Jules Faife – Compás
(Five Note Records. CD Review by Jeanie Barton)
Guitarist Jules Faife has put together an album strongly influenced by flamenco but taking inspiration from many other sources including Zimbabwean music and Indian rhythms. He has digitally layered the recordings, playing all guitars himself (Spanish, classical, electric and bass) and inviting some exceptional ensemble players into the mix. We hear Ross Hughes and Rob Lavers from Paris on saxophones and flute, Kenny Chitsvatsva from Zimbabwe on drums & vocals, Vancho Manoilovich, Elias Gargallo Aguilella and Jamie Trowell on drums, Latin jazz pianist Alex Wilson, flamenco singer Fernando Pellon from Spain, Russian accordionist Igor Outkine, Indian percussionist Satin Singh, Terry Collie and Dave Lieffertz on Fender Rhodes and Duncan Mackay on trumpet – one might say this record originates from all points of the compass, which is both a nod to the transportability of music in the digital age and also to multicultural London, wherein these musicians met.
Starting guitar as a teenager with the familiar American sounds of blues, jazz and rock, Jules has gone on to absorb many techniques, mainly as a requirement to join various ensembles. While he cites a few friends as influences, he also thanks YouTube in the album sleeve, which makes me wonder how much diversity of sound and music has been inspired by the internet and 21st century technologies – this album, while sounding in many ways classical and ‘rootsy’ is really an emblem of musical modernity and progress.
There are some complex elements to Jules’ compositions, however most of the sequences turnaround just a handful of chords (as is the style of flamenco) putting me in mind of the Gypsy Kings among others. Jules says himself that it is rhythm that affects him most in music and this much is evident, bringing both breadth and depth to every track as well as a sunshine hue to my home on a dark day!
There are stand out moments of harmonic and modal improvisation by Rob Lavers on everything he plays and Alex Wilson’s piano during Barcelona – he might very well have been mentored by Buena Vista Social Club’s Ruben Gonzalez… Jules himself performs with a chameleon like authenticity on each instrument – passing solos back and forth with himself on Nino and other songs and embodying an entirely different personality and sound with each. The vocals of Fernando Pellon on Barcelona and Kenny Chitsvatsva on World bring an infectious energy to the table – it is hard to believe in these numbers especially that the band were not in the same room performing in real time.
I found the guitar solos on Need for Love showcase the greatest expression and sensitivity of Jules’ playing on this CD, which will stay in my player for a long while to come. We do love it in our household – it brings great joy and even sooths my one year old son at bed time – he might well hear the familiar rhythm of the heart in the grooves Jules has laid down.