RJ & The Assignment continue to impress with the latest offering of The Stroke of Midnight.
Don't believe me? Consider this, Tom Schuman of Spyro Gyra fame is certainly not going to put his name and reputation on the line for an artist that he does not consider the real deal. RJ & The Assignment fill a special void that others seem to carefully side step. A special hybrid of jazz, R & B along with gospel and soul allow for a unique presentation that should delight listeners of all tastes.
Consistency across multiple genres is tough enough but the level of diversity in the presentation should have heads turning in his direction quickly. Some surprise tunes that RJ simply slays on this release include the Lennon and McCartney classic "Come Together" along with "Naima" from John Coltrane and "Tight" written by Betty Carter. Tight might be the best one word review when considering a critical examination of The Stroke of Midnight. RJ has the distinct advantage of bringing his experience as a songwriter, arranger, composer and producer to the table and can thus lay claim to be a true renaissance man of modern jazz.
"Come Together" includes the soulful and soul filled vocals of Jocelyn Winston. "Naima" is a reharm that takes a jazz classic and flips it to a more open ended reharm that give this release that RJ / R&B joint that pushes the ordinary to a new level. There have been a plethora of artists to attempt to possibly infuse a more commercial R & B sound into a modern jazz release with perhaps the intention of exploring cross over possibilities ( and let's face it - it is a business ) but none done with the flair and finesse pulled off on this recording with both "Come Together" and "What You Won't Do For Love."
An elegant use of sophisticated jazz harmonies ties up this release into a marvelous package that should have a great many listeners hitting the repeat button on a regular basis. Check out the CD Baby link provided for a taste...
Tracks: Midterm; The Stroke of Midnight; Come Together; Tight; What You Won't Do 4 Love; Naima; Roseland; Choose Life; Tears of A Lonely Diamond; One Sunny Night; Hold On.
Personnel: Khari Bowden: spoken word ( 8,11); RJ: keyz (all tracks); Julian Tanaka: sax (1,2,4,5,9,10); Mariko Kitada: acoustic bass (2,4,6,7,9) electric bass (3); Jason Bolden: electric bass 91,5,8,9,11); Terry Wesley: drumz (all tracks); Jocelyn Winston (vocals 1,3,5,8,9,11).
Special Guests: Jeff Ray: guitar (2,3,7,8,9,11); Eddie Rich: flute (2,6) sax (2,4); Michael Evans: trombone (2,1); Jorge Machain (trumpet 2,4); Windy Kairigianes (vocals 4,9); Tom Schuman (keyboards & percussion ( 2,3,6,8,10,11).
4 Stars and rising!