Menagerie

They Shall Inherit

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    8
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Australian producer, guitarist, and songwriter Lance Ferguson (aka Lanu) is best known for his solo work and as a member of the Bamboos. But with Menagerie, he's fronting a full-on spiritual jazz ensemble. With seven other instrumentalists and a pair of vocalists (in addition to himself), he's moved into deep terrain -- and may have issued the recording of his life in the process. The opening title track begins with a spoken chant, and segues into Phillip Noy's post-Coltrane tenor saxophone solo (he's one of the true stars on this date, look for more from him) with Mark FitzGibbon's piano playing a series of expressionist modal chords, and Carlo Barbaro's flute floating in the backdrop. About five minutes in, Michael Meagher's upright bass and the piano state a three-chord vamp, and Eamon McNellis' trumpet commences with a gorgeous, melodic solo that pierces the mix like a human voice. When the rest of the ensemble enters, a counter melody and wordless backing vocals add depth and dimension. Twelve uplifting minutes elapse in a snap. "The Chosen," with hand percussion by Phil Binotto and FitzGibbon's Rhodes backing a three-part sung lyric, is an entirely different vibe; it's simultaneously spacy, soulful, and gritty. "Leroy the Lion" features a special guest appearance by Roy Ayers on vibes (for anyone who thought the man was past his prime, think again). Ayers' mallets and Ferguson's guitar lead the spacious, rootsy groove here. While all of the sounds on this date have been heard before, They Shall Inherit doesn't sound retro at all. Closer "There Will Come Soft Rains" is an expansive ensemble groove based on some open modes, and features an unlikely yet wonderful bass solo from Meagher to close it out. In sum, Ferguson's manner of composing and arranging seamlessly melds spiritual jazz to nu-soul to club jazz to funk, and creates an exotic, uplifting listening experience that is timeless in its design and execution.

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