If for you, the word jazz conjures images of besuited bands playing background music in smokey cocktail bars or nostalgic notions of bygone beatnik basement clubs, then Mokus Green is just what you need to change the picture. Ironically, the music he makes would fit into both those settings, but the most important aspect of pieces like January Rain Rhapsody is that it is also the sound of the genre’s evolution beyond them.
Kicking off with a very familiar groove, the song starts finding its own sonic ground very quickly. The bassline wanders wonderfully and wilfully, the piano lays down sone gentle structures, the beat is intricate yet understated. Nothing out of the ordinary there. But it seems that every time it completes a lap of that initial groove it allows itself to slightly subvert the form, changing in gentle increments, diverting slightly from the initial path, adding intriguing inclusions and deft additions as it goes. And it does so in such a clever way that you hardly notice the gentle deviations.
The familiarity and consistency are comforting, but by the time you get to the halfway point, the track has built in plenty of additional complexity and sonic weight, occasionally dropping into warm, lulling interludes which makes the rising returns all the more powerful.
And as January Rain Rhapsody heads towards the finishing line, the sonic stakes are raised. Trumpets seem to duet with each other in a call and response dialogue, the bass line gets its moments in the spotlight, the drums become more prominent, often punctuating with crashes and crescendo, and the piano opts to sit back allowing those around it to shine.
I’ll be the first to admit that the realms of jazz and such musical avant-gardening are not areas that I would call myself anything like an expert in, but even to my untrained ears, this sounds like the past looking to secure its place in the future. More specifically, a jazz past being channelled by cool modern brains to write new chapters for itself.
We hear of “sonic journeys” all the time, usually as some pop wannabe prompted by their PR people discusses what they have learned from being on a lambs to the slaughter TV talent show. But what we have here is a real sonic journey. Firstly the song itself, a journey from lightness and conformity into weight and exploration, and beyond into complexity and experimentation. But also, if you consider it from a distance, it is the sound of a genre making a sonic journey too, moving with the times, possibly even setting up its own, new zeitgeists to surf as it heads into the breaking sonic dawn of a bright new future.
Who knows, in the future, this might prove to be one of those, “you had to be there moments.” I for one wouldn’t be surprised.