The Uptown Band – Heart, Soul, Body, & Mind

July 6, 2014

Coming off a 2008 debut release called Waiting For Her and several live gigs since then, The Uptown Band featuring Erich Cawalla & Jenifer Kinder, based in Reading, PA, have been called “one of the country’s most versatile groups. A hard working attitude, combined with radio and television exposure, make them a must-see act.”

Now adding to that distinction as a live act not to be missed, the band adds a sophomore release to its credits, Heart, Soul, Body, & Mind. The CD is loaded with soul, funk, and clever choices that make it a quality project.

Working through some very melodic and often hard-hitting originals, combined with great covers with very impressive interpretations, the band hits the ground running at full speed with this one. With pieces co-written by producer and bassist Bennie Sims, as well as tracks bearing the compositional skills of songbird Kinder, and featuring the percussion expertise of Pieces of a Dream’s Curtis Harmon and some great flugelhorn action from Greg Adams, bandleader Erich Cawalla (sax, flute, and vocals) puts a stamp of seriously meticulous acuity on the project.

As a demonstration of how the band approaches covers with respect and appreciation, listen to Kinder’s rendition of the late nightingale Whitney Houston’s “Saving All My Love For You” featuring Greg Adams on flugelhorn.  Major vocal chops and intensity here. Then, there’s the effective and smoothly funky version of Maxi Priest’s “Close to You” featuring Cawalla on vocals and alto sax and Drew Love on percussion, and a cool version of the straight-ahead gem “That Old Black Magic.”

Where originals are concerned, several of my faves include the lead track “SJ3,” the slinky rock-tinged, mid-tempo  title track with Kinder’s sassy vocals and gritty guitar work from Forrest Brown, the bouncy, funk-laced “Born to Make You Mad,” and Kinder’s beautiful, soul-stirring “I Can Breathe”  and “Silence,” as well as her reggae-laced “The Good Life.”  There are others, but this release definitely beckons your personal attention and assessment.  Suffice it to say that the formula for success is firmly in place here.

All in all, this is a work that is full-bodied and moving. Most of the tracks should hit jazzers who favor that funk & soul edge right where they live. – Ronald Jackson