A short-list candidate for jazz recording of the year, the elegantly turned out Rituals finds club-selecta-turned-bandleader Nicola Conte shifting away from knocking out more dance-floor bangers toward an altogether more spiritual aesthetic and a hugely expanded support cast - and it turns out to be a brilliant move.
Rituals is by far Conte's most substantial work to date, and should appeal to a whole new audience outside the club and cappuccino bar scene.
A previous album, Other Directions, demonstrated that the guitar-playing DJ could lead a tight combo and come up with suitable compositions. Rituals proves he's also a surprisingly accomplished orchestrator, arranger and producer who can confidently assemble the right musicians and use their unique skills to best advantage.
Admittedly, with such a talented cast of players, including saxophonists Greg Osby and Timo Lassy, trumpeter Till Brönner and soulful vocalist José James, helping to bring the songs to life, Conte would've had to work hard to mess things up.