An eclectic, or probably more appropriately, multifaceted album by one of the great sound magicians of New Orleans. The tunes range from ancient spirituals through a dirge, an obscure beguine (correctly named as Touloulou) or Ellington numbers to a Tom Waits song, but any of them sounds timeless in the usual intense presentation of Ms. Nealand and her Royal Roses. Indeed, the work is the current response of the band to the question of why this kind of seemingly outdated music should matter today. Their approach integrates the musical explorations of the last several decades, involving results from jazz, rock and even classical experience. And the outcome is truly spectacular.
Her fourth release, “Traverse This Universe”, finds Ms. Sophie Lee reaching beyond her traditional jazz roots with original material written alongside her ukulele and with the help of producer/songwriters Luke Winslow-King, Earl J. Scioneaux, III and Ben Polcer. “Traverse This Universe” features six original compositions and five standards performed by Ms. Sophie Lee’s mainstay Spotted Cat band and showcasing over a dozen talented New Orleans musicians, including Aurora Nealand, Helen Gillet, Charlie Halloran, Khris Royal amongst others. As lagniappe, the album artwork highlights the creative talents of her eight and six year old daughters.
Finnish trumpeter/composer Verneri Pohjola comes from a well-established family of jazz musicians: both his father, famed bassist Pekka Pohjola, and his younger brother, trombonist Ilmari, join him here. Pohjola was voted Musician Of The Year by Finnish jazz critics in 2004, but Aurora is his debut as leader. This is a work of immense beauty which benefits not only from Pahjola's expressive trumpet playing and writing, but also from exceptional musicianship from every single one of its 15 players.