Saxophonist Emma Rawicz’s second CD release, Chroma, marks her debut on the ACT label. The album is a highly accomplished work, showcasing Rawicz’s talent as a composer, arranger, and producer. With a star-studded quintet accompanying her, Chroma takes listeners on a colorful journey through Rawicz’s synaesthesia-inspired compositions.
Rawicz’s quintet features some remarkable musicians, including Ivo Neame on keys, Ant Law on guitar, Conor Chaplin on bass, and Asaf Sirkis on drums. Additionally, Immy Churchill contributes wordless vocals on several tracks, reminiscent of Pepi Lemer in Jeff Clyne’s Turning Point long ago. The quintet’s chemistry creates an engaging listening experience throughout the album.
Chroma presents a variety of tunes, most of which are named after color shades. This theme is a nod to Rawicz’s synaesthesia, although it doesn’t particularly impact non-synaesthete listeners. Some of the pieces have a jazz-rock feel, such as “Phlox,” which opens with percussive vocals from Sirkis and transitions into energetic exchanges between tenor sax and guitar, as well as a cool electric piano solo.
Other notable tracks include the three brief takes on “Xanadu” and the nine-minute “Rangwali,” which features Churchill’s voice alongside Rawicz’s bass clarinet. While some songs may come across as slightly bland, tracks like “Middle Ground” and “Falu” are redeemed by Neame’s and Rawicz’s solos. “Viridian” stands out as a stronger piece of writing, with its changing moods showcasing the entire band’s capabilities.
Potential for Growth
Though Chroma demonstrates Rawicz’s promise as a young leader, it’s worth considering the possible benefits of incorporating a few strong compositions from the contemporary jazz repertoire. While Rawicz’s focus on her own creations is undoubtedly interesting, she might need more time to develop this aspect of her work to achieve consistent conviction. Nevertheless, her band’s exceptional performance throughout the album is praiseworthy.