Music That Helped Us Through The Summer, Part 1: John Carroll Kirby

We’re finally back on track here after a few incredibly busy months since businesses were allowed to open up again in late May. Gina enjoyed her holidays in the Netherlands and is now able to write again on a daily basis as the summer slowly but surely comes to an end. There has been a vast amount of truly amazing releases over the last few months and I wanted to share some of them here in the next few days. Music which helped us get through these troubled and crazy times. First up, keyboardist, composer and producer John Carroll Kirby released his new album “Septet” in early June. If you dig your 70s/80s jazz fusion sounds from Herbie Hancock, Lonnie Liston Smith, Ramsey Lewis, or George Duke, then this is exactly for you. John turns the opener “Rainmaker” into fusion bliss, with haunting woodwinds from Logan Hone and Tracy Wannomae. The moment the percussion work sets in (David Leach) is just uber cool. The melody meanders brilliantly along for almost eight minutes. It’s a little masterpiece which has been an important part for the soundtrack to our Berlin summer.

John Carroll Kirby "Septet"

“P64 By My Side” seems to be a pretty bland and ordinary piece at first, but after a few listens it really sets in as some kind of hypnosis with its flute/keys/percussion work. Also, there is some wonderful mallet input from Nick Mancini here. “Sensing Not Seeing” easily mixes Lonnie Liston Smith circa 1975 with some of the more adventurous CTI stuff from that same era and complementing it with some amazing breakbeat drum work by Deantoni Parks. It’s a pretty driving, powerful tune. The tempo slows down for a swampy and rich “Swallow Tail”, somewhat reminding me of Kool & The Gang’s timeless “Summer Madness” with its heavenly synths. Great flute work here as well. We’re staying in midtempo mode with the soothing, floating “Weep”, sort of Bob James-ish with more of that simple, but pretty effective percussion work. John’s keyboard solo on this one seems like he’s singing the melody. Another great piece.

Get ready for the final three tracks on this, certainly John’s best effort to date: “Jubilee Horns” with more of those airy, kind of heavenly keys which were part of some of the best 70s fusion records, added here by vibes and flute to end up as one of the album’s highlights. “The Quest Of Chico Hamilton” is a nod to the brilliant drummer and percussionist who also released some intriguing jazz-funk albums in the 70s. Another midtempo gem. John saves the best for last: after constant listening to the album since its release, I still can’t get enough of “Nucleo”, the shuffling beat and the Lonnie Liston Smith-like woodwind and keyboard work with amazing percussion work reminding me of Angela Bofill’s “The Voyage” from 1979. This is one of the most infectious cuts to come out this year and simply carries you away. It’s a trip you want to make over and over again.

And what a nice present for vinyl lovers: as an exclusive, only the vinyl version includes three dub mixes of “Sensing Not Seeing”, “Jubilee Horns”, and “Nucleo”.

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