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Soul Express CD of the Month - November-December 2009

Joe McBride: Lookin' for a Change

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Lookin' for a Change
US Heads Up CD, 2009
1) Crazy 4:41 2) 1000 Miles 6:26 3) The Scientist 5:35 4) Word Up 4:41 5) It's Over Now 5:04 6) This Is How A Heart Breaks 4:51 7) Kiss From A Rose 6:06 8) Like A Star 5:09 9) Secret Rendezvous 5:18 10) I Don't Wanna Be 6:35 11) Say 6:19 12) Lookin' For A Change 5:45

Joe McBride's previous, mainly instrumental albums have been too typical smooth jazz to my liking, but on his latest set, Joe not only plays piano in a highly enjoyable way, but also sings on each track. Thus, there are no instrumentals on this album, instead Joe interprets various pop and jazz tunes - everything from Cameo's Word up to Seal's Kiss from a Rose - and makes them vibrant vocal jazz!

The instrumentation on the album is also much more acoustic and straight-ahead-jazz than on Joe's previous sets. He really is an excellent pianist, reminding me of Bill O'Connell on Jon Lucien's brilliant Live in NYC set, but Joe further amazes me with his supremely inventive scat style, much like Al Jarreau with more swing.

If you liked the aforementioned Jon Lucien live set, you will definitely love tracks like Crazy and 1000 Miles on this album. Gnarls Barkley’s Crazy opens the album, and Joe's interpretation sounds like Al Jarreau over an energetic piano backdrop. Even better is, though, Joe's reading of Vanessa Carlton’s 1000 Miles, of which Joe himself explains: “I like how easily the Vanessa Carlton tune translated to jazz,” says McBride. “It swings very easily. It was very easy to put into a straightahead bag.” The jazz arrangement is truly swinging, with Roger Hines on upright bass and Elijah Gilmore on drums. Wonderful stuff.

The CD also contains three tracks written by Joe by himself. The first one of them, It's Over Now is probably the most rhythm & blues -oriented on the album, a bit like Ray Charles in his hey-days. Secret Rendezvous is a more typical jazz ballad in a Bossa Nova-ish rhythm. The title track Lookin' For A Change again sounds more like taken from Al Jarreau repertoire, sung over a swaying mid-tempo jazz backdrop.

Joe's rendition of Seal's Kiss from a Rose is arguably the most pop-inclined on the album, whereas the version of Corrine Bailey Rae's is turned into a samba groove with a great acoustic guitar solo by Dan Wilson. The Cameo smash Word up is also translated into a groovy jazz performance, and works actually pretty well.

The album may not delight purists, but Joe is really in his element fusing all these musical styles into a swinging straight-ahead vocal jazz album. I found this album one of the most entertaining all year, and warmly recommend it at least to our jazz-inclined readers. - Ismo Tenkanen
Soul Express

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