Singer, songwriter, producer, and musician Sy Smith, the underground queen of r&b and soul as she is often referred to, is back with her sixth album, following the 2018 release of “Sometimes A Rose Will Grow In Concrete”. “Until We Meet Again” just came out yesterday on the Foreign Exchange label +FE with Sy, Tall Black Guy and Zo! as producers and Phonte as executive producer. Special guests include Chris Botti, Sheila E., and Dontae Winslow. The first single “Slide” already came out last October so now we finally have the full album.
From the start with “Flowers”, you immediately know what awaits you for the next 40 minutes: a brilliant run through the most exciting, perfectly produced neo-soul gems with Sy’s voice hitting all the right spots. Her “Why Do You Keep Calling Me”, with its instantly heart-warming keys at the beginning, is my favorite cut on the album. It reminds me of 70s Stevie Wonder, with some late 70s Deniece Williams thrown in. It’s a beautiful, totally enthralling diamond with a tasty keys solo and it clearly shows that this is one of the most exciting voices around. When she hits the high notes towards the end, it’s a revelation. The sexy grooves continue on “Photograph”. Sy has been on stage with trumpeter Chris Botti in the last few years, so it’s no surprise that he is featured here as well (he also has his own new album out on Blue Note since October called “Vol. 1”). The smoothly flowing “Remember How To Fly” is another winner here and with Chris’ trumpet, adding more excitement to the mix. It’s as if Minnie Riperton has returned. A riotously plush soul weaves underneath.
Sy slows down a bit for “Always Pick Up For You”; its piano and strings augmenting the colorful love song. Kudos to Gina Kronstadt for the wonderful string arrangements. The afore-mentioned “Slide” with its urgent funkiness and uber strong bass line is next and we still can’t get enough of the brilliant backing vocals and handclaps. We get another texture here on the highly percussive “Masterclass” which features Sheila E. It has this compelling and insistent Louie Vega-type groove which is really hard to resist. Dontae Winslow is responsible for the horns on “Summer of ’93”, another nimble, energy-filled track fitting perfectly into the mix. Holding it all together is this perfectly balanced voice with its wondrous range which can be both self-deprecating and totally persuasive. Case in point: the last two tracks on this highly satisfying album: the leaping “All The Ways” and the Latin-tinged title track.
Vinyl will be available in about four months. Make sure to check her out in Indianapolis, Columbus, or Washington, DC, in early March.