Goldsmith Baynes – E Rere Rā
(Meow Jazz Label – 011LP. Album Review by Fiona Mactaggart)
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This poetic and captivating debut album by vocal and keyboard partnership Goldsmith Baynes appears to exemplify the currently vibrant jazz scene in New Zealand.
A native Māori speaker from the east coast of New Zealand’s north island, Allana Goldsmith was drawn to jazz through hearing Billie Holiday and has subsequently sung in an Andrews Sisters-style harmony group and with the band Wakakura. She blends her rich cultural background with a contemporary jazz nous to create a richness and openness of vocal tone.
Goldsmith and Mark Baynes, who is originally from Alton in Hampshire and who studied with Gary Burton at Berklee and with Hal Galper and Andy Laverne in New York, have been working together for ten years.
The album has eleven songs, all in Māori, with English briefly featuring in just two tracks, Tīpuna (Ancestors) and Tō Ihu (Get Stuffed). Reading some of the English translations provided by Goldsmith, the lyrics are highly poetic and deeply grounded in Māori culture.
Goldsmith shares an example: “The title of the song Hei Kawe i a Au, for example, is taken from a whakataukī, or proverb, that translates as ‘Let me be carried by the easterly breeze,’ This is suggesting that we shouldn’t be in a hurry, but to wait until the time and conditions are right.”
E Rere Rā itself opens the album. Its lyrics were written by Donovan Te Ahunui Farnham, a Te Reo Māori consultant and they constitute a blessing. The tracks that follow are quite lovely, occasionally poppy in feel but no worse for it, although Kore Rawa (with lyrics about unrequited love) allows Goldsmith’s and indeed the whole band’s jazz chops to shine brightly.
Tō Ihu (Get Stuffed) has a raunchy, R & B feel and Pīata Kau Ana, a song mourning the death of a loved one, is a striking and beautiful album coda.
Notwithstanding an occasionally light tone, there is courage and dignity to Goldsmith’s sharing of her language and culture with a jazz audience. This unusual and beautiful sound deserves to be heard widely.
Additional line-up: Hikurangi Schaverien-Kaa (drums), Alex Griffith (electric bass), Tom Dennison (bass), Riki Bennett (Taongo Puoro), Cameron Allen (saxophones), Jono Tan (trombone), Mike Booth (trumpet and horn arrangement) and Kim Paterson (flugelhorn and trumpet).
Release Date 2 September 2022.
Categories: Album reviews