When you’ve been reviewing jazz records for almost 30 years, it’s surprisingly rare when a performance hits you on a deep emotional level, when you forget the job and the music whisks you away. But that’s what happened to me while listening to the version of Duke Ellington’s “Solitude” on Rhythm Future Quartet and Friends. One of those friends, the stellar Cyrille Aimée, provides the vocal chills, and her playfulness is met perfectly in the Rhythm Future Quartet’s warm instrumental embrace.
Though based in Hot Club and Gypsy-jazz stylings, RFQ surpasses labels to capture the heart. …and Friends is packed to the gills with feeling, sometimes sentimental feeling, yet the music is never mawkish and it remains consistently dynamic, full of virtuosity and swing. The velvet ballad “Colorado,” co-written by violinist Jason Anick and guitarist Max O’Rourke, is nearly tear-inducing. Guitarist Olli Soikkeli contributed “Olli’s Bossa,” a lilting, feel-good, up-tempo foray that highlights each member’s dazzling technique and improvisational profundity, as well as the group’s equally rapt interplay. Oscar Pettiford’s “Tricotism” flows like salmon swimming upstream; Joshua Redman’s “Jazz Crimes” (featuring mighty bandolinist Hamilton de Holanda) works a darting rhythm giving way to unison-line magic; bassist Gregory Loughman’s “Vertigo” is spidery and shiver-inducing.
Beyond any contributions of RFQ’s individual members or even any specific compositions, the group as a whole expresses a mighty spirit that’s impossible to define by words alone. Recorded in a converted church, …and Friends is holy music.