For his third album for Far Out Recordings, London based multi-instrumentalist and one of Europe's finest saxophonists Sean Khan ventures to Rio de Janeiro to collaborate with iconic Brazilian polymath Hermeto Pascoal. Taking its title from the escaped slave settlement 'Palmares' in the Northeast of Brazil during the 1600s, Palmares Fantasy is Khan's utopian jazz message for the world, and features Azymuth drummer Ivan 'Mamao' Conti, bassist Paulo Russo, guitarist Jim Mullen, and guest vocals from Brazilian chanteuse Sabrina Malheiros, and Cinematic Orchestra frontwoman Heidi Vogel.
Like Hermeto Pascoal, Sean Khan is a self-taught musician. Never able to afford his original dream of studying at Berklee, and having been turned away from Guildhall School of Music for being 'too raw', he became disillusioned with what he saw as the exclusivity, elitism and dangerous institutionalisation of the jazz world. Yet Sean's love for music and the drive to create never faltered.
Hermeto Pascoal, the man Miles Davis once dubbed the most impressive musician in the world', is a similarly independent artist. A true maverick whose ingenuity and freedom from conventional restraints is so great that he has essentially conceived his own musical language, made him the dream collaboration for Sean.
Aspiring to inclusivity and equality also informs the message in Khan's music. Inspired by the 17th Century settlement of Palmares in Brazil's Alagoas region, which was free from the Portuguese crown's murderous exploitation of South America for a century, Khan notes his fascination with the fact that while majoritively made up of escaped African slaves, many deserter conquistadors also joined the settlement.
Hearing the deep-grooving title track with this history in mind, the listener is transported to a futuristic musical eden, with Mamao's insatiable 10/8 rhythm back-boning Hermeto's wild improvised vocals, rhodes and whistles, while Sean's harmonically brilliant sax and flute add more layers of moody, characterful expression. 'Moment of Collapse' is Sean's poetic study on the uncertainties of modern day western civilisation, delicately presented by the gorgeous vocals of Heidi Vogel and drenched in lugubrious strings and Alice Coltrane-esque harp. The two covers on the album are of Hermeto's own 'Montreux' (on which Hermeto plays solos on a teapot and a pint of water), and an uplifting soulful jazz-funk take on Milton Nascimento & Lo Borges MPB classic 'Tudo Que Voce Podia Ser' featuring the vocals of pioneering nu-bossa voice Sabrina Malheiros.
The recording sessions for the album were part of an intensive and hugely productive eight-week excursion to South America for Far Out boss Joe Davis in the summer of 2016, which also saw the sessions for Azymuth's Fênix and a forthcoming album from Uruguayan fusion legend Hugo Fattoruso.