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Matthew Alec: Cleveland Time

Troy Dostert By

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Matthew Alec: Cleveland Time
Tenor saxophonist Matthew Alec is on a mission—and it's all about furthering the jazz scene in his native Cleveland. This starts with his own music, of course, going back to his first band Winslow, a fixture in the Cleveland scene from 2005-2016, and now continuing with his current ensemble, the Soul Electric. Its first release, Cleveland Time, is a strong dose of funk-based fusion, and an auspicious start for Alec's new label, Cleveland Time Records.

The album's opener, "Give What You Take," announces what is on offer, with Jared Lees' gritty electric bass line propelling a heavy groove punctuated with a shout-sung chorus from the band. Listeners fond of Maceo Parker or Tower of Power will find a lot to like here, and Alec's direct delivery puts the emphasis on the melody from start to finish, aided and abetted by some fierce licks from guitarist Steven Forrest Sanders. Other cuts bring individual members of the band to the fore as vocalists: keyboardist Brian Woods has a soulful presence on the medium-tempo "Baby You Got Me," while Sanders' jaded style is perfect for the slinky "Enigma Man." And a gesture toward the world of hip-hop is provided by rapper Minus the Alien on "Cleveland Time," a funk-driven workout dedicated to the city's unique charms.

Alec also makes excellent use of his guest instrumentalists. Trumpeter Tim Coyne's tasty contributions alongside the saxophonist on "Enigma Man" stand out, and trombonist Tom Malone energizes "Cleveland Time" with a melodically-rich, thoughtful solo statement. The band as a whole has a nice chemistry, with lots of punchy riffs from the horn section and airtight grooves from Lees and drummer Leon Henault.

The album's energy does flag a bit during the ponderous "Never With You," a slow, jazz-inflected ballad that doesn't quite gel with the prevailing spirit of the record. The up-tempo "Blues for McCoy" is another jazz-based departure from the album's overall feel, although Alec seems more at home on that track, and Coyne's jubilant solo is a winner. It makes one wonder whether Alec might push this band in a more mainstream-jazz direction on upcoming releases—but in the meantime, Cleveland Time's listener-friendly funk should give fans of the genre much to enjoy.

Track Listing

Give What You Take; Baby You Got Me; Cleveland Time; Never With You; Enigma Man; Blues for McCoy; Sunshine on Prospect.

Personnel

Matthew Alec: saxophone, tenor; Brian Woods: piano; Steven Forrest Sanders: guitar; Jared Lees: bass; Jeremiah Hawkins: drums; Leon Henault: drums; Minus the Alien: voice / vocals; Tom Malone: trombone; Tim Coyne: trumpet.

Album information

Title: Cleveland Time | Year Released: 2021 | Record Label: Cleveland Time Records

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