sun 09/08/2020

CD: Oli Rockberger - Sovereign | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Oli Rockberger - Sovereign

CD: Oli Rockberger - Sovereign

Beautifully crafted explorations of love, desire and loss from the returning Londoner

A songwriter of great style and substance: Oli Rockberger

This fourth studio album from pianist, vocalist, songwriter and producer Oli Rockberger highlights his remarkable knack of marrying instantly memorable chorus hooks with captivating harmonies steeped in jazz, soul, gospel and R&B.

Consisting of 10 beautifully crafted explorations of love, desire and loss, Sovereign was conceived and recorded in New York with the trusted rhythm section of bassist Jordan Scannella and drummer Jordan Perlson, just as Rockberger was on the cusp of returning to his London birthplace following 16 years in the US – a journey which began with study at Boston’s Berklee College of Music and continued in NYC as sideman to jazz heavyweights such as Randy Brecker and Will Lee.

In addition to the core trio of Rockberger, Scanella and Perlson, all of whom seem unusually alert to each other’s musical intentions, the mellifluous blending of Rockberger and Hannah Read’s vocals on a trio of songs proves to be one of the collection’s strongest points: the metrical sleights of hand, rolling groove and harmonic sophistication of “My Old Life”, the vast open spaces of “Is Anybody Out There?” and the churchy Hammond organ that suddenly lights up the middle eight of "Right Through Me".

Elsewhere, on songs such as "The Garden", with its slow fade to silence, or the affecting duet "Let Go", in which John Shannon’s shimmering guitar chords subtly coalesce with the piano, Rockberger combines a songwriter’s ear for textural detail with a poet’s sense of mood. Another guest guitarist, Ryan Scott, contributes fine solos to “Ridiculous”, an imaginary coffee shop encounter which finds Rockberger at his most Randy Newman-like, and the gospel-tinged "Burned".

An artist who scrambles musical categories in rich and fascinating ways, Sovereign confirms Rockberger’s status as a songwriter of great style and substance.


Watch a clip of Oli Rockberger performing “My Old Life”

Rockberger combines a songwriter’s ear for textural detail with a poet’s sense of mood


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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