There’s been jazz-rock, and jazz-funk, and soul-jazz, but very little in the way of jazz-pop. Zoöphyte are here to put that right. The writing partnership of Peter Jones and Trevor Lever started out with a deep interest in the work of Walter Becker and Donald Fagen of Steely Dan, as well as a love of quirky British artists like Caravan, Genesis, and Robert Wyatt-era Soft Machine, and horn-driven pop from the likes of Chicago.
At the same time, contemporary jazz has been a major part of the equation. The duo wanted a lush, rich sound, and so have recorded with a biggish band of the best jazz musicians London has to offer.
The first Zoöphyte album Signs of Life was released in 2020, and received excellent notices.
All About Jazz wrote: “It takes only one listen… to understand the name of [this] project, for exotic it undoubtedly is, with roots gloriously entangled in the soils of jazz, pop and psychedelic music.”
For Jazzwise, the album was “smoothly trowelled pop-jazz… cosmic grooviness…”
London Jazz News described it as “endlessly listenable, allowing the gorgeous musicianship to grow on listeners — and it deserves many.”
But like so many projects at that time, Signs of Life ran straight into the Covid pandemic, and the launch gig had to be abandoned. Never mind - Zoöphyte are now back with Galapagos, a collection of new songs.
“When we started writing”, says Trevor Lever, “the idea was to create a hybrid of jazz and pop psychedelia, but as time went by the feel evolved into something more modern and groove-oriented, like 'Working Hours', and the instrumentals 'Edwin’s Mood' and 'St Dude'. But the solos come from jazz rather than pop. And we primarily wanted to make a real album with real musicians playing real instruments.”
Galapagos creates a pastoral Sixties mood on such tunes as ‘Open Book’ and ‘Let’s Get Out of the City’, both featuring Rob Luft on acoustic guitar and Vasilis Xenopoulos on flute. There is also a distinctly amphibious theme to the album - not least the tune titled ‘Amphibious’, as well as ‘If You Have Gold’, ‘Not What’ and ‘Encircled by Seals’.