Sony Music EU/Italy, 2013
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1) Intro: Ladies and Gentlemen Introducing Mario Biondi
2) Shine On
3) Come to Me
4) What Have You Done To Me
5) Woman Woman
6) Never stop f. Omar
7) Deep Space
8) Catch the Sunshine f. Leon Ware
9) Voglia La Pazzia L'Idea, La
10) Light To The World f. Al Jarreau
11) Girl Blue
12) I Can't Read Your Mind
13) There's No One Like You
14) Lowdown f. Incognito & Chaka Khan
If you ask me, Mario Biondi is the most important artist in soul music today. I'm well
aware that some jazz oriented readers feel that he has been "selling out himself to commercial
audience" by turning from straight jazz to soul music, but as a listener who likes both
soul and jazz, I feel this album represents a perfect mixture of jazz, soul and Bossa nova. And anyone
who has hinted that Mario is currently recording "commercial R&B" - nothing could be farther
from the truth. Whereas typical (American) R&B today means autotuned vocalists singing nursery
rhymes over programmed musical backdrops - this is really something else: there are no
programmed drums but only real drums, plus real brass section, strings etc. Surely
there are synthesizers used on some more modern tracks, but they are more in the
Incognito type of groove - as the album is mainly produced by Incognito leader
Jean Paul Maunick together with Mario himself.
The other contributing artists - Leon Ware, Al Jarreu, Chaka Khan, Omar and James Taylor from
J.T. Quartet - also speak volumes about the overall quality of the music and the
genre Mario Biondi is now representing. So admittedly this is far from the jazz Mario
originally recorded with his High Five Quintet (his brilliant debut set
Handful of Soul), but when Mario has always been compared to names like
Barry White, Lou Rawls and Jon Lucien as a vocalist (rather then
any jazz vocalists), I guess he is now performing the music he is perfectly comfortable with.
My personal favourite on this album is a track titled I Can't Read Your Mind, which
reminds me of some late 70s Earth Wind & Fire gems with its arrangement, and the
melody - written by Maunick & Biondi - feels like an instant classic. The UK single pick
Shine On is co-written by Jan Kincaid (Brand New Heavies), and it represents
the jazzy UK soul groove at its best (wonderful upright bass by Neville Malcolm) -
check the YouTube video below!
Other hightlights include the glorious Leon Ware contribution Catch the Sunshine
- which really sounds like vintage Ware - and the brilliant mellow Come to Me, which
is built over a jazzy 3/4 rhythm and crowned by a piano solo by Claudio Filippini.
The excellent cover version of Lowdown (the Boz Scaggs song)
featuring Chaka Khan was already familiar
from Incongito's own 2010 album Transatiantic RPM.
It seems that each reviewer has picked his own favourite track from the album, so there are
lots of quality tracks on offer, showcasing different aspects of this great soul-jazz
vocalist. As a whole, a strong contender for the album of the year in 2013.