B-Sharp Jazz Quartet: Searching for the One (1996)
Arranged by drummer Herb Graham, Jr., the album begins with "The Spirit of Jazz Today, part I (this groove)" a driving diatribe (the type that such artists as KRS-One could only dream about for its lyric beauty and effective message) on what music can and should mean both to those who create it and all those others who experience it, or wish they could. Lesson learned, the album switches immediately and relentlessly into "The Call", a hectic and bouncing rhythm-powered piece topped stirringly by Randall Willis' aviary sax bop. Next up is the lighter but no less vital "Double Standard", featuring the physically moving bass of Osama Afifi and the fluttering fingers of pianist Rodney Lee. Though the title of the fourth piece may not be heeded as a warning in itself, the intro to "Twelve Tone Blue" literally sounds the alarm, crying out for the listener to heed the message this album (and this group) are so dedicated to.
What is this message? From this album (as well as the band's live performances), it would seem that B Sharp is trying to spread the good word about great music and what makes it so. Especially when one considers the band's close ties to the MAMA Foundation (Willis almost couldn't stop explaining and praising it when I met him at the band's unfairly under-attended Boston debut election-night show at Johnny D's), the band wants to work with and through the grand realm of Jazz, rooting themselves in basic pure talent then taking this talent to its furthest reaches. Perhaps there is a reason why the band is hotter in Cali than in uptight Massachusetts but, given a chance, I hope, at least, that the "B" in B Sharp could have something to do with the Brave new Beat of Beantown.
Though many of the tracks deal in title or in tone with the message and spirit of modern jazz, and though the album opens and closes with the two parts of the spoken-word beat of "The Spirit of Jazz", these elements act as frame to a grand and glorious montage of diverse and individually brilliant pieces. Mellow? We got your mellow! Check out the after hours soundtrack of "How Dare You" and "Nami" or the lushly ivoried intro section and swaying rhythm and sax work of "After".
For traveling music, B Sharp provides the smoothly spicy "Farañal". As far as pure funk, it is hard to beat "So You Say", a deep mix of Graham's outrageous percussion and Afifi's digging bass layered with Lee's snarly B3 and Willis' free-wheeling improv. Having seen them live before hearing them recorded, I can confidently say that B Sharp not only has a solid collection of rare musical talent, but also the additionally rare talent of honestly and vibrantly capturing their mastery on tape.
As part II of "The Spirit of Jazz Today" fades, the parting echo is "This groove- Take It Home." Better advice could not be given by any reviewer! When you do check out this album (which I would HIGHLY recommend), don't let it go, cause it sure won't let go of you! And as Graham, Jr. himself recommends, "Play it Loud!"
Track Listing: 1. Spirit of Jazz Today, Pt. 1 (This Groove) 2. Call 3. Double Standard 4. Twelve Tone Blue (Intro) 5. Twelve Tone Blue 6. How Dare You 7. So You Say 8. Fara
Record Label: MA Recordings