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I’ve been patiently awaiting this album since I first saw Bhatia tweet that he’d covered Flying Lotus’s “Pickled” on his last release, the gorgeous EP Strata. What kind of future-jazz craziness might await on Yes It Will? On Tuesday, My questions were answered. I must admit upon a third listen this is very challenging music. It is certainly not background music as the opening track ironically suggests. This isn’t foreground music either. Like the best free jazz and bebop, This is music that forces you to reinterpret the dimensions in which you thought music existed. More than that though, this album is bursting with life.

I had the pleasure of seeing Bhatia and his band play “Try” and “Endogenous Oscillators” from this album live at Pianos NYC during his residency there and I was blown away by the freedom of “Endogenous Oscillators” (also my favorite track on the album) endlessly developing on itself and changing its own rules, behaving almost like the stream of consciousness of a very caffeinated and scatterbrained person. it enters a system of a couple of repeated polyrhythms and riffs, then leaves it behind, seemingly forgetting it, to move on to a more searching guitar solo. Then the guitar blends with saxophone and trumpets and they get tied into an arhythmic conversation, all the while the percussion and bass accenting and contextualizing every moment. After a perfectly disheveled drum solo, we revisit the two earlier themes, one building and fading into the other, and the song ends.

The affirmation and confidence of the album’s title can be heard in Bhatia’s braving of uncharted time signatures with a sense of purpose, repeated statements of unconventional harmony and disharmony as common in his guitar licks as in the full orchestra he employs at certain points. Needless to say that we are kept on earth by both the use of real instruments and the musical training of real instrumentalists. lots of them. Some moments call to mind Pat Metheny, Elvin Jones, the Coltranes, Herbie Hancock, and friends, but there are so many new inspirations Bhatia willingly absorbs into his music, as though it was Jazz becoming a snowball rolling down a hill of music, picking up math rock, minimalism, ambient music, electronic music, and contemporary classical music along the way, and hitting you in the face at the bottom of the hill.
You can almost hear someone saying, “This won’t work.” and Bhatia saying “Yes It Will.”

I got a sense that Bhatia’s music is impressionist music, aiming to not only convey emotion, but to process chaos of modern life by finding parallels and intersections between the Jazz medium which is a staple of such expression and the electronic medium which has potential as a modern day tool for this expression. If you like Herbie Hancock’s  Maiden Voyage, and you like Flying Lotus’s Cosmogramma, you’ll love this.

Be sure to check out the Sons of the Morning Remix EP as well.

Here’s a link to the album on Itunes, out on Rest Assured.

Here’s a video of the Live performance of “Try”.

Hey omniverse, I’m Sam Andrus. I’m an app designer by day, guitarist and beat-maker by night. As a musician since age 8 and artist since age 5. I used to just draw a lot. I’d invent characters, and imaginary worlds on a page, but then being an illustration major in art school taught me (correctly) that I had to commit to a world and a story to reel people into my art. I got frustrated because I had no patience for a story, I just wanted to make cool looking drawings. I appreciated the little adjustments and choices necessary to get just the right image across to the viewer, but I was much more interested in the dense surreal landscapes of another form of expression altogether. Free jazz and experimental Hip-Hop, which didn’t have to make any sense at all, exist in more than 2 dimensions, and share a simultaneous embrace and rejection of rules and predictability, roped me in. Surely this is true freedom. I thought. Any frequency, any sound; rhodes, foley, vinyl, reason synth, tape, voice, live drums, jazz, folk, funk, pop, hip-hop, anything. Craving inspiration for my own work, I’m always on the lookout for artists who are “staying out of their own heads” and unleashing their inner worlds to wander the outside world.

My latest inspiration is Rafiq Bhatia. He’s an up-and-coming Jazz composer and guitarist from NYC. Yes, that’s a cover of Flying Lotus’s “Pickled” at 10:10. The style is uniquely his, but the mix is heavily rooted in jazz tradition and his songs move forward with that smart stumble and unpredictable atmosphere that you expect from beat-making legends. Don’t expect the expected. Do check him out in the NY Times.