Something Else!, Soul Jazz Review

Vincent Herring and Something Else! Ignite Jazz with Soul Jazz


Something Else!, Soul Jazz Review

Vincent Herring and Something Else! Ignite Jazz with Soul Jazz

by Nolan DeBuke

Something-Else!-The-Jazz-Word-CDWhen soul jazz emerged in the early 1960s, it created a vibrant fusion of contemporary soul and R&B with the robust energy of hard bop, becoming the backdrop for countless lives and an absolute joy to play. Fast forward to 2024, and the new supergroup Something Else! revives this spirited genre with their debut release, Soul Jazz. This album is a testament to the genre’s enduring appeal and showcases a stellar ensemble led by alto saxophone virtuoso Vincent Herring, alongside Jeremy Pelt on trumpet, Wayne Escoffery on tenor saxophone, Paul Bollenback on guitar, David Kikoski on piano, Essiet Essiet on bass, and Otis Brown III on drums.

The album opens with Horace Silver’s “Filthy McNasty,” a hard swingin’ number that sets the tone for the entire project. The ensemble’s tight counterpoint and solid interplay demonstrate their chemistry, driven by Essiet’s steady bass lines and Brown’s fluid swing feel. Herring’s alto solo blends bebop roots with contemporary sounds, creating a dynamic mix of hard bop and soul jazz within a bluesy framework.

“Too Blue” slows the pace with a relaxed, cool jazz groove. Essiet’s bass lines and Brown’s swing feel anchor the ensemble, making this track a solid toe-tapper. Bollenback’s guitar solo stands out with its soulful richness, continuing the conversation initiated by the ensemble.

Eddie Harris’s “Mean Greens” has spiritual undertones that bring the soul jazz vibe to church. Herring’s dynamic alto saxophone and the ensemble’s excellent tutti playing enhance the track’s energy. Pelt’s trumpet solo is particularly expressive, ornamenting chord tones with chromatic flourishes and vibrant glissandos.

Pee Wee Ellis’ “The Chicken” delivers a danceable groove that gets you on your feet. The arrangement beautifully features the three horns, while Escoffery’s solo builds energy with melodic and rhythmic creativity, showcasing his angular lines.

Herbie Hancock’s “Driftin'” is given a robust swing feel, paying homage to the original while highlighting the ensemble’s orchestration. Kikoski’s piano solo is elegant, fluidly moving between chordal figures and single-note ideas, perfectly synced with Essiet’s and Brown’s pocket.

Despite its slower tempo, “Slow Drag” maintains energy and groove through intricate counterpoint between instruments. The ensemble’s cohesive playing keeps the track engaging and vibrant.

Roy Hargrove’s “Strasbourg/St. Denis” opens with hand claps, leading into Essiet’s bass growls, introducing the rich sounds of soul jazz. Herring’s joyous and melodic solo exemplifies his class and mastery.

The album closes with an unexpected take on John Coltrane’s “Naima,” transformed with a hip, funky soul jazz feel. This arrangement showcases the ensemble’s strengths and is a fitting conclusion to this vibrant project.

Soul Jazz was produced by Paul Stache and Damon Smith, and recorded during a “Daylight Session” at Smoke Jazz Club in New York City. The album’s groove-centric tunes from masters like Horace Silver, Herbie Hancock, Roy Hargrove, and others, played with infectious vitality by this dream band, breathe dynamic new life into an already lively style.

As Herring notes, this project is about great music that feels good, played by the very best musicians. Soul Jazz not only rekindles the spirit of the genre but also enlightens a new generation on the thrill of soul jazz, ensuring that its vibrant grooves continue to resonate with audiences today.

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