The other night I had to make a pressure move in the Trans Am down the coast to the only bank that would accept my deposit of the check pre-post. My first long distance run solo with the fresh cut engine, I set out to make the best of it, new tires and all. The night was cool, full of moon, and with just enough fog on the ground to make one think that a genie must have just passed through here too. Pulling out from a different starting point as before, Ayden as opposed to Greenville, I tried to guide myself by the stars but they were going by so fast, all I saw was that Luke Skywalker thing. Before I could even get the flaps up, flyin', I saw the first sign of what was to come on this road of no return. One of those bent arrows, the kind that looks as if straightened out on the front porch steps stared me down. Whoa horsey!! Pulling back on the reigns hard with all four discs, T/A and I carved an apex so sweet it would make a body man blush. Guess I had the last laugh. With four throttle plated openings to my own bottle of joy now warmed to quiescence, I flicked the switch on the digital downbeater and settled in for a black and gold carpet ride of my own, wishing somehow I could catch up with that genie.
This CD, "The Kiss", is Fantasy Band's third outing as a group. Their first, "Fantasy Band", was followed up by "Sweet Dreams" in 1994. As a debut on the Shanachie label, it's in my opinion, the most sophisticated, polished to a lasting glow. Possibly taking a cue from the supergroup Fourplay, each song on the CD is written by different members of the band but unlike the boys from Bob, Fantasy Band brings in outside help to add to it's distinct flavor. This gives the CD an all around feel of diversity while at the same time, connectedness. In an interview featured for the groups new recording contractor, Chuck Loeb describes The Fantasy Band's sound as such:
"While still working within the same comfortable, urban flavored pocket, (executive producer) Danny Weiss and Shanachie have given us more freedom in the recording process. The whole concept of the band is to allow each member to express something new and fresh and to give ourselves a chance to approach the music from a variety of individual perspectives. The diversity of the band is a definite plus," he adds. "Switching off between sax voices allows for unique personal statements to be made on different tracks. Nelson Rangell adds a high level of emotion, while Andy Snitzer brings a sense of subtlety to his cut.Where most contemporary artists suffer from time to time in sounding a bit monochromatic, Fantasy Band adds to the colors of the rainbow. The way they switch back and forth with each other gives everyone a chance at "sounding off".
Speaking of laughing lastly, Fantasy Band's first rub, "The Last Laugh" is a fun lovin', finger popin' mixture of bassish vibes with a saxy guitar on the side. I love it when artists hawk their wares like this on their opening overture. Dave Samuels on vibes adds a new twist to the "ding dong, Avon calling". If I had a doorbell as groovy as Dave's, my guests would be dancing on the doorstep. Midway through the piece, keysman Greg Radford skip scats his way across the board then tosses it off to Dave to finish it off. This is one of those "its going to be a good day" tunes. The song for a minute in my manned missile, caught me off guard, bopping my head back and forth to keep up with the timing of it and in the road's bends.
Withered hasn't Bill. His songs keep going and going. The Band brings Bill back to life on track two, "Lean On Me". Here is where the group's new edition, Nelson Rangell, makes his presence known. Now that his most recent release has been "Turning Night Into Day", he's found the time to see his way to helping out the Fantasy Band. He's up to his regular alto self, sounding a bit like Sanborn at the bridge, but loops his way back to his reed seed before the tag. It seems that as us baby boomers get a little....um, more wisdom, I've been noticing a comeback of all the songs we used to sit around the turkish tobacco inhaler and listen to. Talk about a carpet ride! Today's dorm rooms smell a lot more legal but the old songs still bring about the old memories (or what's left). Nelson has Bill's voice down cold. Must have been all the magic buses and YMCA camps.
