For nearly two decades, saxophonist Walter Beasley has wielded his rare combination of talents as an instrumentalist as well as a vocalist to build a compelling contemporary jazz discography and an international reputation as a soulful live performer. For Her, (HUCD 3100) is an album that chronicles the bittersweet landscape of love and romance.
For Her is perhaps one of Beasley’s most personal tales on record, a first-hand account of the mysterious arc of a romantic relationship, from heady beginning to bittersweet ending and hopeful aftermath. It’s a universal phenomenon that invariably takes on a life of its own and never quite plays out the same way twice – a story that’s sometimes smooth, sometimes rocky, but always adventurous.
"When I started making this album, I had just started seeing somebody who was kind of special, so I wanted to call the album For Her," Beasley recalls. "The first song I wrote for this album, in fact, was the title track. But then, halfway through making the record, the relationship ended. But I still made songs based on what I was going through emotionally. Then I met somebody else, and that’s reflected in some of the more lively and uptempo songs."
The title track is an impassioned devotional piece that sets the tone for the remainder of the album. Built on a solid rhythmic groove, "For Her" maintains a strong melodic line throughout, thanks to the straightforward vocal delivery that Beasley brings to bear here and elsewhere ("Don’t Say Goodnight" and "Things Change").
"I think Sam Cook once said that the better singer is not necessarily the better vocalist but the person who has the better stories to tell," says Beasley. "I think I have some pretty interesting stories. So I’ve just allowed myself to maintain my voice and try to be honest about the feelings that I have and not try to get too cute with vocal inflection or gymnastics. I think it’s better to just sing the song, speak to the listener and tell the story."
"Coolness" is a driving, uptempo track tailor-made for motoring along on a sunny Saturday afternoon with the window rolled down. Pieces of a Dream keyboardist James Lloyd makes a guest appearance here, as well as in subsequent tracks: the bouncy "What Ya Feelin’?" the smoky and sensual "Don’t Say Goodnight" and the easygoing, no-frills ballad, "Grace."
"Remember When" pits Beasley’s saxophone against a strong rhythmic backbeat – two seemingly disparate elements that actually move together effortlessly – while "Let’s Ride" follows a midtempo groove with a subtle touch of funk in the refrain, resulting in an undercurrent of controlled energy from start to finish
"Things Change," the next-to-last track, sums up the album succinctly with the lyric: "Things change, win or lose, time goes on, nothing ever stays the same." A poignant message, but a clear one nonetheless: sometimes love lasts, sometimes it doesn’t, but whichever the case, hopefully something is learned in the process. "Playtime," the upbeat closer, offers a shot of optimism in the aftermath of heartbreak.
For Her may be just one man’s tale of the heart, but when the energy fueling the story is a universal as love, there’s little doubt that the message will resonate across a broad audience. "There are so many different experiences to be lived," says Beasley. "This is a blessing to be able to make this music and get it out in front of people. The thing to remember as a musician is that everybody’s going through similar versions of what you’re going through, so you write about it and it connects to them somehow."