The culmination of seven years hard work and composition, Shaun Martin’s solo debut, aptly named 7Summers, is a fantastic jazz album. The amount of time and craft that has been put into the album is evident upon the track’s first listen, and the first track, ‘Introduction’, explains how much of a challenge the album has been to write as Martin himself provides some clarity through the spoken word.
‘Introduction’ gives way to the first piece; ‘One Big Party’ a driving track which, as its title teases, is an energised piece that sets a great mood. To borrow words from ‘Introduction’; it is clear that this is one of the pieces that really reflects the joy of the years it took to create; a powerfully jaunty number with bold, stand out horns. It is one of those pieces that instantly makes the listener want to get up and dance, and going into the climax at the end it really does have that New Orleans feel, with multiple soloists, which would give even The Hot Fives a run for their money. An explosively feel-good start to an album that really does capture the perfect summer vibe.
With almost a Latin flavour, ‘Lots’ retains quite a laid back feeling, with a synth and piano solo from Martin
Of course like Martin’s work with Snarky Puppy, 7Summers is brilliantly diverse and this is apparent after just the first few tracks. ‘One Big Party’ whilst super energetic, and a personal favourite already, is hardly representative of the album. Following it is ‘The Yellow Jacket’ a track that is more chilled of pace, yet still uplifting, and makes excellent use of harmony to give it an almost transcendent feel. This in turn transitions into the rhythmically complex ‘Lots’. With almost a Latin flavour, it retains quite a laid back feeling, with a synth and piano solo from Martin. Seemingly these three tracks function as one section, leading us into the centre point of the album; three vocal tracks.
The Torrent’ is a nice, slightly more traditional kind of piece, with excellent use of percussion
The first of these, ‘Have Your Chance at Love’, makes use of an orchestral setting, with timpani and a string section, and the vocals are handled by Nikki Ross. It is a haunting refrain, and shows yet another style of jazz that Martin excels at. The third, ‘Long Gone’, is also similar. A traditional blues song, with a guitar solo to fit. However it is the middle of this vocal section and the central track of the album: ‘Love Don’t Let Me Down’, that really is unique. A touch of fusion is a little bit of an understatement, as it is a very contemporary piece, exploiting electronic technology, with vocoders, amongst other things enhancing a very modern, electronic sounding track. But it does not lose its roots, the jazz influence is still very much present, and makes for one of the more interesting tracks on the album: it is something really different.
Martin’s monologue on to the meaning and purpose of the track is quietly powerful and gives way to a driving, grooving, fusion track
Yet more diverse after these three songs are the final few tracks of the album. ‘The Torrent’ is a nice, slightly more traditional kind of piece, with excellent use of percussion. The ‘Madiba’ suite is perhaps the most poignant and the biggest moment of the album, and most typical of what we have come to expect from Martin’s Snarky Puppy heritage. Martin’s monologue on to the meaning and purpose of the track is quietly powerful and gives way to a driving, grooving, fusion track. ‘Madiba’ comes complete with synths, horns, strings, a tight rhythm section and crazy percussion. An excellent tribute to Nelson Mandela’s life, it is a truly compelling celebratory piece that is perfectly executed: a stunning piece that surpasses much of the rest of the album.
Martin pays homage to his hip-hop background in ‘All in a Days’ Work’ with features from Geno Young and RC Williams, a jaunty little hip-hop track which contrasts nicely with the slightly more serious undertones of ‘Madiba’. The ‘Closing Credits (A Requiem for Carolyn)’ are a perfect end to the album. It is a graceful track, simple yet elegant, with that touch of transcendence previously heard on ‘The Yellow Jacket’, which the album as a whole grasps so subtly, but that gives 7Summers perhaps yet further depth. They really are testament to Martin’s brilliant work on this project. It is an album of craft, and this is apparent through the attention to detail, and the way in which nothing is overdone; it is understated, yet immediately thought provoking and memorable, lingering in your ears long after it has finished. For me at least it is an instant classic.
7Summers is out in the UK on July 7th
Co-Editor of the Music Section at University of Nottingham’s IMPACT Magazine.