Jokatech, a stage name for Jason K. Addae, is one of the transformational artists who come into a genre usually once or twice during a given decade. Sometimes these rare voices are able to translate their unique talents into lasting careers; other times, forces within and without conspire to cut those rising talents off mid-flight. Jokatech’s blended heritage as the child of a British and Ghanaian national allowed him exposure to a wide variety of musical styles at a very early age and those nascent experiences inform him still. Urban life growing up in New York City and its environs left a profound mark on Jokatech’s psyche as well. All of the aforementioned elements and influences find their way into his music with exceptional production and a soft emphasis on Jokatech’s voice that allows the other sonic elements room to breathe. His most recent album, Standing Still Symphony, has a decidedly avant garde edge, but is accessible to all.
The opening song, “And Now We Wait (Intro)”, provides the album with a fitting beginning. Jokatech’s experimental side emerges immediately. He marries a diffuse, yet very present free jazz backing to his understated delivery. It is clear from even a cursory listen that Jokatech’s primary mandate is to communicate with his audience and he does so quite well with this strongly conceptual piece. The restless brass of “My Greatest Opponent” and Jokatech’s scat-like speech rhythms give this song the tantalizing allure of half-formed bebop or Beat poetry set to a jazz backing. Throughout each song on Standing Still Symphony, Jokatech is eloquent and omnipresent and few tracks embody that more than this one.
“Brother Muhammad – Tszss” is obviously, judging from title and content, a tribute to the recently deceased boxing champion and cultural icon Muhammad Ali. It is laced with some delightfully bluesy, meandering piano lines. The song picks up rather quickly with some interesting percussion that weaves tempos around the piano lines. “Internally Eternally” begins with Jokatech’s voice and some powerful reflections before the music begins in earnest. This is an extended experimental piece that largely pursues jazz fusion sounds with great success. The brass alternates between near hysteria and more considered mournful passages. The album’s title song is another powerful piece filled to the brim with Jokatech’s incisive musings and he does a fantastic job of wrapping his voice around another substantive and challenging musical arrangement.
Jokatech marries a sophisticated writing style with vocal dexterity and a commitment to broaching any subject, however thorny. He also brings a strong element of the personal to these songs that helps elevate them out of their time and, instead, hopefully position themselves better for multiple listens. While many artists in the genre either engage materialism or else social issues and politics, Jokatech’s interest lies in the politics of the heart and human lives. This is real, resonant music that will likewise physically provoke you. His artistic vision on Standing Still Symphony is impressively complete, but Jokatech will continue growing and further evolving.
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