Eric Frazier: Find Yourself (Then Find Me) (2004)
Eric Frazier has assembled a large cast for this self-produced funk-filled recording. With him at the helm are two jazz stalwarts: bassist Reggie Workman and pianist Danny Mixon. Also present are rising stars like trumpeter Jeremy Pelt, tenor saxophonist Wayne Escoffery, and pianist Anthony Wonsey.
Things kick off with the funky "Walk That Walk, defined by Mixon's breathtaking solo and high-octane comping. Although its beat is insistent and infectious (try to sit still), the ensemble's reading of the theme is breezy. Guitarist Wayne Jeffery's lean, single-note solo unfolds beautifully. "Talking Silly could have easily been born in the Shaft era. Its call-and-response pattern defines the epitome of instrumental funk. Not content to rely on clichés, the soloists stretch out, bringing depth and adventure to their offerings.
"The Sun Will Shine Again has a theme that leans more towards traditional jazz than funk, with an especially appealing release. Then alto saxophonist David Lee Jones throws a curve in the first lead, offering an agitated, angular solo, followed by Pelt in a lyrical, reflective turn. Mixon shines again and it is all set against an unrelenting, but never ponderous, bass ostinato.
On this contemporary jazz production, replete with funk, soul, and jazz rhythms and motifs, the band plays with seriousness of purpose, soloing with verve and imagination. And it's all such fun dance music. The Latin-themed "Bueno Gente offers a welcome change of pace without relinquishing any of the drive of the previous tracks.
The level of invention drops when the vocals enter, however, but not enough to devastate this worthy project. Although Frazier and the other lead vocalists sing with sincerity, the words are not on par with the excellent songs. The joie de vivre so on display during the instrumental segments flags a bit when the singing starts. Frazier's vocal effort, of course, has a long, distinguished lineage in jazz, but here it does not elevate the proceedings.
"It's All Love features another lush Pelt solo, this time muted, but the vocals, in a Leon Thomas-like aura, never take hold. On "Nobody Knows Me however, band and vocalists strike a strutting, polyphonic New Orleans groove that is so appropriate to remember at this time of devastation in this proud city's history.
Track Listing: Walk the Walk; Talking Silly; The Sun Will Shine Again; Eagle Eyes; Bueno Gente; If I Didn't Know; Don't Get Too Close; It's All Love; Nobody Knows Me; Find Yourself; The One for Me.
Personnel: Eric Frazier: vocals, congas, percussion; Reggie Workman: bass; Danny Mixon: piano; Anthony Wonsey: piano; Enos Payne: piano; Ted Cruz: piano; David Lee Jones: alto sax; Jeremy Pelt: trumpet; Wayne Escoffery: tenor sax; Karen Joseph: flute; Ulyesse Corbett: trombone; Eric Lemon: bass; Todd Isler: drums; Wayne Jeffery: guitar; Theo Donnelly: vocals; Marguerite Mariama: vocals; Alvin Flythe: tenor sax; Mike Flythe: drums; Denise Du'Maine: background vocals; Veronica White: background vocals; Sabor: percussion, background vocals.