I got so lost in the reminiscing rewind that I forgot I was on a money mission. Finally out in the clear from the woods of 102, southbound on US 17 I let the power purr as I felt "The Kiss" . Marion Meadows, whom I saw in the late show last year in Durham, likes to blow his notes out, fluttering them to their end. On track #3, Marion and Greg Radford play cleft tag like Dr. Shavago plays with Bond. They'll leave you wondering who's leading who toward the seducess' heart. Sounding a lot like Dionne Worwick's "The Look Of Love", "The Kiss" is very warm and romantic. As a little ditty from me to you, this title cut sums up the entire flavor of this mercilessly melodic cruisine. Not too much spice as to burn the tongue but smooth and warm going down. Very palatable! To any midnight mission man or his maiden laying in wait, you'll want to throw this one on while you make the journey. Chuck Loeb strums and plucks the cardiac cords and Marion fills in all the soft spots. John Lee's bass is in jazz da right place. The moon washing down the tee top of the Trans Am tonight makes for a quiet, introspective carpet ride.
"Double Talk" was written by Chuck and his wife Cuesta. Makes you kind of wonder how the song got it's name doesn't it? "Double Talk" is definitely a driving groove. Shanachie says:
"Rangell's melodic and percussive alto punch shifts the street wise shuffle into high gear before exploding.....Nelson Rangell is one of the genre's most dynamic young reed players, equally proficient on all three saxes as well as flute.""Double Talk" , a Chuck and Nelson exclusive. Front page news! Chuck does all the string work, electronic and otherwise, drum programming and sequencing. Nelson just puts the headphones on and jams along. The shakers in the background are a nice compliment to the body rock. I hit this tune right on time for the clear, eight mile stretch of open blacktop between Vanceboro and New Bern south of the 43 split. Half covered over with trees, the moonlight flickers like an incandescent Colombian firefly. I ask that wish two be granted as I push "Double Talk" beyond double digits. This is dangerous country and I know it. I have to rub on the bottle as fast as the white lines disappear under the cowling. Rollin', Nelson's solo high note made me peep in the rear view with the look a headlighted deer just gave me. I said that word that floats on water, then realized it was only tweeter talk. Track four will have you floating on air too!
Right from the start, "All In All" can be recognized as another absolutely beautiful Chuck Loeb tune. Chuck writes music for a variety of television shows, movies and soaps. "All In All" would fit in on anyone's credit run. On his "The Moon...The Stars...and the Setting Sun" CD, Chuck features his own distinctive background play and carries it over to here. Chuck is my favorite guitarist. In my ignorance, I'd have to say that I haven't heard another guitarist play the way Chuck does. Benson is out front, Norman Brown is not much different, but it is this soft lead that Chuck has a propensity to play that sets him apart. He's toured with Gato Barbieri, Fattburger and the New York dynamic duo, Special Effects. He's penned the main themes for the Montel Williams show, CNN and scratched out a few for artists the likes of Michael Franks and Earl Klugh. It's hard to describe his style. You just have to hear him for yourself. On "All In All" , Andy Snitzer and Dave Samuels help him to pop the cork and raise the wish granter again.
"Could It Be I'm Falling In Love" with this CD? Track 6 is a cover of the Spinners mid-70s hit that brings out the common thread that runs throughout the album; hi hats and shakers! On all of the upbeat songs thus far, these two instruments ask that your whole torso, from toe to top, tap dance in response. I made it to the Navy Federal in Havelock with time to spare, buoyed by the bounce of 'falling in love'. I saw I wasn't the only one who had to make the money move tonight. Having to stand in the line R2D2 formed at 10:00 at night, Marion, Dave, Chuck and John wanted to get out and stretch their legs too. I obliged, then Jarhead Joe asked about the friends I had brought with me. I shared the cover with him and we walked and whistled our way up to the slot. Marion Meadows' sultry horn blowing made the motion to be removed from behind the group and went straight for the heart on his short solo. He has worked with such notables as Phyllis Hyman, Will Downing, Eartha Kitt and Angela Bofill and Bob Baldwin, all the while releasing six successful albums on the RCA/Novus label.
