Georgia Anne Muldrow‘s creativity is immeasurable. Since 2006, the singer/songwriter, producer and musician has maintained an astonishing pace of releasing at least one album per year, usually more, both under her own name and through collaborations like The Blackhouse and G&D, her creative partnership with her partner in love and life, Dudley Perkins. In just the last three years she’s issued four albums, each one showcasing an entirely different aspect of her endlessly evolving, strange and compelling musical universe: one of her own uniquely otherworldly soul, one with Dudley, one set of instrumental jams, and now Mama, You Can Bet, her new set of psychedelic jazz as Jyoti. A name first given to Muldrow by the legendary Alice Coltrane, and which means “divine light,” Jyoti is the name under which Muldrow explores her most experimental jazz instincts, taking her places where even her most mind-bending pop material could never go.
As eclectic and vibrant as it is off-kilter and inscrutable, Mama, You Can Bet is at once one of Muldrow’s best albums as well as one that offers few easy pathways for entry. There’s a lot happening here—peculiar time signatures, dense sonic collages, a constantly shifting approach—all of which is endlessly stimulating. More than that, Muldrow’s zig-zagging path in creating sci-fi lounge music and joyful jazz funk is endlessly fun, in part because she never lets an idea wear out its welcome. “Bop For Aneho” grooves through a vintage bebop sound through a Brainfeeder-style acid-funk filter, while “Zane, the Scribe” offers up a kind of contemporary exotica via shimmering vibraphone, these combined gems breezing by in less than five minutes combined. “Bemoanable Lady Geemix,” a reworking of a Charles Mingus composition, juxtaposes hip-hop beats with gorgeously triumphant space gospel, and the traditional jazz trio vamp “Skippin and Trippin” out-cools most in just 73 seconds.
While Mama, You Can Bet is primarily instrumental, outside of a heavy presence of dense backing vocals throughout (all of them Muldrow’s), the moments in which she steps back in front of the mic offer a bit more context to her endlessly enjoyable psych-jazz mixtape. Both “This Walk” and “Orgone” reflect the kind of revolutionary politics that have characterized much of Muldrow’s work, on back to her collaborations with Erykah Badu over a decade ago. In the former she seeks action where words just won’t do (“Stuff a sock in your mouth baby/The silence teases me far away/Because the violence I see/Articulates“), where on the latter, she laments a certain American malaise (“Maladjusted in this land, the powers just/just can’t end the plan“). Yet in the title track, she warmly offers an affectionate ode to her mother, jazz vocalist Ricky Byars, as well as a hopeful belief in a real, romantic love: “Mama, don’t you fret/Mama, I know love’s waiting around the corner.”
There’s a feeling of radical imagination on Mama, You Can Bet, and a sonic palette that owes as much to the influence of figures in Muldrow’s life such as Coltrane and Byars as well as her father Ronald Muldrow, who performed with saxophonist Eddie Harris. As such, there’s a warmth that radiates from these tracks, even at their weirdest and most intricately constructed. In a time when jazz has thankfully broken out of a decades-long niche as something of an academic pursuit, Muldrow has provided a reminder of how imaginative and exciting it can be when an artist fully embraces the freedom of it.
Label: SomeOthaShip Connect
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.