John Aram is a well known name among jazz musicians. He has worked extensively with legends like Tim Garland, Kenny Wheeler and Scott Stroman along with huge names in funk like Bob Babbit and the Funk Brothers Band. In addition, Aram is Musical Director at the International School of Geneva, where he now lives, and also regularly conducts the Swiss Jazz Orchestra.
Probably his closest collaborator is Phil Collins. John worked closely with him on Collins’ album ‘Going Back’ (2010), writing many arrangements, booking musicians, supervising recording and going on tour. Daryl Stuermer, also of Genesis, plays guitar on ‘Stuck on You’ from Aram’s forthcoming album ‘You and I’. Aram and Phil Collins are in fact close friends and Collins has contributed to many of his musical projects over the years.
It is a busy spring period for Aram. Aside from his album (see below) he is also due to release “Saturday Night and Sunday Morning’ Suite’; his ode to Alan Sillitoe’s post war classic novel of the same name, featuring Kenny Wheeler. Aram, hailing from Nottingham like Sillitoe, was in close contact with the author during his writing of the jazz suite in 2010. Tragically, Sillitoe died in the same year just before it was finished so never heard it, as a result Aram decided not to release ‘The Suite’ as a physical disc. He had now taken the decision to release it on vinyl with artwork from Video artist Joss Sessions.
You can listen here: https://soundcloud.com/johnaram/sets/saturday-night-and-sunday
‘You and I’
Aram therefore has a huge wealth of experience in the worlds of jazz and funk, which he has used brilliantly in his new single ‘EDT (Envie de Toi); due to, be released 20th May. The track takes his jazz influences and puts them in a funk / disco context giving the track popular potential beyond its appeal to 70s soul connoisseurs. In has the feeling of a Chic comeback track, a Bruno Mars disco revival number of even of a latter day Michael Jackson. Half way through, however, we get a taste of Aram’s jazz background with a hefty Rhodes solo played by Jason Rebello. It’s a solo reminiscent of Roy Ayers on the vibes or a George Benson guitar solo on one of his funkier numbers.
The rest of ‘You and I’ follows similar themes whilst trying to stretch them in different directions. Very much a concept album, all music is heavily influenced by Stevie Wonder, even down to the artwork used for the album. Tracks like ‘Stronger’ and ‘Stuck on you’ follow the soul disco revival route featuring some brilliant vocals and irresistible solos on each. ‘In the Air’ and ‘You and I’ slow the pace down and move closer to a soul ballad in the mould of Earth, Wind and Fire or even Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes. ‘In the Air’ features beautiful vocals from Amy Keys and from cult Swiss hip-hop artist Rootwords. ‘In the Air’ is particularly close to Aram’s heart as it was written for his wife who was suffering from breast cancer at the time.
There is a great feeling of fun and spontaneity in the album, which reflects the way it was made and thought up in the first place. It wasn’t originally planned at all. Aram and his band were on tour in the UK (London in fact) and had a gig cancelled so, realising he was still paying them, decided they might as well have some fun and make an album! Not all jazz quintets are this productive. They decided to make music which they loved but didn’t always get a chance to play: funk, soul, Motown, Stevie Wonder, which you will find on the bonus tracks of the album; material Aram had played with Phil Collins before and not had the chance to make himself. The full album did, however, take over a year to complete in recording studios all over the world, from New York to Switzerland, ensuring only the very best musicians were to be featured that fit the style of music that Aram wanted to create.