This is the moment when talent wills out and the artists begins a slow separation from his more mediocre peers and starts to stand above the pack as a transformative writer and performer. Jokatech’s latest release Standing Still Symphony shows off two distinctly different faces for his growing audience. The approaches are, furthermore, rather divergent as well. He tackles the issue of balancing his vocal against the accompaniment differently on each track and shows artistic intent by doing so in a way unfamiliar to many genre fans. These conscious shifts in production and mix style can only come from artists with absolute clarity about their goals and an innate talent for manipulating sound in compelling ways.
“And Now We Wait (Intro)” brings Jokatech’s extensive lyrical excursions together with a beautifully composed jazz arrangement that complements his voice extraordinarily well and moves in unpredictable ways. The mix here, as elsewhere, achieves an artful balance between the backing track and vocals. “My Greatest Opponent” is closer to outright experimental jazz brought together with another fine spoken word performance from Jokatech. It isn’t difficult to sense why Jokatech considers himself a poet – the ultimate test of the lasting power inherent to a lyric is by reading it aloud or imagining it in a book form. Jokatech’s writing works just as well with minimal musical accompaniment as it does without. He offers up a stirring memorial to the legendary Muhammad Ali with the track “Brother Muhammad – Tszss”. His talents for musical invention get an inspiring work out here, but the real allure comes from its union with numerous sound clips Jokatech has arranged with an obvious design.
“Internally Eternally” is one of the album’s center piece experimental blowouts that explores a dizzying array of tempo changes and pretzel twisting musical turns capable of impressing long time fans of the genre. It’s breathtaking to hear the full expanse of Jokatech’s musical imagination in a given moment like this – he holds nothing back as either a writer or performer. The album’s title song, “Standing Still”, harkens back to the moods invoked on the second song. The subject matter is naturally quite different this time, but Jokatech delivers another memorably stylish performance with real substance. He concludes the album with an eye-popping assault on the senses with wide dynamic range. “Simultaneous Paradox” moves from a low-key opening to a much more chaotic, freewheeling second half. The twenty plus minute running time shouldn’t be daunting. There are few composers working in any genre with enough imagination to keep such a lengthy track going.
Songs like this are what make the genre worthwhile. Jokatech is carrying on the work began by much more visible contemporaries like Kendrick Lamar, but his influences reach back even further and he approaches his art with a clarity of vision and the confidence of a renegade. Standing Still Symphony is six songs that push the envelope and will surprise even longstanding fans of jazz and its experimental subgenres.