Jonny Peiffer – drummer/composer
Zach Lange, Josh Gagnon – brass
Matt Langley, Eric Klaxton, Nick Mainella – reeds
Scott Kiefner – bass
Sojoy’s second release is the official soundtrack of the stage show ‘The Adventures of Oliver Z. Wanderkook’ about a fictional explorer’s epic journey to meet the 9 Tribes in the Land of the Two Suns
Drawings by Dean Diggins
Album artwork, design, and layout by Sara Peiffer
Engineering, mixing, and mastering by Eric Klaxton
Released June 16th, 2017
This vast 22-song soundtrack was originally designed to accompany a stage show about fictional explorer Oliver Z. Wanderkook’s adventures on his way to meet the 9 Tribes in the Land of the Two Suns. Sounds fun, but it would have been just as effective to describe this recording as a septet’s own adventures through the different jazz subgenres. There’s swing and bop, Afro-Latin and New Orleans traditional music, and some chamber, Afro-Cuban, free jazz, and a bit from the Middle East, too. According to the storyline, Wanderkook is an ethnomusicologist—and why not, since the band captures the same joy of discovery in their own journey through different sounds. Drums and bass are matched with five different wind instruments, and Sojoy takes advantage of every melodic and harmonic opportunity this affords, giving each melody textural depth, and wrapping them up in warm harmonies.
“The Adventures of Oliver Z. Wanderkook” is an artistic tour de force that tells its story through a variety of mediums stitched together in the fabric of an epic tale. Wanderkook’s travels are interpreted through art, dance, text, animation, and, especially, music. Anyone who saw the stage production at West End Studio Theatre in Portsmouth last month can attest to how crucial these elements are to the storytelling.
But, even when those elements are stripped apart, they maintain their memorable beauty and convey a story all their own. The soundtrack of “The Adventures of Oliver Z. Wanderkook,” performed by creator Jonny Peiffer and his jazz septet Sojoy, is the epitome of a concept album. There are no words to carry the audience through the story; instead, the listener must embrace the energies and moods of the music and leave the journey to the imagination.
As a stand-alone piece, Sojoy’s sophomore album blends orchestral music, free jazz, funk, ragtime, waltz, and more. “Wanderkook” mixes styles from all over the globe, from ragged American rhythms in “Two Faced Rag” to Middle Eastern nodes in “River Goddess” to Brazilian forró influences in “Cloud Music.” It’s all performed with the sophistication and class of a professional septet featuring brass, woodwinds, bass, and drums. “Wanderkook” showcases a genre-spanning interpretation of world music translated into the language of jazz.
Sojoy balances songs on the borderline of traditional compositions and falling free jazz. “Storm at Sea” starts with a grandiose orchestral intro, only to lose its grip and descend into a babble of bubbling drums, fluttering saxophone, and reeds squealing like sirens.
While the album stands alone as a piece of art, the layers of reality established in the stage production of “The Adventures of Oliver Z. Wanderkook” give the album extra punch. But you don’t need to have seen the production to follow along with its soundtrack. Just sit back, close your eyes, and let Sojoy carry your imagination through your own interpretation of Wanderkook’s travels.