Soul Ballet--2019

No sitting down allowed here. The Soul Ballet party is always alive and pulsating. Since launching the pseudonym’s debut release in 1996, producer/multi-instrumentalist/ composer/programmer (and just the consummate one-man music machine) Rick Kelly has managed to keep Soul Ballet in the forefront of the collective mind and conscience of smooth jazz audiences everywhere with his signature mix of jazz and electronica. His marked journeys into the dark recesses of space and the future are so heavy, it often boggles the mind how he’s able to create such a masterful and funky groove from themes that others have tried but have hardly been as consistently successful. Heavy, fat, and loud are sometimes terms one uses to describe someone or something in a negative manner, but it also works in a most creative and positive manner when describing Soul Ballet’s latest project, 2019, to which “tastefully done” must be added to that description.

So often, electronica can be monotonous, even boring, with the artist simply programming the same runs and hooks to repeat over and over again against the backdrop of some beat that is expected to drown out the monotony and try to convince the listener that it’s all about the dance.  Soul Ballet has shown consistently that its sound is unique in quality and in its ability to always remain fresh, expressive, and almost introspective. Therefore, Kelly plows forward with a huge sense of pride and bravado with each release.

Each tune here, from the driving opening track, "Boom! It’s On!" through the powerful groove and hook of "Her Tears Transform U," provides its own push and pull, a life full of breathless energy and purpose. I have to admit that here is yet another artist who never fails to impress me, but it goes beyond the music. It speaks to his commitment to thinking outside the box, to looking ahead (as his futuristic tendencies demonstrate) and to be certainly atypical of the average electronica/techno project, even those who may attempt the merge with jazz. Only a very limited handful can pull off the one-man extravaganza thing with any real success, and Kelly is undoubtedly one of them.  

In addition, the subtle vocals provided by Ariah Firefly and Deborah Cade add a touch of sweetness to this otherwise in-your-face experience, as vocals always have on Soul Ballet releases, and it makes the project even sexy. The saying goes that if something works, you don’t mess with it. I’d say Rick Kelly/Soul Ballet learned that a long time ago while still managing to introduce originality in each effort. And so the dance, the soul ballet, continues on into the future… -- Ronald Jackson