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
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
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
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
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.