John Beasley, Darryl Jones, Ndugu Chancler, “3 Brave Souls” (CD review)

(recently published in JazzTimes; direct link)

3 brave soulsJohn Beasley, Darryl Jones, Ndugu Chancler, “3 Brave Souls” (BFM)

What happens when three veterans of Miles’ bands of the early ’70s through late ’80s, all of whom have also supported high-profile pop and rock tours and recordings, join forces for their own project? 3 Brave Souls, featuring the talents of journeyman pianist, organist and keyboards player John Beasley (Chaka Khan, Steely Dan, James Brown), omnipresent bass hero Darryl Jones (Rolling Stones, Madonna, Sting, Eric Clapton) and onetime Weather Report drummer Ndugu Chancler (Michael Jackson, Santana, Herbie Hancock) feels like a particularly eclectic brand of funk. It’s the kind of broadly sourced, sometimes danceable music that could gain favor among fans of R&B, neo-soul, smooth jazz and even jam bands. That’s a compliment.

The trio is joined by guests on half of the disc’s 11 tracks. The most jazz-intensive is probably the closer, “N2U,” its watery keyboard textures and slow-burn rhythms topped by Gregoire Maret’s infectious harmonica work and featuring Beasley’s retro-modern Rhodes solo; he throws in a sneaky quote from Miles’ “Four.” Vocalists take the lead on several tracks, with Sy Smith on the soulful stew of the Meters-ish “Wanna Get Away?”; harmonies-laden R&B groover “Nothing Left to Say,” sparked by a catchy keyboard figure; and the silky ballad “Love’s Graces.”

Bob Sheppard’s bari sax spikes the heavily layered “Ayala,” tinged with Middle Eastern rhythms and textures and limned with Chancler’s vibraphone and a brief Jones solo, while the musical action moves to Africa for “Yabis,” with its hypnotic grooves, trippy synthesizer work and Francisco Torres’ trombone solo. There’s seldom a dull moment here, whether the zippy fusion of opener “Black Friday”; sweet instrumental ballad “Come and Gone,” its melody voiced by Jones’ bass; the frenetic “Nail It Down,” with Chancler’s spoken-word declarations; or “Stay,” a punchy Sly Stone-style urban concoction giving the bassist a well-taken shot on vocals.

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