Soul Cycle - Homebrew

Soul Cycle
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Take the band Soul Cycle back in time to, say, 1974, and they’d fit right in. That’s not to say that Soul Cycle sounds exactly like ensembles such as Headhunters and The Blackbyrds. That’s not the case. This band - as their latest effort Homebrew shows - is at once classic and contemporary. They manage to take what fans love about jazz music genres such as funk and pop and mix and interpret them in a way that sounds wholly authentic in the era in which they live. And really, that’s all the fusion bands that we love so much did back in the day.

Take the band Soul Cycle back in time to, say, 1974, and they’d fit right in. That’s not to say that Soul Cycle sounds exactly like ensembles such as Headhunters and The Blackbyrds. That’s not the case. This band - as their latest effort Homebrew shows - is at once classic and contemporary. They manage to take what fans love about jazz music genres such as funk and pop and mix and interpret them in a way that sounds wholly authentic in the era in which they live. And really, that’s all the fusion bands that we love so much did back in the day.

The Headhunters didn’t have DJ’s with turntables scratching, which is what keyboardist Jesse Fischer’s ensemble employs on “Nuyorican Vibes.” Fusion bands used keyboards, distortion on their guitars and thumping electric bass to infuse their jazz improvisations with funk and rock, and that’s how Homebrew captures the spirit of the halcyon days of fusion. Fischer and Soul Cycle are experts at this. I have two of their previous albums – Mosaic and Flipped – and there is a consistency that runs through all of the band’s work. On Flipped and Mosaic, the group put a great deal of thought into crafting cover versions of classic songs that have a distinct sound. That trend continues on the remakes found on Homebrew. The first is a swinging version of “You've Got a Friend” sung by jazz vocalist Gretchen Parlato. The tune has an upbeat tempo driven by a funky bass line and drum work that is softly aggressive due to use of brushes. Meanwhile, Parlato’s vocals give the cut a jazzy touch in the way she stretches and bends her voice around and through the melody. The deep funk rendition that the band (with Rogiers handling the lead vocals) gives “Imagine” distinguishes it from John Lennon’s original, as well as other covers by singers like Tracy Spencer.

“You've Got a Friend” is garnering airplay, but the instrumentals deserve some recognition as well. Each track is bursting with wild and subtle changes in pace and tempo, fiery exchanges between the musicians and some creative soloing and improvisation. “Basement Jam” combines Memphis horns with a beach music rhythm section that gives way to a bass driven psychedelic sound about half way through before morphing back into the prior melody.

Fischer says that two seemingly unrelated events inspired Homebrew. First was a visit to the Stax Records museum. The second was reading the autobiography of Apple Computer’s co-founder Steve Wosniak. In those situations, life as the underdog bred a think-outside-the-box mentality that led to the creation of some excellent music and some beautiful computer and home electronics products. And Fischer and Soul Cycle display that same kind of attitude on Homebrew, taking the road less travelled to create an extremely enjoyable album. Highly Recommended

By Howard Dukes

 

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