As a member of Ezra Collective and in his own right, virtuoso keyboardist Joe Armon-Jones has probably worked with just about every big name in contemporary jazz – and many more beyond that field. It makes sense, then, that he’d want to launch a label to cultivate a scene around his work and those talents he spots, thus he today reveals Aquarii Records, calling it “a home for the music that is around me; somewhere it can live and somewhere it can flourish”.
He’s got releases with the likes of Fatima, Mala and Hak Baker planned for release through Aquarii later this year, but the first song to be shared on the label is “Pray”, which teams him with black midi drummer Morgan Simpson and Nubiyan Twist bassist Luke Wynter.
Gliding on soulful synths and a playfully propulsive beat, “Pray” sweeps in like a caressing breeze on a warm afternoon, recalling the effortless style of someone like Bob James. Feeling light of heart, Armon-Jones bounces off his collaborators’ structure as he takes his fingers on several long and meandering walks around the keyboard, painting outlines of verdant scenes and the cascades of sunlight shining down upon them. Angelic vocals flutter around, adding a human concern with questions like “why can’t I do the right thing?”, but subtly fade into the mix, as if the worries are dissolved in the light of a beautiful day, and all we’re left with is a simple promise to “pray everyday, in every way”.