Normally, jazz fusion tends to attract hypercivilized epicenes, listeners who are snobby and self-styled elitists. However, with the arrival of their first album entitled 'City Blog', Gideon King & City Blog is set to attract a less snooty crowd of audiophiles.
The band, with its extensive line-up, boasts a bevy of talent: Gideon King on guitars, James Genus on bass, Kevin Hays on piano, Willard Dyson and Donald Edwards on drums, Donny McCaslin on sax and flute, and Andy Gravish on trumpet, along with various vocalists.
'City Blog' encompasses a number of styles and influences. And although jazz fusion is the primary mode, the songs include suasions from pop and improvisational jazz. The musicianship is quixotic in attitude, complex and tantalizing in its virtuosity. The band is tight, yet exhibits a sense of laid-back spontaneity that borders on self-indulgence. The result is music that provides listeners with the luxury of emotional commitment.
The album contains nine official tracks and a bonus track entitled 'New York Is', which should have been included on the album, simply because the vocals are delightful as is the tune. At a guess, the song was probably deemed too contemporary to remain, which is too bad.
The title track demonstrates Hays' ability on keyboards, but the vocals are weak, leaving the song sounding as if were out of a 1970s advert. Next up is 'See In Double' which, if possible, suffers from even worse vocals than 'City Blog', although the melody is outstanding.
The third track, 'Down', ramps things up a bit, providing a glimmer of jazz infused Frank Sinatra. 'Friendship Cliché', despite tinny vocals that sound like Muzak on an elevator, includes a stellar fuzz guitar by Gideon King, whose talent is undeniable.
Sadly, seven of the nine tracks encompass dismal vocals. To put it bluntly, the compositions excel, but the songs implode as soon as the vocalists jump in. Still, salvation is at hand! 'City Blog' has two tracks that are gems: 'What Say You' and 'Glide.' Both songs scintillate. The question as to why has a very simple answer: Grace Weber, who hails from Wisconsin. By the grace of God, Weber has one of those sultry, rasping voices that can only be described as a vivacious instrument of expression.
'What Say You' balances on the brink of jazz and pop. Nevertheless, it transcends both genres, becoming something special. Weber's voice is simultaneously irascible and enchanting. On 'Glide,' her voice elucidates a wonderful parochialism that provides a visceral punch riding over the song's simple beat and melody, which is underscored by King's articulate guitar.
Essentially, the band needs to dispose of the male vocalists, hang on to Weber and feature her dulcet vocals on most, if not all, of the songs. Combining that voice with the delicious music would elicit something remarkable. As it is now, Gideon King & City Blog is lost in mediocrity.
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