Since his earliest recordings in the 1990s, saxophonist Marion Meadows has epitomized cool in the contemporary jazz scene. From the sound to the style to the image, every aspect of Meadows’ persona suggests a level of smooth sophistication that’s unmatched in his class.
Like Players Club, Meadows’ previous release on Heads Up which rode the Billboard and R&R Contemporary Jazz Charts for months, Dressed To Chill continues to showcase the joint songcraft of Meadows and keyboardist/producer Michael Broening. The collaborative team of Meadows and Broening has been making compelling, soul-driven contemporary jazz since Meadows’ In Deep in 2002.
"The more music Michael and I write together, the more we realize that we’re evolving into a great creative team," says Meadows. "It’s one of those things you kind of know right away when you’re collaborating with someone. We had a lot of songs that we had written for Players Club that we had planned to put on this new record. But at the last minute, we rewrote most of that material. It was very labor-intensive, but in a good way. We had already raised the bar with the last record, and now it was time to raise it again and take the music to a new level."
The album opens with the steady groove of the title track, which Meadows considers one of his favorites among the dozen tracks on the album. "It turned out to be a little more uptempo than what I’m used to," he says, "but I got pretty excited about it when we were laying it down in the studio, and some of that energy just made its way onto the track."
"Remember Me," the followup track, is a bit more understated, with Meadows establishing a solid melody line on soprano and tenor sax that’s deftly augmented by guest guitarist Chuck Loeb.
"Miss Know It All" is a slow and slinky affair that pays tribute to a lady of unmatched sophistication. Vocalist Will Brock, who co-wrote the track with Broening, tells the tale with a smoldering delivery that merges the best elements of soul and R&B.
Midway through the set is a finely crafted cover of R. Kelly’s "I Believe I Can Fly." Produced by keyboardist/programmer Chris "Big Dog" Davis, it marks another of Meadows’ favorite moments on the album. "It’s a beautiful track," he says. "Chris did a great job all the way around. It has a kind of gospel background to it that just sounds fantastic."
Further in, "Scent of a Woman" is an especially sultry track built on a laid back but persistent groove and augmented by a subtle yet unmistakably Spanish flavor provided by acoustic guitarist Thano Sanhas. The closer, "To Love Her," follows a similar groove by juxtaposing Meadows soprano sax and bass clarinet against the atmospheric electric guitar work of Freddie Fox.
"I think when you hear all the tracks as a whole, the title of the album makes perfect sense," says Meadows. "We’re taking a very relaxed, very cool approach to the music. We’re doing a lot, but in a style that’s very subtle and understated."
With the warm days and hot nights not far off, it may be time to put on something cool. Marion Meadows has the perfect ensemble. Get Dressed To Chill.