“A work of art which did not begin in emotion is not art” (Cezanne)
Thackray, like Cezanne, is an artist who is creating and crafting a bridge between different forms in her field. Where Cezanne took us from Impressionism towards Cubism (Picasso called him “… the father of us all”), Thackray is taking us from work that was instantly recognisable as jazz and into a space where soul, funk and the wilder melodies and ambitions of The Beach Boys can be
At the heart of what is happening on “Yellow” is, for Thackray, the groove. “The groove is the most important thing, even if it’s a tune that’s really mad…there’s usually a groove there, an anchor locking it down.” But there is something else here, something beyond the groove and that is emotion. It is this emotion, this heart and soul, that elevates “Yellow”, and Thackray, from music and musician to art and artist.
There is a level of skill and craft across the tracks on this album that are, frankly, beyond the ability of many acts who are hailed as “legends” or “genius” in the increasingly moribund space of rock ’n’ roll. Take “Venus”, a near seven minute long song that is as mellow as it is funky. A song that sets your foot to tapping, that bathes whatever dark space you are living in with a golden glow, that warms even a heart as cold as mine. It is gentle and wild at the same moments. It sounds like it could have been released on the same day as Idris Muhammad’s 1974 classic “Power of Soul”. Smooth grooves.
That seventies soul-funk-jazz fusion is also present on “Spectre” which could, quite easily, be the best song released this year. Thackray’s vocal is so cool, so gentle, delivered with such grace that it is difficult to imagine that anyone could hear it and not be reduced to a quivering wreck by it.
It can be difficult to allow yourself to move across musical borders, to take that first step into something unknown. “I like what I like” you hear a certain type of music “fan” say. I can’t imagine allowing myself to live in a prison cell of my own construction like that. Better, much better, to open oneself up to new forms, new sounds and new artists. Letting your guard down and allowing someone like Emma-Jean Thackray into your world will be the best decision you make this year.