I’m not sure what type of morning we’re waking up to, but it almost has to be a good day to play Noshir Mody. The title of Mody’s new album, An Idealist’s Handbook: Love and Hope in America 2020, seems to say it all, but this album isn’t about preaching to the choir or winning hearts and minds or anything that superficial. It’s far too expansive and powerful for mere appeals to your intellect. It’s moving, powerful and epic in its way–it’s arena jazz.
I’m not surprised. I was extremely impressed with Noshir Mody’s last album, A Burgeoning Consciousness, and I picked it as one of my favorites for 2018. I said:
The best way to describe this elusive feel, other than big or atmospheric or impressionistic, is warm. It’s a warm embracing sound, and yet one with plenty of fire and excitement. The tempos from the band as a whole are culled from progressive rock genres, and yet each instrument can be broken down into very jazz-like cadences. Your mind will flicker back and forth between the sum and its parts, and then you’ll relax and hear the whole sound wash over you complete, especially as each of these epic tunes reach a thrilling climax.
Here’s the type of person Noshir Mody is. After he read that review, he sent me an email graciously thanking me for my time. Then he friended me on Facebook. He’s liked things on my wall, and vice versa. I’m not going to say we’re BFFs, but I know a grateful, enlightened human being when I meet one. Mody’s music is like that. It still has the power of any number of progressive rock bands, the kind of bands who say “watch us do jazz, too!” Mody’s straddling of the two genres seems far more heartfelt, and on An Idealist’s Handbook he seems to perfected a new approach–the gentle ballad. Through several reprises of the song “Rise,” the underlying theme here, we see something more paternal from Mody, as if he knows something we don’t. But it’s going to be okay, no matter what.
Have I mentioned Noshir Mody, the guitarist? Just yesterday I mentioned the jazz trend where artists try to dabble in all the sub-genres in order to show off their talents. Mody, however, just seems intuitive, that he know where his guitar will fit in every arrangement. He can shred, which often creates that unseen bond to old prog rock, and he can conjure the most beautiful sounds from an acoustic guitar. Noshir Mody isn’t the first guitarist to create an aura of mystery around his optimism–love and hope, people!–but this isn’t for show. This comes from the heart of a performer, directly to you.