Szun Waves, New Hymn to Freedom — The Leaf Label, 2018
In the mid ‘70s, Brian Eno coined the term “ambient music.” In doing so, he credited Miles Davis with crafting the first ambient song: 1974’s “He Loved Him Madly” from Get Up With It. Eno said that “it became an important touchstone to which I returned frequently” as he started his process. The song’s lush, spacious textures are a natural outgrowth of processes from the “space between the notes” music found on albums like Kind of Blue and In a Silent Way. Jazz has had an irrevocable relationship with ambient sounds ever since.
Today, “ambient jazz” can certainly be seen as a concrete sub-genre inside the spectrum of improvised music. From the sounds of bands like Dawn of Midi to the Ambient Jazz Ensemble, musicians are crafting new moods in music by focusing on meditative textures and space aimed at putting the listener in a particular state of mind.
Featuring Portico Quartet saxophonist Jack Wylie, the synth textures of Luke Abbot, and drummer Lawrence Pike, London’s Szun Waves create somewhat of a next step in the genre. There’s enough here to be more than just an ambient jazz album, but subtle ambient sound is, to be sure, the driving force.
Through the 45-minute experience that is Szun Waves’ new LP New Hymn to Freedom, listeners will hear touches of free jazz — even noise has a place here – but all of this is handled in a manner that isn’t overblown or jarring. There are, of course, serene pieces to be found — on Fall Into Water, Abbot’s synth touches create space against the measured rhythm of Pike’s jazz kit. The unifying characteristic of this sound is Wylie’s tough-yet-transcendent playing. That shines the brightest here, as he’s developed a saxophone sound that’s perfectly identifiable, no matter what setting he plays in.
At KMHD we often say that jazz is “mood music.” With that in mind, Szun Waves’ newest exists as a perfect conduit for whatever mood you are, or would like to be, in.