With plenty of formal training and more raw talent than most, Sarah Elizabeth Charles continues to show staying power well beyond her impressive 2012 debut Red. The accomplished singer/songwriter/composer has developed a reputation for pushing the boundaries of modern jazz, and from the sound of things, her upcoming album Free of Form will be an explorative masterpiece we won’t soon forget.
A press release provides insight into the project, revealing, “Charles’ lyrical content takes on an even bolder identity than her previous projects as she provides lyrically melodic touchstones for issues surrounding mass incarceration, political ideology, social media, police brutality, addiction, war and historical context.”
As with her previous recordings, Ms. Charles is backed by her “day one’s” – Jesse Elder (keys), Burniss Earl Travis II (bass) and John Davis (drums) – who are collectively known as SCOPE. Instrumentally, we can expect “colors of jazz, soul, indie rock, R&B and electronic experimentation – all existing within an improvisational context that the band has been cultivating for years.”
Renowned trumpeter Christian Scott also plays a prominent role in the project. Though they’ve only known each other for a few years, their mutual respect has developed roots and blossomed into a musical kinship that bears the sweetest of fruits. Scott co-produced her 2015 project Inner Dialogue and became known as the “fifth member” of her established quartet for his instrumental cameos throughout the album. Charles, in turn, is featured on Scott’s ambitious trilogy album project which includes Ruler Rebel, Diaspora and a yet-to-be-released final installment. Now, the trumpeter once again serves as a co-producer for Free of Form. But this time, he wears dual hats as the project will be released via his own Stretch Music imprint.
The collective provides a stellar preview by way of the album’s title track. The astral jazz and smoky soul fusion takes the listener on journey, both sonically and lyrically. Sarah provides food for thought, singing, “There’s no way to know what lies ahead / Better live now or else be dead / Hold your dreams close and don’t look back / Live a life free of form, no regrets.” The lyrics feed the urge to escape the trappings of life as we know it. It’s not so much “running away” as it is carving out a safe space where you can engage your thoughts introspectively and rediscover your hopes and dreams. Meanwhile, Christian’s clarion trumpet serves as a wake-up call to jolt us from our stupor.
Listen to “Free of Form” below and pre-order Free of Form via Bandcamp, Amazon or iTunes ahead of its October 6th release date. For performance updates and more, be sure to follow Sarah Elizabeth Charles on Twitter.