GUTSY POP-JAZZ AND SOUL (2016)
Woody Russell's latest, Carry It Up, delivers gutsy pop-jazz that orbits around themes of love, compassion, tolerance, respect and the quest for all of the aforementioned. Again, Russell's sophisticated jazz-adjacent songwriting is present throughout as the band turns in one exceptional performance after another. Mainstays from previous WR lineups include bassist extraordinaire, Brady Muckelroy and harmonica ace, Jose Ruiz. New additions, Lloyd Wright (piano, keys), Derrick Hicks (piano), Tony Miller (drums) and special guest vocalist, Jacqui Walker, shine through with inspired performances. The recording is brimming with excellent solos and ensemble interplay. But, what elevates the game this time around is Russell’s very fine delivery as a vocalist. There can be no doubt that he possesses a mastery of his vocal instrument which conveys emotional sincerity with each phrase, each lyrical turn.
The funky opening track, Do Right By You, sets the vibe of the album in motion with a punchy, vintage-yet-modern, groove; think of an early Prince rhythm section. By the second track, Last Time Savannah, we get a different feel with it's definitively "adult" topic (older man, younger woman) and a smoother, more laid back groove. A Place In Line takes on an almost cinematic soundscape, while The Heart Is Still King sounds like it could have been a classic Van Morrison cut. Then, Beyond The Windows digs deep into Russell's take on contemporary vocal jazz. Down the playlist we get in to some more edgy territory with Love Is Love, End Of Story. By the time we hear the title cut, with it's ever building energy and superb jazz harmonica from Jose Ruiz, we have experienced a lot of top-notch musicianship from all involved.
An acoustic cover – Russell’s first - of Marvin Gaye’s chestnut, “What’s Going On” features the tenor sax of Chi-town transplant, Dez Desormeaux, and is right at home amid the rest of this original work.
The album closes with a second and completely different version of A Place In Line - an inspired a Capella take. Upon hearing this, we've journeyed through deep R&B, Pop-Jazz, Rock and Soul from an artist who seemingly relishes in the blurring of genres and one who accepts no limitations thereof.
Something in Woody Russell's approach, in his style, hearkens back to the best of the late 70's through 90's era releases when sophisticated pop music with deep references to jazz was being created by top artists like Steely Dan, Van Morrison, Sting, etc. Musicianship was and is still a key element to those acts but, today, Russell is more aligned with contemporary male jazz vocalists like Gregory Porter and Jose James who veer off of the straight jazz path. What sets him apart, however, would have to include his guitar playing coupled with masterful song-craft. And if you're a fan of that era of songwriters, as well as, contemporary "jazz adjacent" vocalists, then Carry It Up comes highly recommended.
released March 25, 2016
CUT Music Group | 0316-6
Produced by Woody Russell
Recorded at Same Sky Productions and Green Shoe Studio | Austin, TX
Engineered by Andre Cantave, David Messier and Woody Russell
Mixed by Woody Russell
Mastered by Levi Seitz at Black Belt Mastering | Seattle, WA
Woody Russell: vocals, guitars, keys, percussion, tin whistle, programming
Lloyd Wright: Rhodes, Wurlitzer, B3 organ, Piano, synth
Derrick Hicks: piano
Brady Muckelroy: bass
Tony Miller: drums
Jose Ruiz: harmonicas
Dez Desormeaux: saxophone
Jacqui Walker: bg vocals
Award winning vocalist, guitarist and songwriter, Woody Russell, has released a body of recordings that span from the folk
infused fare of his first album, As Simple As That, to the highly praised blues release, Up Against It and pop-jazz shades of Delicious Days. Now, Carry It Up delivers a stunning collection of sophisticated "jazz adjacent" songs, further expanding Russell's superb song-craft....more