, identity and perpetuation.  A commissioned piece, “Mind Melder” (a reference to the Vulcan technique employed by Mr. Spock in Star Trek) is a hypothetical imagining of how the world would be better off if we could all mind-meld for awareness, tolerance and understanding.     

"Linger" is a group improvisation on a vamp extracted from the ending of an earlier Roberts composition, "Hightail," found on his 2020 release, Stuff I Heard.  “Big Night In” is a 10-minute acknowledgment of the pandemic, even though the dance party might be in your pajamas within the comfort and safety of your home. “Sobrino” means “nephew” in Spanish, and it’s a hypnotic slow-jam showpiece for bassist Eric England who gets greasy on his electric bass run through a Moog-esque pedal board.

A tribute to the ensemble’s sixth family member, recording engineer Dana Salminen, “Big Daddy Ghetto-Rig” refers to the new father’s ability to save a session when the technology and recording gear just aren’t cooperating. Tributes to him on NU-JIVE’s previous albums show just how much they appreciate Salminen, now Director of Production Services and Professor of Music Technology at The University of Miami. The only problem I see with this album is that they haven’t also included a photo of him, as the recording engineer can make or break a project (and budget).

A peaceful venture designed to sound like an obscure nursery rhyme, “Five Nations” is an inventively melodic conversation between the guitar and sax to honor the five nations of the Iroquois Indians. I believe that the last two tracks, “Hypnagogia” and “Dreamstation” are to be heard as two separate movements in a larger, symbiotic whole. The former is a fleeting perceptual experience, featuring sax and drums, that might occur during transition from wakefulness to sleep. Then, “Dreamstation” is a 10-minute trance-like reverie with expressive individual statements, gentle reflections and hypnotic rhythms in an action-packed ride. Kick back, listen in wonderment and simply enjoy this transcendent universal music that is ahead of it time in many ways. (Joe Ross, Roots Music Report)