Marzette Griffith - And Now Marzette (2008)

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    Marzette Griffith
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    Two types of artists make steppers music - those who are actually trying to make music for the steppers set and those who are just trying to make good music. The Baltimore based group Marcell and the Truth fall into the latter category. Their album "Hopes Too High" is filled with music fusing soul, swing jazz and funk that is favored by DJ's who play steppers music and the fans who love the genre. It turned out that steppers loved the album, and the group has a large following in Chicago, which is the capitol of Steppers Nation.

    Then there are artists such as Marzette Griffith. Griffith is a Chicago resident who has been a mainstay on the city's music scene for years. He was lead singer of the group Essence. That group charted twice in the 1970s with the singles "Sweet Fools" and "I Ain't Much But I'm All I Got." Griffith continued recording over the last 30 years, but he is also well known as one of the nation's best Chicago Style steppers. Griffith displayed his moves for the world when he made a cameo appearance in the film "Love Jones."

    Griffith's And Now Marzette gives his fans new music to dance to. Of course, there's always the chance that targeting a record directly to fans of a specific sub-genre is that only the connoisseurs of that musical style will actually get it. And Now Marzette showcases an artist who specializes in Chicago Style Steppin' music that happens to also be very good music.

    First of all, steppers music has a large element of swing. That's the kind of music Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Chick Webb played back in the day when couples did dances like the Lindy Hop and the Jitterbug. Songs like "Misunderstood" and "Stuck on You" fuse swing with a heavy dose of funk.

    These songs might be intended to be dance tunes, but Griffith put a lot of thought into the lyrics. Songs such as "Dora" and the gospel influenced "It Was You" are as easy to listen to. Tunes such as "Party" and "Let's Get Away" show that Griffith listens to contemporary R&B and hip-hop and knows how to incorporate both styles into the music he makes for steppers. "Party" has a beat that might make a youngster such as Usher green with envy, and that's why the rapping that takes place at end of the song actually works.

    Meanwhile, "Let's Get Away" features a Dancehall style toast. However, Griffith is rightfully the star vocalist on each song on And Now Marzette. Simply put, Griffith uses everything he's learned during his three-plus decades in the music business in each song he sings. His vocals are clear, his range - which goes from tenor to falsetto - makes Griffith's music compelling. So, whether you dance as good as the Nicholas brothers or have two left feet (like me), I'd recommend And Now Marzette just so you can hear Griffith sing.

    By Howard Dukes

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