Junior Alli-Balogun, aka JAB, makes music somewhere between spiritual jazz and deep house. 4hero (drum’n’bass pioneers) and Kaidi Tatham (famous for his future jazz classic In Search of Hope) are obvious progenitors to his form of broken beat, but JAB creates a sound of his own. The London-based percussionist moves between earth and space, working with multiple instruments to stay in flight. His alterations are slight, but important. Regardless of how momentous his compositions become, they generally start out as a series of looping drum patterns, centering the music and focusing your attention. Take, for example, 2019’s “Directions,” an extended groove formed out of the interplay of organ and percussion that slowly becomes a collective improvisation. Before it ever branches out into a multifaceted organ-inflected, danceable jam, the song starts with a collection of meditative drum solos.
Similarly, “Currents,” the title track from his latest EP, winds forth on the rhythms from his bongos. They thrum like the patter of rain on wooden blocks, guiding the song forward. At first they are ornamented by keys—which seem to glow on arrival—and then they are buffeted by a string quartet, who enhance the composition without overwhelming it. Midway through, a vibraphone improvises over this collection of melodies, providing a gentle counter to the sweeping drift of the violins. It’s rare to hear music this ambitious that pays so much attention to the intricacies of each movement, and though JAB’s instrumentation evokes the celestial, his percussive focus brings it down to earth.