MATHIS Sound Orchestra: World Unity
Release Date: May 8, 2020
Label: Outside In Music
On MATHIS Sound Orchestra: World Unity, French-Malagasy pianist, composer, producer and bandleader MATHIS presents an amalgam of traditional acoustic performance with innovative music technology. Thematically, World Unity makes a powerful (and timely) statement on the importance of human connection in a world that is ever-changing.
The five stunningly diverse tracks that make up World Unity were recorded by MATHIS alongside some of the most exciting young names in the industry, namely flutist Melanie Charles; trumpeters Giveton Gelin and Benny Benack III; alto saxophonists Anthony Orji and Patrick Bartley, tenor saxophonists Ruben Fox and Julian Lee, pianist Julius Rodriguez on rhodes and synth, bassist Daniel Winshall, drummer Savannah Harris and percussionist Fernando Saci.
MATHIS (full name is Mathis Picard) notes: “Society constantly shifts. Cultures absorb, expand, disappear, and alter, generations come and go, and new technology replaces the old while simultaneously outpacing itself. The planet is also in a constant state of flux. Landmasses strain against each other, climates attempt survival, and the land itself becomes more extreme. Because of this, one might assume conflict is natural, that we have many differences from each other and from the planet itself.” The artist was spurred, by this false notion that such conflict is natural, to create these pieces which speak to the unity of the human experience, connecting styles from music cultures all over the world and striving to answer questions such as: What connects us? How do we create unity? What are the underlying factors that make our experiences on opposite sides of the planet very much the same?
The first track on World Unity, to be released as a single on April 7, is the jubilant “Glitter Eyes” which seeks to invoke joy in the listener. Picard espouses that joy is a force that connects all of humankind. The title refers to the glitter in people’s glistening eyes when they are in the throes of gleeful ecstasy. According to MATHIS, “The desire to gather, dance, worship, and celebrate are ancient rituals that connect humanity across time and space.” Mirroring this connectivity, trumpeter Giveton Gelin and saxophonist Ruben Fox display their stunning melodic invention on this piece. The two soloists cover a diverse array of influences and colors, but ultimately speak the same language and communicate in an elated manner; a perfect depiction of the jazz artform’s democratic, deeply-human underpinnings.
The EP releases continue with the title track “World Unity” (April 14th), a unification of acoustic and electronic forces, exploring MATHIS’ take on the “Harlem Stride'' sound, as inspired by iconic pianist Thelonious Monk. This theme, adorned with a nature soundscape, leads way to a funk/R&B infused passage, a celebration of one of MATHIS’ largest influences: Earth, Wind & Fire. In this synthesis of modern and classic styles and instrumentation, drummer Savannah Harris switches between playing brushes on acoustic drums to electronic pads and kicks, bassist Daniel Winshall switches from acoustic double-bass to a heavily distorted electric bass sound and Picard employs the use of modern synthesizers and keyboards for a unique sonic blend. At the end of the piece, we hear MATHIS sing, on vocoder, “We need world unity.”
“Tranquility”, to be released April 21, was composed by master pianist Barry Harris and demonstrates Picard’s arranging prowess seen here in the performance of this unconventional quartet featuring Melanie Charles on the flute and FX, Joel Wendhardt on piano, Savannah Harris on brushes and MATHIS on synthesizers. On this track, MATHIS taps into another source of unity and empowerment, meditation and/or prayer. The next track “Rite of Passage”, to be released April 28th, honors moments of transition within a human’s life. MATHIS elucidates “these transitions which are universal and inescapable, provide a stage upon which the actor can either excel or retreat, but through this shared pain and its often miraculous outcome, we are able to relate to one another.” The track continues the album’s exploration of different sonic pallets and completes MATHIS musical offering to humankind, his cry for unity in a time of great duress.
The final track, to be released on May 5th, is titled “Pjanoo” and is a celebration of MATHIS’ musical roots. The artist was introduced to house/electronic music as a child in his native France and was particularly inspired by this song, which was written by producer Eric Prydz. Years later while studying in America, MATHIS began to explore the concept of playing techno sounds on the acoustic piano. In addition to his electronic influences, the track begins with a nod to classical pianist and composer Maurice Ravel whose music MATHIS studied while attending an English boarding school prior to his arrival in America. The track is also a love-letter to the piano stylings of another of MATHIS’ greatest inspirations, Fats Waller.
More About the Artist
MATHIS Jaona Jolan Picard, born May 30th, 1995, is a French-Malagasy pianist, composer, producer, and bandleader whose music warps time. Rooted in the tradition of live acoustic performance while incorporating the latest musical technology, MATHIS created his own style that merges Electronic Bass Music, Jazz, Classical & Stride Piano.
MATHIS, who began playing at 3 years old, was immediately passionate about music from the dance idiom and now focuses on sharing that passion globally, whether its with his orchestra, Mathis Sound Orchestra or his emerging quartet, The Elements.
When not performing his music, Mathis has the honor of sharing the stage with artists such as Mwenso & The Shakes, Braxton Cook, Ron Carter, Lee Ritenour, Jason Moran, CROWN, Kindness and Wynton Marsalis.
"The whole album is the first solar system of MATHIS' work. He explains how he feels every artist has their own universe and throughout their life create whole galaxy’s of work for us to dive into. We can't wait to hear MATHIS' next universe of work."Check the full feature here.
DEE DEE MCNEIL
MUSICAL MEMOIRS'S BLOG
"Picard’s concept for this project is to reflect that society is constantly shifting and changing. It reinvents itself generation after generation. Listen to the way his arrangements blossom and grow, ever changing right before our ears." Check the full review here.
"Mixing acoustics with electronics and bringing in everything but the kitchen sink, the result is a surprisingly satisfying mainstream release that might have it's zigs and zags but never jars you into turning it off. Check the full review here.
“Pjanoo” by French-Malagasy composer and producer MATHIS (and his band Mathis Sound Orchestra) is an interesting mix of jazz and electronic music. It is taken from his new EP World Unity, a body of work that thematically underscores the importance of human connection." Listen to this feature here.