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Some cities play host to rich, lively musical scenes created or fueled almost exclusively by those endemic to the environment; others seem to have magnetic properties that pull musicians from near and far into their artistic orbits. Such is the case with New Orleans, which, like New York, continues to be a beacon that draws musicians in like a lighthouse calling to ships.
The members of the quintet known as e.company originate from all over the South and came together in New Orleans; certainly experiencing this pull in their own way, their music seems, however, to indicate that they were seduced by the city, not its musical history. The music of e.company is closer to the sound of Maroon 5 than The Meters or any member of the Marsalis clan, which may disappoint those who feel NOLA-based musicians are required to fall in-line with one of the city's native styles, but this band isn't letting its base of operations determine its artistic course of action.
There are trace elements of Adam Levine, Lenny Kravitz and Gavin DeGraw in vocalist Joe Shirley, and the production values of the album are largely in-step with what often surrounds those artists, but e.company also reaches beyond the stylistic settings usually inhabited by those singers. Some modern soul is thrown into the mix ("Somethin Crazy"), raucous rock-funk visited ("I See 3"), and the art of jamming clearly understood during the latter portion of "Like Me," the opening of "Treehouse," and at various other points throughout the album.
While improvisation comes into play with soulful saxophone work from Matthew "Rev" Gooden ("Rain"), edgy guitar soloing from Chris Walker Lippincott ("Interpose"), and excitable organ work from Joe Shirley ("Like Me"), these episodes are delivered in service to the songs. The music borrows from jam band ideology, jazz, funk and soul, but wrapped in an attractive and easy to understand pop package.
While NOLA will always be the city of Armstrong and Bechet, Congo Square, and second line, music is often a reflection of the times in which it was created, and the music of e.company testifies to this at every turn.
Track Listing: Intro; Rain; I See 3; Down Inside; Like Me; Turn It On; Interpose; These Hills These Shores; Somethin Crazy; Treehouse.
Personnel: Chris Walker Lippincott: guitar; Matthew "Rev" Gooden: tenor saxophone; Joe Shirley: organ, keyboards, vocals; David Shirley: drums; Trey Boudreaux: bass; Mario Abney: trumpet (3); Sam Craft: violin (4); Jack Craft: cello (4).
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.