First View


Several years ago I met Gerald Veasley on a cruise ship. I was deeply impressed by his instrumental virtuosity. Gerald is in music business since a longtime. He played with Grover Washington (1986), Joe Zawinul (1988) and also with Special EFX, Pieces of a Dream, McCoy Tyner, Teddy Pendergrass, Philip Bailey, Phil Perry, Pat Martino or Joe McBride. His career as solo artist started with his debut album "Look Ahead" on the Heads Up International label in 1992. Further albums were "Signs" (1994), "Soul Control" (1997), "Love Letters" (1999), "On The Fast Track" (2001) and "Velvet" (2002). 

His new album "At The Jazz Base!" is a special one. It's a collection of songs from his previous albums recorded live at Veasley's own club in Reading in November 2004. "It's a sort of snapshot of where I am in my career as a musician, and where the band is," comments Gerald Veasley. "Sometimes we assume that everybody knows what we do just from the recordings, and we have to realize that the studio recordings - although they may be excellent - don't show as much as we'd like. But here's a recording that does that. At the Jazz Base is a complete picture of where we are right now."

The title of the album was named after Gerald's intimate nightclub in Reading Pennsylvania. Further information about Gerald's activity at this jazz club do you find at the below mentioned website. The first tune Shango ("Look Ahead") has changed its character compared to the previous recorded original. On the original John Blake played the violin as lead instrument while on the more uptempo live version Gerald's bass, Chris Farr's sax and especially Peter Kuzma's skilled organ are dominating. This tune is a delicacy for friends of organ power.

On the original Valdez In The Country ("Love Letters") the soprano sax was performed by Grover Washington Jr. This role was overtaken by Chris Farr. Chris masters his task perfectly. Chris Farr is featured on Gerald Veasley's albums "Love Letters" and "Velvet".  He is one of Philly's premiere sax players, also plays with Maynard Furgeson and regularly performs at Chris' Jazz Cafe with the "Chris Farr Trio". Fusion lovers might be interested in the album "Not Enough Space" by Common Ground. "Valdez In The Country" was written by the great singer Donny Hathaway. His original version is also worth a listen.

Coup De Ville is obviously an useful addition. The introduction of the album "Velvet" is also a prominent presentation of Gerald's skills.

Sugar Time is one of the two brand-new tunes. Veasley named this piece for its juke joint jazz feel. "I try to be this modern guy but I think in my heart I'm this blues guy in a lot of ways. That's what I grew up listening to, blues and gospel, but the blues is the mother of all of it, from the most sophisticated jazz to the most uplifting gospel you can find it there. "Sugar Time" just kind of encapsulates that, the blues and blues feeling music," Gerald explains in the CD-text.

Deeper ("Soul Control") in the original version is one of my favorites. What a smoky and funky selection of finest artists like Rick Braun, Dave Samuels and Devon Lassiter. The live version is rawer and more concentrated on Veasley's excellent bass performance. Especially the final of this live tune showcases the perfectly timed interplay of the group. 

Listening to Forever ("Velvet") I was prepared to experience a slowtempo long-lasting introverted bass solo. But surprisingly Pete Kuzma starts his breathtaking organ solo. What a masterful intonation! Unfortunately after the crescendo the piece fades out.

On The Fast Track is certainly the quintessence of excessive uptempo jamming. Gerald nearly doubled the playtime of the original version. While the original version might be a laidback suburban train the live tune is a high-speed-train. Gerald comments: "There were some songs that the new guys weren't even familiar with. So they could bring a fresh take to them. We could rearrange songs to fit the new character of the band. We tried to do that with just about every tune on the record."

Some tunes are so alternated that Gerald even changed the title. The Spy Is Back is a variation of "Fly Spy" ("Look Ahead"). Again the main weight of the live version is on the bass. While the studio recording is pleasing and smooth, the identical and intensive live version suits more Gerald's intention. Perhaps did he even change his attitude?

Bread Puddin' ("Velvet") is with nearly 10 minutes the longest tune of the album. One can listen to Chris Farr's and Eric Greene's extensive solos. When one listened to the funky studio version one really appreciate this live recording because one cannot get enough of this stuff. Both versions are really different!

Gerald had traveled to South Africa and performed together with Pieces Of A Dream at the North Sea Festival. Many readers will know about the close contact between Dave Love's "Heads Up International" and the South African label "Sheer Sound Records". Product of this contact are several collaborations between musicians of both labels and The Heads Up Africa series, a critically acclaimed collection that spotlights some of Southern Africa’s finest vocalists and instrumentalists. Legendary South African bass player Sipho Gumede died of cancer in July 2004. Gerald says: "Sipho and I had talked about working together on a recording, but we never got the opportunity. This is my way of celebrating his life." Celebrating Sipho catches the South African spirit in the typical township riff style. The best appetizer to taste South African music.

With "At The Jazz Base!" Gerald Veasley has perfectly fulfilled the wishes of his audience to carry home his live music.