Paris-born guitarist U-Nam has opened the “funkgates” on his latest album, Unanimity, scheduled for release on April 28 on the Trippin N Rhythm record label. The drive on this project is so infectious that you can actually feel and visualize the energy spewing forth. The combination of R&B grooves, jazz runs, and the unmistakable funk factor give this one a running start toward the top of the charts.
The opening, rather atypical piece (at least from a jazz perspective), “Viva La Revolucion” is a slowly marching brief tune that is so clean, melodic, and universal in appeal, while “Funk-4-U-Nity” is one of those “down & dirty” jams that begs motion and calls for a clear understanding of just what funk is all about. Following that, the up-tempo and catchy “Shine On” is a hook-rich and soulful offering that’s sure to get a huge chunk of airplay. Then, there’s the highly electric, stratospherically-charged title track which just sizzles with the vibrancy of U-Nam’s Ibanez guitar coupled with superior and harmonic backing vocals.
Gathering together some superb help from master flutist/saxman Najee, Matt Rohde on Rhodes, and canary-like vocals from Marva King, as well as stellar support from his own group of fine musicians (Franck Sitbon on the Rhodes, piano, clavinet, organ, and backing vocals; Dennis Bennarosh on percussion; Mike White on drums; and a keenly sharp collection of horns and strings), U-Nam (who’s personally handling guitars, basses, and keys) puts forth a sterling effort here bound for the highest musical ground.
Getting back to the tunes offered here, there are worthy selections that evoke memories of tunes and artists past--as well as cuts that demonstrate U-Nam’s ability to compose, mold, and play quality original material. The hooks throughout are distinct, the melodies are refreshing and pleasurable, the alternately bluesy and lightning riffs and chops (e.g.,”4 Ever Urs” and “My Heart and Soul”) from U-Nam’s Ibanez are fluid and masterful, the bass lines are definitely bottom-heavy and chock full of funk, and the percussions and drums add that undeniable rhythm and “flava.”
There’s flash and an occasional surprise throughout this album. A case in point would be the moderately paced “Soul Boy Reincarnation,” which begins as a handsome arranged slice of smooth jazz and funk and ends up with a nod to some cool ragtime. Love it! Oh, and then there’s a cleverly arranged cut that, while original, offers a throw-back chorus reminiscent of my favorite R&B duo of all time, Sam & Dave, as snippets of “Hold On I’m Comin’” are heard in “(Hang On) U- Is Comin’.” I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention the Martha & The Vandellas monster oldie, “Dancing In The Streets,” as performed by the marvelous Marva King. Just try to sit this one out! Loving the mix between jazz and blues the way I do, I have to also tip my hat to the strollin’ “Losin’ My Mind.” Excellent work.
I tell you, one is truly in for a potpourri of listening treats with this project, as U-Nam sets out to truly provide the listener with some quality and diverse sounds. All in all, Unanimity is one of those productions that will enjoy a long, happy life everywhere smooth jazz and serious grooves are taken seriously.Posted by Ronald Jackson at March 31, 2009 11:24 PM