Philip Bailey, cofounder and lead vocalist for pop superstars Earth, Wind & Fire, releases Soul on Jazz (HUCD 3068). Produced by the adventurous arranger/ saxophonist Bob Belden, EWF keyboardist Myron McKinley, Scott Kinsey and Bailey, the album is also available as an SACD in 5.1 Surround Sound will also be available.
"I wanted to find the essence of what Philip is all about," Belden recalls. "He’s a soulful singer, but he’s also a jazz guy at heart. We tried to make a record that wasn’t pretentious, that wasn’t a throwback. Everyone involved has deep jazz credentials as well as experience in other kinds of music."
Bailey adds, "I think jazz, in its scope and in its depth, is the kind of music that I gravitate to for many reasons. Musically, it’s limitless, and the character of the music is one that’s secure, with a firm foundation. So you can sink your teeth into jazz and never exhaust your search for it."
Soul on Jazz features such outstanding jazz and contemporary jazz musicians as DJ Smash, guitarist John Hart, alto saxophonist Lou Marini, baritone saxophonist Ronnie Cuber, trumpeter Scott Wendholt, and keyboardists McKinley and Kinsey. Belden himself plays soprano on the opening track, the Weather Report gem "Indiscretions." Equally notable is the rhythmic support provided by guitarist Mike "Dino" Campbell, bassists Ira Coleman and David Dyson, percussionist Don Alias and drummer Billy Kilson.
Bailey taps into the evocative compositions of jazzmasters Joe Zawinul, Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock to weave his own musical tapestries. Along with definitive remakes of "Nature Boy," Thelonius Monk’s "Ruby, My Dear," the Les McCann/Eddie Harris smash "Compared to What," and Freddie Hubbard’s "Red Clay," Soul on Jazz also features a new arrangement of the EWF hit "Keep Your Head to the Sky." Two impressive new tunes feature lyrics written by the vocalist’s son, Sir Bailey: DJ Smash’s "Bop-Skip-Doodle" and Myron McKinley’s "Unrestrained."
"We found material that we could adapt," says Belden. "Coltrane used to play ‘Nature Boy,’ which has a strong association with Nat Cole. The Monk tune has lyrics that could have been written today."
Bailey’s four-octave range and soaring falsetto work on Earth, Wind & Fire hits like "Reasons" and "Shining Star" set the world ablaze in the 1970s. He topped the charts in 1985 with "Easy Lover," a duet with Phil Collins, and his gospel album, Triumph, won a Grammy the following year. Released in 1998, his Heads Up debut, Dreams, featured an all-star cast including Pat Metheny, George Duke, Grover Washington Jr., Gerald Albright and others.