Heritage - Mark de Clive-Lowe (Album Review)
Mark de Clive-Lowe
8 February 2019
Album Rating 5 / 5
Live Potential 4.5 / 5
Solo Performances 4.5 / 5
Diversity in Songs 4 / 5
Favourite Songs Memories of Nanzenji, Asa no Yume, Mizugaki
Mark de Clive-Lowe’s Heritage is a thoroughly conceptual album that transcends jazz; he incorporates his past experience with broken beat and hip hop production along with his love for jazz, and creates a record that should be treasured as a classic.
This is MdCL’s (Ronin Arkestra, Harvey Mason, Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, Dwight Trible) fifteenth album, starting in the London underground broken beat scene in the late 90s before moving to LA in 2008 where he has stayed ever since. Having been involved in over 300 releases, MdCL’s career is certainly impressive and this album proves just how talented and motivated he is in exploring and advancing his musical styles.
Partly inspired by an ayahuasca trip he took part in a couple of years ago, MdCL’s desire to make this album was to understand his bi-cultural upbringing as he is half-Japanese, half-New Zealander. He explains in his interview with Jazziz, that “it was a feeling of me-ness […] it was as if I was reaching into the feelings and ideas from when I was a child”. This made him feel more connected to his ancestry and appreciating of his Japanese heritage.
This theme of reconnection to his roots recurs throughout the whole album, and MdCL even gives a track by track rundown on the meaning behind each song on his Bandcamp page. What makes the album even more impressive is that it was mixed by MdCL from three live recordings of shows at LA’s Blue Whale and one day in the studio, with mixes of live and studio performances in the same song – there is a clear abundance of trust in the musicians he chose to play this album and MdCL's faith is repaid.
‘The Offering’ is the opening track which has a natural reverence that prepares the rest of the album. Its starts with a beautiful piano which is followed by Josh Johnson’s (Leon Bridges, Esperanza Spalding, Miguel Atwood-Ferguson) flute that sweeps over the humming buzz of Carlos Niño’s (Carlos Niño, Build An Ark, Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, Lifeforce Trio) percussion, allowing each note to wash and wave on endlessly. As the whole band enter the song has the feeling of you being continually lifted up and up, but the calmness and serenity soon changes with Bushidō 1. The wobbling surges from the cymbals and dark notes from the piano and Brandon Eugene Owens’ (Terrace Martin, Robert Glasper, Kendrick Lamar) bass leads the way as the main riff is driven out by the sax as it curls and unfolds around the rhythm, before MdCL’s piano solo increases the tension in an intimidating tone.
‘Memories of Nanzenji’ is the standout song as there’s a nostalgic emotion that shimmers from the soulful keys. MdCL states that the thirteenth century temple of Nanzenji in Kyoto is designed to harmonise with its surroundings, and this sent him into a meditative state. He has replicated these feelings with amazing conviction; Brandon Combs’ (Robert Glasper, Moses Sumney, Patrice Rushen, Iman Omari) drums with Niño’s percussion add a sprinkle of ambiance whilst the sax and electronic production increases the warmth surrounding the wonderful harmonies as you feel yourself swaying in the wraps of sumptuous melodies. The song effortlessly pulsates through to the end where the ride cymbal amplifies the piano like raindrops delicately hitting the ground, before the arpeggio synth gives the song a surreal feeling of realisation and astonishment of such a magnificent tune.
A sax battle between Johnson and Teodross Avery (Talib Kweli, Mos Def, Lauryn Hill, Roy Ayers) ensues in ‘Mizugaki’ in a backdrop of thunderous cymbals and low-end drum noise, as they shriek solos back and forth until the song moves into a chill-hip hop style reminiscent of Robert Glasper. MdCL explains this reflects ‘Mizugaki’s’ definition as a protective wall of trees that defends sacred things as the tune moves through that wall to find what is being protected. You can hear the crowd from one of their live recordings at this change in the song as it ends in a joyous mood as the synth keeps thrusting the saxes into a riff.
‘Akatombo’ is the gleeful piano interlude that MdCL has reconstructed from a famous Japanese folk song which brings him back to his childhood memories. This is followed with a return to more menace in ‘Niten-Ichi’ which is inspired by the great samurai warrior Miyamoto Musashi. The piano chimes out alongside fluid sax patterns; when they are given space to solo, the saxes enrage and explode as if they are Miyamoto fighting for their lives. The low droning of electronica magnifies this, and Combs’ drums awaken with fierceness and grit before the song settles down.
The finale ‘Asa no Yume’ is described as ‘Morning Dreams’. This is the feeling of when you’re just waking up and are looking forward to discovering all the possibilities that the day can bring. MdCL’s rippling keys notes give the feeling of a laidback RnB number as Eugene Owens’ bass drops in pockets with Johnson’s flute to accentuate the serendipitous feeling that you have found yourself in paradise, as this tranquil song perfectly ends the record.
What is even more delightful is that this is just the daytime half of a two-album special, as MdCL continues the night time half in Heritage II to be released on 5th April. This album reaches so many emotions and is overwhelmingly compelling in how it transforms the concepts into appropriate and imaginative musicianship. There is no overplaying whatsoever and MdCL deserves recognition for writing such an addictive record. He has cemented his status as a truly gifted musician, composer, and producer in the jazz scene and beyond.
Mark de Clive-Lowe – Piano, Rhodes, Synths, Live Electronics, Programming; Josh Johnson – Alto Saxophone, Flute; Teodross Avery – Tenor Saxophone (Tracks 4 and 6); Brandon Eugene Owens – Bass; Carlos Niño – Percussion; Brandon Combs – Drums.