Light hearted grooves and a transcending melody – the new track “Ododo” from African-jazz saxophonist Shola Emmanuel is poetry in motion. The triumphant tune is a love letter to life’s bounty. It’s packaged optimism. It’s the spirit of romance, but with the endearment of a proud citizen to his country.
“Ododo” is from the new album Kind of Music. Emmanuel, originally from Nigeria, enlists percussionists, soloists and a rousing band to help interpret the marvel of Africa’s beauty. Whether he’s talking about a flower (“ododo” can be translated to mean flower) or the sweet name for a woman, the track is a dizzying amount of joy and gratitude rising out of the orchestration. In the immortal words of “Sir Duke” from Stevie Wonder: they can feel it all over, they can feel it all over, people. “Ododo” captures this same essence.
Dreamy vocals hover a lofty piano bed. While the song is not in English, I can simply share that the sounds leap from the speakers. The gathering of these musicians is what makes jazz music, especially African-jazz fusion, so invigorating and nearly tangible is the free license to drift. What I mean by that is the ticket for admission while listening to a song like “Ododo” is a passport to corners of the mind not already explored. The pathway is clear and the cup is half full. It’s up to the listener to choose their own adventure. Conjure up the feelings that taunt you, and come together in a peaceful middle. Ideally, songs will tell an easy to follow story, but it’s tracks like “Ododo” that bring to the surface a bubbling brook of ideas and feelings. I never felt cold or abandoned in this song – I felt an abundance of warmth, friendship and community. Holding it all together, binding this book of music, is Emmanuel’s saxophone.
Emmanuel lists on his Facebook page his influences as Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, Wynton Marsalis, Duke Ellington, Peggy Lee, Kirk Whalum and more, brings to life his own personality. His sax sound, a bit of a flirtatious peep here and there, is flashy. It’s as if it were flashing a great, big smile across the room. The back-and-forth with the percussion, especially, is amorous and fun. The drums are what you might think of when you think of African rhythms and percussion, but in this case, they are also very jazz focused. The vocals are gorgeous. “Ododo” is a great song to add to any music library – that goes for rock music fans, too. This pleasant song skips along like a clear day, no clouds in the sky.
No stranger to the world’s stages, Emmanuel has performed in several countries and continents. His tour stops have included Canada, Italy, France, the UK and United States. His press materials note that his first performance in 1999 was in front of 80,000 people! Now that is trial by fire, if I say so. Additional tracks on Kind of Music include “Biowe”, “Babe” and “Pakurumo”. His five-track EP Yoruba Project came out in 2018.
by Bethany Page