Thursday, November 3, 2022

“Heat the Silent” by Mumex Duo

“Heat the Silent” by Mumex Duo Details matter, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant, and if you needed a jazz duo to remind you as much this fall season, Mumex Duo is here to answer the call. In their new album, the illuminating Heat the Silent, Mumex Duo are putting intricacies into even the simplest of tracks, such as the heartfelt experimentations “Thelonious,” “Beyond the Eighth Door,” “Variations on Estate,” and “Heat the Silent,” in addition to three other songs of note, and while you could make a case that they’re taking things a little further than they have to in terms of meticulousness, that could be the best element of this record’s appeal. 

The structure of the music matches up with the depth of the melodicism excellently in songs like “When All the People Are Sleeping” and the somewhat elaborate “Beyond the Eighth Door,” and I would even say that had these artists not incorporated the delicate touch they do for the better part of this tracklist, the material wouldn’t sound as accessible as it does in this scenario. It’s clear that Mumex Duo takes harmonies a little more seriously than most, and despite their ultra-focused technique they never sound like they’re getting hung up on formula more than they are on a fluid song structure. Heat the Silent features plenty of provocative beats, particularly in moments like the title track, “Joe’s Island,” “Variations on Estate,” and the rollicking “Thelonious.” The grooves in these tracks are never implied but instead made from a collective force that doesn’t always include a heady presence of drums, which is telling of the physicality that Mumex Duo can muster up when they need to. 

The punch of the melodic play alone is enough to get us to where we need to be in any given instance here, so why dilute the finished product with a lot of excesses we don’t need? Beyond the instrumentation and the execution these guys are providing us in every performance included in this disc, the master mix is pretty well balanced and doesn’t Bogart the spotlight for any one specific element over another, which is always a positive in my book. There are occasions in which the lion’s share of the charisma is coming off of the chemistry as opposed to the glow of the play, but this doesn’t water down the narrative of any songs or the album as a complete piece at all - it does the complete opposite if you ask me. 

 If you weren’t already a fan of Mumex Duo before sitting down to hear what they can do in this latest record, something tells me that the music of Heat the Silent will have you considering their skillset a lot more in the future. This is a good time to be into new jazz, and before I came across this act, I was starting to think hybrid players were the only ones taking up the aesthetical mantle. These two prove otherwise and offer as pure a listen in Heat the Silent as I could hope to get my hands on right now. 

Scottie Carlito
Massapequa, New York

Thursday, June 2, 2022

Hughie Mac’s Sings Some Great Songs Vol. 4

The sheer variety of pop songs Hughie Mac covers on his most recent release, Sings Some Great Songs Vol. 4, means there’s something for everyone amidst the album’s twenty-three(!) cuts. He touches on a virtual who’s-who of mid-20th century American music including performers as diverse as Garth Brooks, Nat King Cole, Glen Campbell, and Frank Sinatra, to name but a few. 

Legendary or relatively obscure, it doesn’t matter, Hughie Mac treats each of the album tracks as an investment of his time worth every second and his love of performing for any audience, listening to an album or live, comes through loud and clear on an assortment of the tracks. Opening with “Almost Like Being in Love” serves notice that Mac is intent on entertaining listeners. The track selection for this album culls from universally well-known and regarded material common on television and film, as well as radio and album. He achieves a level of intimacy during this and later songs that’s reminiscent of an old pal performing for you. 

Breaking down that distance, perceived or otherwise, between the artist and audience helps garner a wider base of fan support. His take on Garth Brooks’ “Two Pina Coladas” is recent enough for it to likely be one of the album’s popular numbers. It isn’t every singer of Mac’s type who would dare break from the pop leanings dominating much of this release to cover an artist often considered as country as they come. It won’t be the last time. 

He hits a travel theme for the back to back duo of “Come Fly with Me” and “Fly Me to the Moon”. Both are among the album’s best, but the latter will get more of your attention thanks to an especially zestful Mac vocal. Some of his selections come from musical theatre and “I Gotta Be Me” illustrates how Mac makes no distinctions about the source of his material – a good song is a good song. His warmth and even a playful edge emerge in his cover of the classic “The Glory of Love”. You can hear him smiling, it seems, as he glides through the song’s unforgettable vocal melody. It’s so simple, but he makes it so much fun. There are a few Sinatra songs on this release and scattered over the Sings Some Great Songs series and his rendition of Ol’ Blue Eyes’ “New York, New York” is among the best. 

He doesn’t ever attempt to outright mimic Frank but, instead, approximates Sinatra’s performance while bringing something of his own. His performance of “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore” closes the album on a big brassy note that says goodbye with a nod and wink rather than grandstanding despair. This performance puts a bold exclamation point on the near-epic collection. You might expect his energies to wane by this point, but Hughie Mac’s Sings Some Great Songs Vol. 4 is the work of a performing artist engaged at every turn with their material. It’s the sort of complete experience that encourages you to keep coming back for more.

