Since their arrival on the contemporary jazz scene in the late ‘90s, Bona Fide have rapidly established themselves as the leaders in the hottest musical movement in years, a sexy and sophisticated style known by many names: chill, down-tempo, lounge. Call it what you will, the Bona Fide sound – forged by bassist Tim (Slim Man) Camponeschi, saxophonist Kevin Levi, keyboardist George Hazelrigg, drummer John E. Coale and percussionist Howard Zizzi – is characterized by compelling riffs and tight grooves that are paradoxically retro and edgy at the same time.
Bona Fide continues to redefine the contemporary jazz landscape with Soul Lounge HUCD 3108, their debut album on Heads Up International. Conceived and recorded with very few creative restrictions, Soul Lounge expands the genre of contemporary jazz-meets-chill music with an inspired collection of all original songs.
"This is by far the best CD Bona Fide has ever recorded," says Camponeschi, founder of the five-piece collective. "This is the kind of music that I can’t wait to play for friends. I didn’t edit myself when I started writing. Everything just started coming out. There are some funky three-minute guitar and piano tunes mixed in with a 12-minute chill tune. The band just let it flow in the studio."
Indeed, Soul Lounge is all about flow. Filled with references to the band’s Baltimore roots, it’s a seamless package that settles into an infectious groove, yet never fails to offer a few surprises along the way. The set opens with the up-tempo "Bona Fide Club," a driving track that showcases Hazelrigg’s compelling piano work. "Funk Box," named after a popular Baltimore club, is a more laid back follow-up track, with Levi’s sultry sax lines taking center stage without overcrowding the keyboards and percussion.
The title track is a stealthy piece that gets plenty of mileage out of Hazelrigg’s minimal piano lines, with plenty of support from sax and guitar. The resulting convergence of riffs makes for a track that’s intriguingly laid back and energized at the same time.
After a slow melodic intro, "Midnight Train" is everything the title implies – a sleek, steady ride fueled by the work of two stellar guest guitar players: Marc Antoine on nylon string acoustic and Chuck Loeb on electric. These two axemasters are deftly underscored by Camponeschi’s solid bass lines. Likewise, the lengthy "Deep Chill" is true to its title with a simple riff and a cool, slow-moving groove that takes the edge off yet still maintains an unmistakable element of mystery and intrigue.
"Rosebank Gang," the lighthearted and nostalgic closer, is named after the Baltimore street where Camponeschi grew up and reflects the enduring bond he shares with his bandmates. "My favorite thing is to play with this band as much as possible," he says. "We’re musicians and best friends, and we travel well together. We have so much fun together before, during and after the show. I’d probably never come home if I had my way."
Six years after their auspicious arrival, Bona Fide is still pushing the contemporary jazz envelope. This time out, they’re doing it at a place called the Soul Lounge. The door’s open. Step inside and settle into the groove.