“It’s now to the point that music and life are becoming completely parallel,” says Ochion Jewell (pronounced ocean). “When we improvise in total risk and surrender to each other, we feel the deep freedom and clarity of being alive.”
This connection is evident in his debut album, First Suite for Quartet, already heralded by the New York City Jazz Review as “an ambitious, beautifully rendered album…exhilarating in every facet.”
David Binney’s edgy Mythology record label is a great fit for the album. The 7-movement piece is through-composed, though the movements do stand on their own as individual tracks. The listener journeys through explosive free-improvisations, polyrhythmic grooves with Ghanaian roots, bebop that dramatically speeds up/slows down, mixed-meter rock, epically-lush ballads, Coltrane-inspired chant, and a sweet-but-somber version of “You are my Sunshine.”
“Jewell and quartet have their own unique style.” (Artsology) “Think Dawn of Midi meets Keith Jarret’s classic quartet with Motion, Haden & Redman.” (AllAboutJazz) The Quartet met at CalArts and moved to New York together in 2009. Qasim Naqvi is an orchestrator of color and dynamics, a drummer who can also tailor deep-seated grooves that do not rely on “marking time” or stating the downbeat every 4 bars. Sam Minaie channels as much power through swinging lines as with multi-layered ostinatos, strings buzzing with various attached objects. Amino Belyamani fills the piano with Rachmaninoff-like palates and often has his hand inside the instrument, using the strings more like a drum.
“Growing up in Appalachian Kentucky without any music venues led to a strong connection to the inherent music of nature. No matter where I go, I can still feel the honesty of that place as the foundation of my art and who I am.” Ochion studied classical music as a child and in college but became frustrated enough by the confinement of that tradition to rebel to jazz and improvised music. As a sideman in Louisville, he had the unique opportunity to perform professionally with national acts like Smokey Robinson, Chaka Khan, Gregory Hines, Kid Rock, Meatloaf, George Strait, Crystal Gayle, and Michael McDonald.
Study at CalArts was a rare, post-modern experience that integrated jazz, free improvisation, composition, and music from other cultures, including Ewe from Ghana, Indonesian Gamelan, Persian Music, Flamenco, Armenian, Moroccan, early Blues music, the list goes on…
Ochion lives in Brooklyn and also teaches for the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music. He has performed professionally with Charlie Haden and Joe LaBarbera, has toured Europe and South America and performed at PS1 (MOMA), the Alex Theater and REDCAT (L.A.) and the Palace Theater (Louisville). He is an original member of the Pleasure Circus Band, a member of the BedStuy Ewe Ensemble, has toured with the Bjorkestra, and recently performed on an episode of NBC’s 30 Rock. The quartet is now preparing to record the second suite entitled Gaia: Mother us All, and Ochion is also working on a trio project, a dedication to the music of Gershwin.