Macy Gray – Ruby


Title: Ruby
Artist: Macy Gray
Label: Artistry Music
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release date: September 21, 2018


Macy Gray recently gifted us with her tenth studio album, Ruby. Unlike her previous release, Stripped—an album that included a number of covers and a remake of her hit song “I Try”—Ruby features twelve new original tracks from Gray. When asked by Rolling Stone to describe the general soundscape or style of the album, Gray explained: “Sonically, it is beautiful. It has all sorts of [fusions]. There are a lot of live instruments. We mixed it with samples… But, it is very different. At the same time, it is excellent ear candy. . .very pop…[but] gritty and grimy and dirty. [The record] will be super R&B. You know, with my stuff, there is always a jazz element. That is what I grew up on. I can’t wait for everybody to hear it. I love it.”  Continue reading

Lakecia Benjamin – Rise Up

Lakecia Benjamin
Title: Rise Up

Artist: Lakecia Benjamin

Label: Ropeadope
Formats: CD, Digital

Release date: March 23, 2018



Growing up in New York City’s Washington Heights neighborhood, Lakecia Benjamin moved away from home at the young age of 14 to attend La Guardia High School of Music & Art, where she got her start playing jazz. Since then, Benjamin has become one of the most sought after saxophonists in the music industry, playing with jazz giants like Clark Terry and Reggie Workman as well as arranging and leading the horn sections of superstars like Macy Gray, Alicia Keys, and even Stevie Wonder. Now, as she releases her third album, Rise Up featuring  her group Soul Squad, Benjamin reminds us once again of her prowess as a songwriter and band leader.

Benjamin uses this album to send a message about moving through life’s many challenges, opening with the funky title track “March On,” which begins with a quote from Les Brown: “You can either live your dreams or live your fears.” This song features a fun and motivational rap from Benjamin as well as a powerful vocal from jazz singer China Moses. “March On” speaks towards the idea of moving through the obstacles life puts in your way, with the lyric: “We March On to find victory / We March On to find the peace we seek / We March On to reclaim our being / We March On! We March On! We March On!”

“Take Back” is another truly spectacular track. Though entirely instrumental, this jazz fusion tune is meant to convey a story of taking back control over your life and reclaiming your destiny. With its driving rock groove and catchy and rhythmic horn riff you can’t help but move with the music.

Rise Up includes other phenomenal new original songs from Benjamin, including “Cornbread,” “Survivor” and “On The One.” It’s such a fun album that it’s sure to appeal to a wide range of jazz and soul fans alike.

Reviewed by Jared Griffin

Macy Gray – Stripped

Title: Stripped

Artist: Macy Gray

Label: Chesky Records

Formats: CD, Digital

Release Date: September 9, 2016


Macy Gray’s latest studio album, Stripped, displays the comfort of a veteran and the willingness to explore new territory at the same time.  Recorded in just two days in a Brooklyn church, the album’s 10 tracks are a combination of covers, originals, and new arrangements of Macy Gray songs.

One such arrangement is “I Try,” Gray’s hit from her 1999 debut album On How Life Is.  This new arrangement allows for some flexibility that’s missing from the original, especially rhythmically.  The musicians featured on the record—Ari Hoenig (drums), Daryl Johns (bass), Russell Malone (guitar), and Wallace Roney (trumpet), provide Gray a freedom that allows her voice to function like the jazz instrument it has remained all these years.

Gray’s rasp allows the album’s covers to shine as though they were her own. She turns Metallica’s “Nothing Else Matters” into a convincing jazz tune, with the help of star solos from Roney and Malone.  Her cover of Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song” is relatively straightforward, yet haunting.

Besides Gray’s vocals, the other standout aspect of this project is the production quality. Produced by Chesky Records for their binaural recording series, this album comes to life in a pair of headphones.  This method of recording attempts to put the listener in the room with the musicians, which is ideal for the intimacy of the small jazz ensemble on this album.

Stripped is well paced, with grooves that complement each other, and a performance from Macy Gray that highlights her songwriting, vulnerability, and command of a voice that sets her apart from her contemporaries.

Reviewed by Allie Martin