I remember when keyboardist Kiefer’s “Superbloom” EP came out back in 2019, I was immediately hooked on those quasi-simple melodies which had that special spirituality about them, and then turned out to be far more than just that. The jazzy background (Kiefer Shackleford studied with Kenny Burrell) seemed to dive in almost subconsciously, with notes and beats being left out to create a somber and heavenly atmosphere on pieces like “Be Encouraged” and “And Encourage Others”.
Kiefer continues his trip with his fourth full-length album and third for Stones Throw, the LA-based indie label with an impressive artist roster. His mélange of jazz and hip-hop beats, sort of electronic future jazz and those brilliantly simple melodies on tracks like “Earthly Things” turn this into another truly unique and special session. The repetitiveness on “Crybaby” with its late 70s Herbie Hancock-like bridge part is anything but adorable. It’s supposed to be about nostalgia and the things he feels when watching old pictures from his childhood. Kiefer is supported by a cast of Los Angeles-based jazz/alt soul/experimental musicians, some of whom also orbit around Sam Gendel.
Kiefer himself, responsible for the production work on Anderson.Paak‘s album “Ventura” and working with Terrace Martin, Lalah Hathaway, Moses Sumney, or SiR, weaves his r&b and soul ideas into some of the pieces here, too. But mostly, it’s a sweet and melancholic offering with “Curly” and the short “A Wish For You” almost turning esoteric. “Areti’s Love” includes spare synth parts which remind me of early 70s Stevie Wonder. Another deep and intensive melody. The aforementioned soul influence is a main part on the title track which for me is clearly the album’s highlight. Electric keys and floating drum work easily transport you back to mid- or late 70s fusion albums by Ramsey Lewis, Stevie, or George Duke which always included some downtempo or midtempo soul/jazz gems.
The groove continues on “I Love My Friends” with excellent keys work and a swampy, luxurious, invigorating and funky beat with a great piano solo. And there is a bonus track too. But only on the vinyl version! So make sure to get your copy once it’s released on October 1st (CD and digital available on August 27th) for “Thinking Of You”, a Lonnie Liston Smith-like smoothie, 2021 style.
Kiefer plays various US clubs in the fall:
09/26 Houston – Bronze Peacock Room
09/27 Dallas – Cambridge Room
10/05 Seattle – Chop Suey
10/10 San Diego – Soda Bar
10/20 Minneapolis – Fine Line
10/24 Toronto – Drake Hotel Underground
10/29 New York – S.O.B.’s
10/30 Philadelphia – Milkboy Philly
11/06 Atlanta – Hell, The Masquerade