Though you'd hardly describe six years touring and recording with singer/bassist Sting and six more with guitarist Jeff Beck as languishing in the wilderness, Anything But Look does represent pianist Jason Rebello's first recording of original material since Next Time Around, (Onion, 1999) and his first as leader since Jazz Rainbow (Jumby Records, 2007)his wonderful reworking of children's songs/themes. Rather than a return to the acoustic jazz of Next Time Roundwhich featured drummer Jeff "Tain" Watts and bassist Orlando le FlemingRebello instead rekindles the kind of Herbie Hancock-inspired jazz-fusion and crossover soul-funk of his early 1990s albumsand he does so with real panache.
Imagine a super-band featuring Hancock, singer/keyboardist Stevie Wonder and guitarist Pat Metheny and you may begin to get some idea of the sonic spread. If you can't get Wonder, then British soul singer Omar is the next best thing; his soulful tenor on "Know What You Need"buoyed by bassist Pino Palladino's funk groove, Rebello's Rhodes touches and Joy Rose's backing vocalsevokes Wonder's mid-70s hey-day. Rebello stretches out on piano towards the end but the tune is the thing. In this regard, Rebello's songwriting is better than everall these compositions carry serious commercial appeal, as well as showcasing great chops.
There are no escaping comparisons to the Pat Metheny Group on the up-tempo "With Immediate Effect"; Rose's wordless vocals soar with a sunny melodicism that recalls the PMG circa vocalist/percussionist Pedro Aznar. The title track also displays a little of the Metheny/keyboardist Lyle Mays DNA in its smooth yet infectious melodic contours; Rebello's gently lyrical keyboard and piano interventions carry the tune. "In the Thick of It" follows a similar path, with Jacob Collier's wordless song defining the melody and Rebello stretching out on piano and synth in his most dynamic solos of the set.
Another instrumental, "Without a Paddle" fizzles with neo-Latin energy, punctuated by grooving solos from guitarist Paul Stacey and piano. Driven by percussionist Miles Bould, vocalist Sumudu Jayatilaka brings a touch of soul-jazz to the samba-tinged "The Man on the Train," with Rebello's embellishments building to an extended statement. Soprano Alicia Carroll's classical tones float over Rebello's punchy ska rhythm on the gothic "Dark Night of the Soul"; a piano trio segment with Rebello at the center leads back to Caroll's vocal and a stirring conclusion.
Singer Wil Downing features on the slow-burning "Is This How," with Aja Downing adding silky harmonies and Rebello releasing little melodic flurries in the high register. "New Joy" is an irresistibly slinky funk/neo-soul number; Joy Rose's sensual vocals are carried by Troy Miller's fat back-beat, hand claps and dancing piano on this sure-fire radio/dance-floor hit. Singer Xantoné Blacq also echoes Wonder on "Lighten up the Road," an upbeat tune that dissolves in Rebello's salsa motifs and inviting percussion.
Sexy neo-soul, jazz, funk, Latin grooves and the sweeter end of jazz-fusion combine in a joyous cocktail of broad stylisticand commercialappeal. Rebello proves that music can be entertaining and sophisticated on a delightful recording that marks the pianist/composer's triumphant return to the spotlight.
Know What You Need; The Man on the Train; Without a Paddle; Anything But Look; Dark Night of the Soul; With Immediate Effect; Is This How; In the Thick of It; New Joy; Lighten Up the Load.
Jason Rebello: piano, keyboards, bass (7), backing vocals (6); Troy Miller: drums (1-5, 8-10), guitar (7), percussion (4); Pino Palladino; bass (1, 4, 6-7, 9-10); Karl Rasheed-Abel: acoustic bass (2-3, 5, 8); Paul Stacey: guitar (3, 6, 9); Jeremy Stacey; drums 6); George Rebello: drums (7); Miles Bould: percussion (1-3,10); Joy Rose: vocals (9), backing vocals (1, 6, 9-10); Jacob Collier: vocals (8); Omar: vocals (1); Xantoné Blacq: vocals (10); Wil Downing: vocals (7); Sumudu Jayatilaka: vocals (2); Alicia Carroll: vocals (5); Aja Downing: backing vocals (7); Tim Garland: flute (8), bass clarinet (10).
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