Album reviews

Nora Kamm – ‘ONE’

Nora Kamm – ONE

(Duya Music DUYA101 – CD review by Mark McKergow)

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Saxophonist, flautist, vocalist and composer Nora Kamm’s solo debut album is a revelation – packed with jazz, African and fusion elements, exhilarating music with a distinctive voice that offers the widest appeal.

German-born and Paris-resident Nora Kamm has been a feature on the European scene with the trio Dreisam for several years, recording two well-received albums and performing literally hundreds of concerts. She has worked with the likes of Andy Sheppard, Michel Benita and Manu Dibango, and won the Selmer Soloist Prize in 2014. Living in France (first Lyon, then Paris) since 2011 has offered her the chance to absorb first-hand a huge variety of world-music traditions. 

Her first solo outing offers a new direction brimful of African sounds and styles, performed with some star musicians from that continent.  The result is a wonderful collection of accessible yet authentic music which is bewitchingly listenable and energetic. The multinational core band for the album features Italian Nicolas Vella on keyboards, Madagascan Ranto Rakotomalala on bass, Cameroonian Dharil Esso on drums and Brazilian Jorge Bezerra on percussion. 

The ten tracks are primarily instrumental, with vocal elements and flourishes which further emphasise the humanity and joyous nature of the performances. The album opens with title track ONE, Kamm’s soprano saxophone immediately soaring over a busy rhythm section packed with percussion and enhanced by West African kora patterns added by Senegalese guest musician Cheikh Diallo. Coeur opens with juicy Rhodes piano andfeatures Nguyên Lê’s distinctive guitar work on an extended solo.

Flowing People is a stand-out track which includes marvellous rhythm and vocal work from legendary drummer Paco Sery from Cote d’Ivoire, along with a super alto sax solo from Nora Kamm. Young upcoming Malian vocalist Salimata “Tina” Traoré sings in the Bambara language on Sensible, the album’s closing track which brings the proceedings to a reflective and satisfying conclusion. 

Each track has something to make the listener sit up and take notice; a thumb-numbing bass solo on Chuku Chuku, multi-tracking saxes and synths on First Flight, a beautiful flute/piano passage on the swaggering Leader, pulsing funk dissolving into walking bass on Africa My Love…  The production is superb, clear and precise, letting the instrument voices shine out.

This startling album, conceived during the pandemic lockdown, is living proof of Samson’s riddle, the ways that sweetness can come from death, honey from the lion, and new musical connections and strength from apparent desolation and isolation. I hope some far-sighted  promoter can bring this outfit to our shores soon – it would surely be a huge hit. In the meantime enjoy the album and marvel at the coherence and dynamism of Nora Kamm and her colleagues.

LINKS: ONE on streaming services HERE

… and on Bandcamp HERE

Categories: Album reviews

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