We reviewed Gilbert Engle’s Odd Time Jazz Fusion songs recently, giving them a favorable write up. As polished as those songs were, I have to say that on a personal level I find his Supernatural Absence just as impressive, if not better. One thing I noticed immediately is how much more rocking the songs are than I expected. Jazz fusion? This is rock n’roll!
There’s also a good deal of stylistic and creative variance between the songs, which is really saying something given that there are 16 of them. Each one is distinct and unique. For example: The opening track is terrific late night city driving music and has a hypnotic, almost vaporwave quality to it. The second track though kicks into high gear immediately with some guitar distortion, then injecting in some energetic keyboard work that achieves an authentic 60′s combo organ sound. It all blends together nicely with the sax and other instruments.
A lot of these songs have a psychedelic vibe to them. They are fast paced and several of them incorporate retro synth sounds into the music, which I hadn’t been anticipating. Track 9 is representative of this and has one of the best intros. I could actually picture many of these songs being utilized on a video game soundtrack for an older console. Many of the tracks would work well for racing or driving type games, such as classics like Fzero. There’s a sense of action in this music, but still keeping enough mellow jazz flavor to keep from going off the rails. It’s not rugged action.
The guitar and keyboard combination manages to steal the show on many of the songs. Engle plays both, but Marc Capponi is also credited on keyboards as well. The saxophone (played by Peter Freize) accentuates and stabilizes the mood successfully, after the catchy intros grab your attention and draw you in. Engle doesn’t cut any corners either. Every single one of these songs is just as polished and professional as could be. Normally on an album, there will be some padding, a few filler songs thrown somewhere in the middle. Not here. There wasn’t a single track that I listened to and thought was shoddy or “B-side.” Having said that, my favorite song is probably the first one. I think it has a lot of crossover appeal across a wide spectrum of genres. My second choice would be the seventh song, which has a disco-like guitar intro that opens up to a surreal musical experience. Robert Fink on harmonica particularly shines on this song.
Gilbert Engle is an incredibly prolific musician, having released over 50 albums. This album is a fine example of his versatility and imagination as a songwriter and performer.
RaneRaps has a new EP titled “Diamonds and Perils.” It includes some flavorful jams like “You Thought Wrong,” and “Breaking the Ice.” The backing music is particularly good and probably could stand on it’s own even as an instrumental, though the rapping helps give it an identity. Raneraps describes Diamonds and Peril as “his most cathartic project to date, which captures the window of his life from Dec. 2015 – Feb. 2016 – a period of heavy loss.” The songs though come across upbeat rather than depressing, energetic as opposed to lifeless. My favorite track is probably “Memories,” which is a groovy tune that combines light hip hop with subtle elements of disco and has a very early 90s pop feel to it. RaneRaps EP, “Diamonds and Perils” is impressive on multiple levels.
Destiny Palmer has a new single out titled “We Don’t.” She grew up in Houston, singing in the church choir and brings that experience to her music, which is as real as it gets. “We Don’t” is a heartfelt jam, and the gospel influence is apparent in her vocals, which are assertive but not overbearing. My favorite part of the song is the line, “We Don’t Mess With Your Kind,” which is catchy and melodic.
Gilbert Engle is an established painter and musician who is impressively proficient in multiple instruments as well as a variety of musical genres. Recently he and a number of other talented individuals have completed some jazz fusion recordings. Gilbert plays guitar on the songs which instantly resonate as being of professional caliber. Performances are just incredible all around and the tracks are brimming with emotion and a smooth energy. Peter Fraize in particular stands out, with his tenor saxophone taking charge and setting the mood. The best way to describe the feeling Engle’s songs invoke, is that they feel as though they would fit well on a soundtrack to a 1980′s film set in New York(something like Arthur,) perhaps during a high society party scene. The music is too classy and upbeat for something like Zalman King’s Red Shoe Diaries or a 90′s erotic thriller.
It would actually be great if Gilbert were to release this on vinyl, as I get the sense this music would sound even better on some classic HiFi stereo. In fact, if I had a high end audio listening room at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, I would consider using these recordings to demo my high end audio amplifiers to prospective buyers. The music is that good.
Singer-songwriter Marwan Maurice has a new single and video out for his song, “Contin.” You might get the impression from his album art aesthetic and clothing style that Maurice is a hip hop artist. In fact, his music is more of an energetic, alternative pop-rock. Marwan’s vocals a kind of upbeat rock n’roll sound, reminiscent of a lot of 90′s rock, but without any of the depressed or misanthropic vibes. The pacing of the song is just right, and there is an interesting and strategically placed football interlude about halfway through the song which gives the jam a bit of character and shows off Marwan’s imaginative spirit. The video production keeps the viewer interested and makes good use of color to convey the mood and atmosphere.
Described as having folk influences, Cranky George is an indie rock band from Los Angeles. The band actually features famous actor Dermot Mulroney, (known from contemporary classic movies like Young Guns and My Best Friend’s Wedding.) They have a new single out called “Nighttime,” which will also be part of their upcoming full length album, “Fat Lot of Good.”
Nighttime is a well polished release, that doesn’t show any of the lo-fi, abrasive, acoustic quality production that’s often associated with the indie folk genre. The music is reminiscent of a late 90′s, early 2000s flavor of indie music, but blending in some newer twists. The tone comes across as striking an even balance between melancholy and uplifting, reaching a comfortable and elegant middle. The vocals and overall sound are easy to listen to, and I found the melody to be one that stuck in my head after only two listens. I predict that their full length album will worth checking out.
Atlanta based artist Stori Brooks has released a song “Say Hi” from her upcoming EP titled “Everything is Gr8 (in space.)” She describes her music as “alternative hip hop,” which is good way to put it. It has more of a artistic and melodic quality than most hip hop. I especially like the backing of “Say Hi” which is mellow and futuristic. Without the vocals, this song could easily just be classified as synthwave. Her lyrics are poetic and almost abstract. Stori Brooks’ singing style is eloquent and calming, matching the mood of the music perfectly. I would recommend this song even if you don’t like hip hop, as it doesn’t fall into the stereotypes or cliches of the genre. When one thinks of Atlanta hip hop, this isn’t what typically comes to mind, but it’s actually better.
Singer Christopher Vincent has recorded a cover version of The Chainsmokers’ hit song “Don’t Let Me Down.” Vincent’s vocals take center stage in the song, steering it it toward more of an R&B and gospel sound, while retaining the Caribbean elements as well as the track’s dance club appeal. He draws from an eclectic range of influences, from Motown to hip hop and can be difficult to pin down into a genre. Vincent comes across as a professional in his singing, clearly having some formal training under his belt. The production quality of the video itself is also very good.
Hip Hop artist Baltimore Ledge has a new single and video titled “One High.” The song is fast paced and flows easily. It mostly manages to avoid a lot of rap cliches seems to aim for a higher artistic quality. The cinematography for the video is particularly good and illustrates a level of professionalism and seriousness that’s not usually seen in these types of videos. This release strikes me as something that is as good or better than most hip hop you’d heard on the radio. It’s definitely more genuine.
Artist Stig Gustu Larsen has a new album out called “Lifelines + Echoes.” It’s a very personal album which contains several songs and deals with losing someone close. Though the songs grapple with sadness and have a slow pacing, they don’t come across as depressing. The tone is actually very uplifting. The style of music is sort of an adult contemporary pop, acoustic “singer/songwriter” variety. His vocals are on point and a good fit for this genre. Stig’s many years of musical experience are evident in the overall high quality of the arrangements. Everything here sounds very professional. It’s good music for a rainy day.