Nicolas Bearde: Visions (2013)
How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
Vocalist Nicolas Bearde has carved out a comfortable niche in the soul-meets-jazz area of the music world. His previous albumsCrossing The Line (Right Groove Records, 2003), All About Love (Right Groove Records, 2004) and Live at Yoshi'sa Salute to Lou (Right Groove Records, 2008)showcase his songwriting and suave delivery while also pointing toward those who've inspired and influenced him, like Lou Rawls, Donny Hathaway and Bill Withers.
On this, his fourth self-released effort, Bearde works his magic again. He covers a lot of sonic ground, due in no small part to the utilization of a piecemeal approach to personnel selection; he uses over two dozen musicianswith plenty of one-and-done appearancesto help him actualize his vision(s). Sweet and swooning strings, swinging combos, horns, guitars and percussion all play a part in these productions, but Bearde's voice remains the focal point, and rightly so. It might be going a bit too far to say that he's soul personified, but that tag kinda fits. Bearde takes a Stevie Wonder-esque approach to an Earth, Wind & Fire number ("Mighty, Mighty"), nods to Jon Lucien with the pseudo-Brazilian "You're Sensational," and adds a kick to the proceedings with Eugene McDaniels' immortal "Compared To What."
Bearde tends to sound best when the energy runs high, as on the driving "Mighty, Mighty" and spry-and-snazzy "The Best Things In Life Are Free," but he often likes to explore smoother scenarios, as on "Visions," "If You Were Mine" and "Everything Must Change." It's hard to know if this approach to repertoire is meant to balance the artful and the commercial or if it's simply a reflection of his wide-ranging taste, but it's really irrelevant. He's the same man, with the same brandied baritone, regardless of the window dressing that surrounds him.
Track Listing: Falling In Love Again; You're Sensational; Misty; Everything Must Change; The Best Things In Life Are Free; (And) It All Goes 'Round And 'Round; If You Were Mine; Never Let Me Go; Mighty, Mighty; You Better Go; Compared To What; Visions.
Personnel: Nicolas Bearde: vocals; Larry Batiste: vocals (2); Jeanie Tracy: vocals (2); Kimiko Joy: vocals (10); Gino Blacknell: strings (2); Nelson Braxton: bass (6); Gary Brown: bass (1, 4, 5, 7, 10-12); John R. Burr: piano, Fender Rhodes (1, 4, 5, 7, 8, 10); Deszon Claiborne: drums (6, 9); Louis Fasman: trumpet (1, 10, 11); David Garfield: piano (2); Peter Horvath: piano, strings (6); John Hoy: guitar (12); Alphonso Johnson: bass (2); Kleber Jorge: guitar (2); Will Kennedy: drums (1, 4, 5, 7, 10-12); Lorn Leber: guitar (1, 5, 11); Dave Matthews: Hammond B3 organ (3); Gary Meek: saxophone (5); Bill Ortiz: trumpet (4, 6); Glen Pearson: piano (9, 11); Mike Rinta: trombone (1, 10, 11); Doug Rowan: saxophone (1, 10, 11); Mike Shapiro: drums (2); Marcus Shelby: bass (9); Mike Spiro: percussion (4, 7, 11, 12); Akira Tana: drums (8); John Wiitala: bass (8)
Record Label: Right Groove Records
Style: Modern Jazz