Ever since boyhood, Jonathan Butler was able to use his gifts of song, composition and instrumentation to communicate the messages of his soul and to soothe those around him. Life in Cape Town, South Africa wasn't always idyllic, thanks to the oppressive chokehold of apartheid, but despite the obstacles that society presented, Mr.
Ever since boyhood, Jonathan Butler was able to use his gifts of song, composition and instrumentation to communicate the messages of his soul and to soothe those around him. Life in Cape Town, South Africa wasn't always idyllic, thanks to the oppressive chokehold of apartheid, but despite the obstacles that society presented, Mr. Butler became one of its shining examples, earning a Sarie Award (South Africa's equivalent of a Grammy) as a teen and getting his first taste of mainstream recognition and success with his 1988 Grammy-nominated breakout hit "Lies."
Today, Jonathan's 18 studio CDs and over 30 years of performing with a who's who of jazz and soul musicians would make any struggling ingénue jealous, but there are times that trials and tragedies can make one forget how blessed they actually are, which explains the intent and optimism of Butler's latest set, Living My Dream.
On Living, Butler uses virtuosity in combining African rhythms with contemporary jazz and soul, along with ?his ?collaborations featuring Marcus Miller, Elan Troutman, Dave Wood, his own daughter Jodie and the late, great George Duke, to name a few, to create an incredibly versatile set. Living offers everything from fluttery instrumentals ("African Breeze," "Sweet Serenade" and "Be Still," where Duke's piano is heard) to uncomplicated, yet enraptured songs that flirt with an often-seen, yet out-of-reach tantalizing stranger (the mid-tempo "Song For You"). Butler can apologize for an argument that spun out of control ("Heart And Soul") or, if that falls short, seduce her to get back into her good graces ("Night To Remember").
Since few people recognize the good if they haven't endured the bad, there's acknowledgement of those fragile moments: a sliver of vocalization alongside Jonathan's guitar gives plaintive introspection to his track with Marcus Miller, "Let There Be Light," and "A Prayer" sounds like a winding journey from confusion to clarity. But nothing brings that bittersweet revelation together like the title track, where Butler spells out, in that ageless and elastic croon, just how exhilarating---and uncertain---his life's path has become: "Looking back, at my life, can't believe I'm still here/All the struggles, all the fights, all the things that I fear. They can touch me now, they can hold me down/All I know is I'm living, living my dream."
Listening to or being in the live presence of Jonathan Butler makes one thing clear: creating music isn't just keeping the lights on or buying that latest whip: it's for relieving any pain in the heart, giving energy to his body and to sustaining his very soul. And since that level of passion transmits itself through the speakers and resonates to anyone within hearing range, that's precisely what having this particular Dream is all about. Highly Recommended.
By Melody Charles