Words By: Dwayne Wilks
On his debut EP Venology, Venna has proven that he is to be taken extremely seriously whether producing and playing for global stars or his own music.
Venology feels like a culmination of the UK’s Jazz scenes blossoming over the past few years. Fans of the genre have enjoyed offerings from solo instrumentalists like Yussef Dayes, Tom Misch and Alfa Mist as well as from jazz bands Ezra Collective, Kokoroko and many more. Until recently, South London Saxophonist, Venna, wasn’t as widely recognised as the aforementioned names, and this despite his involvement with some of the world’s biggest acts – he contributed to Burna Boy’s African Giant (for which he won a Grammy), Beyonce’s Black Is King and Wizkid’s Made In Lagos. Venology, released September 3rd, is the first project to bare Venna’s name as the lead artist. At 6 tracks long, the EP runs a little over twenty minutes, yet within that time Venna crafts dense, opulent soundscapes, serene and sultry on the ear.
Venology strikes a great balance between instrumental-led songs and feature vocalists. Venna’s performance acts as driver and centrepiece on project opener “Aroma”, a track delicately crafted, sounding as though it would shatter if handled with too firm a grip. This ethereal quality spans the entire project. It’s at times heightened and at times dimmed somewhat, as with “Standard”, where Knucks’, confident and charismatic as on any of his recent features, delivers a vocal that has a grounding effect. “Sun, Moon & Herbs” featuring Jvck James maximises this dreamy feel, with the upcoming R&B crooner’s flighty backing riffs and harmonies dovetailing with Venna’s work on the sax, to spellbinding effect.
The 1-2 punch of “Sun, Moon & Herbs” followed by “The Last Poets” is where the project reaches its zenith. Its midpoint swell – the point at which the inspired, expert drum work merges with Venna’s wizardry on his horn and the fleeting vocals that slowly emerge from the background to achieve crescendo – gives ”The Last Poets” a cathartic arc. The skit fits perfectly; its humanist wisdom offering the track more than any lyrics could manage.
True musicianship is impossible without collaboration. For soloist musicians especially – expert instrumentalists or vocalists – combining your own talents with that of your peers is the only way to see your complete vision take form. Having offered his talents to the superstars of international music, it’s commendable that where he has enlisted artists to feature, its homegrown talent that he’s drafted in on Venology. And ultimately, it’s Venna’s effort as an executive producer that shines on the project; he proves himself a maestro musician beyond the expertise of his saxophone.