Wednesday 27 May 2015

'Retox' by Lakecia Benjamin [album review]

Before we get stuck into the album, it feels only right that we start with a quick public service announcement celebrating the label home this brilliant album comes from: Motema Records.  If you’re a fan of contemporary, and even world, jazz, but perhaps don’t know where to start, stick to Motema Records (and of course Blue Note) and you sincerely cannot go wrong. 

Founded by artist, Jana Herzen, the label commemorated their tenth anniversary in 2014 and certainly had a lot to celebrate.  Motema probably received their biggest introduction to many via the breakthrough jazz vocalist, Gregory Porter, whose single ‘1960 What’ became something of a sensation spurring his first two albums, ‘Water’ and ‘Be Good’, on to great success.  David Murray’s Infinity Quartet ‘Be My Monster Love’, Rene Marie’s ‘I Wanna Be Evil’, music by Marc Cary and Geri Allen are just a few of the names and projects showcasing the virtuosic jazz you benefit from having to look just that little bit harder to find.  And then there’s Lakecia Benjamin!

Released in 2012 – yes, I’m late! – the debut album from saxophonist, band leader and producer, Lakecia Benjamin, was unveiled in a blissful cloud of funk and soul that’s a pure treat to your ears.  Citing the album as something of an ode to her heroes, tracks entitled ‘Maceo’ and her cover of Stevie Wonder’s ‘Don’t You Worry ‘Bout A Thing’ paint a very clear picture of what this album aims to convey.  The band personnel include Solomon Dorsey on bass – a man who I’m convinced could be a huge star if he wanted to be – plus Soul Cycle’s Jesse Fischer on keys and organ. 

The album’s guest list is just as impressive with Melanie Charles appearing on the sublime ‘Dreams’, Chinah Blac on the oh-so-funky ‘Jump and Shout’, Mavis Swan Poole on ‘Human Being’ and a fairly reduced vocal performance from Amp Fiddler on the soul-thumping number, ‘Keep Talkin’.  All songs come from the pen and production of Benjamin (aside from the aforementioned Stevie cover) and she skillfully creates songs whereby the album works as an excellent showcase to her immeasurable all-round talent. 

I’m not normally a fan of rating albums, for numerous reasons, but I’ll openly rate this: 5/5, 10/10.  Whatever the max is, I’ll give it.  Here’s the album’s lead single ‘Jump and Shout’ to win you over…

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