There are very few solos longer than a bar or three on the CD. Like true friends, this group shares everything. Chuck speaks of the friendship this way:
"Each member feels free to do what they want, to expand from the usual constraints of their solo albums, without any pressure from their own record companies or fans who might have certain expectations. We are all good friends, and that looseness and spontaneity in our rapport comes across as well on record as it does live. A Fantasy Band project takes a lot of coordination because of our individual schedules, but once we're together, it's like one long, very exciting jam session with unlimited possibilities."Dave Samuels is one of the founding fathers of the group Spyro Gyra and still sits in regularly with 'em. "Glass Tower" is to Dave Samuels as "All In All is to Chuck Loeb. Track #7 showcases who he is and what his vibe is all about. Want to go sailing on the quiet Caribbean? Recline, hit the rewind, use your mind. Dave delivers his Malletech mallets magnificently. They're the mainstay to this mast of melodic meandering. "Glass Tower" shimmers like tonight's moon on the Neuse River. Glistening, Chuck Loeb and Dave Samuels mood you into a tropical delight. Apart from hammering on the standard iron bars, Dave has decoded this Yamaha Mallet keyboard instrument that fires off an electronic note that sounds oh so smooth. His new album "Tjader-ized" is a tribute to his long time mentor, compadre and fellow vibist, Cal Tjader. Written, composed and produced by Dave, "Glass Tower" throws no stones. It's another laid back breezy on this mostly wind driven CD.
Marion brings the snake out of the basket on track 8. Greg Radford accentuates the progressive nature of "Body Language" as he and Dave note tie this sneaky jazz serpent into something you'll play repeatedly. My favorite song on the album, "Body Language" was made for a night just like tonight. Back up to full song just this side of Bridgeton returning, T/A and I crank up the noise both out front and inside. With a good stereo system, this song's sounds come from everywhere. Right speaker, left speaker, both speakers, back. John Lee bass pops the lid on this sucker once the rhythms laid down. Chuck stands this one out. Grab your lady and slow dance to the glowing candlelight y'all. "Body Language" keeps on building till something has to spill over. It starts out soft but by the time you really get into it, you're lost in space. "WARNING WARNING".
Speaking of body language, the next cut is named "Hip Movement" and it be from Jamaica mon. Ankle length, multi-colored skirts swinging back and forth, dust rising from the floor and Dave Samuels keeping time. "Hip movement" is just like that. You couldn't ask for more. It's a cross between bossa and reggae that flirts with Grover without the sax. Chuck and Dave trade solos back and forth in a way that makes this song good for one of those Sunday afternoon, head clearing cruises. Major Nelson might have to give up his turn with the bottle to grant you this one.
The last cut is named quite appropriately. It describes how you'll play this Cd once your first wish is granted. Another Loeb and Loeb production, "Over And Over" is an excellent way to end this evenings jazz jaunt. It features Chuck on axe, keyboards and drums and Dave Samuels vibin' it. In its beginning, Chuck cries musical notes of sorrow because he knows the genie's going back in the bottle. He and Dave strike up the band to lessen the pain and remind you of the good times you had listening to Fantasy Band blowing "The Kiss". Halfway through the cut, you think it's going to end but, once again, Dave note drops you into a jazzy submission only to round the curve with Chuck one more time.
I've said thousands of times that if you know jazz than you know me and as far as driving CDs go, this has to be my favorite of the past year. If I've ever asked for a smoother, more soul searching CD, mark wish three granted. This CD isn't too strong as to drive the purists away nor is it to traditionally minded. Juxtapositioned right in the middle of the two is where you'll find this album, most of my reviews and me. When you're there also, then you'll know you've found "Jazz da Place".
I want to take this space to thank all who have listened, learned and shared their thoughts and inspirations with me over the past year. This
started out as just a hobby but has grown into something that encompasses all I do. I've been given the opportunity to meet and
greet hundreds of people, go to more concert settings and have received more complimentary CDs than one could have
imagined. Thank you and God bless. I guess I did meet the genie this year.