Eric Frazier: Find Yourself (Then Find Me) (2004)
One hesitates before telling a lifelong New Yorker to be more assertive, but drummer Eric Frazier may need a reminder.
Frazier, an unquestionable talent on the conga and other hand percussion, is too deferential in playing and restrained in arranging for 2004's Find Yourself (Then Find Me) to be all it can be. It's a solid mix of the funk, Latin and R&B styles, but doesn't demand any permanent space in the musical consciousness.
Percussionists face a choice when recording albums as a leader of being a dominant lead voice (i.e. Brent Lewis) or the foundation of an ensemble. Frazier opts for the latter and does a good job at the crucial task of recruiting talented players suited to his style, but spends most of the album lost behind them. His compositions seem well-suited for live performance, but could be a bit more aggressive in the studiothe proverbial party is more lively mixer than get-down-and-dirty dance jam.
The first five of the album's ten songs are instrumentals, with Frazier taking a more visible role as a vocalist on the rest. The division is welcome, offering continuity in both approaches, but both lack arranging variety to the point where listeners can pretty much predict how everything plays out: A reasonably catchy horn-heavy chorus, followed by mid-length solos by most or all of the ensemble. The trumpeter will stick to the chording and pacing of the compositions, a comforting rather than exciting presence. The alto saxophonist will be just as safealbeit a bit livelierwith a tone probably best suited for this setting. The tenor player will be more deliberative and interesting, but in a tone a bit too understated for this group. The pianist will contribute consistently solid, if not standout, contributions with a spirited yet light touch that allows Frazier's percussion to come throughif only it would.
Unfortunately, Frazier's percussion is almost entirely lost in the mix. The horns no doubt have something to do with this, but his work is more prominent in previous albums with similar arrangements so this appears to be a deliberate decision. He also does almost no soloing.
His vocalsranging from swing to Motown ballads to "Johnny B. Goode"-like rockare solid in his general delivery without ever really hitting the stratosphere in execution or daring. Like the instrumentals there's nothing wrong here, but better listening is a Big Bad Voodoo Daddy album away.
In a way, it's unfair to be critical of this albumit's a solid "B" effort, but is competing in a vast arena where quality "A" efforts are plentiful. Those who do find this a good listen might check out a similar, but better executed set on 2000's Smile Inside Your Soul. Also, two free MP3s from 1996's Count Your Blessings are available from the Internet Underground Music Archive .
Track Listing: Walk The Walk; Talking Silly; The Sun Will Shine Again; Eagle Eyes; Bueno Gente; If I Didn't Know; Don't Get Too Close; It's All Love; Nobody Knows Me; Find Yourself; The One For Me.
Personnel: Eric Frazier: vocals, congas, percussion; Danny Mixon: piano (1-2,8-11); David Lee Jones: alto saxophone (1-4,6,8-11); Jeremy Pelt: trumpet (1,3,6,8-11); Wayne Escofery: tenor saxophone (1-2,4-5,8-10); Wayne Jeffery: guitar (1-2,4,8,11); Todd Isler: drums (1-6,8-11); Eric Lemon: bass (1,3-6,8-11); Sabor: percussion (1-4,8-9,11); Enos Payne: piano (2,6); Ulyesse Corbett: trombone (2-6,9); Ted Cruz: piano (4-5); Karen Joseph: flute (5); Theo Donnelly: vocals (6); Reggie Workman: bass (6-7); Anthony Wonsey: piano (7); Marguerite Mariama: vocals (7); Alvin Flythe: tenor saxophone (7); Denise De'Maine: vocals (8,10); Veronica White: vocals (8,10).