Here’s another great example why the melange of r&b, soul, hip-hop, and jazz works so well. The fat bass and drum foundation of the 2:30-minute “Small Moves Interlude” has all the right ingredients and the perfect groove; complete with cool keys it just has this uncompromising sound and mood where any genre or category is worthless. Not needed. And not wanted. Drummer Nate Smith, who has worked with José James, Patricia Barber, and Ravi Coltrane in the past, has released his first album earlier this year.
There is so much beauty here in pieces like “Home Free (For Peter Joe)”, with tender strings and sensitive piano work by Kris Bowers and almost folk/country-like moments in the sax playing of Jaleel Shaw. But there is also a thumping funk backbeat on the bass-heavy “Skip Step” (the electric bass by Fima Ephron with additional acoustic by Dave Holland) and those infectious handclaps which still resonate a lot with me. But this is not a drummer’s record since Nate also plays Rhodes, synths, and percussion, and there is a lot of variety anyway with different vocalists, Michael Mayo among them who works on very mesmerizing vocal effects and percussion on this particular track.
Elsewhere, singer Amma Whatt fronts the inimitable groover “Morning And Allison” with her captivating voice and some fine guitar playing by Jeremy Most. It’s another deep bass and drum-induced jam which also has another fascinating Kris Bowers piano solo added to it. Amma is also featured on “Disenchantment: The Weight”, a more intimate and extremely soulful piece with added strings and, not unlike some of Robert Glasper’s best work, always lets the groove dictate the piece, but not necessarily by emphasizing it too much in the foreground. The background vocal arrangement is amazing too. Amma sounds a bit like Gretchen Parlato in her diction and approach, even though she has a totally different voice. Gretchen is included here, too. On “Pages”, she delivers one of her signature performances on a tune which has her special treat of turning a piece into an uplifting, somehow almost world-music kind of type.
Those handclaps are back for “Bounce Parts I and II” with a James Brown-like guitar and irresistible sax work courtesy of Chris Potter who blends well with Jaleel. The track goes into fusion territory a bit with some Herbie Hancock keyboard sounds in the second part. Great stuff. Michael Mayo is back with some more extremely compelling vocal effects on “Retold”, a midtempo shuffle with a swirling piano solo in the middle section. “Spinning Down”, the longest and most “out” cut on the record, opens gently with svelte guitar work by Lionel Loueke and bass before it hits off into the orbit.
My favorite track, together with “Home Free”, features the great Adam Rogers on electric and acoustic guitars. On “Spiracles”, the mood and atmosphere is so utterly laid-back and everyone plays just heavenly. Jaleel’s sax is gorgeous and masterful and Adam’s part adds some really sexy textures to this outstanding piece. Nate plays with Mark de-Clive Lowe on Wednesday at Joe’s Pub in New York and also accompanies José James on his US tour supporting his new album.