379

Walter Beasley: Free Your Mind

Woodrow Wilkins By

Sign in to view read count
Walter Beasley: Free Your Mind One knock on smooth jazz is that it really shouldn't be called jazz because it lacks any hint of improvisation. Another is that artists and producers take musicians out of the equation by employing programmers who replace bass and drums. Occasionally, an artist overcomes these negatives with solid songwriting or exceptional play.

Walter Beasley accomplishes both on Free Your Mind. Beasley was a child when his aunt gave him a recording by Grover Washington Jr., a gift that inspired Beasley to learn the saxophone. A graduate from the Berklee College of Music, whose classmates included Branford Marsalis and Rachelle Ferrell, this recording represents Beasley's statement of personal and global reflection.

"Message to Mark" may be the most jazz-like song in this set. Written by Beasley, it features Derek Cannon on trumpet, Craig Shaw on bass, Phil Davis on keyboard and John Roberts on drums. Roberts' subtle cymbal play adds to the track's ethereal qualities. A tribute to the late Mark Ledford, the piece is led by a duet between Beasley and Cannon. The trumpet then delivers an elegant solo, underscored softly by the keys, bass and drums. Beasley also solos. Roberts is emphatic on the toms, cymbals and snare behind Beasley's emotional wail.

"DukeZillia," which has a strong Brazilian flavor, features Roberts, Davis, Raymond McKinley on bass and Rafael Pereira on percussion. Roberts and Beasley add vocals, with Roberts also contributing percussion and Davis contributing drum programming. The song is part tribute to George Duke, whose Brazilian Love Affair (Columbia, 1980) blends jazz, funk, R&B and Brazilian music. This Beasley and Roberts composition is one of several high points of the album. Davis' piano and Beasley's alto sax stand out, as do the percussive efforts of Roberts and Pereira.

Another standout piece is "Barack's Groove," written by Davis. With only Beasley, Davis and guitarist Mark Strowbridge, this laid-back groove honors Barack Obama, the first African-American to be elected president of the United States. Though Davis provides drum programming it's relatively clean, particularly the synthesized rim shots.

Pieces of a Dream leader James K. Lloyd wrote and produced five of the 11 songs. Lloyd is an excellent songwriter and keyboardist, but his programming is the album's weak link and epitomizes a fatal flaw in smooth jazz as a style. The simple act of allowing a drummer like Roberts to sit in on the session can make a big difference between a song that is mediocre and one that sizzles. All that said, Free Your Mind holds up quite well despite Lloyd's influence. Credit Beasley for that.


Track Listing: Steady as She Goes; Love Calls; Oh Yeah; Message to Mark; Shirlitta; Free Your Mind; DukeZillia; Just Breathe; Barack

Personnel: Walter Beasley: saxophone (1-9, 11), lead vocals (2, 7); Tony Watson Jr.: background saxophone (1, 3, 5, 6, 8); Randall Bowland: guitar (1, 3, 5, 6, 8); James K. Lloyd: keyboards and programming (1, 3, 5, 6, 8); Lynne Fiddmont: lead and background vocals (2); Jeff Lockhart: guitar (2); Webster Roach: bass (2); David Cole: drum programming (2); Walter Barnes: bass (3); Derek Cannon: trumpet (4); Craig Shaw: bass (4); Phil Davis: keyboard (4, 7, 10, 11), drum programming (7, 10, 11); John Roberts: drums (4, 7, 10, 11), background vocals and percussion (7); Raymond McKinley: bass (7); Rafael Pereira: percussion (7); Mark Strowbridge: guitar (9); Sam Sims: bass (10); Rick Watford: guitar (11); Sean Michael Ray: bass (11).

Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Heads Up International | Style: Contemporary/Smooth


Related Video

Shop

More Articles

Read Road to Forever CD/LP/Track Review Road to Forever
by Jack Bowers
Published: February 27, 2017
Read Avenida Graham CD/LP/Track Review Avenida Graham
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 27, 2017
Read TAI Fest #1 (Vol.1&2) CD/LP/Track Review TAI Fest #1 (Vol.1&2)
by Nicola Negri
Published: February 27, 2017
Read Goat Man & The House of the Dead CD/LP/Track Review Goat Man & The House of the Dead
by Dave Wayne
Published: February 27, 2017
Read Backlog CD/LP/Track Review Backlog
by James Nadal
Published: February 27, 2017
Read Acceptance CD/LP/Track Review Acceptance
by Tyran Grillo
Published: February 26, 2017
Read "Things Are Looking Up" CD/LP/Track Review Things Are Looking Up
by Jack Bowers
Published: May 9, 2016
Read "Shuffle Along" CD/LP/Track Review Shuffle Along
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: March 25, 2016
Read "Dark Blue" CD/LP/Track Review Dark Blue
by C. Andrew Hovan
Published: March 8, 2016
Read "Two Hands, One Heart" CD/LP/Track Review Two Hands, One Heart
by Roger Farbey
Published: February 8, 2017
Read "Short Stories" CD/LP/Track Review Short Stories
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: November 3, 2016
Read "Which Craft?" CD/LP/Track Review Which Craft?
by Ian Patterson
Published: December 28, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: Jazz Near You | GET IT  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!