June 15, 2009

Marion Meadows - Secrets

Welcome to the latest issue of Denis Poole’s Secret Garden, the page that offers a personal perspective on the very best from the world of smooth jazz and classic soul. Sax-man Marion Meadows has been at the cutting edge of contemporary jazz since 1990 and the release of his debut album For Lovers Only. Over the intervening years eight more highly acclaimed collections have followed with the last four being on the consistently outstanding Heads Up label. Now he is all set to strengthen that association with his ninth solo recording, Secrets, which hit record stores across Europe on June 8, 2009.

Indeed, from as far back as his 2002 CD, In Deep, a significant feature of Meadows music has been the input as writer and producer of Michael Broening. With Secrets Broening again sprinkles his groove drenched magic over six of the twelve choice cuts and, in the company of regulars Mel Brown on bass and guitarist Freddie Fox, helps deliver some of the best contemporary jazz you will hear this year or next. With four more original compositions and two sublime covers Meadows ensures that Secrets is an album of the highest quality imaginable.

The mid tempo title track is resplendent with that delightfully familiar Meadows – Broening vibe and this same partnership is responsible for ‘Urban Angels’. As the title suggests, and despite an urgent beat, it possesses a distinctly angelic tone whilst even better is ‘The Child in Me’. Tender yet compelling this textbook example of mellow smooth jazz finds Meadows at his impressive best and has already become a firm Secret Garden favourite.

That said, highlights abound and in this respect there is none more so than the spicy ‘Sand Dancers’. Written by Orly Penate and Roberto Vazquez (who both contribute hugely on keyboards, piano and horns) this tantalizingly inviting number shimmers with electrifying bursts of strings and a blazing injection of horns. Its zesty Latin twist allows the track to really flow and much the same can be said of the Broening – Meadows penned ‘Flirt’. Not for the first time Meadows playing is sumptuously smooth and when for ‘The Shade Tree’ he combines with the highly regarded Impromp2 it proves to be a chilled out masterpiece. Impromp2 is in fact the pairing of Johnny Britt and Sean Thomas who have been playing sophisticated cross-over jazz since the 1995 release of their MoJazz debut You’re Gonna Love It. Here as writers, producers and performers they bestow a distinctly Michael Franks aura to the entire piece while, elsewhere, heartfelt vocals from long time Gerald Veasley band member Will Brock gel perfectly with Meadows’ impassioned playing on the lively ‘Playtime’.

Legendary guitarist and rock singer Charlie Karp is outstanding for the breathtakingly tender ‘You Lift My Heart’ where his husky voice finds the ideal foil in Meadows’ wondrous playing. Co-written and produced by the prolific Brian Keane it’s a tune that exemplifies the eclectic nature of Secrets and, as Meadows returns to smooth jazz territory, the understated but totally in the pocket ‘Let The Top Down’ has Michael Broening’s writing and production skills stamped all over it. The utterly pleasing hook comes courtesy of Jessie McGuire on trumpet and he stays around for Meadows’ cool take on the Bobby McFerrin classic ‘Friends’ for which Brian Chartrand on vocals takes the lead. Chartrand returns for the steamily funky ‘Here To Stay’ that was originally the killer cut from the Pat Metheny CD, We Live Here. Meadows feisty interpretation reveals Rachel Ekroth in dazzling form on Hammond B3, Jay Rowe immense on piano and is, without doubt, one of the album’s outstanding tracks. However, equally good is the Michael Broening composition ‘Soul Sugar’. With yet more of the warm and comforting vibe that Secrets is all about, the almost languid beat lays a foundation for interplay between Meadows and Broening that quickly becomes seriously addictive.

Secrets is a wonderful album and comes highly recommended.

Do you have any comments on what you have found in this edition of the Secret Garden? If so please e-mail me on DenisPoole2000@Yahoo.com.

Posted by Denis Poole at June 15, 2009 6:49 PM