the contemporary jazz firmament, do stars get bigger than Rick
Braun, Kirk Whalum and Norman Brown?
And in the rock and pop world, do stars
get bigger than Michael Jackson?
Is it really
11 years since
If you’re going to make a tribute to the King
of Pop, it better be funky right off the bat – and it is!
“Another Part of Me” has an irrestible
groove and some killer horn work.
That groove still leaves space for solos
and the guys all weigh in with some short, sweet spots that give a
great taster of what’s to come.
No way was “Billie Jean” going to be
left off this
playlist and the dancefloor rumble is replaced with a crisp rhythm
that again allows some nice blowing and horn ensemble work.
Loving the flute touches that creep in
Norman Brown scats gorgeously on this
The instant I first heard him in 1994, I
loved his sound – nothing’s changed.
Muted trumpet and brushes are absolutely the
way to introduce the scintillating title track.
Sheléa’s lead vocal winds effortlessly
around the classiest of musical backings.
Liberties are taken with some chord
progressions and I love it.
A great song like this has a number of
building blocks which talented guys like this can move around to
suit themselves while remaining true to the original vibe.
It sounds like the Police are playing
funk when you hear the reggae skip of “Beat It”.
This is done with such panache and wit
that you’ll smile, I hope, just as much as I’m doing as I type this.
You won’t hear Eddie Van Halen but Mr.
Brown burns more on this number than you’re maybe used to.
Talking of burning, play some blues Norman!!
“Who’s Lovin’ You” from the Jackson Five
era is treated to the smokiest, grittiest reverence you can imagine.
That muted trumpet dumps you in the Deep
South and leaves you there.
Good Lord – I can only envy those lucky
fans who will soon be hearing this live.
Here’s the truth – I never much cared
for the original version of “She’s Out of My Life”.
But then, I’d never heard Kirk Whalum’s
sax almost crying on the melody.
I get so sick of instant musical
gratification and crash-bang-whallop, and to enjoy its absolute
antithesis is a treat for yours truly.
I’ve never DJ’d and had an empty floor when I
play “Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)”.
If I played this sexy Latin version, it
would be no different.
It’s got the pizzazz of a Gloria Estefan
show, but it has the jazz chops of Norman Brown to enjoy, some great
piano – and strings, oh yes strings.
Play this as loud as you dare!
Solidly in contemporary jazz territory
(yep, I’m never going to say “smooth jazz” in a review again) is the
swinging “The Way you Make Me Feel”.
By now, the ridiculous ease with which
these three guys trade lead lines and solos is apparent.
Fans of jazz will love the dreamy “I Can’t Help
If this were the last song I danced to
in a club one night, I’d be happy and the song would echo round my
head for days…
The doubled trumpet and flute lines
caress you and the sax and guitar solos step in to tell their part
of the story.
Lovely stereo mix through headphones –
it shows someone cares.
I never miss a chance to shout out to
the late, great Willie Hutch and “I’ll be There” is one of his
greatest pieces of songwriting.
This moving tribute honours the melody
and retains the optimism of this timeless song intact.
I’ve always been able to relate to and
enjoy “Man in the Mirror” and with the gospel undertones that this
version has, I find it particularly moving.
How do I sum up an album like this?
And, do I really need to?
Great artists on superb form.
How lucky we are to have music like
International - HUI-34356-02
Produced by BWB with Dave Rideau and John Stoddart