“Although there are never any defining labels, we have sometimes been taken for a post-jazz band. The definitive idea would be to take the jazz trio into other domains.”
Although it took shape during difficult times of loss, Bye, the new album of Valencia-based trio, Naima, is full of life, color and uplifting spirit. A shifty, sharp and warm mix of contemporary jazz majesty and dreamy electronica flavors. Neatly produced and beautifully arranged. A sense of struggle is well conveyed, coupled with the glowing moments during which the human spirit overcomes darkness and confusion. Lovely covers for Jaga Jazzist’s “Animal Chin” and Elliott Smith’s “Can’t Make a Sound” fittingly adorn the end of the album.
Enrique Ruiz (piano & synths), Luis Torregrosa (drums) and Rafael Ramos Sania (bass), draw influence from many: The Bad Plus comes to mind and obviously e.s.t., but their love for the music of bands such as Pixies, Depeche Mode and The Smiths plays a strong role in the creative process of Naima. “We wanted to set up a jazz band which would have a sound and some song material closer to the music from groups of the last 30 years, which we grew up with” as Ruiz states on the album’s press text. Of course, Naima has its own original sound, a style that elegantly pays tribute to luminaries, without imitating. This makes Bye—Naima’s fourth album and first for the always innovative Cuneiform label—an engaging and refreshing sonic pearl.
Enrique :: We are from Valencia, the third largest city in Spain, coming right after Barcelona. Luis and I first met at the age of 17. It wasn’t until 10 years later, when we happened to bump into each other at a concert, that we decided to get together in order to play music. For a project to work very well, one has to trust in the other person’s work. The friendship that exists between us allows this and we have already put this into practice in other projects that we have done together.
Naima began as a quartet in the first two records. Later we adopted a trio formation. It was in this, our fourth album, that Rafa joined the band and this provided stability to the trio which can be appreciated in both the sound and the themes recorded.
Personally speaking, my main influences particularly come from contemporary jazz. I feel that this jazz trio has been enjoying some years of explosive creativity and this has provided us with inspiration. I also closely follow other styles such as indie rock and I’m attentive to the good songs that can come out from time to time.
Luis :: I would also add electronic music and especially the interaction with acoustic instruments.
Sound & style?
Luis :: With Naima we have set out as an acoustic jazz trio but we pick up elements from other styles, pop, electronic, etc. We don’t create fusion, what we understand to be a fusion of styles, but focus rather on composing and on whatever elements from different styles could turn out well so that a given song can sound as near as possible to the feel that we are searching at both the sound and the emotional level.
Obviously, the piano jazz trio feeling is always there, with major or minor protagonism to which transversal elements of other styles are incorporated. We consider Naima’s music as something organic. Although there are never any defining labels, we have sometimes been taken for a post-jazz band. The definitive idea would be to take the jazz trio into other domains.
The new album?
Enrique :: With this record we have done what Luis indicated with respect to the jazz trio. To make a trio sound like that is complicated because thorough investigation and especially experimentation is necessary. During the time spent recording, some compositions have been changed quite a lot. We continued trying things out until we were sure that we had the song exactly the way we wanted it. For that reason, the recording process went on for several months.
We wanted all of this work to have exquisite treatment as regards both mixing and mastering. That’s why we contacted Tony Platt and Ray Staff respectively (they have an incredible track record: Led Zeppelin, The Bad Plus, The Clash and Bob Marley among many others). The work completed with them was agile and the final result left us feeling very satisfied.
Luis :: The disc was composed at one of the most difficult moments which, unfortunately, all of us have to go through: the two biggest losses which a son, a father, and a mother can have. The entire process of both situations has been parallel to the birth of this work, and the best way in which we can offer them a tribute has been the only way that we know, from the heart and the deep love that we feel, as well as through music.
It goes without saying that publishing with Cuneiform Records for us is a huge step!
Rafa :: I joined Naima a year before beginning this recording. Although we were already playing some of the songs from the album, the compositions evolved right up until the last take. The adaptation was quick and the group made the most of having a stable formation which did not impede the creative process.
Enrique :: We have heard incredible things like “The future of our national Jazz is in the hands of this trio”; “…Awesome modern jazz…”; “…If creating an unmistakable group sound is the ultimate goal of a jazz ensemble, the Spanish trio Naima is well on its way to securing a spot as one of the leading combos on the contemporary European scene.”
Luis :: What I’m noticing is the interest shown by promoters and festivals, there has been a remarkable leap forward in both quality and quantity. The record is surprising a lot of people from both inside and outside the world of jazz. The next step into the biggest European leagues is only a matter of time.
Enrique :: We are currently finalizing our negotiation of dates for the presentation of the disc. We have already confirmed dates in Barcelona, Madrid, Valencia and other cities in Spain. We are waiting to confirm a European tour, a couple of dates in London are already confirmed and we will almost certainly be in Paris. In the coming weeks we will publicly announce the exact dates.
We have worked hard towards making our live shows sound very potent. This is not easy due to the incorporation of synthesizers and other electronic elements into the band, which all three of us play, by the way. This whole set up requires a great deal of preparation. We have also created a video spectacle for the concerts. Adding a visual component enhances the music and creates a performance that is very rich in nuances and narration for the public.
On heavy rotation?
Enrique :: These days I’ve been listening to the 8 discs of “Ten years solo” by Brad Mehldau and in the car I’ve been listening to the latest disc of Tortoise as well as Benjamin Clementine’s latest.
Luis :: My style is more to have a playlist, I like compiling what excites me most in each record. Some recent examples: “Big city music”-Jaga Jazzist, “Hungry ghost”-Mehliana, “Gesceap”-Tortoise, “Sunrise in Beijing”-Chritian Scott, “Squeeze Through”-Donny McCaslin, “In the dark places”-PJ Harvey, “Coyoacán”-Calexico.