Player’s Club (HUCD 3082 - SACD 9082 in 5.1 Surround Sound) finds saxophonist/composer/producer Marion Meadows paying tribute to his fellow musicians and peers. Moving effortlessly between contemporary jazz and soulful R&B, this recording – the sexy saxman’s ninth album overall and fourth for Heads Up – is the follow-up to In Deep, his best selling 2002 release.
"Player’s Club is dedicated to my colleagues – all the saxophonists and musicians who go out there every night and give it their all," Meadows says. "It’s a select group that really deserves the title, a fraternity of players who have sustained over the years – and that’s saying a lot in the music business these days."
Player’s Club features eleven standout tracks. Meadows generates sparks on the opening title track "Players Club," cutting loose on tenor and soprano with help from Matt King's baritone sax work. On "Sweet Grapes," he infuses his seductive sound with elements of hip-hop, neo-soul and R&B, tempering his soprano sax with subtle grooves in the most natural way. The melody on "Diggable" winds around a European club vibe, blurring the lines between instrumental pop and crossover jazz as only Meadows can.
Balmy and graceful, "Suede" features moody horn lines over an old school beat, while "Deska" is sensuous and sultry, the title a nickname for Meadows’ new bride. Player’s Club offers fresh readings of LeRoix Hampton III's "Romantica" and the great Calvin Billie Rae tune "Wishing on a Star," made famous by Rose Royce.
The band on Player’s Club spotlights some of the best musicians in contemporary jazz, including Meadows’ longtime bassist Chip Shearin, guitarists Chieli Minucci (of Special EFX), Freddie Fox and newcomer Darnell Taylor, along with vocalist Doug Myers. Phoenix-based keyboardist/producer Michael Broening is back in the production chair and collaborated with Meadows on seven cuts. Bassist Mel Brown played on six tracks.
"Chip Shearin and I have been working together for over ten years," says Meadows. "Chip found Darnel – who plays a funky style of acoustic guitar that’s really different and very happening. Chip also brought singer Doug Myers to the project. He helped out when we needed a sound reminiscent of Sly Stone or Al Green. Of course, Chieli Minucci is a phenomenal player and he did a great job for us, too."
"I tried to bring the feel of this recording closer to a live show, closer to the listener. As artists, it’s time for us to kick it up to the next level – because we need to make it more interesting for the fans. And my tastes (like my record collection) have always been eclectic, so it all works out."
Firmly established as one of the most distinctive voices in smooth jazz, Meadows gained respect in the late ‘80s working with keyboard giant Bob James, then got his first deal with RCA, recording a string of successful albums.
Since moving from his home in Connecticut to Phoenix, Arizona, then signing with Heads Up in 1999, Meadows has released a stream of solid discs. His first two Heads Up recordings, Another Side of Midnight (1999) and Next To You (2000), reflected different aspects of his experiences in New York City, from the uptown R&B to the Latin rhythms. His 2002 release, In Deep (enhanced CD HUCD 3070), fused elements of those vibes with a mix of retro-soul and modern hip-hop influences.
"I want to push the envelope a little bit with Player’s Club," says Meadows. "My goal is to continue evolving – to keep the music from becoming too homogenized. I’d like to bring a little more cutting edge to the contemporary jazz scene."
Join the club!