Before the age of the digital download and services such as Pandora there was a magical place where people from all walks of life and of all ages would gather to share their love for music. This wondrous place was the traditional brick and mortar building commonly referred to as the record store.
While perusing the shelves of one of the last remaining viable stores in our area, I ran across a smooth jazz classic - Gerald Veasley's Love Letters.
For the uninitiated, Veasley is a slightly more soulful version of Brian Bromberg and spends a great deal of time exploring the upper register of his six stringed bass. With cameos by Chieli Minucci, Eric Marienthal and Grover Washington Jr., Veasley manages to walk the fine line between smooth jazz and the more contemporary fusion sound Heads Up is noted for. Pure flavor and texture and while there are a couple of tunes complete with drum programming for the rhythmically challenged they are done with a sense of purpose and texture and do no real harm. The key selling point for this release is the absence of lame r & b vocals that seem to show up on most smooth jazz releases in what may well be the attempt to strike that cross over gold that few seem to find.
Veasley contributes all but two of the ten tracks listed with the other two coming from Donny Hathaway and Chieli Minucci. The Hathaway tune "Valdez in the Country" features a more traditional call and response type pattern with Grover Washington Jr. and Minucci's "Hypnotize" is an esoteric gem from the Special EFX guitarist.
"Reaching Out" and "Facing West" are more typical of the Veasley vibe which welcomes you to the land of rhythm and groove. I stumbled upon this release while browsing the cut out section of one of Louisville's last viable music stores (FYE). Possibly out of print, perhaps being reissued as labels consolidate catalogs on an on going basis this is certainly a release to key an eye out for. Contemporary jazz that hits all the right notes!
Tracks: Facing West; Optimistic; Valdez in the Country; Spirit Walk; Hypnotize; Reachin' Out; Everblue; Love Letter; Be Sweet; Wish You Were Here
Personnel: Gerald Veasley - Six String Bass/Keyboards/Drum Programming/Guitar; Michael Aharon - Piano; Ron Kerber - Alto Sax; Bill Jolly- Keyboards/Drums/Rhythm Arrangements; Pablo Batista, Stephan Maass - Percussion; John Anthony- Caxixi/Cymbal Rolls; Grover Washington, Jr., Chris Farr - Soprano Sax; Fred Cooper, Richard Lee Steacker - Guitar; Leonard "Doc" Gibbs - Percussion; Richard Waller III - Keyboards/Drums/Percussion; Chieli Minucci - Guitar/Keyboards/Drum Programming; Eric Marienthal - Alto Sax; Leslie Burrs - Alto Flute; Mark Knox - Keyboard/String Arrangement