Sunday, August 30, 2009

Urbanus, Amazon Review by Scott Woods

Pushing jazz into the future one influence at a time

If you like Stefon Harris, you'll like this record. It's not as straight-ahead as some of his earlier stuff, but that's the point of playing with this particular band, Blackout. When he plays with these cats the songs take a modern turn and incorporate a lot of different influences and colors.

I love this band, and Harris has eased up on the composing tip (but produces the record in full). it's got a few of my favorites players on the scene: Harris, Marc Cary on keys and Terreon Gully, who I am sure is the meanest-looking musician today that isn't a rapper. Trying to get into my world is saxophonist/vocoder player Casey Benjamin, who brings a really sharp edge to this record and to their live show that wasn't in the forefront as much on the first Blackout record. He plays vocoder old school style, like Herbie Hancock 70s-era "Trust Me" kickin' it: rich, mad expressive...not even trying to amplify the human voice at all, so much as play the part of sad computer. It's like the future singing to you. Amazing work.

There's a little something for every kind of jazz head here, but at ten tracks it may be too little for some who lean heavily in one direction or another. Me? I appreciate Harris's mission, so I just go along for the ride, in all the directions he wants to go as a leader. In his world, jazz is supposed to be fluid and pushing forward and this record is a genuine testimony to that.

My favorite track is "For You", a beautiful ballad that really showcases the tone and range of this band. When I heard it live a while ago I knew I had to get this record. It also adds some nice string and wind work.

Get it. It's what jazz should be doing now: tipping its hat at everyone it meets and incorporating them into its course.

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