Marion Meadows - Whisper
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There is a reason why musicians continue busking. Beyond the money and the positive feedback they receive from passers by, there is that long-shot chance that they will be heard by somebody who knows somebody. That’s how it happened for Marion Meadows a long time ago. A television music composer heard Meadows playing his saxophone in Grand Central Station and introduced him to Bob James. Now, more than a quarter century later, Meadows is a mainstay on the contemporary jazz scene.
Over the years, Meadows has collaborated with artists ranging from Norman Connors and George Benson to Stevie Wonder and Eartha Kit. And he has released a steady string of successful contemporary jazz and R&B records including his latest. Whisper.
The influences of contemporary jazz artists such as James, Connors and Benson can be heard in Meadows’ work on Whisper. And like many contemporary jazz saxophonists, Meadows likely drew inspiration from Grover Washington Jr. as well.
Meadows hits his sweet spot on Whisper when his melodic saxophone playing is matched with funky grooves, which is the case for most of the album’s cuts. The mid-tempo “Golden Curtain” melds a swaying melody with a funky bass line. “Curves” stands as Meadows’ rejoinder to the criticism that contemporary jazz saxophonists hog the solos, crowding out the other musicians. Meadows takes advantage of the space he’s afforded to improvise and create, yet he also engages in a musical conversation with the trumpet and guitar.
On Whisper, Meadows continues a positive trend of new creativity in contemporary jazz, limiting or outright eliminating the bland covers of pop and R&B songs that dominated the genre for more than a decade. That might be a negative for sales because apparently someone out there likes yet another “smooth jazz” remake of a Luther song. However, the recent trend has been good for the “art,” and Meadows’ latest project benefits from his creative push, making the album undoubtedly interesting to him and enjoyable for his listeners. Recommended.
By Howard Dukes