Ocotea – Jyoti (2010)

Ocotea album cover
Ocotea cover art

Happy New Year!
On some parallel world much like ours, rap might have never happened leaving soul and R&B music as the innovative force that shaped everything from house to techno.

In this world jazz and R&B often intermixed resulting in the funky and often strange blend of familiar styles. If a representative from this world was to visit us, she might sound like Georgia Anne Muldrow.

Muldrow is a multi talented artist, poet and musician who’s music is much more varied than her place in the “Funk” bin of your local used record store might suggest. She is so multifaceted that she has recorded under various names like Jyoti. As Jyoti, Muldrow released Ocotea, the first of two albums under that name that explore free style funk and jazz. Ocotea was a free style instrumental album composed of big sprawling atmospherics. At times Octea captures the ambiance of early Cocteau Twins like the albums opener “The Black Mother”.

The alternative rock touches of course play as accents to a kind of funk that borrows as much from fusion jazz as it might rock or hip hop. It’s often a beautiful combination or can sound wonderfully chaotic as on “The Language of the Flame”. In typical Muldrow style some songs feature abrupt pauses. By some accounts these imposed moments of nothing may be frustrating, but I always felt that it added to the tension Muldrow’s music created.

When Muldrow is being funky, it’s a sublime mix of jazz with a bouncy bass. “The Captain’s Eyes” has that slightly off kilter sound that makes Muldrow one of the few R&B artist who bridges the jazz r&B divide like no other. It also puts her on the fringes of the R&B community commercially, despite considerable respect amoungst her peers in the rap and R&B communities.

Our world might never truly be ready for such an innovative hybrid, especially when jazz itself is fading as a backdrop for much of the modern R&B and rap music we hear on the radio. The internet and alternative channels of distribution have opened up avenues for artist like Murdrow allowing them to find new audiences, but she remains a fringe player under any name. That’s really a shame because our world could use more of what Muldrow, Jyoti or whatever name she records under has to offer. Meanwhile on our world Muldrow made her official debut as a rapper on a new LP Ms. One in 2014. She has collaborated with rappers in the past, but on this album she might pick up a few new fans as she merge her innovations elsewhere with what’s currently big in our musical universe.

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