Marshall Keys - Times Aligned

I often got in a path with the saxophonist Marshall Keys. He played on albums of Grainger ("Phase I + II"), David Dyson ("Soulmates"), Marcus Johnson ("Chocolate City Groovin'", "Urban Groove", "Inter Alia"), Dan Reynolds ("Never Alone", "To Be Shure") among others.  Keys's performing credits also include gigs with jazz luminaries Lionel Hampton, Clark Terry, Steve Allen, Jimmy Witherspoon, Big Joe Turner, Sonny Stitt and Branford Marsalis as well as recordings with Cyrus Chestnut, Vinny Valentino, Gary Thomas, Dave Valentin and jazz fusion artists John Stoddart, Keith Killgo,  Kirk Whalum, and Paul Jackson Jr. Marshall Keys also recorded the album "Countdown" with McGriff and still occasionally tours with his band.

His first album was long awaited. Marshall concedes: "The longer I waited, the greater the pressure was to make a good recording and a really strong statement". Originally the album should be called "First Born" and released in late summer 2001. Finally "Times Aligned" came to light in 2003. The title track written and arranged by the bassist Scott Ambush refers (ironically?)  to these concurrence of events and/or obstacles. Scott produced most parts of the album. Times Aligned is a fusion tune with expanding solos of Marshall on alto saxophone and Alex Norris on muted trumpet.

This album isn't radio-like with many tracks longer than 6 minutes. Marshall comments: "I imagined this CD as an ensemble record in which would be space for everyone to play." Fifty-5 makes no difference. Marshall's soprano sax is in the center of interest. Vinyl Valentino on guitar adds his solo part.

Rhythm is dominating the character of a piece as to shown up on Night Vision. Marshall has taken an Acid drum loop. After replacing the bass line, the chords and finally the melody Raymond Angry has created an upbeat urban groove.

The impression of this album as a masterpiece is mainly generated by Eva Hambach, who has made all photography's of this album and also art direction, concept and design. But Eva also contributed the tune La Marsa to this album. La Marsa is named for the suburb of Tunis, where Eva lived when she wrote the song. Eva also plays on this track the harmonica with much sensibility. Marshall's new website is designed by Eva too.

The Body That Loves You was originally released on Janet Jackson's album "janet.". Marshall was impressed by the melody of this song he initially heard in a cinema waiting on the movie. By the way Marshall isn't the only jazz player who covered this song. Calvin Stokes took this song for his cover album too. 

Open Canvas is a soundscape by Frederico Gonzalez Peņa. The song was developed from a three-note motif that Frederico came up with one afternoon while he and Marshall were playing on an exhibition of new works by the cubist/abstractionist Joseph Holston. The affinity and similarity between both directions of art is obviously.

Suspended is a reverie with diminishing melody contours.

Very contemplative and sensitive is the approach of Usmio. Marshall comments: "This was the first song I wrote after Vinny helped me set up my studio. The omposition unfolds the way I think a good solo should, with an opening statement that evolves slowly and deliberately. Gilad sets it up with a perfectly placed bell at the end of the intro and Vinny'shaunted guitar gives the whole piece a wonderful moody quality."

Anywhere You Say is an hommage to Pat Metheny 's song "Are You Going With Me". Very elegant and sophisticated this piece is written more for the brain less for the foot.

Marshall's original idea of Almond Eyes was to feature Scott Ambush. Marshall gave him the sequenced arrangement to learn and he, in turn, played it for his friend and bandmate Tom Schuman, who meticulously orchestrated it for sampled strings and added a few flourishes of his own like the pizzicato violins. In the end a romantic piece of timeless beauty.

This album isn't conceived for smooth jazz radio. Marshall has consequently realized his imagination of music. What an ambitious endeavour. What an enthralling translation into music.




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