The debut EP from the Usmani Collective starts with the self-titled track Searching with an intro of soft bluesy piano and bass guitar, melding into nice funky jazz styles; making me think I'm in for a treat. There's even some gospel influence in there. Bandleader Adam Usmani's voice is vibrant and warm with just a hint of huskiness. The white guy doing soul can sometimes feel a bit awkward but they manage this with nice backing vocals from Lily Neumegen, which gives body to the lyrics. The sax solo is tight and the guitar, violin and piano medley hits the spot perfectly. Some real writing skills are going on here with a fantastic song structure.
It wouldn't take too long for the toe tapping and head nodding to turn into dance floor gyrations especially for the second song Taday. Rap from Dacio Ferreira nicely compliments Adam's rich vocals. The song touches on a hillbilly theme just for a laugh but is mainly grounded in tried and true soul funk.
The third track Ezra is a mellow ode to becoming a father and slows things right down. Warm bluesy guitar and piano with lovely violins encapsulate the sentiment well. This bridges excellently into the intro of the forth track Waiting for the Day in which Adam Usmani has his voice in full flight. With expansive depth and quieter parts, which at times touch on a gothic vibe, there's a certain Pearl Jam or Dave Mathews Band quality to the rock song. It is however somewhat difficult to pinhole this group, which has its own charms and originality. A broad range of styles is explored through their writing talents, keeping your interest focused throughout the CD.
C'mon let your hair down for the last track, The Grand Heist with its rockabilly punk and mad vocal delivery. With an Arabian influenced electric violin solo throughout and a touch of flamenco thrown in here and there for good measure, there's something for everybody. These guys are having fun, which can't help but be imparted to their audience. The good thing about their music is it left me wanting more, the bad news is it took eight years for the first five-track CD to appear. Quality over quantity isn't such a bad thing though. I really can't fault the playing from the twenty-one musicians comprising the Usmani Collective and there's a great mix of genres on their debut CD with each musical idea captured and portrayed expertly. Top marks.
Hard to categorise but great to listen to, The Usmani Collective forges the talents of its four members to form a unique style of music. Although bordering on many influences and styles, the sound the band produces is cohesive and original.
Adam Usmani's songs reflect his life and experiences without the compromise of fitting into a single genre of music. With influences from Beethoven to Nirvana and combined with great singing, a formidable piano technique and effective guitar playing, his unique style of songwriting creates the thread that defines 'Usmani'.
After hearing Coralie play the violin, Adam invited her to do some recordings with him, this resulted in late night jam sessions, love songs, a recording, and... getting married! Coralie is studying the violin at Auckland University and doing regular work as a musician and violin teacher. Her style of playing and versatility complements Adams' voice and songs.