Compared to the other outré jazz elders on Adrian Younge and Ali Shaheed Muhammad’s Jazz Is Dead label, Katalyst is a still a relatively fresh proposition: Inglewood, California-born in 2014. Each of the nine “Kats” is known for writing their own material, then stitching it together with the other members’ contributions to create an oblong soulful quilt, building on and feeding off the overall communal energy. It is this collective mentality that knits Katalyst to Jazz Is Dead’s brand. For the Kats’ approach is based on the local incubator tradition that came before them, namely the 1960s of Horace Tapscott’s Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra and Union of God’s Musicians Ascension Association. And if anything thrills Younge and Muhammad’s JID, it’s connecting the past—Los Angeles’ multiracial jazz past, in particular—to the present.
Drawing from its roots in free jazz, postbop, twinkly R&B, holy-rolling gospel, and hip-hop, with Younge and Muhammad providing atmospheric magic at the production helm, Katalyst shuffles peacefully and pastorally on tracks such as “The Avenues”—steered with a War-like cacophony courtesy of David Otis’ snake-charming tenor sax and Ahmad DuBose’s percussion—and “Daybreak.” The cool calm and warm surrender of “Summer Solstice” and “Corridors” is purposely broken by the weirdly willowy keyboards and herky-jerky rhythms of “Juneteenth,” a gently frantic yet stately song meant to recall all levels of Black struggle, hurt, joy, and sainthood. By the time JID013 closes with the Steely Dan-ish “Dogon Cypher” and the moody and aptly titled “Reflections,” the listener has an understanding of what it means to be part of the Katalyst brotherhood: one knotted by time together, melody, rhythm, and the causality of Californian collective consciousness.
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