I love album titles that perfectly describe the music that you’re in for; The Dream Jazz Manifesto is exactly that, dreamy jazz music. Though jazz music can often come with the “pretentious” tag, I feel that Jelly Cleaver has avoided seeming pretentious on this release while still maintaining an apt musical sensibility and air of confidence.
The opening title track not only displays musical confidence but Jelly Cleaver’s incredible voice, reminiscent of Morcheeba vocalist Skye Edwards; slightly loungey and laid back but with tons of swag and charisma. Cleaver mixes in a lot of spoken word on this album, which makes for an interesting juxtaposition against her airy and ethereal singing. You hear some of it in “The Dream Jazz Manifesto” and with guest vocals on “Renny’s Poem (Yarl’s Wood Reprise)” one of the more affecting songs on the release. The brass and piano interplay on this track is captivating, imploring you to stop whatever you are doing, shut your eyes and take it all in. I’m not a jazz expert in any sense, but I feel like a great jazz song should do that.
The high point for this album is the chillness that is “VI II V,” you can just sink into this melody and never feel the need to come up for air again. Cleaver displays some expert lyric writing on this one as well, telling the story not only with her words but with adept enunciation. Though this is a jazz album at its core, I can’t help but make comparisons to trip-hop artists, especially since Jelly Cleaver is London-based and that’s where the movement truly thrived. The aforementioned Morcheeba, Lamb or Hooverphonic even and though crossover often happens between trip-hop and jazz, Jelly Cleaver delves much more into jazz elements than any of those artists. Take note Ninja Tune! Jelly Cleaver would fit right in on that label.
There is very little that disappoints on this record, from start to closing track “Yarl’s Wood,” each track has its place and purpose. Plug into it, tune out the outside world for a bit, get off all the socials and apps and let The Dream Jazz Manifesto take you away for a while.
Written by Lee Ferguson
*edited by Danielle Kenedy