by Waldo Muller - Die Burger
Although his latest album is fully in a jazz mode, Jason Reolon, lecturer in jazz piano at the University of Cape Town and member of the award-winning groups Breakfast Included and Restless Natives, is not a musician who is limited by genre or context.
Reolon (34) can boast music partnerships (from Vicky Sampson to Goldfish) as varied as the events he has performed at: from serious jazz concerts to World Cup soccer matches, fashion shows, horse races and comedy festivals.
He plays keyboards (including grand piano, Fender Rhodes electric piano and Wurlitzer and Hammond organs) in a variety of styles, from traditional jazz to funk, lounge and electronic dance music, even rock. However, judging by ‘Outline’ – the trio album of piano, bass and drums that Reolon recently launched in Cape Town – his first love is jazz.
With Wesley Rustin on double bass and Heinrich Goosen on drums, Reolon the jazz pianist has first-rate co-explorers of the musical routes his compositions map. ‘Outline’ is the trio’s second album. Its debut, ‘Off the record’, was released in 2007.
The nine tracks on ‘Outline’, all Reolon compositions, were recorded in October 2010 at the SAE Institute in Cape Town. The album was mixed and mastered at Sear Sound and Sterling Sound in New York. It was launched in June 2011 at the Freeworld Design Centre Auditorium in the Cape Waters Building, 71 Waterkant Street, Cape Town.
For the live performance at the launch of the album, Reolon’s trio sound was expanded with the addition of guest musicians Buddy Wells (sax), Tony Paco (percussion) and Ariella Reolon (cello). The result was riveting. Doubling the size of the group doubled the scope to appreciate the high quality of Reolon’s compositions and arrangements. The music was visually complimented by a backdrop of digital art in motion, created by Marcii Goose, designer of the striking CD cover.
The tracks on ‘Outline’ are often melodious with fragments of catchy tunes between more complicated jazz improvisations. The piano playing is lyrical rather than aggressive. The bass and drums are lively but the piano stays unhurried. This has a relaxing effect on the listener while simultaneously being musically interesting. Reolon and his fellow musicians show that accessible jazz does not have to be boring.
The title track is the opener and it is a winner on which the trio creates a sound that seems bigger than that of a three-piece band. It is unpredictable and slyly rolls along, lazy and passionate at the same time. The next few tracks are more tranquil, but calm with pep and oomph: an energetic calmness.
Reolon’s sound is often not identifiable as specifically South African, but has a more global character – with echoes of Cape Town and Africa and Cuba and New York and Europe. Nevertheless, shortly after halfway through the album, on ‘New Moon’, the music subtly yet unmistakably evokes something of the South African jazz canon.
On the seventh and eight tracks, ‘Glass Roots’ and ‘Mother City Blues’, the album breaths the South African jazz spirit further and more fully, more directly.
It is always remarkable when good musicians channel an indigenous jazz sound through the discipline and minimalism of only piano, bass and drums. Reolon and his two colleagues do the same with the Latin American approach to jazz on the album’s last track, ‘Heinsight’ – and thereby celebrate their musical freedom and versatility.