In September 2022 contemporary jazz duo Goldsmith Baynes released their debut album ‘E Rere Rā’, a collection of songs performed mostly in Te Reo Māori.
The duo is vocalist Allana Goldsmith (Ngāti Porou and Ngāi Tai ki Tōrere) and experienced British-born jazz pianist Mark Baynes. Their 11-track album includes four songs that also featured as part of the Waiata Anthems initiative. One of those, Tīpuna, was performed live at the 2021 Aotearoa Music Awards during the In Memoriam segment where tribute is paid to musicians who have passed away. The hauntingly beautiful performance featured taonga pūoro specialist Riki Bennett who is also featured prominently on the album.
Setting the scene immediately with the whakatakinga (introduction) and title track E Rere Rā, the listeners are pulled into te ao Māori (the Māori world) with the sound of taonga pūoro, and a soulful vocal performance in from Goldsmith that is reminiscent of karanga.
In addition to the obvious Māori influences, the project in its essence is a contemporary jazz album – although there are definite hints of RnB, folk and country music. The key drawcard is the stunning vocal stylings of Goldsmith, who has great command of her vocal range, from the beautiful tone in her lower notes to the belty highs. She manages to sing with great diction and clear enunciation of lyrics, enhancing the strong component of storytelling without loss of emotional connection. Her vocal expression and use of dynamics show an exceptional use of light and shade and incite emotions in the listener.
Mark Baynes is an accomplished pianist and no newcomer to the local scene. Also a music educator, he has worked with Kiwi artists such as King Kapisi, Che-Fu, Anika Moa, Don McGlashan, Batucada Sound Machine and Bella Kalolo, and has been working with Goldsmith for over 10 years. He finds the right balance of enhancing the vocal with subtlety where required, whilst also launching into epic jazz piano solos, particularly on the track E Taku Tau.
It’s refreshing to find jazz music amalgamated with traditional Māori components. The combination of strong vocals, excellent piano playing and overall musicianship makes for a must-listen. To hear instruments typically associated with jazz such as piano, double bass, sax, trombone, trumpet and flugelhorn, combined with te reo and taonga pūoro proves a unique and magical combination.
No reira, he whakatauki – ‘Toku reo toku ohooho.’ Allana Goldsmith’s journey of reclaiming her language is made clear here, and her tīpuna will surely look upon her and this album with considerable pride.