I rather like this jazz-inspired tribute to the music of the legendary Motown singer and songwriter Marvin Gaye. I can't think of anyone who has prepared an entire album to celebrate his work in this genre. Even Kevin Mahogony's Pride and Joy (2003) was a Motown album with only the title tune reflecting Gaye's songbook. McKinley's voice features an odd mixture of jazz phrasing on the ballads and a more urgent R&B tinge on the more up-tempo numbers, leaving me uncertain about her previous release from 2000, Stay The Night, which was comprised entirely of titles from the Great American Songbook.
Cassandre McKinley, a Boston-based vocalist, took several years to complete this project, and her influences, which also include the expected jazz singers, also make note of other R&B figures like Stevie Wonder, Al Green, and Earth Wind & Fire. She has teamed up with some good Boston musicians in Brad Hatfield, Marty Ballou, Vinny Pagano, Dino Govoni, Stephen Angellis, and Lexi Angellis.
The album begins with nice contrast between the movie music of "Trouble Man," which invokes a bit of urban friction to match the title character in the film, and then moves into the sinuous ballad "I Want You," almost as if this were a different vocalist. In the same vein, the at-one-time suggestive "Let's Get It On" is given an intimate reading. "Pride and Joy," one of Gaye's biggest hits, is taken at a bounce tempo with Dino Govoni's tenor sax prodding the singer onward. The romantic duet "Your Precious Love" is sung here with John Pagano.
McKinley deserves some points for passing up some of the biggest hits of Marvin Gaye that have been overplayed over the past few decadesand perhaps should be taken out of circulation for a few years. Next time I'm in Boston, I plan to search out McKinley's debut album from 2000.