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. Back in 2010 I hailed the stunning debut recording from producer, keyboardist, engineer, and songwriter Hart Ramsey as one of the contemporary jazz surprises of the year. Titled Charge It to My Heart, it’s emergence as one of the hottest releases of 2010 was perhaps all the more astonishing for the fact that Ramsey has a Doctorate in Pastoral Ministry. In fact when not making music he teaches weekly services at Northview Christian Church in Alabama. Now he is back with the equally beguiling My Next Heartbeat.
‘Two Roads’ gets the show on the road with feisty sax from Kelley O’Neal and a lively beat which might best be described as verging on the intense. This lively beginning is in contrast to much of the album which often finds Ramsey in mellow mode and this is particularly so with ‘In Spite Of Myself’. It features a cool guitar solo from regular Ramsey sideman Rick Watford and he stays in or around quiet storm territory for the ultra chilled ‘The Commitment’ where vocals are shared with the Robert Moe. Later, when vocal duties are passed to Daniel Johnson, his interplay with Ramsey on the silky smooth ‘Cover Me’ is magical and, elsewhere, ‘The Better Part’ features Eric Essix on guitar and, much like many of Ramsey’s best tunes, more great sax from Kelley O’Neal. It’s an easy grooving slice of smooth jazz and much the same can be said of ‘Merry Heart (Like Medicine)’ which bounces along on a happy vibe and proves to be the perfect vehicle for Ramsey’s always superb keys.
‘Look You In The Face’ is an easy grooving number in keeping with the CD’s overall mood and although ‘Until The End Of Time’ turns out to be another agreeably tranquil cut, ‘Start Now’ opens with a chilled out groove that expands into something altogether more urgent. Truth to tell this one is all about the rhythm which, from time to time, is interspersed with some fine backing vocals and a killer keyboard solo from Ramsey.
‘See Into Me’ is a slice of late night smooth jazz designed with lovers very much in mind while despite being predominately keyboard driven, the zesty title track is illuminated by bursts of jazzy sax from O’Neal. This pleasantly swaggering cut is amongst the album’s best and in terms of personal favourites is in the excellent company of ‘Written In Red’ which in contradiction to the gentle nature of much of the collection turns out to be a real mover and shaker. With a terrific bass line from co-writer Sean Michael Ray this one really hits the spot yet just as good is ‘Don’t Be Afraid To Do It Again’ where, in addition to Ramsey’s wonderful keys, some splendidly soulful vocals can also be found.
To deliver a follow up worthy Charge It to My Heart was, for Hart Ramsey, a very big ask indeed. The fact he has done it with aplomb speaks volumes of his potential for the future.
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 December 11, 2011 2:57 PM