For a solo début, Sometimes Late at Night paints a consummate picture of Jharis Yokley the artist.

Release date: May 3, 2024 | Rainbow Blonde Records | Bandcamp | Facebook | Instagram | Website

Drummers have enjoyed a massive increase in profile over the last couple of years, especially in jazz and adjacent scenes. Talents like Makaya McCraven, Yussef Dayes and Tom Skinner have stepped to the forefront of musicians pushing the envelope, in a way we haven’t really seen since the heyday of Questlove et al. Far from mere rhythm keepers, they’re taste makers, risk takers, movers and shakers – in short, the ones that keep the genre’s vitality at a boiling point. Now we have another sticksman to add to this illustrious group: Jharis Yokley.

Having previously held down the kit for big names across the modern jazz, soul, r’n’b, hip hop, and rock music spectrum (including Solange, DJ Premier, Sleigh Bells, and José James), Yokley strikes out on his own with Sometimes Late at Night, elaborating on his undeniable chops and revealing some tricks previously hidden snugly up his sleeve. Just so we’re clear: this album isn’t just a drummer’s show-off rhythm fest – it’s a celebration of creativity and forward-thinking, held at the crossroads of imagination and ability.

We say we won’t/But we go back and forth again

“Back and Forth”, featuring the aforementioned José James, blends neo-soul with subtle clashes of electronica; adding his vocals alongside those of Yokley himself, James coolly coasts over these textures with all his experience and charisma. The beat is groovy and intricate in equal measure, containing some unbelievably flashy fills without compromising the pocket. If you’re gonna attempt to open your solo album with a full display of your talent and self-confidence, you better come correct, and Yokley did just that. Immaculate starting point.

What was introduced on “Back and Forth” in terms of core elements does constitute the backbone of Sometimes Late at Night as a whole. Electronica, neo-soul, and hip hop are the throughline that keeps this 10-track affair together; they’re far from the only flavors, though. I’m especially taken with Yokley’s drumming (would’ve been weird if that wasn’t the case), but his abilities as a vocalist and songwriter are explored to an extent that caught me delightfully by surprise. Sure, his beats and fills are out of this world, going from laid-back groves to almost heart-palpitatingly d’n’b levels of intensity (see the chiptune-y “Let Her Go” for example), but the way he keeps that stuff reined in to serve the best interest of his compositions is remarkable.

Sometimes, late at night/I miss you

There’s a good balance between shorter tracks and more fleshed-out compositions, between vocal tracks and instrumentals on Sometimes Late at Night, too. The overall flow is just as carefully considered as everything else on the album, obviously, and that’s another point on the tally for Yokley the artist.

“Remedy” goes from an almost G-funk instrumental to ending as a neo-classical piano piece – now that’s a good twist! Take note, Shyamalan. The following “Sleep” brings a drowsy synth bass to the party, which beautifully offsets the effortlessly frantic stick work. “Megaman”, then, feels like a lost piece of game soundtrack history, although the synth evokes a Metroid Prime vibe more than anything else. Seeing as that’s one of my favorite game soundtracks, you won’t hear me complaining though. Tasty stuff across the board here.

Sometimes Late at Night ends with a double feature of vocal tracks, “Only See Her” and “Was It Really Love”, closing out an engaging and often jaw-dropping ride on a high note. Now, I would be remiss to leave out what little criticism I have for Yokley’s solo début, and it’s actually a problem I have with a handful of contemporary creatives: the ‘too much gene’. For the most part, Yokley does well to keep things concise and stylistically coherent; I just wish he’d do that with his beats, too. Sometimes he just goes too hard on the virtuosity when the song could’ve easily done with a few tom hits or cymbal splashes less.

Take that smallish piece of reproach with a cubic metre of salt, though – it never got to the point of eye roll-inducing overplaying on Yokley’s part. His experience and clear vision shone through even in the parts that were a bit much for my taste, so I couldn’t stay mad if I wanted to.

I wish you were easy to forget/You moved on I have not moved on yet

If you’re searching for drum inspo, hit up Sometimes Late at Night. If you’re looking for some yummy neo-soul jams, hit up Sometimes Late at Night. If beat- and synth-heavy electronica is your poison of choice, hit up Sometimes Late at Night. If you’re hurting for an outstanding album experience – look, you get it, right? Jharis Yokley made a strong opening statement on his first solo record, and I’ll be watching his next moves with great interest.

Artist picture courtesy of Janette Beckman

Dominik Böhmer

Dominik Böhmer

Pretentious? Moi?

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