Allana Goldsmith is a Māori contemporary jazz artist that hails from Te Tairāwhiti region, East Coast of the North Island of Aotearoa, Ngati Porou and Ngai Tai. Mark Baynes is a British jazz pianist with a contemporary leaning. The Goldsmith Baynes project is a celebration between two musical souls. The talented pair have worked together for over 10 years and their musical bond comes from freedom, a shared trust, and mutual respect. A wonderful collaboration between two modern favourites of the jazz world, Goldsmith’s soulful jazz vocal combines with British pianist Baynes’ contemporary jazz stylings to produce this truly uplifting and remarkable record, which is released on the Meow Jazz Label.
The first of the eleven tracks that make up the album E Rere Rā has Allana Goldsmith singing in the Māori language over a drone like sound from the Taongo Puoro. Mark Baynes adds some brief piano lines alongside rumbling drums from Hikurangi Schaverien-Kaa but the focus is on the voice its tone, beauty, and clarity. ‘Tipuna’ changes dynamics completely; the beat is upbeat, the piano playing more expansive, the vocals are in both Māori and English. This is a catchy, bright number and I can understand why it was chosen as the single release in 2021 (see video below). ‘Kore Rawa’ opens with the trumpet of Kim Paterson and it sounds good. The drumming is steady, there is the full toned sound of the trombone and Mark Baynes has switched to the keyboards, a really nice lightly swinging jazz number.
‘Te Aranga o Matariki’ has a Bensonesque guitar opening, and sultry vocals. This is a more commercial jazz sound very well produced – the keyboard playing is particularly engaging. ‘ Tō Ihu’ has a distinct blues feel to the opening bars before the drums, horns, and sax fill out the sound, and what a sound it is. Allana’s vocals are a perfect match for the music and Cameron Allen plays a great sax solo – this is possibly the standout track on the album. ‘Te Reo’ slows the tempo down with Allana and Mark opening the track with support from drummer Hikurangi Schaverien-Kaa. The lyrics are in Māori so although I did not understand what was being sung the storytelling was still there, as was a very good bass line from Tom Dennison and wonderful jazz piano from Mark.
‘Hei Kawe i a Au’ is a beautifully atmospheric ballad with perfectly understated musical support, primarily from drums, bass, and piano. ‘Nau Mai, e Hine.’ is a more contemporary R&B style number with good guitar lines and a steady pulsing beat: a late night radio show type tune sung with real class. ‘E Taku Tau’ could easily be imagined sung by a contemporary chanteuse. The piano accompaniment matches the feel of this tune perfectly and, as before, the storytelling is very good.
‘Maranga Ake’ begins with bird sound, trumpet, swathes of cymbal and Allan’s beautiful vocals. The title of the song means to rise up but there is a quiet insistence rather than a full blooded call (a non-violent response perhaps?). The sound is emotive, stirring, and powerful. The lyrics are delivered with strength and purpose and the trumpet sound is equally purposeful and sensitive to the message of the tune. ‘Pīata kau ana’ begins with a simple drummed pattern over which Allana’s rich vocals weave their magic. This is a mournful sounding number and I have been able to determine that “kau” means alone, which would certainly account for the isolated feel of this final track.
E Rere Rā was described to me as “rather alluring and easily accessible”, both descriptions of which I can agree. Allana Goldsmith’s vocal performance is superb; her storytelling, her phrasing, her tone and use of vocal range a joy to listen to. Mark Baynes makes for the perfect musical partner as do the other musicians the two have chosen to accompany them on this album. The album is accessible but do not think that means it is without depth or meaning, both of those things come through hearing the emotion, tone, and intonation of the Māori language and I can not think of a better guide than Allana Goldsmith.
Musicians: Allana Goldsmith – vocals; Mark Baynes – piano & keyboard; Hikurangi Schaverien-Kaa – drums; Alex Griffith – electric bass; Tom Dennison – bass; Riki Bennett – Taongo Puoro; Cameron Allen -saxophones; Jono Tan – trombone; Kim Paterson – flugelhorn and trumpet; Mike Booth – trumpet and horn arrangement.
Tracklist: 1. E Rere Rā. 2. Tipuna. 3. Kore Rawa. 4. Te Aranga o Matariki. 5. Tō Ihu. 6. Te Reo. 7. Hei Kawe i a Au. 8. Nau Mai, e Hine. 9. E Taku Tau. 10. Maranga Ake. 11. Pīata kau ana.