Scottie Carlito

Friday, April 15, 2022

Corey Stapleton “Sea Change” LP

Corey Stapleton “Sea Change” LP In folk-pop, everything starts with a single vocal, and Corey Stapleton has one heck of a voice to unsheathe in the new album Sea Change. While Stapleton has some help from his band The Pretty Pirates, his performance sounds like that of a proper solo singer/songwriter in Sea Change, alluding to personal statements in his lyrics that don’t come as much from collaboration as they do profound introspection. In songs like “Western Son” or “As the Crow Flies,” he doesn’t show us the leader of the band, but a man on his own, searching for the same solace we all are. 

There’s a buoyancy to the best harmonies in this LP, such as those in “Make This Work” and “My First Rodeo. Not.,” but it isn’t coming from a boost in the framework of the mix. Stapleton is pretty good at creating some buffering with the arrangements alone, which more or less removes the need for anything synthesized in the big picture. His voice sounds amazing with nothing more than the band behind him here, and I wouldn’t want him to cloud the narratives in Sea Change with a lot of overindulgences we’d likely just get caught up in. Sea Change never reduces itself to hook-centricity, and while “The Coin” flirts with pop themes that don’t fit the shape of the remaining songs in the tracklist, it’s still far from the stock content some of the other hybrid folk records I’ve heard this year have been featuring. 

There’s a little more time spent cultivating the tension in “Mosaic” and “The Pen” than necessary, but overall I think we get a good feel for the kind of melodic magic Stapleton can draw, even when he’s biting off a little more than he can chew from a compositional perspective. I love the meticulousness of the way this album was mastered, and although they didn’t need to be as heavy-handed with some of the piano and guitar parts as they were, the producers hit the nail on the head in keeping Stapleton’s rich lead vocal as the linchpin no matter which of these songs we’re listening to. He has his sharpest weapon out and ready to rock from the time we press the play button on the opening title track, and to his credit, he never has to put it away in the name of attracting a younger audience - honestly, the opposite is closer to the truth. 

Corey Stapleton plays like a man who has a lot to prove in Sea Change, but he’s sounding like a much more qualified singer/songwriter than a lot of his competitors in the international underground have been lately as a result of this potent effort. Sea Change is a decent-sized LP that shows us a lot of potential in Stapleton and, to a lesser extent, The Pretty Pirates, but if it’s really just laying out a prerequisite blueprint for this group’s next release, my gut says that the melodic efficiencies of this album are just a taste of what’s to come. 

Scottie Carlito

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Rina Chanel’s “Sweetest of Melody”

I didn’t know music like Rina Chanel’s “Sweetest of Melody” is even possible these days. It sounds so quaint or out of time when compared to the bell and whistle laden bluster of modern pop. It isn’t hip-hop, pop country, or the few remaining bastions of big-time record sales Chanel’s music pushes. The Brooklyn native and Virginia Beach, Virginia-based singer/songwriter debuted in 2020 and has stayed busy despite a global pandemic slowing her forward momentum. A few months now in 2022 and Chanel has a string of popular singles to her credit, a growing reputation as one of the best up and coming singers in pop music today, and a new single hitting the streets. 

“Sweetest of Melody” comes from Chanel’s EP release Rina. I believe it is safe to say now and in eventual retrospect that this single is the new collection’s centerpiece performance. Chanel and her duet partner Senghor Robinson engage in an elegant yet emotive dance over the course of the song’s nearly four-minute duration. Both vocalists focus on playing off one another without even a hint of upstaging creeping into either performance and they share similar approaches. Note how they tailor their voices to suit the material rather than attempting to impose their will over the music. It's an intensely melodic song without ever seeming crass or too obvious. 

The interplay of two singers, piano, and horn forms the song’s topline attractions while the understated rhythm section provides its foundation. 2022 is unlikely to produce many songs as well-orchestrated without sounding bloodless. It has the right pulse, as well, thanks to how neatly the aforementioned piano reinforces the song’s percussive touch. The production could have added a little more authority, i.e. snap, but it doesn’t miss the mark entirely. As usual for a duet, the lyrics are written in a “dialogue”. Chanel and Robinson, however, avoid any staginess and lock into the song’s tasty groove. It relaxes them and helps shape their performances. Chanel has made her name as a first rate purveyor of modern R&B/soul, but she isn’t some sort of purist latching onto a recognizable style. Instead, “Sweetest of Melody” makes it clear she is at home with this musical vehicle rather than borrowing it. It comes across as natural as breathing. 

She inhabits each line with an unmistakable presence. There’s a light touch of sexiness in her breathy inflections, deceptive power in the way she lands on certain lines, and a nuanced flair for the dramatic in the way she wraps important lines. Listen to the choices she makes along the way, what she emphasizes, what she downplays. Rina Chanel is the proverbial complete package and linking her up with talented vocalist Senghor Robinson affords us an opportunity to hear her gifts in a different light. Chanel has more to show us. She has all the makings of a lifer, a performing artist intent on leaving her mark with audiences on her own terms. “Sweetest of Melody” covers countless miles moving in that direction. 

Scottie Carlito