There aren't many songwriters who have reached a level of success comparable to Stevie Wonder
. He is one of the most important figures in American music, and to celebrate his 70th birthday, Posi-Tone records is releasing Tales of Wonder: A Jazz Celebration of Stevie
. This compilation, performed by some of the label's excellent roster of musicians, offers a fitting tribute to this legendary artist. Rather than simply offering something of a greatest hits compilation, Tales of Wonder
digs into Wonder's catalog and explores deeper cuts along with some perennial favorites. While his overall career span stretches back to the early 1960s, this collection draws mainly from his classic period of recordings from the 1970s, which makes sense because this was arguably Wonder's most innovative and musically complex period to date. Tales of Wonder
presents a unique blend of jazz styles ranging from mainstream to fusion with several stops between. Of course, it might be easy to simply assume that the variety of music presented here comes mainly from the various interpretations of the songs, but the different styles represented equally reflect Wonder's diversity as a songwriter.
Every song on this compilation is a standout in its own right. Some songs are presented in traditional jazz styles while others venture into different directions. Throughout the album, though, the spirit of Wonder's own inner vision remains intact.
Many of Wonder's songs lend themselves to traditional interpretations. The opening track, "Send One Your Love," for example, offers a straight-ahead jazz take performed by the group Works For Me
, featuring Tony Davis
' excellent guitar work along with Alexa Tarantino
's melodic alto sax. This is followed by pianist Jon Davis
' classic jazz trio take on "My Cherie Amour." The Idle Hands
version of "You and I" serves up some bossa nova flavors with outstanding solos by Will Bernard
, Sam Dillon
, Art Hirahara
, and Behn Gillece
With the majority of these songs coming out during the 1970s, some of the feeling of that decade definitely shows up here. This is probably most evident in Jared Gold
's version of "You Haven't Done Nothin,'" which conjures up a solid organ groove with Dave Stryker
's wah-wah guitar adding just the right touch of funky goodness. The retro vibe is also strong on Theo Hill
's "Superwoman," providing some cool fusion sounds with Hill on Fender Rhodes, synthesizer, and piano accompanied by Rashaan Carter
's melodic bass lines and Mark Whitfield Jr.
's solid drumming.
The album also includes Farnell Newton
's soulful treatment of "All in Love is Fair" with Newton's melodic trumpet supported by Brian Charette
's gospel-inspired organ and Rudy Royston
's strong foundation on drums.
Much of Wonder's music also has an atmospheric quality, which is also represented here. Diego Rivera
's "The Secret Life of Plants" creates a beautifully haunting take on this classic. Out To Dinner
's "Visions" also highlights some of the more ethereal aspects of Wonder's music with excellent performances by Behn Gillece
and Boris Kozlov
With Tales of Wonder: A Jazz Celebration of Stevie
, Posi-Tone gives this musical legend a very thoughtful and fitting birthday present. It's an excellent compilation featuring some of the most talented jazz musicians around.
Send One Your Love: Works For Me; My Cherie Amour: Jon Davis; Superwoman: Theo Hill; You And I: Idle Hands; You Haven't Done Nothin': Jared Gold; The Secret Life Of Plants: Diego Rivera; All In Love Is Fair: Farnell Newton; Visions: Out To Dinner.
Alexa Tarantino: alto sax; Tony Davis: guitar; Caili O'Doherty: piano; Adi Meyerson: bass; Joe Strasser: drums; Ugonna Okegwo: bass; Jochen Rueckert: drums; Rashaan Carter: electric bass; Mark Whitfield Jr.: drums; Will Bernard: guitar; Behn Gillece: vibraphone; Sam Dillon: tenor saxophone; Art Hirahara: piano; Boris Kozlov: bass; Donald Edwards: drums; Dave Stryker: guitar; Mark Ferber: drums; Helen Sung: piano; Brian Charette: organ; Rudy Royston: drums.