Higher Calling by Dwayne Kerr – reviewed by Chris Mann

I couldn’t tell Dwayne’s story as well as he tells it himself on his website but I’ll just tell you that as a big fan of jazz flute, I could not wait to hear his second solo CD “Higher Calling” from 2007.

It’s clever to open the album with a song that everyone knows; Bill Withers’ ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’. This funky instrumental bears little resemblance to the original though. The chunky bass forms the basis of a nice, tough groove and that groove is a perfect foil for Dwayne’s breathy flute and Erykah Badu’s background vocals.

‘Smooth’ is a deceptive title because the groove here is deep. The drums are programmed but unusually I don’t mind because Hubert Eaves IV on bass lays it down heavy and the flute dances on this original composition.

I love the jazzy keyboards on the funky, chunky ‘The H-Factor’. The background vocals, that irresistible funk and some beautifully recorded flute make this a treat for folks like me who lap up the music of Herbie Mann, Dave Valentin, Bobbi Humphrey and other flute heroes.

Daryl Grone’s lovely nylon-string acoustic guitar sets the tone for ‘Daughters’. The beat is sunny and lazy, punctuated by some nice, crisp slap bass work and some neat timbales. Come the summer, this track should be receiving some serious airplay.

Uh-oh, the funk is back on ‘Yeah’. Eaves drops more fat bass and the drum/handclap programming is spot on. The staccato melody on the flute is sweet, the balance is perfect and you can’t lose! Is this a single? It needs to be a single!

If ‘Yeah’ is the radio tune, ‘Being with You’ is the club tune. God, if I went out DJ’ing this would be on my set list this weekend. Big, four-on-the-floor beat, sharp flute licks oh and did I mention Kirk Whalum sits in on sax for that added flavour. Co-writer Jeff Feinstein brings old-school jazz-funk keys to the party. That’s a serious REWIND!

‘Chillin’’ has an insistent and heavy bassline and some nice layered flute lines and reverb effects. That and the keyboards lend a space-y feel to this moody dance track. Guitarist Matt Marshak (I’m a fan) is on hand to add guitar and production support. This is the kind of track that could and should end up on one of the excellent Café del Mar or Bambuddha Grove releases in time for summer. Exotic and groove-laden.

The title track is the epitome of contemporary/smooth jazz. Melody is paramount, and the hooks are strong. This is a song I could carry in my head all day. It feels like summer is coming, it really does.

‘Keep It Right There’ is another instrumental that keeps the head nodding with a lazy rhythm while layers of flute and some funky wah-wah guitar keep the smile firmly fixed on your face. The chorus section has a lovely chord change and I think this one song that will grow on me even more – though I ‘get’ it immediately.

The ‘unplugged’ version of ‘Daughters’ relies solely on Daryl Grone’s acoustic guitar and Carmeasha Williams’ background vocals to support the plaintive cry of Dwayne’s flute. The recording acoustic is lovely and this sounds very live. If he performs this during his shows, Dwayne must be able to see people getting shivers everywhere.

Who doesn’t love Herbie Hancock’s ‘Chameleon’? Well, the funk’s intact on this solo flute version in a ‘beatbox style’. This surely must find its way into live shows – it’s already found its way onto my internet radio playlist. Astonishing and a sign of a player who’s coming out and taking risks.

Coming from Erykah Badu’s band, Dwayne clearly knows what’s it’s like to be surrounded by top players and producers – because that’s what he has put together here. The compositions (mostly originals) shine and this combination of strong material and a great choice of collaborators make me very keen to hear the next solo outing from this new flute hero.




DManns Music 8689 Producers – Dwayne Kerr, RC Williams