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The New Cool: Lance Ferguson's Hopeful Menagerie

Used with kind permission of the artist. @_lanceferguson_
Lance Ferguson soaking up some vinyl inspiration for his Menagerie.

Influenced by the vast history of jazz, and in particular the cosmic, spiritual music of the 70s featured on record labels likeStrata-East and Oakland's Black Jazz Records, the new album from multi-instrumentalist and producer Lance Ferguson's Menagerie will fit comfortably in your record collection alongside new releases from Kamasi Washington and Snarky Puppy as well as classics from Pharoah Sanders and late-career John Coltrane.

A fresh collection of vintage spiritual jazz from the Australian collective Menagerie emerges on the The Arrow of Time. The early single "Evolution" builds a potent soul piano trio riff topped with dynamic sax blowing and spoken word artist Fallon Williams preaching the social revolution of human evolution.

Phil Noy returns on saxophone, the other focus aside from the vocals on "Evolution". He's a longtime friend of Ferguson and a member of his popular retro soul group The Bamboos. Noy blows freely and furiously in a Coltrane/Sanders mode, the soulful backing groove launches him beyond The Bamboos' classic soul style, with a secret weapon vintage Selmer sax just like Coltrane had.

The Arrow of Time is the second trip for the Menagerie, following They Shall Inherit by five years. Ferguson's own guitar playing is once again subdued, taking the role of musical guide through this album's journey of hope for the future.

The New Zealand-born, Australia-based music obsessive discovered the history of jazz in reverse, first falling in love with the psychedelic jazz sounds of Sun Ra's Arkestra and other 70s groups, then following the players back to bebop. When the time came to expand his pursuits beyond soul, modern electronic music and DJing to a jazz project, his first jazz loves took the lead.

The dreamy, trippy music is meant to take on a life of its own, to drift and flow wherever the creative muses take the musicians. The result is a satisfyingly organic listen, vintage moods sounding right at home in our modern times.

With access to a century of music at our fingertips, all music can be timeless. As Ferguson says, "the proof is that we're hearing more and more young musicians embracing it. 'The Freedom Principle' by definition has no limits and no use-by date."

The spoken word message, written by Ferguson and performed by Fallon Williams, is more philosophical than political. "The herald of change! The herald of change! Open up your eyes to a new dawn, open up your eyes to be reborn, open up your mind to be transformed!" It's a universal hope for a better tomorrow that's come around time and again all over the world.

Also on The New Cool playlist this week, Donny McCaslin's duo studio session performance of David Bowie's "Lazarus" and NW groups Duende Libre, Audio Perati, Gravity and the brand new CD from the Barrett Martin Group. We'll give away 3 copies on the New Cool Facebook page this weekend!

The New Cool airs Saturdays from 3 to 5pm, hosted by Abe Beeson and produced by KNKX Public Radio in Seattle, Wash.