There once was a proliferation of black and multi-racial bands, and we’re not even just talking in the halcyon ‘70s and ‘80s. Even as late as the early 2000s, a handful of named acid jazz, jazz funk, and soul bands were almost thanklessly holding on. Before we even mention the ‘90s holdovers like Mint Condition, The Roots, Fishbone, Incognito, and Brand New Heavies, there was a small, yet more quietly impactful group of newer bands that emerged with the dawn of the new century. They bore names like Jiva, Fertile Ground, PlantLife, Water Seed, Marcell & The Truth, and The Revelations (then feat. Tré Williams) and came to uphold a range of soul band traditions.
One of the most memorable of that young crop of early millennial bands was The Rebirth, a multi-racial collective performing music in the Black American soul and jazz funk vein. With just two albums and a rack of remixes and extended tracks, from 2005 to roughly 2010, The Rebirth was among the bands to beat. Seven years since their release of their 2008 Love Issue EP and a decade since their renowned 2005 debut, This Journey In, The Rebirth is demonstrating with their superb Being Thru The Eyes of A Child why they’re still one of the best bands to beat…bar none.
While shades of the Rotary Connection and The Brand New Heavies crop up from time to time on this jazz funk extravaganza, there is nothing exactly like the sound of The Rebirth. The band’s music is impossible to pigeonhole, even as you can clearly recognize elements of the classic genres in the pop as well as the Black and Latin music traditions. On Being Thru The Eyes of a Child, what you hear is just beautifully arranged, good music, the type that exhibits a kind of freedom and invites listeners to be free with them. It’s the kind of higher plane quality that Earth Wind and Fire had at its height, but there is nothing reminiscent of the sound of EWF in The Rebirth’s music. This isn’t derivative material, nor is it trying in any shape, form or fashion to conform to the conventions of radio, which endears.
The polyrhythm of “This Is Coming To?” is an orgy of percussions, electric bass, and beats that—until its descending bridge—musically progresses while also managing to feel as though it were standing still within the same three or four bar beat pattern. Special thanks to percussionist Nikki Campbell, drummer Chris Taylor, bassist Daniel Seeff, and guitarist Patrick Bailey, it’s a fascinating rhythm song that captures your attention and your neck muscles in its movement and repetitions. Did I mention how fantastic its hook and chanting vamp out are? Yeah, pretty damn sublime. And that’s not all, folks! Not with a pure string and guitar ballad like “Surrender the Pretender” taking its succulently sweet time to unfold on the docket. Lead vocalist Baskerville Jones joined in harmony by Loslito, Mark Cross, and Chris Taylor sound almost like a religious experience when they get to singing the chorus “You are as I am” on the tour de force “Surrender the Pretender.”
While organic sounds are their wheelhouse, they aren’t afraid of synthy new wave and electrofunk instrumentation, as illustrated on the tongue-in-cheek chic yet arcade like “Samurai.” Nor do they shy away from long instrumental jam sessions, with “Caterpillar” serving as a fine acid jazz example (though Jones and chorus do eventually jump on about midway through to close it out). On “Religion To Me,” astral sounds service the kind of soul band ballad that Average White Band and Norman Connors might have tried their hand it, but the construction is looser and more liberated than those acts contemplated, the vocals inhaling and exhaling in and out of the track like a fever dream, what starts as a solo then becomes a chorus before finally ending as a duet. Naturally.
The Rebirth exhibits such confidence in their lightly avant garde experimentations that they barely feel like experimentations at all, just a free flowing yet focused artistic journey. “Show ‘em” has a similar ease in movement and transitions in voices that give the feel of Rotary Connection or The Fifth Dimension set free - which is an interesting riff on two musical groups who were personified by their own unconventional, hippie approach to a genre-free, soulful rock and pop hybridity. Producer, vocalist, and keyboardist, Loslito, should take a magician’s bow for helping make this ship’s guidance in musical child’s play feel so effortless, since listening to a more constructed, California soul chorale like “Being Thru The Eyes of a Child (Prelude),” makes it clear that none of this music is technically simple or easy. His is a true sleight of hand.
What is also interesting is how much of this band’s music is simply pretty to the ear. Baskerville Jones’ unassuming, yet sweetheart vocals has something to do with the almost innocence of The Rebirth sound, especially on a cotton candy floater of an acoustic ballad such as “Come On Over.” It just carries you off on a cloud.
Song like “By Design” and “Wasteland” inject a bit more edge and modernity to the proceedings, but even these more contemporary soundscapes don’t fully succumb to any of the cynical darkness that parades through much of the music of now. That’s no small feat with a track called “Wasteland” that makes that word part of its hook. But, coming back ten years after your debut and sounding this fresh, this arresting to the ear and still so wholly and uniquely yourself is no small feat either. The Rebirth pulled it off, as one of the last soul and jazz funk bands in the Black music tradition still standing. This is essential listening. Highly Recommended.
By L. Michael Gipson