It’s always a pleasure to review something a little bit out of the blue and unexpected, and when it’s from someone as accomplished as Oli Morris that holds doubly so. A saxophonist and composer originally born in Northridge, California but now living in Bristol, Oli studied music at the University of Chichester, but soon found himself an in-demand session player and live sideman, performing at Bestival and Glastonbury as well as decamping to Rockfield Studios with festival favourites Cut Capers.
Shortly before the world paused and ‘roadmap’ took on a new, Covid-related meaning, Morris returned from a month-long backpacking tour through India. The result, featuring a collective of Bristol’s up-and-coming music glitterati, is ‘Bimal’, a jazz-neo-soul fusion in two halves, featuring the stunning, silky-smooth vocals of Chrissie Huntley wrapped around Morris’ masterful saxophone, interspersed with Snazzback’s Eli Jitsuto’s deliciously restrained guitar parts and the oh-so-cool jazz-funk rhythm section of Sam Fox and Andee Liu. There’s some serious Rare Groove and Acid Jazz smoothness here, echoes of the Brand New Heavies and Incognito mixed with touches of Galliano’s ‘Joyful Noise Unto The Creator’ around Ruaridh Wilkinson’s Rhodes piano-work; it’s chilled, mellow, and it’s got some serious soul.
Review by Alex Holmes