One hesitates before telling a lifelong New Yorker to be more assertive, but drummer Eric Frazier may need a reminder.
Frazier, an unquestionable talent on the conga and other hand percussion, is too deferential in playing and restrained in arranging for 2004's Find Yourself (Then Find Me) to be all it can be. It's a solid mix of the funk, Latin and R&B styles, but doesn't demand any permanent space in the musical consciousness.
Percussionists face a choice when recording albums as a leader of being a dominant lead voice (i.e. Brent Lewis) or the foundation of an ensemble. Frazier opts for the latter and does a good job at the crucial task of recruiting talented players suited to his style, but spends most of the album lost behind them. His compositions seem well-suited for live performance, but could be a bit more aggressive in the studiothe proverbial party is more lively mixer than get-down-and-dirty dance jam.
The first five of the album's ten songs are instrumentals, with Frazier taking a more visible role as a vocalist on the rest. The division is welcome, offering continuity in both approaches, but both lack arranging variety to the point where listeners can pretty much predict how everything plays out: A reasonably catchy horn-heavy chorus, followed by mid-length solos by most or all of the ensemble. The trumpeter will stick to the chording and pacing of the compositions, a comforting rather than exciting presence. The alto saxophonist will be just as safealbeit a bit livelierwith a tone probably best suited for this setting. The tenor player will be more deliberative and interesting, but in a tone a bit too understated for this group. The pianist will contribute consistently solid, if not standout, contributions with a spirited yet light touch that allows Frazier's percussion to come throughif only it would.
Unfortunately, Frazier's percussion is almost entirely lost in the mix. The horns no doubt have something to do with this, but his work is more prominent in previous albums with similar arrangements so this appears to be a deliberate decision. He also does almost no soloing.
His vocalsranging from swing to Motown ballads to "Johnny B. Goode"-like rockare solid in his general delivery without ever really hitting the stratosphere in execution or daring. Like the instrumentals there's nothing wrong here, but better listening is a Big Bad Voodoo Daddy album away.
In a way, it's unfair to be critical of this albumit's a solid "B" effort, but is competing in a vast arena where quality "A" efforts are plentiful. Those who do find this a good listen might check out a similar, but better executed set on 2000's Smile Inside Your Soul. Also, two free MP3s from 1996's Count Your Blessings are available from the Internet Underground Music Archive .
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; Danny Mixon: piano (1-2,8-11); David Lee Jones:
alto saxophone (1-4,6,8-11); Jeremy Pelt: trumpet (1,3,6,8-11); Wayne Escofery: tenor
saxophone (1-2,4-5,8-10); Wayne Jeffery: guitar (1-2,4,8,11); Todd Isler: drums
(1-6,8-11); Eric Lemon: bass (1,3-6,8-11); Sabor: percussion (1-4,8-9,11); Enos Payne:
piano (2,6); Ulyesse Corbett: trombone (2-6,9); Ted Cruz: piano (4-5); Karen Joseph: flute
(5); Theo Donnelly: vocals (6); Reggie Workman: bass (6-7); Anthony Wonsey: piano (7);
Marguerite Mariama: vocals (7); Alvin Flythe: tenor saxophone (7); Denise De'Maine: vocals
(8,10); Veronica White: vocals (8,10).
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already. SOOOO... he started me off LP's by Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Errol Garner, Bill Evans, Monty Alexander, Charlie Byrd, and Dave Brubeck... does it get any better than that? ...No, it doesn't. I was hooked!!
I met and had a master class with the late music giant John Lewis, leader of the Modern Jazz Quartet! This was at CCNY in 1977. I was blessed! It was an incredible class... how could it have been anything else?!?!
The first jazz record I bought was...I bought numerous records from my friend at the record store, as mentioned above. He introduced me to nothing but music giants/legends! I think The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Greatest Hits, was actually the first one.
My advice to new listeners... study first--understand the rudiments--solfeggio, keys, scales, and basic chords. Read a book or take a class that includes the study of chord progressions, especially in jazz. It should ideally be a piano class so you can play multiple notes together. Have a good EAR or else it's not really worth it in my view...to become a musician, a good EAR for music is about as fundamental as breathing! Learn to read chord charts--i.e., lead sheets - wherein you play various voicings of the chords--major, minor, dominant 7th (alterations of these, you can learn over time - the basic chords are most important for starters), plus the melody, on the piano or keyboard. If you have to read the exact notes, then it's not the same as actually internalizing it & getting it all into your head. If you can do this, I think you're ready not only for listening to jazz, but understanding many concepts of it! Of course...anyone can listen to jazz... but I think it's so good to also have a grasp of it.