Wanderlust, the sophomore album by progressive jazz guitarist/composer Cliff Hines, is imbued with the multicultural spirit of New Orleans; a poetic musical odyssey that, by its own publicity campaign, “defies convention and categorization.”
I hail from a musical family, where our parties routinely include everyone breaking out guitars or ukuleles and various instruments and jamming/singing at the end of the night. I’ve visited New Orleans, where music is more than just a way of communicating beyond language, but a means of joining together disparate cultures as kin. When musicians take to the street with their instrument(s), there are crowds dancing, humming, pulling out their own instrument—the music invites participation, celebration—and all the barriers like self-consciousness, class, or any concerns one might have, fall away. How can anyone not belong in the world of this music, this exploration and exaltation of life through melody?
That said, while Wanderlust is eclectic and, for me, an acquired taste, it is true New Orleans music. It broke through barriers to get under my skin, and every time I listened to the album, I discovered something new in the arrangement. I woke up thinking about it, and hummed some refrains throughout the day. It called me to listen “one more time.” It’s no wonder so many musicians (veterans and newcomers alike) came together for this project, including James Singleton, Bill Summers, Kent Jordan, Dave Easley, Helen Gillet, Khris Royal, Ashlin Parker, Mike Watson, Rex Gregory, Sam Craft, and Jack Craft.
In the end, Wanderlust lives up to its own description as an album about the world today, with its conglomeration of cultures in touch with one another through the digital age, yet where people are separated on a spiritual level from their true selves. Wanderlust weaves an “electro-acoustic blend … Afro-Caribbean, Brazilian, African, Spanish, European classical, Middle Eastern, Indian, American swing (both of the southern and northern varieties), hip-hop, rock, and electronic/experimental,” says 20-year music industry veteran Jason Paul Harman Byrne, of Red Cat Publicity (the publicist behind Wanderlust).
Like poetry, Wanderlust is bound to be interpreted differently by others; it may even fall under the love-hate proposition of some poetic works. (The title track, “Wanderlust” is itself a poem—check out the pamphlet in the inside flap for the lyrics.)