But Is It Jazz?

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"Bow Down To Love" by But Is It Jazz?

Review

There are many aspects of our ‘Hot Music Live Presents' project of which I am very proud. It aims to alert people to excellent Coventry & Warwickshire musicians of whom they may not yet be aware: potentially through the collection being shared by a musician they already know or via airplay. Some people will already know some artists & we can also introduce all of them to others, especially those living outside our area. That's the important part, but there are others, much more niche. For example, from the admittedly unique perspective of a compiler such as I am. I actually am aware of most of the artists & as such delighted to have them on the albums. However even I do not know them all, as some are introduced by other "Hot Music Live" team members & thus to me come as pleasant surprises: I find myself in the same position as our target audiences in this respect.

On "Volume Two", the big new introduction for me was to But Is It Jazz? a most interesting project led by songwriter/saxophonist Thomas Hinks with  distinct lineups for different tracks (they deployed no fewer than seven different lead vocalists on their album), creating an ensemble collaborative approach. We included "When I See You Smile" on ‘Hot Music Live Presents Volume Two' (from the ‘Oh Silly Me' album of 2018). I value feedback from those who download the songs & while to me every track has equal status in my eyes, it is always interesting how individuals, without prompting, will sometimes opt to talk about certain songs. In this case, several people cited BiiJ and it was interesting how, after my appearance on her HillzFM show, DJ Toni Peach opted to invite Thomas on next to talk about his music, his philosophy & his interesting story, coming quite late to making music.

Now BiiJ have released (today) a brand new tune, "Bow Down To Love".

Once again Thomas has eschewed the comfortable & gone for the challenge of working with new musicians. He adopted the novel approach of running a competition asking people to write lyrics to any of a hundred BiiJ musical compositions & ultimately selected US based writer Taleya Jordan.  Since the song also marks the BiiJ debut of another US musician, Maria Schafer, on vocals, it is clearly a very significant step for them and one which most definitely aligns them with their strapline of "British Charm Meets American Smooth".

But Is It Jazz? seems not to have been idly chosen as a name. When discussing the right song to appear on HMLP2, Thomas pointed out to me the stylistic range of their canon: jazz may be a starting point but it is just that: not a restraining genre description.  He even called some songs more "soft rock".

"Bow Down To Love" really does embrace its transatlantic creation as it is drawn from that more spiritual side of American music which originated in hymn forms & evolved via gospel into soul.  Not that those genres tended to feature ‘cellos as we have here. You might well mistake it for an early 70s Motown song when their trademark sound was edging via bigger band orchestrations towards the classier, diva, end of disco.

Like all BiiJ tunes, this one reeks class. The mood is sophisticated, the playing superb & the lyrics literate & mature. Maria sounds as utterly in control as Aretha or dare I say it Diana. It may have a more recent arrangement but it clearly also connects back to a timeless tradition receding far back towards the earlier decades of the twentieth century: it actually has the feel that it could just as easily be performed in a church with a single piano for accompaniment. The true test is that it instantly sounds like a classic.

It uplifts you. You can dance to it. You can romance to it. You can just sit back & enjoy it.

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