Son of immigrants, equally at home in the Bronx as he is in tonier sections of New York City, Jokatech’s life experience embodies much of what it means to be not just a minority in America, but what it means to be American itself more than all. His lyrics grapple with important personal, social, and political themes in entertaining soundscapes, but Jokatech has a fluent mastery of the language and expresses them in convincing, highly individualistic ways. The production naturally stresses his performance over the accompaniment, but the music is never an afterthought. Instead, it nicely complements his lyrical musings and Jokatech has obviously spent a great deal of time attempting to build a sonic landscape uniquely tailored to her voice. As previously mentioned, his voice occupies the central part of the musical framework, pushing things along, pulling back when necessary.
The six tracks on the album are anchored by two extended tracks clocking in at over fifteen and twenty-one minutes respectively. The opener “And Now We Wait (Intro)” begins with a freeform jazz oriented backing centered on the piano and Jokatech’s vocals. It shifts quite sharply midway through into a slinky, challenging groove with a light funk edge. The spartan beauty of the album’s second song “My Greatest Opponent” comes from Jokatech’s voice and a warmly recorded saxophone working in perfect concert with each other. Songs like this are very reminiscent of spoken word poetry with compelling musical accompaniment, but veering into that territory implies that Jokatech’s largest area of concern is the text and music comes second. This couldn’t be any further from the truth. One of the greatest virtues of his work is the balance he achieves between its disparate elements.
“Brother Muhammad – Tszss” is an intensely creative track one part sound collage and one part experimental jazz piece. The song is an inventive tribute to the late heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali and incorporates a number of recordings from a number of Ali’s media appearances over the years. “Internally Eternally” is the first of Standing Still Symphony’s two epic pieces. There is another substantial lyric, of course, attached to this piece, but the primary reason for this song is to show off his talents for expansive musical excursions. It is a rare composer and arranger who can sustain a listener’s interest over fifteen minutes, but Jokatech is such an artist. The album’s second extended song and finale, “Simultaneous Paradox”, pushes Jokatech’s talents into whole new realms and the result is the best possible ending imaginable for this release.
Jokatech is positioning himself, somewhat, to carry forward the tradition established by the genre’s artistic heavyweights like Outkast and Kendrick Lamar. He’s well on his way. Jokatech, however, has his own personal experience to impart and never loses his way with attempting to mimic or imitate the aforementioned performers. Standing Still Symphony is a great example of what this genre is capable of when the material and performances are in the hands of such a capable artist.
by Lydia Hillenburg
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