Pianist, producer and composer Meeco a/k/a Michael Maier delivers his fourth album “Souvenirs Of Love” next week. He has been under the radar more or less – but not in jazz and soul musician circles. Just a quick look at the line-up of the new record tells you why he is a respected producer and artist. I’d like to give you a run-down of all the tracks.
The album starts with a haunting track with spoken words by Mary Stallings who is heard here in a very unusual setting since on her own records she is more of the laid-back, svelte and sultry jazz singer. Stallings’ vocal is set up in a late-night jazz club atmosphere with stellar accompaniment by Vincent Herring, Eric Reed, and Buster Williams.
Singer Yahzarah who used to sing back-up vocals for Erykah Badu and has recorded several albums under her own name, is the lead vocalist for “Make My Dreams Come True” which could clearly become a chart-topping swayer and which also has some star-studded guests like John Scofield and Richard Bona.
One of the nice surprises is the vocalist Aaron Marcellus who can be heard on the beautiful R’n’B ballad “Every Day” together with soul stylist Jean Baylor, saxophonist Kirk Whalum, or Shedrick Mitchell on Rhodes and organ. The only track that I’m not really into is the Talib Kweli-featured “Times Have Changed” simply because I don’t dig rap vocals but the track comes with Wallace Roney, Herring, and Victor Lewis on drums. The fact that Meeco is using these Jazz masters on a more soul-inspired album speaks for the man and his taste and resume.
Baylor is heard again on the gracious “If Only I Knew”, my current favorite. And those favorites can change every day let me tell you! This particular track has a beautiful solo by trumpet hero Eddie Henderson and also features the rhythm section of Reed, Williams, Lewis. Wait a minute my current favorite is the duet vocal in “Can’t Get You Out Of My Mind” with Marcellus and Yahzarah. This is top quality indie soul material with a sexy production and superb background vocals together with little Rhodes tinkling here and there by Mitchell.
There is another late-night smoky Jazz club type song in the form of “Paris At Night” with the astoundingly laid-back vocals by Jean Baylor again who is ably accompanied by a soothing soprano sax by Vincent Herring and the afore-mentioned rhythm section again. This song also has a tasty and luminous solo by vibraphonist Stefon Harris.
The 16 tracks on the album were recorded during the past two years in Brooklyn’s Systems Two Studios and worth a mention is definitely the artsy cover work complete with a 60-plus page booklet with a lot of studio pictures of all musicians involved and with all song lyrics which are actually readable! Anyway, Robert Glasper‘s vocoder genius Casey Benjamin (leaving his sax at home for this track) is featured on “Your Eyes” which is a shuffling groover out of the best CTI or Kudu records period of the mid 70s. There is a return to form here by flutist Hubert Laws! Lionel Loueke adds spicy guitar licks to this irresistible piece.
Scofield returns on another hypnotic soul anthem sung by the incredible Yahzarah (“Words Of Love”) which is destined to become a future classic. It’s that good! And currently my favorite here. (Yes, another). Melancholy lingers on for the next five minutes of “For You”, another blissful moment here with a soulful alto sax from Vincent Herring and eerily beautiful vocals by Yahzarah.
This formidable album closes with “Farewell”, a wonderful instrumental which reminds me of the best Antonio Carlos Jobim recordings of the mid 70s. It is a track of rare beauty with poignant musical delivery by Hubert Laws on alto flute, Eric Reed on piano, and Jaques Morelenbaum on cello. Pure magic.
As bonus tracks, three of the vocal tracks get the instrumental treatment and two songs come in remix shape by Aiko Rohd.
Album release date is January 16th. Make sure to check out these tempting souvenirs.