Bobby McFerrin: I Hear Music

Bobby McFerrin has been part of the American music scene for over 25 years, so it’s easy to take him for granted and, in the process, overlook his considerable accomplishments. To start, there is the whole concept of solo singing that McFerrin developed for himself. With his amazing range and the ability to make rapid-fire changes from the top to the bottom of his voice, he created the illusion of a continuous walking bass line under his falsetto improvisations. Add the frequent slapping of his hand on his chest and the illusion of the rhythm section is complete. But McFerrin did more than just creating his own one-man band. He found a large audience that was not only interested in music for its own sake, but also in making music. He encourages his audience to sing along (and comically chastises them when they don’t) and he makes the whole experience of making music a great deal of fun. The concert from which Spontaneous Inventions derives was also recorded for video. The hall is packed (and this, I remind you, is before “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”). On “I Hear Music”, McFerrin sings a line or two of the lyric before taking out the words. On earlier live recordings, McFerrin was somewhat lax on staying within the unheard harmony, but on this track, he outlines the harmony for most of the solo. When he brings the audience in, McFerrin’s goofy choice of scat syllables makes the performance lose its focus. Yet, to hear the audience sing back McFerrin’s musical ideas with considerable accuracy makes up for the temporary suspension of time and harmony.

August 07, 2009 · 0 comments


Jeff Barone: I Hear Music

There's a guilty pleasure in listening to a swingin' B-3 combo, that stylistic poor relation long relegated to the back bays of jazz respectability. Most listeners fall into two categories: those who dig the sound and those who don't. Either way, this particular group sails well through these waters on Ron Oswanski's solid Leslie-hulled vessel, the perfect vehicle for Jeff Barone's decidedly old school, in-the-pocket technique.

Jack Wilkins, renowned for his eruptive, free-flowing guitar work, produced this effort, and that alone would intimidate most up-and-coming guitarists. In spite of that, Barone sounds comfortable in his own skin, rolling out a series of potent, tasty bop phrases that fit the groove like well-worn gloves, saying more in a few droplets of notes than many others could say with tsunamis of sound. Plus he definitely swings, with flawless timing and a strong, precise attack. Yet for me, his playing is almost too reserved and disciplined. It would be nice to hear this guy go wild and spread a bit more sail, but perhaps that's not his way … or he may just be holding back. Captain Jack, would you mind leaving the bridge for a few minutes?

July 19, 2008 · 0 comments


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