Nu Shooz Orchestra – Pandora’s Box

Oct. 15, 2010

The talented duo of Valerie Day and John Smith have been dazzling those who truly appreciate innovative music since the ‘80s with their atypical brand of hybrid music which combines pop, jazz, funk and everything in between. As Nu Shooz then, they did what they felt expressed “nu-ness.” Today, they are back as the Nu Shooz Orchestra, bringing a 10-piece orchestra into the experience, as well, with a project called, interestingly, Pandora’s Box. Open it, and hang on for this one, as you will go to different places and experience some pretty crazy and exciting things.

Revisiting three of their classics, “Point of No Return,” “Driftin’,” and “I Can’t Wait,” the group tosses in nine newbies that are meant to motivate, inspire, invoke, and interest. They do. You have to be there, though. So, be prepared. This is no easy-to-grasp, easy-to-discard group or project. For anyone who’s familiar with Nu Shooz, that’s stating the obvious.  This is as free as jazz can get. No pigeonholes work here.  Day’s vocals punctuate every crevice in every song, and Smith throws every type of chord and phrasing our way that he can muster.
There are tunes that will truly require your head’s total involvement, like the title cut, “Looking Glass,” and “Miles Beneath the Sea,” but, if you stay with them, you just might have fun finally getting the fit. Of course, there are elements that are more familiar to the mind like the seductively serene opening track “Welcome to My Dream,” the mysterious and deliciously funky “Spy vs. Spy,” and the bossa nova-tinged “Right Before My Eyes.”

Along that more “conventional” vibe is also “Before the Fall,” with its very nice flute feel, funky bass lines, and solid rhythm. It brings a really effective groove with it. “Point of No Return” bears an uncanny funkiness to the great Stevie Wonder’s “I Wish” (and do we know how funky that was-and is-or what?). Then, there’s the total coolness of the light and airy “Spring” with its traditional sway and easy swing, the soulful, sultry touch of the duo’s recaptured “Driftin’,” and the bonus track, the classic “Can’t Wait,” which originally landed the unique pair at #3 on Billboard.

Pandora’s Box is a potpourri of both familiar and nu tastes fit for a feast of sounds to be set before anyone up for one great musical adventure.  Yum! – Ronald Jackson