When you possess awe-inspiring instrumental and vocal talent, then combine that with a 20-year “side job” as a Berklee College of Music teacher, and you’ve achieved name recognition that’s also associated with someone who is easily deemed a constant “hitmaker,” life has to look pretty sweet! Walter Beasley laid claim to all of this ages ago, yet, as if he’s some new kid on the block who has to prove something, he approaches this latest production, Free Your Mind, with the deep passion that again finds him pouring everything he has into the project. This spectacular new album comes with a very cool and encouraging theme: In this time of overwhelming bad news and stress from economic and other vantage points, we need to just relax, enjoy a moment of release, and lose ourselves to a precious moment of peace and tranquility. It is remedial; it is therapeutic; it is needed.
Often working in concert here with renowned Pieces of a Dream keyboardist James Lloyd, who’s penned several of the classy tunes here, Beasley further cements his powerful name and talents in the collective mind and soul of smooth jazz. We are treated to some real treasures here in the snappy, funky opener, “Steady As She Goes,” (another implied bit of sound advice for our troubled times, by the way), a dazzling display of his vocal skills on smooth artist Kem’s “Love Calls,” the swaying, melodically sound “Oh Yeah,” more rousing funk on “Shirlitta” (my fav here), and the casual, mellow title track (oh-so-aptly named!).
As if that weren’t enough, the cool saxman offers a series of moving tributes. There’s the hot, Latin-tinged tribute to master composer/keyboardist George Duke on “DukeZilla,” a suave tribute to President (then-contender at the time the tune was composed) Barack Obama ("Barack's Groove"), and a sweet, delicate melody called “Miss Minnie” for a dear, departed friend referred to by the artist as his “second mom.” All of this simply speaks to the humble and gracious nature of Beasley. I’m sure I’m joined by throngs of jazzers who too are humbled and extremely grateful for his dedication to providing us with his best effort each and every time he sets his mood to music. Thanks are definitely in order!