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Quality Time

Reviewing the quality soul picks from recent CD albums

From UK Dome CD Copasetic Is

Slick and Deep is one of the jazziest cuts on Mikelyn Roderick’s debut solo set. Mark Rasmussen, who has co-written the track together with Mikelyn, plays the wonderfully warm acoustic piano on this brilliant soul-jazz swayer. Ex-By All Means songstress Mikelyn Roderick is in her element while interpreting the classic tune, which we will certainly praise more in our Quality Time Top 30 in 2007.

MARIO BIONDI and the High Five Quintet I Can’t Keep from Cryin’ Sometimes
From Italian Schema CD A Handful of Soul

Can you imagine a fusion of John Coltrane and Lou Rawls? Well, we couldn’t either, until we heard Mario Biondi’s version of the 1960’s Al Kooper composition I Can’t Keep from Cryin’ Sometimes. The Italian vocalist has a deep baritone, reminding us of Rawls and Jon Lucien, which he uses both skilfully and soulfully over a jazz groove heavily influenced by Trane’s classic My Favourite Things version. A magnificent rhythm track, sturdy horn riffs, spirited sax, trumpet and piano solos, and Mario’s unique vocals: the end result is a strong contender for the very best tune of 2007!

From US Shanachie CD

Produced by Bobby Eli, this is something else than anything else heard on Shanachie’s all-cover albums so far. With a real instrumentation, Love’s Holiday sounds refreshing and an ideal choice for Deniece. Philip Bailey is featured as a vocalist, but he remains in the background.

KOKOH For the Tender
From US Kokoh CD Meltdown

If you’re into Leon Ware sound of sophisticated soul, For the Tender continues in the same mould featuring a competent female vocalist on top. Kokoh provides the accomplished vocals supported by a soulful sax.

KARL FRIERSON Walkin’ in New York / Ten Minutes / Only You
From German Phazzadelic CD Soulprint

Karl Frierson is a U.S. born singer, who currently lives in Germany. The reason for this: ”Like many other Black Americans, we don´t have rich parents who can send us off to see the world. We do, however have a rich uncle (Uncle Sam), and 16 years ago, I voluntarily (how stupid) joined the military for a change of life, and to see a bit of the world.” (Karl’s interview in The highlights of Karl’s solid album are Walkin’ in New York, a delightful piece of classic old-time uptempo soul with a sprightly horn arrangement and excellent Wilton Felder styled sax solo, and the Keni Burke-ish Ten Minutes (released in the U.K. by Expansion) where Karl sounds a whole lot like Lenny Williams interpreting the memorable tune. Only You is the most impressive ballad on offer, with Karl again in a soulful Lenny Williams mode.

From UK Expansion Various Artists compilation CD Soul Desirables

Quality time... Quality for you… The lyrics perfectly describe the overall mood on this sophisticated nu-soul gem by Jack Herrera, which was a side project of singer-producer Jon B and his background singers. A hazy creeper very much in the Maxwell / D’Angelo mode, For You contains many interesting nuances in its arrangement, including a tasty understated trombone. A pity the album by Jack Herrera was shelved.

LEDISI Blues in the Night
From US Verve Various Artists compilation CD We All Love Ella – Celebrating the First Lady of Song

While waiting for Ledisi’s Verve debut album to be released on August 14, we are comforted by this brilliant vocal exercise on this Ella Fitzgerald tribute album. The CD features many superstars (Gladys Knight, Stevie Wonder, Natalie Cole etc.), but Ledisi’s performance outshines them all. The big band jazz accompaniment is professional to the extreme, but the sheer emotion and sincere excitement in Ledisi’s voice are truly incomparable. Marvellous stuff!

FULL FLAVA September / You Make It Heaven
From UK Dome CD Music Is Our Way of Life

Chantay Savage(remember her brilliant Quality Time pick Funny Ways from 1999?) is the featured vocalist on the EWF cover September, while Joy Rose – who is the current lead singer of Incognito – delivers more than a competent version of  Terri Wells’ You Make It Heaven. Actually it is a better than the original version!

From US QDB MUSIC CD Submit To Love

An Erykah Badu-ish, sax-drecnhed version of the Billie Holliday classic Lover Man. The album is well worth a check.

From US Machine Productions / The Groove Records CD

With Gerald Albright on saxophone, you can feel an instant touch of quality soul ballad; you cannot get much better than this! Welcome back Howard Hewett, after a previous release in 2001.

RICK JAMES f. Howard Hewett & Johnny Gill Do You Wanna Play
From US Stone City Records CD Deeper Still

On Do You Wanna Play, the composition, vocal performances and lyrics contribute equally into building a classic midtempo bedroom soul ballad, so typical that you could almost describe it as a pastiche to times gone by. This ballad gem on Rick James’ posthumous album features utterly fine performances by not only Rick himself, but also Howard Hewett and Johnny Gill (in the pic above). Howard and Johnny are superb soul singers, and it’s a shame they don’t have enough chances to reach the recognition they deserve.

MAYSA You Are My Starship
From US Shanachie CD Feel the Fire

One of the all-time classics in the history of soul and jazz music, You Are My Starship was originally performed by Norman Connors with Michael Henderson on lead vocals, and Maysa Leak does a respectable cover of this song with Dave Mann on saxophone. Maysa seems to have a good taste in her choice of covers, indeed.

EBONY ALLYENE In Love with a Stranger
From UK Expansion CD Never Look Back

Compared to Dionne Warwick/Burt Bacharach sound of the 60s, this is very close the same sound, and if you’re into the pop/soul sounds of the late 60s/early 70s, this is well worth checking. Ebony Allyene also visited the Luxury Soul Weekender in Birmingham last May.


The Ebony Alleyne pic courtesy of Chris Priestley,

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