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Sweet Lu Olutosin: Sweet Lou's Blues

Geannine Reid By

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Lutalo Olutosin, aka 'Sweet Lu,' is an innovative vocalist based in the Washington D.C. area. Olutosin served for thirty five years in the Military as a Police Officer and archived the rank of Colonel. Upon retiring from the Military, Olutosin found that his calling to be a jazz vocalist was still as strong as it was the day he entered military service. As a result Olutosin has released his sophomore release entitled, Sweet Lou's Blues where he has assemble an outstanding band consisting of: Antonio Ciacca on piano, Jeremy Pelt on trumpet, Jerome Jennings on drums, Tivon Pennicott on saxophone and flute, and Mike Carn on bass.

Sweet Lou's Blues began to take shape in the fall of 2013 when Olutosin went to see the Antonio Ciacca quartet at Blues Alley jazz club in Washington D.C. After the show, Olutosin articulated his desire to record with Ciacca, soon after the two started to discuss material, arrangements, personnel, studio choice, and beyond. The Soul Jazz of the 50's was common ground between both artists, both equally sharing a love of artists such as: the Adderley Brothers, Benny Golson, Joe Henderson, Donald Byrd and Horace Silver. Ciacca proposed a set list of soulful grooving music from the 50s, but alternatively putting lyrics to the melodies which lyrics have yet to be written. The result is a fabulous set of music from Donald Brown, Joe Williams, Donald Byrd, Herbie Hancock, Jimmy Van Heusen, Joe Henderson and three original compositions by Ciacca.

"Malcom's Song" (Theme for Malcom), by Donald Brown, starts the project with Olutosin's soulfully warm voice doing a fine job of conveying the rich sound of the 50s. His lyrics are positive and flow nicely with the melody. Strong solos from Pelt, Pennicott and Ciacca keep the focus on the language of jazz in the 50s, but with enough modern inflections to keep things fresh. Pelt and Pennicott play the melody out instrumentally without Olutosin which leads to a spoken word improvisation by Olutosin over the intro.

"Every Day I Fall in Love" slows things down to a hip swaying ballad tempo as Olutosin displays that he understands that when singing a melody such as this, it's the treatment. The treatment of a song is the thing that develops interest in the story line and melody for the listener. It is obvious that Olutosin has studied the phrasing of Frank Sinatra and Joe Williams, who both give such marvelous treatments to this time-tested melody. Ciacca's arrangement is of the same ilk with careful orchestration and harmonic twists and counterpoints; you can just feel the music. The same is true for the other ballad on the date, "Nancy With the Laughing Face," is treated carefully by both Olutosin and the band, and focused care is taken to present an interesting take on a notable melody.

Ciacca's original composition "Those Lagos Blues" (Lagos Blues) is a mid-tempo selection that fits precisely in the 50's jazz theme and nestles nicely into the projects overall sound. Perhaps Ciacca's most well-known tune, that has been recorded a half dozen times as an instrumental and as a big band arrangement, this time is the first recording that features a vocal version. It is a contemporary, straight-eight feel blues that calls for nothing but groove. Sweet Lu nails the mood of the song with a great soul finale. "The Baron (Baron 5)" and "Sweet Lou's Blues" are the other Ciacca originals, the latter was written exclusively for the session. The song is dedicated to jazz titan Lou Donaldson. Ciacca collaborated on the lyrics with Olutosin as well. "The Baron (Baron 5)" is an excellent vehicle for Olutosin's vocal control, with its complex melody and medium up-tempo feel, which is delivered with clarity and grace.

"Call Him Blackjack (Blackjack)" by Donald Byrd is the classic song from the 60s. Olutosin displays his wide vocal range and talent in an impressive scat solo that will certainly get the toe-a-tappin.' "Let's Go Driftin' (Driftin')" follows in a similar vein with a relaxed swing pulse and the song ends with a vocal improvisation by Olutosin. "Driftin" by Herbie Hancock was first recorded on Hancock's Blue Note debut album Taking Off featuring Dexter Gordon on tenor sax. Olutosin not only set lyrics to the melody, but he transcribed and set lyrics to Gordon's entire first chorus of the recorded solo. Olutosin does the same thing on Joe Henderson's "Be My Mamacita (Mamacita)," Sweet Lu sets the melody and the first chorus of Henderson's solo to lyrics.

The melding of Olutosin and Ciacca is a perfect marriage, both have a strong affinity for the 50's era of jazz and Olutosin's voice is deeply rooted and tinged with just enough blues overtone, to make Sweet Lou's Blues, an engaging offering, for both the jazz aficionado and newcomer. Filled with bursting melodies and topped with Olutosin's distinctively impassioned voice, he may have just paved the way to new standards in the vocal jazz idiom.

Track Listing: Malcom’s Song (Theme for Malcom); Every Day I Fall in Love; Those Lagos Blues (Lagos Blues) 6:38; Call Him Blackjack (Blackjack); Let’s Go Driftin’ (Driftin’); Nancy with the Laughing Face; The Baron (Baron 5); Be My Mamacita (Mamacita); Sweet Lou’s Blues (Sweet Lou); Serrado.

Personnel: Sweet Lu Olutosin (Unome): vocals; Antonio Ciacca: piano; Tivon Pennicott: saxophone, flute; Jeremy Pelt: trumpet; Mike Carn: bass; Jerome Jennings: drums.

Title: Sweet Lou's Blues | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: Self Produced

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