Sokoband | Sokoband

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Rock: Jam-band Jazz: Crossover Jazz Moods: Type: Instrumental
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by Sokoband

Tight and powerful instrumental music played by a core keyboard/bass/drum trio with a dazzling array of guest artists.
Genre: Rock: Jam-band
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. Coast to Coast
5:53 album only
2. Your Steps Alone
6:59 album only
3. jiriki
7:46 album only
4. in November Sunlight
7:11 album only
5. Energy Changed
10:22 album only
6. Body Home
11:01 album only
7. And Yet Your Smile
7:56 album only
8. Lullaby for E
4:01 album only
9. Half Sleep (the river dreams)
7:49 album only
10. Nightfall
4:40 album only


Album Notes
About the artists:
Charlottesville’s “Soko” began in 1990 as the piano/bass/drum trio of Michael Sokolowski, Houston Ross, and Johnny Gilmore playing Sokolowski compositions. After six years of live performances, the band released its debut CD, In November Sunlight, featuring guest appearances by members of Dave Matthews Band. The band disbanded in 1997, but Sokolowski and Ross remained musical partners. On 2005’s Two, Houston Ross began to collaborate as a writer, arranger, and singer. And Rob Evans essentially joined the band as studio engineer and co-producer. Though not a commercial success, Two remains, for the band, the superior musical offering. From 2006 to 2009, the band focused its newly found studio workflow on remaking In November Sunlight. The result is "Sokoband" — a collection of all the INS tunes plus two bonus tracks. The first bonus track is a modern take on an old Sokolowski ballad ("And Yet Your Smile"), and the other is a lush tenor sax-driven piece built on a percussion jam from the Two sessions ("Nightfall").

Houston and Mike are thrilled to have had the brilliant, ex-Genesis drummer, Nir Z replace the late Johnny Gilmore on this project. The band was also blessed to work with legendary cellist, David Darling again in the studio. HIs radiant, ethereal-yet-earthy cello tones complete the new arrangement of the record's deepest improvisational dive, "Body Home." Guitar hero Steve Kimock lends his soaring lap steel and searing electric leads to the new version of "Jiriki" opposite Tim Reynolds' fiery acoustic playing and Dave Matthews' dancing vocal jams.

Broadening the guitar palette with precision, soul, and a diversity of styles are Mike Colley, John Zias and Tom Harbeck. LeRoi Moore, George Brooks, Charles Owens, Bobby Read, Jay Rodriguez, David CasT, and Greg Howard complete the saxophone army. (Leroi's "In November Sunlight" soprano solo is perhaps the defining moment of this new collection.) John D'earth and Mark Maynard bring the punchy brass to the Coast to Coast horn section.

In late 2009, Soko changed its name to Sokoband to avoid potential name confusion with any of the world’s many musical “Soko”s.

Track descriptions:
1. Coast to Coast: joyful, up tempo romp in 7/4 time. Think Keith Jarrett and Jan Garbarek's 1970s quartet meets Steely Dan.
2. Your Steps Alone: instrumental gospel/rock anthem featuring sax, organ, and guitar
3. Jiriki: up tempo Santana-esque take on a 5/4 groove with piano/drum power duet and Dave Matthews' vocal coda
4. In November Sunlight: sprightly jazz waltz with beautiful, extended soprano sax soloing from LeRoi Moore
5. Energy Changed: prog/fusion epic featuring layered keyboards, massive guitars and electrifying Nir Z drum solo. Sort of a Genesis/Mahavishnu Orchestra blend.
6. Body Home: ECM-ish improvisational voyage featuring dreamy piano plus soaring cellos by David Darling
7. And Yet Your Smile: smooth jazz with electronic beats fused to acoustic drums under a happy bass line, layered keys and topped by a romantic tenor sax
8. Lullaby for E: simple, poignant, rock-inflected ballad played by piano/bass/drums
9. Half Sleep: loop-based, trance/dream sequence for keyboards, guitar, bass, and drums
10. Nightfall: Rolling African percussion, horn section and bass set the scene for a languid nighttime melody played by saxophone and electric piano



to write a review

Jason Randall Smith

The term “jam band” is insufficient in describing what Sokoband is all about. It’s a term that carries a certain crunchiness, evoking images of tie-dyed shirt-wearing festival attendees traveling across the country to see their favorite ensemble play. This is not to say that Sokoband isn’t worthy of such devotion. Playing together since 1990, this Charlottesville, Virginia-based trio has fine-tuned their ability to not just perform compositions, but to play within them as well. Their skill for improvisation allows them to color outside the lines of selections without straying too far from a song’s original theme.

