March 3, 2013

Marion Meadows - Whisper

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.

It was in 1990 that smooth jazz sax-man Marion Meadows made his debut with the critically acclaimed For Lover's Only and only two years later he was back with the wonderful Keep It Right. The fact it found him forging a soulful liaison with the likes of Will Downing, Bob Baldwin, Angela Bofill and Norman Connors is significant as it placed Meadows very much on the urban side of contemporary jazz. As he proceeded to amass a significant body of work this soulful connection has never been too far away and now, newly ensconced on the Shanachie label, he is all set to further progress his musical journey with Whisper that will be released February 26, 2013. Featuring twelve choice tracks, of which the majority are originals, Meadows weaves a fine thread of soul and fire, intellect and emotion, sensitivity and power. The result is a delight and sure to cement Meadows’s place in the very highest echelons of smooth jazz.

Whisper is Meadows’ first new recording in four years and it opens in fine style with the hugely rhythmic driven ‘The Visitor’ which sublimely segues into the atmospheric title cut. It was co-written by ‘in demand’ keyboard player and producer Michael Broening while other production talents involved in the project include Carlos Pennisi, Bob Baldwin and Rahni Song.

The collection’s first single is the smoothly supercharged ‘Black Pearl’ where writing credits are shared with Pennisi and elsewhere ‘Timeless’ proves to be a tender ballad in the best traditions of the art form. The tune was written in partnership with Rahni Song who also lends a hand on keyboards and when Meadows ratchets up the urgency with ‘Curves’ he not only delivers a dance floor filler of the highest order but also provides a real personal favorite.

Equally scorching is the James Brown inspired ‘Wild Thing’ and although ‘Magic Life’ and ‘Golden Curtain’ (with fabulous flute from Althea Rene) are both wonderful examples of textbook smooth jazz, it is when Meadows takes a nostalgic look back that things become really interesting.

His version of Freddie Hubbard’s classic ‘Sky Dive’ is added to in no small measure by the cool trumpet of Joey Sommerville and another superb reimagining comes in the form of the Dave Grusin number ‘Marcosinho’ which can be found on the 1980 CD from Dave Valentin, The Hawk.

Later, the always-immaculate Bob Baldwin teams with Meadows to create, what are arguably, some of the finest moments that Whisper has to offer. The seductive melody of ‘Turn Up The Quiet’ represents the perfect vehicle for a memorable ‘Meadows – Baldwin’ double act and when long time Baldwin collaborator and flautist Ragan Whiteside joins them for the jazzy yet easy grooving ‘Bottoms Up’ the outcome is even better.

Whisper is Meadow’s twelfth album release 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 March 3, 2013 4:55 PM