This Valentine’s Day the acclaimed contemporary jazz drummer Eric Valentine will be releasing his newest album, Velvet Groove, a collection of urban contemporary jazz he describes as “music you can feel…a sound full of different moods and textures.” Joining him on this project is an all-star cast of musicians including saxophonists Kirk Whalum, Gerald Albright and Richard Elliot, trumpet player Rick Braun, plus Adam Hawley and Darrell Crooks on guitar, Brian Simpson and Allyn Johnson on piano, and many other guests. The multi-talented Valentine also contributes vocals, keyboards, and bass.
The 13-track album offers ten full songs and three reprises that are filled with vibrant melodies and deft rhythms. Some tracks, like “E. Love” and “Back in the Day,” also include soulful vocals sung by B. Valentine, Eric’s wife. The only song on the album not written or co-written by Valentine himself is a fresh take on Stevie Wonder’s “Joy Inside My Tears.” This track was given a more celebratory feel while still including members of Wonder’s horn section in the arrangement.
To Valentine and the other contributors to the album, Velvet Groove is more than its hypnotic harmonies and smooth jazz instrumentals—it’s a movement “to make people feel love, joy and happiness, using musical gifts to inspire and uplift.”
Urbanity has helped mold the creativity of hip hop artists in some form or the other, and thus forms the foundation of this genre. Open Mike Eagle is no exception, and his most current album, Brick Body Kids Still Daydream, demonstrates just that. The collection is a tribute to Chicago’s former South Side housing project, Robert Taylor Homes, where the young Eagle resided with family members during much of his formative years. Through his concept art, OME humanizes the forgotten ones of this former space, lending credence to their dreams of a better world for all.
“Legendary Iron Hood,” the opening track, is a smoothly-spun tale of optimism in the face of adversity. OME’s laid-back delivery and beat reminds one of a lazy walk with one eye in the clouds and one on the road ahead. An obvious downtempo influence dominates the second tune, “(How could anybody) Feel at Home,” and its lyrics of “We live in a space that should have never existed, we’re used to the taste of a human in space…It smells like if you imagined you boiled a rose and the oven is on and the coil’s exposed” deposits you right into an imagined project via sight, taste and smell. Nerdcore rapper Sammus displays her lyrical skills on “Hymnal,” and Has-Lo clips in on a later track, “95 Radios.” The apex of the collection, undisputedly, is “Brick Body Complex,” in which OME bares his narrative and his soul without pretention. But it’s the last offering, “My Auntie’s Building,” that forces attention by way of poignant activist lines such as: “They say America fights fair, but they won’t demolish your timeshare; blew up my Auntie’s building, put out her great-grandchildren.”
Lyrical and mystical, pensive yet precise. OME tears it down to the ground with his remembrance of lives lost under the rubble and dust of project demolition. As the title succinctly states, brick body kids still daydream. It’s up to us to make sure we give them something positive to dream about.
Tyscot Records serves up a progressive, in your face with “the real” urbanized, contemporary and traditional musical testimony with Brent Jones and The T.P. Mobb’s latest release, The Ultimate Weekend. As the image on the front cover suggests, this album (their third) will transmit the Gospel from the walls of the church to the street corners and broader outside world. Featuring 17-tracks (15 if you subtract tracks 9 and 17, which are comical theatrical transitions), the compact disc will attract the new school listener from the beginning.
The opening track, “The Ocean,” creates a reflective worship environment that pulls on one’s heartstrings, as Brent Jones contemplates the greatness of God as the creator and provider of the universe. The song takes the listener into a reverent place through a musical vehicle steeped in a secularized, musical styling reminiscent of the group Tony! Toni! Toné! “Spectacular Jesus” is a tribute to Jesus Christ that incorporates earthy, urban lyrics such as “You’re off the chain” and “You are the Man.” This track illustrates how one can serve God in a meaningful way, in his or her own style. “Stone Love” presents a lyrical illustration of God’s love for His creation-true and unconditional-while incorporating a mixture of musical elements derived from soul ballads and Sunday morning worship service.
For those who like their praise couched in old school grooves, Jones and the T.P Mobb have a store of goodies for you. For instance, “Give Him What He Wants” will definitely get your hands raised for the purpose of a call out to God. The groove of this track consists of a ’70s funk foundation that conjures up a “dance and praise” in the basement feel. “I Don’t Wanna Go To The Club” presents a yearning to dance, though not in a secular club. This track borrows from the 1984 dance groove “Egypt Egypt” by Egyptian Lover, and will definitely put you on the dance floor in order to shout with a clean conscious and broadened notion of praise.
While Brent Jones and the T.P. Mobb present an urban contemporary gospel sound, they do not neglect traditional worshippers. For instance, “Cry Holy” is a live recording, which again creates the feel of Sunday morning, reflecting the style of earlier contemporary gospel ensembles such as The Tommy’s. “Blessing With Your Name On It” is a churchy ballad that goes even deeper, stylistically, into the Sunday morning atmosphere. “Praise Break” further demonstrates Jones’ awareness of the traditional Sunday morning worship service and quintessential gospel music message-one’s trying social conditions can be resolved through perseverance and praise.
Put succinctly, The Ultimate Weekend is a must have for the eclectic music lover who seeks to experience various artistic expressions of worship.
Editor’s Note: The Ultimate Weekend is also available on a DVD (TYS-984163-9) which features additional songs not included on the CD.
Posted by Tyron Cooper
YouTube video of “Cry Holy,” courtesy Tyscot Records: