Keyboardist/Programmer/Conceptualist/Producer Jason Miles has a knack for birthing patchwork tribute albums that don't come off as such. The man behind Miles Davis' Tutu (Warner Bros., 1986) programming has also been the force behind well received album-length nods to Davis, Brazilian bigwig Ivan Lins, pop-jazz crossover saxophonist Grover Washington Jr., and Motown megastar Marvin Gaye. Now, he looks toward the edgier side of soul with this expansive, yet highly polished tribute to Sly And The Family Stone.
While the album is billed to Global Noize, Miles is clearly the man calling the shots from behind the curtain; the music bears his imprint at every turn. He teamed up with DJ Logic and vocalist Falu to create this dance-funk-jazz-soul-world fusion band, which released its self-titled début in 2008, but it's hardly a trio; Global Noize (Shanachie, 2008) had more than ten names on its personnel list, nearly twenty people joined in on the follow-upA Prayer For The Planet (Lightyear, 2011)and the list nears thirty names on SLY Reimagined. Some of the players have heavy jazz credentials, like trumpeter Ingrid Jensen and saxophonist Jeff Coffin, and others are part of R&B circles, like vocal legend Roberta Flack, but all involved seem to share a love for the sly man of the hour.
In addressing Stone's musical legacy, Miles and company home in on the groove-centric elements and refine the raw power in his work; in other words, it could be said that Sly's music had more of a kick while Global Noize's take on Sly is totally slick. The foundational aspects of these songs tend to lean toward the contemporary jazz side, but the soul vocalists, world elements, and horn players bring out a different side in this music. Vocalist Maya Azucena, for example, sets "Fun" on fire, and tenor saxophonist Ron Holloway keeps that flame burning with his horn; Azucena, who is equally inspired on "Stand!," outshines all other vocalists here, including the better-known Nona Hendryx and Flack.
Miles' tendency has always been to pull different artists' work into his own world rather than stepping into their respective territories, and that's just what he does here. He gives Sly And The Family Stone a glossy update that's worldly, yet rooted in the urbane urban arts of America.
In Time; It's A Family Affair; Fun; The Same Thing; You Can Make It If
You Try; Stand!; Thank You For Talking To Me Africa; It's A Family
Affair (Falu Mumbai Mix); The Same Thing (Mulholland Drive Mix); Dreams.
Jason Miles: keyboards, organ, synthesizers, synth bass; DJ Logic:
turntables (2-4, 9, 10); Nona Hendryx: vocals (1, 4, 9); Falu: vocals
(7, 8, 10); Roberta Flack: vocals (2, 8); Maya Azucena: vocals (1, 3,
5, 6); Amy Hanaialii: vocals (7); Malika Zarra: vocals (1);
Butterscotch: beat box (1), vocals (5), scratching (5); James O Train
Williams: vocals (2, 5); Mike Mattison: vocals (7); Mudbone Cooper:
(5); vocals (5); Porter Carrol: vocals (6); Nick Moroch: guitar (1,
10); Will Bernard: guitar (2, 3, 6, 8, 9); Dean Brown: guitar (5, 7);
Ingrid Jensen: trumpet (2, 5); Barry Danielian: trumpet (3, 7); Jay
Rodriguez: tenor saxophone (2, 5, 8, 9), baritone saxophone (4), bass
clarinet (10), flute (10); Gottfried Stoger: tenor saxophone (1); Jeff
Coffin: saxophone(s); Ron Holloway: tenor saxophone (3); Amanda Ruzza
(2, 6-9); Greg Errico: drums (1, 3, 5, 6); Mocean Worker: bass (5),
effects and beats (10); Adrian Harpham: drums (2, 8); Brian Dunne:
drums (4, 7, 9); Bashiri Johnson: percussion (7).