By definition, fluids flow. Steam rises from a boiling kettle, spring water spontaneously cascades down the mountainside. And when you hear a particularly fluid jazz lick you can be sure the band has achieved that indefinable quality of musical ‘flow’. It’s what all musicians strive for, when the notes spill out without bidding, floating in the air, curling upwards and outwards, gently to kiss the ears of the listeners. The latest album by Djabe is steeped in that smooth, effortless, flowing movement. Appropriately, it is called Flow.
Djabe was formed in Hungary in 1996. They went through some personnel changes in 2016 but coalesced again afterwards like a stream flowing round a rock. The new, downstream band is all but indistinguishable from the old. The band plays cool jazz fusion incorporating Hungarian tunes and world music. They have released more than 20 albums (both studio recordings and live sessions) and have played in some 42 countries across Europe, Asia and North America. The absence of Africa from that list is strange, though, because ‘djabe’ is not a Hungarian word, it comes from the Ashanti language of West Africa and it means ‘freedom’.
All the members of the band have names that this English born and bred old man finds difficult to read and (probably) impossible to pronounce. For the record, here they are with their instruments and role in the group:
- Attila Égerházi (guitar, composer, band leader)
- Tamás Barabás (composer, bass)
- Áron Koós-Hutás (trumpet, flugelhorn)
- János Nagy (piano, keyboards)
- Péter Kaszás (drums)
When it comes to Flow, the opening track sets the mood and gives the album its title. Here’s a live version.
The other eight tracks on the album are quite similar in overall feel – they are all laid-back jazz tunes – and Crotchety Man has to be in the right mood to appreciate them. That’s not to say, though, that they are all the same. Funky bass riffs, sinuous trumpet lines and rippling keyboard runs break up the streamlined flow; there are even some ooh-ah vocal melodies at times.
Here’s my attempt to find a one word description of each track’s unique characteristic within the limits of the general theme:
- Flow is fluid
- Return to Somewhere is funky
- Another Dive is lounging
- Free Falling is ambling
- Turtle Trek is sunny
- Bubble Dream is relaxed
- Deep Lights is groovy
- Curved Mirror is spooky
- White Bears is playful
To illustrate the funkier side of Djabe, I offer this live version of Return to Somewhere:
And I suggest Bubble Dream as a fine example of the gentler side of Djabe. This one has some of those wordless vocals, too. (A Spotify link this time because it’s not on YouTube.)
Djabe has one more claim to fame. They have collaborated with Steve Hackett (ex. Genesis guitarist) on several occasions, having already released four albums with Steve. This next video is a taster for a new Djabe/Hackett album due to be released at the end of September on Cherry Red Records.
It seems the Djabe river of music flows ever on.
Some people in Paris are dissing
Urinals erected for pissing
For while any beau
Can geau with the fleau,
For belles, something similar’s missing