The Outsider is the latest release by acclaimed Jazz Pianist Chris Cody, and as with his previous albums, he unflinchingly holds a mirror up to life past and present. Cody has demonstrated an uncanny knack for drawing back the veil on what we wilfully overlook; colonisation, alienation, belonging and dislocation. And he does so while offering us hope and sublimely beautiful music. This album elevates his already impressive discography to new heights as he chronicles the new reality.
The title of the album is apt, for its reference to Camus and because we have all of us become outsiders to the lives we once knew. Camus, a French Algerian, wrote his famous novel in 1942 when the European peace was in tatters, the menace of fascism threatened and when the colonised were challenging the hegemony of the old world order. We are living through similar times with a pandemic isolating us, authoritarians threatening us and the postwar consensus looking shakey. We are also confronting our colonial pasts as indigenous voices speak truths.
The echoes of the world that Camus wrote about are familiar to Cody as he has lived in and performed extensively in France and the former French colonies. Although Australian, his creative milieu is the world at large. He is not only well qualified to tell this story but his skill as a composer, arranger and pianist enables him to tell it well. As the narrative unfolds a rich textural palette is utilised. The octet sounds bigger or smaller depending on the mood.
The inclusion of the Oud not only broadens the palette but it highlights Cody’s arranging skills. The Oud is a spectacular instrument with evocative brightness and because of its authoritative voice, it is mostly heard with small jazz ensembles. Here, the Oud was woven beautifully into the whole, the three horns giving pleasing contrast. North African stories have immense clarity when spoken through an Oud.
This is a great lineup, and consequently, they deliver a tight performance whether supporting the soloists or leaning into those delightful bittersweet orchestral voicings. I strongly recommend this album which can be purchased only on Bandcamp either digitally or in CD form. I would opt for the CD, as the artwork by Maya Cody is stunning. Very few album covers match the music as well as this cover does. Purchase at chriscody.bandcamp.com
JazzLocal32.com is rated as one of the 50 best Jazz Blogs in the world by Feedspot. The author is a professional member of the Jazz Journalists Association, a Judge in the 7VJC International Jazz Competition, and a poet & writer. Some of these posts appear on other sites with the author’s permission.