Play by Brian Jackson –
Reviewed by Chris Mann
make no apology for starting this review with a personal recollection.
When I was 15, I used to dance at a club 40 miles away from my
home. One of the tracks
which never failed to fill the floor was “The Bottle” by Gil
Scott-Heron. Those in the
know acknowledged Brian Jackson’s contribution to that song – that
flute sound was something unique in the mid-70’s.
It still sounds fresh today.
producer, composer, and musician Brian Jackson collaborated with Gil
Scott-Heron on the album which spawned that single: “Winter in
America” and on several other albums including “From South Africa to
South Carolina” from which their most commercially successful single
“Johannesburg” was taken.
that time, Jackson has worked with Kool and the Gang , George Benson,
Janis Seigel of Manhattan Transfer and Will Downing, whose self-titled
first album, produced by Will and Brian, went gold in the United Kingdom
in eight weeks.
Play” is the first album he has released as a solo artist – I
couldn’t wait to hear it…
the opening bars of the title track, I’m hearing voices from the past
– and they’re voices that still matter.
I hear a background synthesizer wash that is an echo of all I
loved about 70’s jazz and soul. I
hear Roy Ayers’ gruff vocal and totally unique vibes.
Brian Jackson’s lead keyboard has a real “Dukey Stick”
thing going on and I love everything about this song – from its lazy
rhythm to David Mullen’s increasingly frenetic sax!
Sutra is a funky keyboard-driven track with exotic synth sounds
and a bassline and percussion which I can only describe as insane.
The piano solo on this track is as energetic as anything I’ve
heard Herbie Hancock play. David
Mullen’s solo is a wild one – you’ll have to hang on for the
mellow fade with its lovely vocal chant and “that” flute.
expect radio to pick up on Moody Too in a
big way. The “dukey”
keyboard is back to super-sexy effect and bassist Don Martin and drummer
Trevor Holder do a lovely subtle job on this song.
They co-wrote this song with Jackson – as they did the majority
of songs on this CD.
U is a mid-paced soul tune with a smack-bang-up-to-the-minute
tight bass and drum groove. I
love the choppy rhythm guitar, and the vocal from co-writer Num
Amun’tehu is very strong.
more lazy urban groove on Free 4 Fall.
The soul harmonies set the tone for a beautiful, piano-led
melody. Dreamy bass and
deft rimshots keep this moving sweetly and after three-and-a-half
minutes, I still wanted more. Utterly
you know, it’s right that Gil Scott-Heron’s deep, rich voice should
be heard on the rap which opens his own Home is
Where the Hatred Is. This
modern take on this classic 70’s song features a superb lead vocal
from Brian Jackson. Listening to it, I think how timeless a song this good can
Lord, I’m in Blue Note heaven when Yada Yada
begins! The vocal harmony,
staccato piano, whisper-soft rhythm guitar and those chords.
Brian Jackson is one heck of a soulful piano player – one
listen to this track tells you all you need to know.
Yes, this is my favourite – rewind!
unexpectedly grandiose piano intro leads into a laid-back but funky
cover of the Gap Band’s Outstanding.
Num Amun’tehu is on the mike – Ayers is on vibes – the
groove is right. What more
do you want?
groove is right on Delushuss too.
Don Martin’s fluid bass drives this mid-paced smoothie. That lead synth sound takes some getting used to – but,
hey, that piano is pure gold.
Interlude gives us a chance to hear the percussion talents of Num
Amun’tehu. It’s the
kind of ethnic vibe that New Age fans lap up – and I love it.
I keep waiting for the white tigers to show up…
like the shifting styles in Fresca Girl.
It starts out with piano/vocal scatting in the Joe McBride vein
but when it moves to the solo, the sound hardens up and I’m thinking
of John Beasley’s audacious compositions – then we’re back to the
funk, the scatting and I just think Brian Jackson is a strong writer and
a versatile player. This is
classy, confident music. Me?
I love it.
radio edit of Feelin U was great, and too
short. The bonus long
version is giving you – to paraphrase George Clinton – “more of
what you’re funkin’ for”. Greedy
folks like me will be happy.
main thoughts hit me when I listen to “Gotta
Play”: man, where have you been?
It’s obvious from the inlay that he’s been living life,
learning and reassessing like all of us.
second thought is: on your next album (please make it soon) you could do
anything – crazy funk, smooth jazz, inspiration soul – anything!
Music Group RMG 1018 – producers Brian Jackson, Trevor Holder and Don