Revered composer, pianist, DJ and two decade-long bridge between jazz, dance and hip-hop, Mark de Clive-Lowe (MdCL), links up with Brooklyn-based, Haitian-rooted, jazz vocalist and artist Melanie Charles and Detroit drummer/producer/DJ, Shigeto on Hotel San Claudio, a collaborative LP of spiritual jazz, live deconstructed beats, including a three-track set of Pharoah Sanders reinterpretations.
Following Melanie Charles’ formidable Verve album debut Y’all Don’t (Really) Care About Black Women and MdCL’s last longplayer, Freedom – Celebrating the Music of Pharoah Sanders,released in 2022 featuring Dwight Trible and Teodross Avery, these three forward-thinking musicians unite for a nine-track sonic exploration and improvised artistic journey across jazz, hip-hop and soulful house. And in light of the recent and sad passing of Pharoah Sanders, the three reinterpretations of the grand master – The Creator Has a Master Plan (there are 2 versions here) and Love is Everywhere – serve as a way to keep his message and spirit intact whilst at the same time, reimagining them for the here and now.
Mark de Clive Lowe puts it plainly, “Pharoah’s offering to us is a reflection of the human condition, wrapped in all the aspirations of what we can become. We’re inspired by him to no end, and see his spirit as a beacon to guide how and why we create… his message, must be kept alive”.
Set against the backdrop of rolling hills, the Adriatic sea and picturesque Italian countryside, situated ninety minutes east of the buzzing Umbrian capital of Perugia, stands a hotel, cozy in nature and classic in design that for a moment, was transformed into the home away from home for an exciting collaboration close to three years in the making. Welcome to Hotel San Claudio.
The journey began in Detroit, USA, back in 2018. Billed as a special duo performance, the cross-disciplinary beats polymath and serial collaborator/remixer MdCL (Nubya Garcia, Bugz In The Attic, Dwight Trible, Ge-Ology), was invited to perform alongside Detroit native Zach Saginaw aka Shigeto (Andrés, Dabrye, Shlohmo), one of the city’s most distinct contemporary artist/producers at local venue MotorCity Wine – despite the two having never actually met.
Suffice to say, a serious session took place. Months later, halfway across the world in Italy, having caught wind of the MotorCity Wine throwdown, Fat Fat Fat Festival set their sights on featuring the two to open their 2019 programme, yet the duo felt a piece of the puzzle was missing. Enter the “triple threat”, Melanie Charles. Having first connected post-show at a festival in Brooklyn in Oct 2018 and later at a two-week studio residency in Kaga, Japan, MdCL knew Charles was the perfect fit.
Between writing and rehearsing material that would go on to become their headline set at Fat Fat Fat (and subsequently this new album), the trio spent much of the week hanging out, shooting the breeze, and sharing delicious Italian food/wine and musical favourites. One musician the group kept circling back to as a major influence was saxophone titan and cosmic sage, Pharoah Sanders. The trio’s absorbing 2-part versioning of Sanders’ 30m-long classic The Creator Has A Master Plan as well as the iconic Love Is Everywhere became the centrepiece of Hotel San Claudio’s spiritually-focused, reimagined jazz core. On why the group settled on The Creator Has A Master Plan , MdCL explains, ”there’s a certain universality to the song and its beautifully simple two chord major harmony and mantra like theme. Whether you’re religious or spiritual or not, the song is encoded with something that’s able to reach out across generations, ideologies and cultural differences”
The trio’s performance at Fat Fat Fat (almost scuppered by a mini-tornado on the night), was a memorable moment (“the place just went nuts”), as was their next show a few months later, following the Marshall Allen-directed Sun Ra Arkestra at NYC’s storied jazz venue, Nublu. The next day, the three hit the studio to capture the sounds to tape. The record’s first singleStrings speaks to the group’s love of hip-hop, with Shigeto’s Dilla-esque ‘hanging off the beat’ slap and Melanie Charles’ deft rhymes and MdCL’s sample-chops, whilst Kanazawa references a love of soulful house, with Charles’ 70s disco/fusion-tipping flute solo, leading into a euphoric and climactic club outro. The warrior-themed Bushido, first heard on MdCL’s album Heritage, leans even heavier on 70s jazz fusion as MdCL’s unruly synth impulsions and Donald Byrd-leaning soul-jazz production strides the line between atmospheric and experimental. MFT showcases Charles’ sublime vocals, treated here with big reverbs and delays, affording a vast, celestial quality that stands present throughout Hotel San Claudio.
With part two already top of mind, and tentative ideas to switch up countries and meet up in each of their respective cities one project at a time, the trio’s indisputable chemistry and penchant for breaking new ground, whatever the form, has no plans on slowing up here. From LA, Detroit and NYC, via Japan to Italy and back again, Hotel San Claudio is ready to take flight.