The 13th volume in Adrian Younge and Ali Shaheed Muhammad's Jazz Is Dead series offers a significant change in the label's aesthetic. Its first wave of releases focused on re-engaging American and Brazilian jazz legends of the 1970s, wedding their pioneering jazz-funk and samba fusions to modern hip-hop and jazz grooves. The Katalyst Collective is an Inglewood-based ensemble founded in 2014, composed of younger contemporary producers, composers, and session musicians. Their lone album was last year's phenomenal Nine Lives on Alpha Pup. Drummer Greg Paul leads the group. Other members include pianists/keyboardists Brian Hargrove and Brandon Cordoba, saxophonists David Otis and Corbin Jones, trumpeter Emile Martinez, trombonist Jonah Levine, bassist Marlon Spears, and percussionist Ahmad DuBose-Dawson. Younge adds additional instrumental support here and co-produced with Muhammad. These seven tracks were written in common and are presented as an uninterrupted suite; each track segues seamlessly into the next.
Opener "The Avenues" is introed by Paul's breaking hip-hop beats, buoyed by electric guitars, synth, piano, and a gorgeous alto sax melody from Otis. The groove is relaxed yet funky with an Eastern tinge as DuBose-Dawson accompanies Paul with congas and djembes. It slips into the languid "Daybreak," performed by a sextet. The interplay between Otis and electric and acoustic pianos is deep and intuitive, as Spears' rubbery bassline provides Paul with a funky anchor. "Corridors" is appended by an army of percussionists. Fueled by electric pianos and layers of electronics, its summery groove is articulated by Paul's syncopated breaks with staggered harmonic conversation between Otis and Levine atop a host of infectious handclaps. On "Summer Solstice," trombone and trumpet carry the modal melody before delivering individual solos. Acoustic piano and Rhodes frame electric guitars and atmospheric synth. It expands with waves of luxuriant textures, propulsive dynamics, and dramatic force before giving way to buoyant carnival rhythms on the celebratory "Juneteenth." A percussion section accents and highlights Paul's exploratory pulse as brass and reeds converse by alternately stating the theme, then underscoring it with creative solo snippets. Younge's clavinet joins the Rhodes piano as Paul and percussionists make them swing. "Dogon Cypher" is an expansive take on the '70s-style Blaxploitation soundtracks. All four horn players get in on the action as Cordoba and Hargrove go head-to-head, juxtaposing electric keyboards and acoustic piano amid crashing snare breaks, swelling monophonic synths, and electric guitars. The set closes on the jam-like "Reflections." It commences with heavily reverbed piano and vibes before Paul's shuffling hip-hop rhythm becomes its engine. Striated harmonies from brass and reed players offer a vampy pulse atop wah-wah guitars, clavinet, and massive percussion; they are eclipsed, however, by canny solo spots. Katalyst JID013 is a welcome shift in direction for the label that offers a fresher approach than some of its earlier entries. This set is abundant in collective creativity, musical imagination, and killer instinct.