Michael Sokolowski serves as the band’s pianist and main composer while Houston Ross holds down bass and guitar duties. Percussionist Nir Z rounds out the trio on the drums, making for a tight-knit harmonic core. A pair of tracks on the band’s self-titled album focuses solely on the threesome: “Lullaby for E” and “Half Sleep.” The former is a tranquil and touching instrumental while the latter finds them meandering over a locked groove. It is within “Half Sleep” that you can hear Sokolowski and Ross dance around the song’s main pattern through their performances while Nir Z provides the rhythmic foundation.

A collection of guest artists appear throughout the album, lending superb musicianship to their respective cuts and lifting Sokolowski’s compositions beyond the confines of piano/bass/drums arrangements. “Jiriki” makes this immediately apparent, as each musician in turn converses within a Latin rock framework. Sokolowski’s piano accents atop Nir Z’s highly expressive drumming is one of the highlights of this selection. “Jiriki” is the only song on this album to feature vocals and it certainly doesn’t hurt to have Dave Matthews singing the lyrics. His appearance is brief, but very effective, and by the end of the song his voice has become another instrument offering its own perspective on the conversation.

This is not the first time that Sokoband has crossed paths with the Dave Matthews Band. In fact, several members of the band appeared on their 1997 debut album, In November Sunlight. The entire contents of that album are revisited for Sokoband’s latest and saxophonist LeRoi Moore absolutely shines on “In November Sunlight.” His solo is reflective to the point where it tugs at your heart; emotion pours out of every note he plays. Moore switches from soprano sax to tenor on “And Yet Your Smile,” giving him a robust and romantic tone for this smooth jazz number. On the flip side of things, “Energy Changed” is the sonic about face of the album, a power quartet featuring blistering guitar work from Mike Colley. Co-written by Sokolowski and Colley, it is easily one of the strongest collective performances on the album, a shining example of jazz/rock fusion at its finest.

Sokoband explore a range of moods on this album and master them all through exceptional musicianship and the full-bodied compositions of Michael Sokolowski. Hopefully the Dave Matthews Band connection will garner more interest for this ensemble, but make no mistake…this trio clearly stands on its own merit. That which the Charlottesville live music scene has birthed will not stay secret for very long.

Ariel Hyatt

Solid album
The third release by Charlottesville-based Sokoband is a step in a new direction from their previously mellow origins. The band took the songs from their debut album, In November Sunlight, and re-recorded and mastered them for what is overall a huge improvement over already great songs.

In November Sunlight was a very jazzy, smooth album that could be described as "easy listening." The new versions of these songs really pick up the pace.
"Jiriki," somewhat of a classic song from this band which features Dave Matthews on vocals, used to be a light, vaguely tropical 5/4 jam with chords similar to "Take Five." The redone version of this adds rock 'n' roll flair, with electric guitar spicing it up and much more lively drums. Over the past years, Dave's voice has declined in some areas and improved in others, and I have to admit, on this track I prefer him in 1996. Still, it's wonderful, and would be fine if I hadn't been spoiled by the old version.
"Energy Change" went through an energy change, and was thoughtfully renamed to "Energy Changed" on the new album. Just like "Jiriki," it gets a heavy dose of electric guitar to bring it closer to rock. In the middle of the song, it even borders on techno. The new recording has a revised baseline which opens up the "sound space" for these new instruments. In addition to this we also find a new transition into the double-time section which makes it seem like a segue into a new song rather than the continuation. This could be either a pro or con, but I like it. Note: The band recently tweeted me mentioning that this is actually the old (1979) version of the song. So it changed back, not forth.
Added to "Coast to Coast" are horns or saxophones (I don't know how to tell the difference). The old version of this song was somewhat repetitive; the melody didn't really "pick up." In its new slot on the album, as opener, it gets it going with solid horns/sax, then mellows down to become like the In November Sunlight version. The sax solo on this track gives the listener a real feeling of adventure. It's exciting.
"And Yet Your Smile" is one of two all-new songs on this album. It's very percussion based. Perhaps I'm just impatient, but I feel like this is a bit drawn out. I would love to see it as a 1-2 minute intro to "Jiriki" or maybe "Body Home."
The other new track, "Nightfall," is also a percussion song. This song, while not particularly outstanding as-is, is a perfect finisher for the album that really cools down the ears well.
There are 5 more tracks on this album that I didn't get to, but trust me, they're all great. This album is one of the better ones I've purchased in a while. It has more guests than band members (17 vs 3), but this gives the songs somewhat of a "communal" feel that is nice to hear. All in all, it's a solid album and is a great introduction to this band.

Cross posted from Give Or Take