Soul Cycle - Mosaic (2009)

Soul Cycle
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These days, people often go to concerts hoping to hear live music that sounds the way it does on the record. That would be a big mission not accomplished for me. I want the 180-degree opposite of that. I want bands to give me a jam session that features crazy improvisation, mind merging interplay between each of the musicians and sweeping musical mosaic numbers in which each tune lasts three, four, five times as long as it lasts on record. Music, after all, is ideally supposed to be heard live.

These days, people often go to concerts hoping to hear live music that sounds the way it does on the record. That would be a big mission not accomplished for me. I want the 180-degree opposite of that. I want bands to give me a jam session that features crazy improvisation, mind merging interplay between each of the musicians and sweeping musical mosaic numbers in which each tune lasts three, four, five times as long as it lasts on record. Music, after all, is ideally supposed to be heard live.

Music had been a communal and participatory exercise for the musician and the audience. It was the phonograph, the reel to reel, 8 track, cassette, CD and MP3 player that allowed music to become portable, and I don't have anything against that.  Still, my most satisfying musical moments came when I saw and heard someone perform live. Of course, that's not always possible. However, in the age of YouTube, viewing a live performance is just a mouse click away. YouTube is not the perfect music delivery medium, and the quality of your viewing and listening experience can vary based on the speed of your Internet connection and the quality of the recording. YouTube makes it easier than ever for fans to learn who's sugar and who's saccharine, and we leave the experience with a deeper appreciation for the bands that can really bring it on stage. I thought about that after listening to Mosaic, the new album by the jazz, funk, soul, hip hop, World/fusion band Soul Cycle.

Before giving Mosaic a full listen, I went to Soul Cycle's Web page where the band had posted footage from a CD release party for Mosaic. Then, I went back and gave the CD a full hearing, and I must say that I came away impressed at how good a job this CD did of giving me a concept of what I would experience if I was fortunate enough to attend a Soul Cycle concert.

Don't get me wrong. The band wasn't painting by the numbers. The CD is a studio recording, and each track on Mosaic represents the best performance Soul Cycle put forth at that moment. You put the CD on and it will sound the same with each play. Listeners may hear different elements as they become more familiar with the material. But what's there is there. A live show is like a river in that no two performances are alike - which is what makes live performances so dangerously wonderful.

What I mean when I say that Mosaic provides listeners with an idea of what a Soul Cycle show is like is that this record distills the qualities that I saw on YouTube and translated them onto a CD. First of all, this band can improvise and create as saxophonist Brian Hogans does on tracks such as " Sunset Park ." Soul Cycle also showcases its creative chops by finding new arrangements for the two remakes that appear on Mosaic. Rogiers' vocals and Jesse Fischer's work on the keyboards give the modern jazz classic "Blue In Green" a soulful and gospel feel.

The band makes no attempt to account for short attention spans by making these tracks shorter. That just means that the members had to make every moment compelling, and each band member plays a key role in ensuring that Mosaic moves along. Fans of 1970s fusion bands such as Headhunters, Weather Report and Return to Forever will appreciate the jam session vibe that Soul Cycle brings to the music. And all lovers of instrumental music will appreciate the fact that the band didn't water the music down. Recommended

By Howard Dukes

 

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