Sekoya Maximum Jazz

Sekoya's debut covers a lot of ground with a combination of broken and straight beats, jazz horn charts and a whirlwind of lyrics by Amalia Townsend. It's incredibly eager to please in the first few tracks, with bright beats, garrulous sax and poppy hooks. Townsend's singing style in these tracks is reminiscent of Chaka Khan in her phrasing and approach to harmony. She's got an incredibly versatile voice and spins out yards of lyrics, but doesn't over-Aguilera herself with vocalising tricks. By the time "Ustaad" hits, the minor keys start creeping into the music, along with a few shards of tabla. Both trumpet and sax start taking longer solos, and Townsend backs off a bit, to the overall credit of the sound. Sekoya has so many ideas for heads, charts, harmonies and beats that their overabundance is the biggest liability with this album. Yes it's jazz, yes it's broken beat, but they should ease back a bit on both. The programming verges on manic almost the whole way through, and sometimes threatens to compete with the main voices even in the slower tunes. Sax-man Alvin Cornista combines chops and the ability to solo in an open-ended way, but could still stand to tone down the sheer number of notes coming out of his horn. That said, tracks like "Heavenly City" balance all the elements. A promising debut, this would come off well live. (Independent)