Urban Sprawl is a bright, infectious exercise in jazz-funk from a quintet of promising Berklee-ites. The Mike MacAllister Group takes fusion in bold new directions with a hot, funk-simmered sound and the surprisingly fun inclusion of marimba.
All the compositions were written by MacAllister, who shows as much potential as a writer as he does on guitar. "A Little Shorter" and "Stevie Wonderland" do bear a charming resemblance to the music of their honorees much credit goes to saxman Gerad O'Shea, who roams freely between the territories of Wayne Shorter and David Sanborn while the other tunes are hardly derivative. Inspired by prior art, yes, but never to the point of milking a dead horse. Tracks like "The Protest" are danceable with a heavy groove that gives MacAllister a chance to really spread his wings. Elsewhere Martha Cipolla's marimba provides a warm, woody vibe that somehow fits perfectly into tracks like the unusually attractive "Africa Minor". Bassist Jamie Bishop and drummer Jordan Perlson are the ideal sort of rhythm team for a group like this, deep in the pocket yet flexible enough to bend with MacAllister's flow. Bishop in particular is an iron-clad asset, burbling infectiously on "The Skool" and continuing his excellent vibes throughout the disc.
While it's always dangerous to suggest that a particular artist or group holds the key to future success, MacAllister and company have undeniably bright futures ahead of them if they continue down their present path. These days it's comparatively rare to find a young fusion-oriented ensemble operating at such a level of artistic excellence. Urban Sprawl is highly recommended and likely to reveal shining new treasures within itself upon repeat listenings. Simply outstanding.
I've always loved jazz ...my mother was a classical pianist and my aunt was a blues singer, who was managed by Clarence Williams (Bessie Smith's producer). As a young boy, they introduced me to people like Louis Armstrong, Sarah Vaughan, and Jimmy Smith
I've always loved jazz ...my mother was a classical pianist and my aunt was a blues singer, who was managed by Clarence Williams (Bessie Smith's producer). As a young boy, they introduced me to people like Louis Armstrong, Sarah Vaughan, and Jimmy Smith. We hung out at my Aunt Kate's Soul Food restaurant in Harlem after the matinees at the Apollo where I listened to their stories. I knew I wanted to be a jazz musician from then on. My mother wanted me to play piano, but my Aunt bought me a guitar. I've been playing ever since.
At my mother's early prompting, I first sang Blue Velvet at my Catholic elementary school...and all the nuns came running in and asked me to sing again, so I knew I must have sounded pretty good. I've been singing ever since.
I met Tony Bennett in Miami and he inspired me to return to New York. He was a great mentor.
The best show I ever attended is mpossible to say, I've seen so many great shows. From Tony Bennett to Pat Martino, Return to Forever to Weather Report...I've seen some great performances.
My advice to new listeners is don't let jazz intimidate you, the music has something for every listener and it is our American gift to the world.