A musician unafraid to boldly fuse diverse influences, Marion Meadows sculpts a borderless musical tapestry on Whisper. “I came up listening to Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Duke Ellington but at the same time musicians like Earth Wind & Fire, Chaka Khan, Chicago and Parliament Funkadelic,” confesses Meadows who early on cut his teeth playing in Avant-Garde jazz groups alongside heavyweights Rashied Ali and James Blood Ulmer.
Whisper is Marion Meadows’ first new recording in four years, features the saxophonist’s agile and ethereal soprano styling’s and some robust tenor work. It opens with the majestic, intoxicating and rhythmic driven “The Visitor,” which segues into the melodious and scintillating title track, co-written by keyboardist and long-time collaborator Michael Broening. Meadows produced Whisper along with Carlos Pennisi, Bob Baldwin, Rahni Song and Broening.
The album’s first single is the enticing, funky and hypnotic “Black Pearl.” Just like its namesake and gemstone, Meadows’ pearl is multi-layered, producing a beautiful interior within each shimmering chorus. Keyboardist Carlos Pennisi co-authored the song and helped Marion to compose five songs on the album. “Carlos helped me really try different musical ideas on Whisper. He is an amazing composer and multi-instrumentalist born in Italy with a great sense of using colors in his productions.
As an artist I’m searching to try new ideas, and he definitely brought that to the table.” “Timeless,” is an evocative and tender impressionistic ballad, co-written with keyboardist Rahni Song, who joins Meadow on the track along with Pennisi and harmonica player Julian Davis. “Curves,” is an uplifting get-on-the-dance-floor anthem that serves up the right combination of grit and soul, while “Magic Life” and “Golden Curtin,” showcase Marion Meadows’ knack for crafting unforgettable melodies that magically have a way of transporting you. Meadows breathes new life into two jazz classics on Whisper, borrowing from the Freddie Hubbard and Dave Grusin songbooks. Freddie Hubbard’s 1970s landmark CTI classic “Sky Dive,” soars with Meadows’ own buttery soul rendition featuring his tenor and soprano alongside trumpeter Joey Sommerville. Dave Grusin’s 1980’s chestnut “Marcosinho,” gets revitalized with Meadows’ sparkling new take.
Recording Whisper for Meadows was truly a labor of love and part of that process was the joy of collaborating with friends. Longtime associate and keyboardist Bob Baldwin joins Marion on two of the album’s tracks, “Bottoms Up” and “Turn Up The Quiet.” Meadows says of his friend, “Bob always delivers!” Turn Up The Quiet” marks one of the high points on the project, as the duo score a home run. Marion’s tender soprano gracefully teases and caresses the seductive melody as Baldwin finds all the accents to drive the song home. Flautist Ragan Whiteside joins Meadows on the show-stopping number, “Bottoms Up.” Marion calls Whiteside and Althea Rene (who is featured on “Golden Curtain,”) “two of the greatest flautists I know.” Not afraid to get loose and turn up the heat Marion Meadows serves up a scorcher on “Wild Thing,” a James Brown inspired romp that escalates things to a sweat inducing fevered pitch.
The Maestro Duke Ellington once said “My attitude is never to be satisfied, never enough, never!” Like the maestro, Marion Meadows, is never content to rest on his laurels. With a four-year intermission between recordings, Marion Meadows back with Whisper and ready to share his gift with the world.