Not only tulips come from Amsterdam. From the canal city derive Tim 'Harmony' Welvaars & Naomi Adriaansz with their new formation Amsterdam Connection. Under their previous group name Team Harmony both already released the debut album Two Souls One Breath (2015). Their new project is entitled Isn't She Lovely (2017).
Tim Welvaars is a prolific veteran harmonica player with more than 30 albums on his belt. Naomi Adriaansz' instrument of choice is the tenor saxophone. The album title indicates it, the CD is dedicated as an instrumental tribute to the legendary Stevie Wonder, an artist that Tim himself played together yet. All songs were previously composed and performed by Stevie.
The album was recorded in Los Angeles and produced by multi Grammy Award-winning producer and guitarist Paul Brown. Guest musicians on selected tracks are Gordon Campbell, Jeffrey Caruthers, Marco Basci and Lew Laing Jr. (drums, bass, keys), Paul Brown and Marc Antoine (guitars), Nathan East and Roberto Vally (bass), Jessy J (flute).
To release a pure cover album is always a challenge and a risky undertaking. The songs by Stevie Wonder are known like a sore thumb. One cannot trust on the stimulation of the "new" and Stevie's work is based on absolute perfection. Obviously, Tim Welvaars was inspired by the encouragement of harmonica-based music.
The answer to the riddle is already served by the first piece of the album Is't She Lovely. Stevie celebrated with this song the birth of his daughter, Aisha. At that time, Stevie's baby shrieks with his own voice joined a jubilant hymn. Tim and Naomi however are melting their instruments to a new instrumental form and give the melody what it deserves.
Part Time Lover from Stevie's album Square Circle was a monster hit with several number one notations. Melody and rhythm haven't lost their magic and with the incredible routine and exceptional competence of both musicians the song sparkles like a jewel in the sun.
Creepin' is a somber song with many footprints in the smooth jazz genre by Fattburger, Boney James, Urban Jazz Coalition and Grainger. Amsterdam Connection's rendition emphasizes their passionate performance shared by Paul Brown on guitar. Another Star is a timeless melody, which motivates even today's listeners to enthusiastic commentaries. The song lives by Stevie's unsurpassable voice. Hard for Tim and Naomi to keep the vibrant quality but both reach that certain level of harmonic heartbeat.
My Cherie Amour is another song having achieved American songbook status. At least hearing this interpretation one has to admire Tim's genial performance on harmonica. Marc Antoine adds some lyrical chords on acoustic guitar, however it is Tim who leaves already a residual impression. Aptly follows Knocks Me off My Feet dressed into a more modern garment.
Overjoyed is a song which surprisingly inspired many bass players to cover version such as Stanley Clarke, Victor Wooten and Esperanza Spalding. Amsterdam Connection are supported on their rendition by Nathan East, another bass virtuoso of his own. Looking for Another Pure Love might be overshadowed by Stevie's bigger hits but finds on this album a place in a world of acoustic beauty.
Don't You Worry About a Thing is introduced by Jessy J on flute before Tim and Naomi share this brilliant vision with their collective listeners. You and I opens the door to an emotionally charged song that captures much more the spirit of Stevie's work than all his better-known songs.
Tim 'Harmony' Welvaars & Naomi Adriaansz have created with Isn't She Lovely
a deceptively subtle spiritual vibe that methodically weaves a harmonic
path through Stevie Wonder's most charming compositions.