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Renaissance Review

by Thom Jurek

DoomCannon is the nom de musique of South London composer/producer/multi-instrumentalist/innovator Dominic Canning and his quintet. His previous projects -- Triforce, Project Karnak, Steam Down -- were jazz-forward, while his tenure as musical director for Celeste honed his arranging skills. Brownswood signed DoomCannon in late 2021 following the live single "Amalgamation" by Jazz Re:freshed. The following February, they released a studio version with the added backing of a string quartet. "Times" followed in April; it featured a poignant Lex Lamour vocal. In May, "Black Liberation," an eight-and-a-half-minute sociopolitical masterpiece of sonic imagination wed a heartfelt polemic about police brutality to a meld of hip chamber music, spiritual jazz, and funky breaks.

Renaissance, DoomCannon's Brownswood debut album, contains all three singles and six additional tracks. It not only reflects the wide-ranging musical adventure on the British scene, it extends the reach of jazz itself as a historic purveyor of Black Liberation ideology, alternately from the hard bop 1950s to the present day, exploding across modal and free jazz, post-bop, fusion, funk, progressive soul, hip-hop, and dance music. While DoomCannon's approach includes many musical referents from earlier eras -- inspirations lie in the music of Donald Byrd, Herbie Hancock, Carlos Garnett, Andrew Hill -- this set is anything but retro. Opener "Dark Ages" commences with a lilting Rhodes piano, moaning alto saxophone, and martial snares. Chanted vocal samples are followed by meaty, head-nodding beats and contrapuntal interplay between horns and keyboards. "Entrance to the Unknown" offers spacey electric piano and synths meeting saxophones, a fingerpicked electric guitar, and shimmering beats. Its harmonic invention drifts and hovers as a way to introduce "Uncovering Truth." Here, souled-out horns meet rumbling tom-toms and clattering snares; a chorus of voices and strings swell in the backdrop. Programmed beeps and organic drum'n'bass wind around one another, framing a chromatic guitar and a tenor sax before a dramatic conclusion. "Thesis" is brief interlude-esque balance of urban and pastoral, and a jigsaw-like conversation between saxophones, synths, and drums before a fractured guitar vamp introduces the anthemic "Amalgamation." Canning's composition and chart offer initial understatement before asserting a textural harmonic inquiry with purpose. He weaves counterpoint and mode, as synth, piano, bass, and guitars frame a propulsive drum kit, with choral vocals and strings tempering the maelstrom. Following the brief, sonically sumptuous "This Too" are "Times" and the two-part "Black Liberation." The aesthetics of the latter two temper the exotic, grooving vibes of the album's first two-thirds. They create a harmonic foundation to express disbelief, sadness, righteous anger, conviction, and hope via spiritual and vanguard post-bop, with soaring horns and modal pianos framed by slipstream modern funk, syncopated beats, and cinematic strings. DoomCannon's collective power, sophistication, and emotional honesty in this music makes Renaissance one of the more thought-provoking, auspicious, and, frankly, stunning debuts in 21st century jazz to date.

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