Saturday, October 12, 2019

New Music Releases: Ramsey Lewis & Urban Knights, Greg Foat & James Thorpe, Sure Fire Soul Ensemble

Ramsey Lewis & Urban Knights – VII

A smoking little set from Ramsey Lewis – one that really recalls the best electric years of his 70s recordings – and which also has a much sharper sound than some of the other albums recorded with the Urban Knights! There's plenty of great piano on the record from Ramsey, mixed with keyboards from Tim Gant – and the blend has that warm mix of acoustic and electric that Columbia would feature on some of their more soulful fusion albums of the 70s – and which is never overdone here in the production or arrangements, given that the group is nice and lean – with just Henry Johnson on guitar, Charles Heath on drums, and Joshua Ramos on bass. The great singer Dee Alexander joins the group on "The Shape Of My Heart" – and other tracks include "Tequila Mockingbird", "The Spark", "I'll Never Forget You", "Sharing Her Journey", "Trees", "Armandos Rhumba", and "Baby What You Want Me To Do".  ~ Dusty Groove

Greg Foat & James Thorpe - Photosynthesis

A very cool collaboration between Greg Foat and James Thorpe – a set that's billed more as a sound library session than some of Foat's other jazz projects – even though the sound is equally appealing if you love those records too! The set is self-described as "futuristic analogue cosmic synth library cues for TV, film, and radio" – but it's also got a much warmer sound than you might expect, very much in keeping with the natural image on the cover – as Foat and Thorpe eschew some of the colder keyboard styles of other library records, and instead really let things glow with that organic vibe that usually informs Greg's music, as gentle rhythms set the pace for Fender Rhodes, Hohner pianet, and a host of Korg and Roland keys. There's also a touch of vibes, some field recordings, and other cool touches – on tracks that include "Balloon Ride", "Circadian Rhythms", "Grockle Box", "Living The Dream", "Platform Game", "Stacey's Theme", and "Elementary Physiology (parts 1 & 2)". ~Dusty Groove.

Sure Fire Soul Ensemble - Build Bridges

Sure Fire Soul Ensemble are tighter than ever, and have really perfected a trademark sound – a style that's got the breaking drums of a vintage funky 45, the moody horns of an Ethio funk group, and the kind of organ and keyboard lines that would be right at home on a vintage album by The Meters! The blend is wonderful, and carried off to perfection here – touched with some added percussion and other surprises over the course of the record – but all with this lean, sharp instrumental style that never needs any vocals, nor any other added elements to hold our interest! The set begins with a cover of the Roy Ayers tune "Aragon" – then moves through originals that include "Build Bridges", "Roxy Funk", "Gloria's Anthem", "El Nino", "Sucker Punch", "Costa Blues", and "Campus Life". ~ Dusty Groove

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