Oct. 17, 2013
Flautist Jef Kearns steps forward with a very appealing R&B/hip hop/jazz release that packs a lot of intensity and soul-stirring melodies throughout the album. The release, Soulfisticated, draws on the musical cultures mentioned above and strives to present them in melodic, almost dramatic, fashion.
As you listen to the heavy backbeat of the drums on nearly every track, you get the profound sense that this was done intentionally to drive home the very soul of Kearns’ music here. Message received. The music has body and life. Often presented lyrically through the strong and convincing vocals of Maya Killtron, Slakah the Beatchild, Divine Brown, Aria Zenua, and Karen Jewels, the project breathes that intensity I referred to earlier.
What you will find most pleasant is how Kearns weaves his flute into the fabric of this very focused album. It floats, it sings, and it pushes the melodies forward with muscle and charm.
Tune your ears to the likes of “Make It Real for Me,” “Back Again” (one of my faves), “Strange Predictions” (another fave of mine), “Through the Rain,” “Electrified,” the title track (yep, yet another of my faves), and the absolutely beautiful “Breathe” (another…well, you get the idea), and you’ll find that the substance here easily transfers to that comfy place in your soul.
There are other instruments of note here. For example, in the title track, I hear what appears to be the shakuhachi (Japanese bamboo flute) but turns out to be a synth flute played by one John Campbell (who, by the way, is playing everything on this track except Kearns’ flute). That he could get that hauntingly beautiful shakuhachi sound from the synth is remarkable…but then again, the synth is such a remarkably capable instrument. There’s really decent piano and guitar, as well. All of these and Kearns’ flute dance together in time and step to a wonderfully choreographed waltz of sorts.
While the hip-hop/rap-driven opening track may catch a few of you jazzers by surprise, listen on. The material here is so worth it. Soulfisticated is just that. – Ronald Jackson