Len Aruliah – No Complications
(Self-release/ CDBaby. CD Review by Lauren Bush)
Canadian-British Len Aruliah is a well-versed alto and soprano saxophonist and composer who uses his cross-the-pond connections to collaborate with his favourite musicians. This is his sophomore album that follows beautifully on from his first recording, also featuring Jared Burrows on the guitar. Burrows and Aruliah have obviously built up a strong musical connection and it comes across in their work.
The collection of songs is eclectic and shows influences from all styles of music. The opening track, Low Tide, starts with a charming soliloquy from Aruliah on the alto, flowing nicely into a dance-like melody played in unison by the saxophone and guitar – insight into their teamwork for the rest of the album. It’s clear that while this is Len Aruliah’s work, he features his friends as often as possible. Anyhow Stories then introduces the soprano, following a similar relationship between the horn and the guitar before moving onto track three where we see a more quirky, groovy side of Aruliah’s composition style. The Buzz has a memorable bass line that drives the whole piece, expertly played by Paul Rushka, that feels like it belongs in a 1940’s detective film. Burrows plays a very bendy solo on the electric guitar as the villain gets away.
Next, the title track, No Complications, is at first a return to the quieter, long-phrased patterns that Aruliah is so good at writing before it drives forward with an undulating pattern in the unusual time signature of 13/4. The name must be a nod to how complicated it actually is as he whips out a soprano solo with ease reminding the listener that these are not just interesting arrangements, but he came to play!
Porfirio, a standout tune on the album and a stunning rhumba, features Nick Peck on the piano, playing an elegant introduction, bringing in the alto first before Burrows comes in surprisingly with an accordion solo that introduces a Cuban flavour similar to a more romantic Besame Mucho. This is yet another layer of the album that demonstrates how broad Aruliah’s influences are.
Joe Poole’s drum chops are featured again on Forget-Me-Not, in another odd meter of 5/4, and this tune and Contingency give all the instrumentalists on the album a chance to blow and let them all delve into a round of up-tempo bebop solos. Three Wishes brings us back down after such a brisk trip and allows Aruliah and Burrows to again show off their connectedness as they intertwine melodies that expertly support one another.
The last track – and what a terrific tribute to end on – For Billy Strayhorn brings back a haunting, memory of the pleasing dissonance that Strayhorn was so famous for. This rings true in Aruliah’s writing and playing of this tune and it’s the cherry on top of a well-made, gorgeously flavourful cake!
LINK: Len Aruliah’s website
Categories: CD review