The very best music is sometimes hiding in plain sight without any significant “co-signs” other than from the blessed few who are aware of it. In the case of Atlanta-based bassist-composer-bandleader Khari Cabral Simmons and his band Jiva, those followers seem to mainly be concentrated in the greater Atlanta area, with a few outliers amongst those of us who picked up on the string of outstanding 12-inch singles issued by Giant Step Records around the turn of the millennium (singles released in anticipation of a full album which eventually only came out on CD in Europe and Japan). Khari and Jiva have since followed up that under-the-radar classic with a string of further releases that have only refined and improved what was already great to begin with.
Jiva is the crystallization of musical values that many discerning ears hold dear, a highly sophisticated and accomplished sound that lands somewhere far beyond the confines of what has come to be known as “neo-soul.” It encompasses legit jazz-funk that would command serious money were it to take the form of hard-to-find circa-1977 vinyl, but that’s just the beginning. The bossa nova/Brazilian factor is strong as well and far from superficial. It combines beautifully with harmonically-advanced and melodically-rich ’70s-style soul delivered by an array of accomplished male and female voices (including many familiar names) both solo and in harmony. As if that’s not enough, there’s also a serious dance and house-oriented element weaving throughout that evokes the spirits of dancefloor ancestors from David Mancuso to Larry Levan to Frankie Knuckles. Does all this sound too good to actually be true? It probably does, but it has provided me with private joy and a reliable professional secret DJ weapon for over twenty years.
2007’s Day Into Night is the second Jiva release following the underground classic Sun and Moon and it effortlessly sidesteps the slightest suggestion of any sophomore slump. In fact, it actually tightens up the many accomplishments of its predecessor while seamlessly embodying every single aforementioned musical aspect. It’s simply a ridiculously satisfying and often thrilling album that’s long overdue for wider discovery, along with the rest of the albums issued either under the Jiva name or as a Khari Cabral solo album (such as 2012’s fabulous Clementine Sun). This is the kind of album we all really need to hear but perhaps its continued absence in our favorite format prevents that from happening on a greater scale. Here’s hoping that gets remedied very soon.