Jamire Williams new album But Only After You Have Suffered is a multi-layered album from a multi-layered artist. He’s a jazz drummer and percussionist from Houston who has spent years working with world class musicians in New York. He is also a producer who uses the studio to piece together sounds that, while they may not be immediately decipherable, still light up your brain with a changing landscape of outstanding tracks. It is as rap as it is jazz, and as trip-hop as it is experimental.
‘Hands Up’ and ‘Bow’ (featuring Corey King) open the album with the former a roiling overture that tumbles through its sub-2-minute like a sawn off ‘Great Gig In The Sky’, and the latter with its marshmallow pulse and King’s soft prayer of a voice floating in the ether. ‘Ugly’ places Mic Holden’s urgent vocals over an ever-changing musical backdrop like rapping on a waterfall.
There are a couple of tiny vignettes which pepper the album; the 44 second slow motion jazz ballad ‘Take Time, Look Up’ or the 53 second ‘C’est Un Mot’ with French film dialogue over wind chimes. Like ‘Ugly’, ‘Safe Travels’ creates an unsteady backdrop for Fat Tony and Zeroh, built on jazz loops and a speech (“Black people are some of the most loving people on the face of Earth…we need to be taught a system of economic development”). ‘For The Youth’ brings back Corey King’s beautiful voice over softly-fuzzed guitar which rolls around over drone organs and animated drums, and it feels like the 60s grand-pop ambitions of composers like David Axelrod.
‘Pause In His Presence’ lets washes of backwards loops and heavenly choirs swirl around a stunning vocal performance by Lisa E. Harris (Jamire says “Every time I hear that song, I cry. It’s so real”). ‘No One Knows’ takes Mike Oldfield’s bittersweet song ‘Talk About Your Life’ as its source but ultimately strips it back to the line “no one knows” which gets fired into a galaxy of swelling synthesisers and jazz piano. The penultimate track ‘When It Gets Dark’ has processional percussion driving this gentle shimmer of strings surrounding singer Kenneth Whalum’s beautifully melodious falsetto.
Jamire Williams draws on his faith throughout the album, and you feel a powerfully transcendent presence radiating from twelve tracks whether you a believer or not. It’s a beautifully crafted musical collage which demonstrates a fearlessness to pull things apart, experiment, and reassemble sounds in exciting new ways. Though you can easily pick out individual flowers this is a beautiful, strange, inspiring garden that deserves to be enjoyed in its entirety.
Review by Paul F Cook