Composer, producer, and multi-instrumentalist Doug Stuart (bass, synth, Rhodes, piano, vocals, percussion) has studied with Robert Hurst and Geri Allen, ans has recently collaborated not only with jazz artists, but in Hip-Hop, House, Downtempo (listen to the 2019 Brijean wonder) and experimental genres as well. “Familiar Future” (out on Ropeadope October 16th) draws the line from mid-70s soul and fusion sounds to current-day aesthetics. Just listen to the title track, full of memories of Ramsey Lewis circa 1976, combined with the majestic and ethereal sounds of Lonnie Liston Smith, and a melody reminding me a bit of “Perfumed Garden” by the RAH Band. The wonderful Rhodes work of Maya Kronfeld and the combination of flute and bass clarinet by Marcus Stephens all add to this colorful palette of meditative, contemplative sounds. Legendary percussionist John Santos is present as well.
A more urgent, fluid backdrop can be found on “Wind Chaser”, another flute-driven cut with added synths and great guitar work by Jeff Parker. The tempo changes about halfway through and once again, you get a pretty LL Smith-like groove, reminiscent of his late 70s albums “Loveland” or “Exotic Mysteries”, before it segues into a tinkling, swirling ending, only to get back into the groove for the final moments. Cello and violin add to the mysterious quality of the whole game, courtesy of Shaina Evoniuk and Crystal Pascucci. But the guitar work sort of brings “Henny” back down to earth, with superb, driving and forceful drums by Hamir Atwal. It’s another perfect combination, with the strings bringing memories of Alice Coltrane, moving her stance into the present.
An exceptionally funky backdrop marks “Another One For Slug”, with drums sounding as if recorded in a garage (great sound this!), perfecting the piece as a pretty cool, modern-day fusion cut. It’s almost an orchestral work, too. CTI meets “Expansions” on “BB’s Birthday” which has more amazing, subtle percussion work by Mister Santos and Dave Valentin-like flute on this very Latinesque outing. My favorite track, in addition to the title cut, is “Joy Ride”, with a wonderfully floating melody, driven by guitar and strings, simply making a lot of fun and maintaining a steady, soulful groove. Jeff Parker’s solo is sublime. I really like the backing strings during his spot, a really cool arrangement indeed, with a really amazing finale.
Doug is also part of the fantastic Brijean (Murphy) album “Walkie Talkie”, this wondrous amalgam of ambient, downtempo, house, and leftfield sounds which came out about a year ago. Snippets occur here as well from time to time. Rob Shelton is responsible here as well for the ultra-cool engineering and mixing job.
I think the production values on “Familiar Future” and its chromatic palette re: harmonies and melodies are one-of-a-kind, and much too rare these days in contemporary music, regardless of genre.