Lately, I have been walking around and humming the melody of You Must Believe in Spring, partially because it’s a nice melody, and partially as a reminder – sometimes it’s easy to forget that warmer days are in fact on their way. As we wait for our little corner of the world to thaw, it may help our collective state of mind if we listened to some music that carries in it echoes of warmer places. Like, for example, South Asia, or West Africa, or the Mediterranean. Such echoes can be found in the lineup of the eclectic So Long Seven, which showcases Neil Hendry on the mandolin and guitar, Tim Posgate on the banjo, Ravi Naimpally on the tabla and the remarkably young (barely out of his teens) William Lamoureux on the violin. With this unusual blend of instruments, and a collective and unmistakable jazz sensibility, So Long Seven’s highly organized, mostly non-hierarchical approach to composition and improvisation constitutes what I would call cross-cultural chamber music.
A year ago – almost to the day, as I write this – the band released their eponymous debut album, a colourful and contemplative work of art, and a formidable effort that will be tough to follow.
Aside from the quality of the music, what captures me about this album is the fact that, from top to bottom, each tune seems to share a goal; this is not just a collection of tracks that will demonstrate the versatility and skill of a band, but a cohesive work that is united by one purpose. What that purpose is, I suppose, up to each individual listener. When the music has no words, it can be tough to pinpoint or articulate these things, even though you may have a strong sense of them. My first instinct would be to call it music to meditate to, but that may be too restrictive since not everyone meditates (and I don’t). I’ll call it music to think to.
My favourite track by far is the one which opens the album, Torch River Rail Company. The introspective and rhythmically driven melody, which rolls like a train over the five-beat pattern that underlies it, maintains its momentum through these almost arbitrary - though definitely not arbitrary - pauses; as Lamoureux takes his bow off the strings, or as the rhythm section freezes, you can almost hear it continue, and you are not the least bit startled when it comes back in. The melody and accompaniment - separately - continue to weave in and out like that, and it’s fascinating to hear.
You’ll have two opportunities to hear So Long Seven in Southern Ontario this month. If you’re in or around Hamilton, you can catch them at Artword Artbar on April 7; if you live closer to Toronto and you aren’t able to get out to Hamilton, you can catch up with them the very next day, April 8, at the Small World Music Centre, a short walking distance from the corner of Dundas and Ossington.
I’ll level with you on this one: while I’m confident that I’ve seen all the footage of them that exists on the Internet, I’ve never seen So Long Seven live. I have a friend who used to invite me to their shows constantly back when they were known as Oolong 7, but it wasn’t until recently that I started to dive into their recorded music. So if I make it out to Hamilton, I’ll be discovering them right alongside you.
I hope to see you there.
Bob Ben is The WholeNote’s jazz listings editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.