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Victor Rice: Smoke

Joe Gatto By

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When I heard this one was coming out I couldn't have been more excited! Easy Star Records described Smoke as a blend of Brazilian Jazz and Rocksteady, so I knew it would be excellent.

Legendary Reggae producer, Victor Rice, has been living in Sao Paulo, Brazil since 2002 so an original album made from his experience with Brazilian musicians is quite tantalizing. As soon as I heard Smoke, I was impressed with its all-instrumental Reggae vibe.

Victor Rice's third studio album is summed up best in the vibrant liner notes penned by ethnomusicologist Daniel T. Neely stating, "Smoke embraces the cosmopolitanism of the music that inspired it. It's an album that lives in New York, Brazil, Jamaica, and Brussels, but it is of the world. Yes, it's been fifteen years since Rice released his last record, and over that time he's made plenty of music that could have been presented together as an "album." But Brazil, its music, and its people intervened. Out of the experience came samba-rocksteady, a clear creative path that Rice has since followed with pure heart. It's an exciting new direction that's been simmering for years. Finally, the story begins."

Who's Lou? "Lou" is a sweet Rocksteady groove with a little Brazilian Samba Jazz influence. This is old-school instrumental Reggae with modern style, and a funky swagger. It's dope enough to have made my Best Funk Instrumentals of 2017 list too.

"Tema" is one of the highest energy tunes on Smoke. If you love the Skatalites you'll love this one. Hot horns and a driving beat will get you up on your feet.

"Turn" is a groovy Jamaican Jazz song featuring organ playing Jackie Mittoo would be proud of, as well as the sweet tinkling of the piano.

The bouncy, "Bermuda Triangle," astonishes with its potent percussion, and brilliant brass sounds.

"Motion Study 1" & "Motion Study 2"—upbeat, jazzy Reggae at its finest—could be one extended jam. "Motion Study 2" is a little more dramatic, while "Motion Study 1" features happier horns and a slightly faster beat.

"Mr. Brooks" takes you back to the old-school Ska days or the genre's third wave with its straight forward rhythm. The stimulating horns animate this one, and make it one of the record's tightest tunes.

"Fumaça" (which means smoke in Portuguese), is a sultry Jamaican Jazz song, which would fit perfectly in a smoky underground music joint in Sao Paulo or New York.

"Party Line" is an intoxicating groove, and almost gets a little dubby. The organ comes in strong again on this one, as the breathtaking brass shines brightly as it does throughout the record.

"The Dream" is a joyful instrumental (with a moody piano line) whose brass bubbles up from the subconscious in a sublime way.

Smoke is one of my favorite records of 2017. It's definitely one worth getting on vinyl because it has a timeless style and profound production that sounds rich on wax.

Track Listing: Lou; Tema; Turn; Bermuda Triangle; Motion Study 1; Mr. Brooks; Fumaça; Party Line; The Dream; Motion Study 2;

Title: Smoke | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Easy Star Records

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CD/LP/Track Review
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Smoke

Smoke

Easy Star Records
2017

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