Thursday, July 6, 2017

Urbanity's Urban Soul on CD

From the "judging a book by its cover" file, entry #4,117: if you're going to name your group "Urbanity" and your album "Urban Soul," shouldn't it be a little more...funky?

When I first received this CD, I felt a little excited--maybe this is some rambunctious funk full of attitude and groove, I thought. I slipped it into the CD player and out came some very mellow, very smooth and very "lite" jazz. I was hoping for a little There's a Riot Goin' On, and I got something a little closer to G Force.

Maybe that's a little harsh. Guitarist Albert Dadon, aka "Albare," first teamed up with keyboardist Phil Turcio 27 years ago, and there's quite a sense of musical synergy between them. Or as Turcio explains, "Everything I throw at Albare comes back as if I would have played it myself." That creates a genuine seamlessness in these ten tracks, and Urbanity sounds like a four or five piece outfit instead of a duo. (Turcio also handles all of the synthesizer and percussion programming.) Both Turcio and Albare are genuinely talented performers and really know their way around their respective instruments, but they are unusually generous with each other as well. The improvised solos are there, but they are calm and refined and they serve as an invitation for the other partner to join in whenever he's ready.

Another interesting thing about Urbanity is that these two gentlemen are from Australia--Melbourne to be exact--and perhaps their idea of "urban soul" is more akin to urbane than gritty. So while the overall effect can seem tame at times, there are exotic influences floating quietly through the performances such as Latin rhythms and even a nod to the Rolling Stones with an interesting cover of "Angie," which is done quite well with all of the original longing preserved.

Urban Soul did grow on me, despite the initial disappointment of having to critique more lite jazz. But here's my recommendation--get rid of the drum machines and the synthesizers, add a killer rhythm section and let these two musicians deliver some real soul, all scuffed up and full of passion. That's an album I'd love to hear.

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