Soprano saxman extraordinaire Marion Meadows has just completed a new recording, Next To You (HUCD 3057), his second release for the Heads Up label. The eleven-track, enhanced CD is produced by Yasha Barjona, Barry Eastmond and Ray Obiedo.
The new project finds Meadows melding his trademark R&B-influenced contemporary jazz sound with the Latin rhythms that have been a personal favorite since his New York days of jamming with salsa bands. When he first considered blending those styles for this recording, Meadows knew instinctively where to turn to achieve the perfect balance: popular Bay Area composer, guitarist and producer Ray Obiedo, who has been a successful solo artist and sideman with Latin bands for many years.
"With some albums, it's just a matter of coming up with a handful of great tunes in any flavor, but here I was definitely aiming for something more exotic," Meadows says."Ray has played for years with the Escovedo Family, and I knew he could bring his hard hitting West Coast Latin vibe to my music. I've been a longtime admirer of his grooves, melodies and blend of Brazilian and Afro-Cuban sounds. It just so happened that when I contacted him, he had been in an intense writing mode, and he brought all these amazing tunes to the table. Some we then collaborated on, and some we just worked on the perfect arrangements for my soprano to fit right in."
Obiedo's salsa-soul stamp can be heard on the plucky, easily percussive "Carousel," which features Meadows trading off between soprano and alto and gentle flute harmonies by Norbert Stachel; the playful, jamming Latin romp "Blue Cactus," with a hard-wired Peter Escovedo on drums and a sizzling sax-piano interplay between Meadows and keyboardist Peter Horvath; the rhythmically varied piano-sax duet "Another Time, Another Place," which moves from a soulful ballad beginning into a more aggressive funky jazz stance; and the closing track "La Samba," which smoothly blends Meadows' trademark lilting sax style with a laid back, simmering samba groove.
Yasha Barjona gets in on the exotica too, with the sweeping tropicality of the opening cut "Miami," which mixes a balmy romantic vibe, seductive hip-hop groove and sax melody and vocals and guitar by Spyro Gyra's Julio Fernandez. Other Barjona contributions include the sultry, ambient ballad "Next To You" (featuring vocalist Blake Harris), the lush, orchestrally enhanced (via sampling) film scorelike "Look Inside" and another emotional vocal track, "Spend My Life," sung by Tony Harrington. Rounding out the set is a graceful, gospel flavored reading of Rahsaan Patterson's "It's Alright" and the smokey soprano ballad "No Rhyme No Reason" featuring backing vocals by Lisa Fischer.
Famed R&B producer Barry Eastmond (who is currently producing the new Anita Baker album) adds his soulful expertise to the atmospheric, gently exotic soul ballad "The Dance".
Meadows, a Connecticut native who now makes his home in Phoenix, AZ, got his first career break in the late '80s when TV composer Jay Chattaway overheard him playing his horn while waiting for a train at Grand Central Station and introduced him to pianist Bob James. He subsequently recorded four albums for RCA (1991-96) and one for Sire/Discovery (1997) and has contributed to numerous recordings and/or tours with The Fantasy Band, Norman Connors, Eartha Kitt, Michael Bolton, Will Downing and many others.