Imagine you’re at a big city jazz club. The drinks are flowing. The smell of dinner emanates from the kitchen as you make small talk with your beloved while the band is warming up. There is something special in the air tonight. You surrender yourself to an evening of bliss and know from the first track that you will not come away disappointed.
No, Surrender isn’t a live album, but it is so exceptionally vivid that I swear the musicians are in the room with me. I don’t think I have ever turned up a Jazz record this loud before. Normally, I would sit the volume around 30-35% of max volume, for digital music playback. That produces a sound that I consider full and enveloping on my main system. For this album, however, I pushed that to 50% and had a surreal moment whereby a jazz club oasis appeared before me.
The mastering on Surrender is top notch, hence my ability to push volume levels beyond my normal comfort zone. This is digital done right! While I have mainly listened to, and prefer, the FLAC 16/44.1 files, the mastering quality remains consistent across both the MP3 (320 kbps and VBR) files that are included in the purchase, when you buy the album from CD Baby.
As I listened to the title track Surrender, the first thing that popped into my head was Carlos Santana. It was the vibe, the beat, the electric guitar work merged with an energetic jazz backing track that formed this image. That isn’t to say that the song attempts to be Santana-esk, but if you like Santana, I really believe you will love this track.
Canto Libre is nothing short of a sonic wonderland. The stereo imaging is amazing. This song is literally one that will encourage you to close your eyes as the music paints a picture in your subconscious. Interestingly, I was initially torn regarding the inclusion of harmonic-styled vocals. While the vocals don’t detract from the song, I felt the song didn’t need them. However, when I listened to the song via headphones, rather than loudspeakers, this perception changed. Music truly tells a story and sometimes the intimate nature of headphones allows that story to be told and appreciated differently.
Dubai Dream has a compelling beat that will get your foot tapping and head swaying from the first note. The saxophone work within this track is gorgeously restrained. I love the saxophone as an instrument but, just like the electric guitar, it can be overemphasised. That is certainly not the case on this track. I could honestly listen to Dubai Dream on repeat for hours.
Manolo is a beautiful track, but I find that the chime elements distract my mind from the music. While they are atmospheric and not harsh, they are sometimes unexpected. I feel my listening mind moving around the soundstage a little too much, not really quite sure of where I should be concentrating. That all said, I find that as they song progresses, this becomes less problematic.
Light This Candle is a beautiful song, with Christina Clifford on vocals. Clifford has a lovely jazz-style vocal, but I find there is a little sibilance in her vocals. As I’ve mentioned in many of my other reviews, if you’re not familiar with sibilance, ignore this comment and don’t look into it as once you know what to listen for, it can become rather distracting.
If you like the piano and saxophone, then you have to listen to Tu También. It is such a beautiful track and one of my favourites on the album. When I undertake reviews, I generally have a notepad to jot down thoughts as I’m listening. My note for this song was: sax on track 7 = YEAH!
Through The Dark Night/The Lamp is a rather upbeat track and I can’t help but wonder if it shouldn’t have been tracked before Tu También. It is only that Tu También is more mellow and subjectively I feel it would have been the perfect track to end the album on. Nevertheless, Through The Dark Night/The Lamp has some beautiful guitar work and the vocals are lovely. However, I would like the vocals to be a little more forward as there are moments when I feel they get lost in the accompanying musical elements, especially during the verses.
Victor and Joe have put together a jazz album that not only shows a deep appreciation of the genre, but also proves that a lifelong friendship and collaboration can produce an album that will be enjoyed by generations of jazz lovers. It is certainly a valued addition to my own jazz collection.
That said, it would be amiss of me to not acknowledge the remarkable line-up of highly skilled and respected musicians who have appeared on this album. This is a recording that each and every one of them can be proud of.
From a non-musical perspective, Nikki Starwalker’s album artwork, Dream Oty's Memory is exceptional and visually represents the feeling of the album.
Surrender will undoubtedly appeal to any jazz fan, but remains accessible to a wider audience. You can purchase your copy from the following online retailers: CD Baby, TIDAL Store, iTunes, and Amazon.
The album is also available for streaming on TIDAL Hi-Fi.