28th Mar 2010
With nine instrumentals and an average duration of six minutes, several lead instruments, complex rhythm sections and vague titles that makes you wonder what they were smoking before they made up the set list, calling your album “Future Pop” might be a bit optimistic. However, Leah Gough-Cooper and her band Human Equivalent do have their reasons to be optimistic. Ever since she started out, Gough-Cooper has been hailed as the new jazz sensation and given this album, that’s not a surprise. Entering the world of jazz college only five years ago, when she was sixteen years old, the young saxophonist has been invited to many a jazz festival and played with many a known musician. Drawing inspiration from Frank Zappa and Bjork as much as from Wayne Shorter and Michael Brecker, Gough-Cooper didn’t take the easy way, but it pays out on her band’s album debut.
Though it’s her name featuring on the album cover and Human Equivalent is definitely her band, ‘Future Pop’ is nothing like a solo album. It is, in fact, quite surprising how small a role she’s got on her own album. Opener ‘Future Pop’ sees her collaborating on an exciting piece of jazz psychedelics, with her and guitarist Serghio Jansen firing away the solo’s on the rhythmic sounds of the Rhodes piano. With the calming ‘Only a Matter of Time’ and the lounge music of ‘Leaf Blower’ in between, where pianist Alan Benzie serves as the main contributor, it’s only on ‘Hollywood Ghost Dance’ and ‘Politix Street’ that she’s the one shining out.
Luckily for her, ‘Politix Street’ is the highlight of ‘Future Pop’. ‘Hollywood Ghost Dance’ is an amazing piece of fusion – combining soundtrack, pop, jazz and experimental rock – with drummer Patrick Kunka and guitarist Jansen highlighting the lot. But it’s the nervous breakdown jazz of ‘Politix Street’, once again with Jansen and Benzie having a prominent role, that shows why Human Equivalent is Gough-Cooper’s band. Rather than being egocentric and the main musical contributor, she only plays when necessary and inspired. But rather than just releasing a collection of improvisational pieces, songs like ‘Hollywood Ghost Dance’ and ‘Politix Street’ are quite epic and so much more than the regular jazz composition. Gough-Cooper’s quality doesn’t lie in her talents as saxophonist only, it’s as a songwriter that she really stands out.
In a way, the album title is not as overoptimistic as it sounded at first. After all, before Elvis made the blues rock and roll, jazz was the youngsters wild musical anthem and with so much originality hidden in her songs, Gough-Cooper does give jazz an edge of excitement again. A new jazz revolution taking over the world doesn’t seem to be happening any time soon though, but in her own jazz land, it wouldn’t come as a surprise that she will be seen as an established name any day now.
– Floris Stoter – AltSounds.com March 28, 2010, 02:23 PM