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Reviews: Threshold ~ Sum Blues|
Posted on Monday, July 09, 2007 @ 01:43:03 UTC
CD: Sum Blues
Home: Los Angeles, California
Quote: "Threshold is an ensemble first. These players have each adapted themselves to all manner of musical environments, but collectively, as this band, they have crafted a sound that depends on everyone’s contribution for its unique flavor."
By Barney Quick
The first thing to say about this record is that it’s thrilling. Who knew this kind of R&B was still being made? It’s as urban and contemporary as they come, but it embraces a lineage that includes all that has gone into R&B since the term was coined.
The next thing to say is that, for a collection of journeyman session people used to coming and going on their own terms, Threshold is an ensemble first. These players have each adapted themselves to all manner of musical environments, but collectively, as this band, they have crafted a sound that depends on everyone’s contribution for its unique flavor. From the gospel swoops of the harmony vocals, extending as they do over several measures and culminating in perfectly proportioned vibrato, to the lilt of the Fender Rhodes (an old-school instrument it’s indeed thrilling to hear in such generous portions), to the terse phrases of bass lyricality, this is sound born of group vision.
Linda Taylor, a Los Angeles guitarist who was most visible in the house band for Drew Carey’s television show Whose Line Is It Anyway?, spearheaded this project. It began as an outgrowth of some demo work and some thematic ideas she’d been considering. As those ideas took shape as lyrics focusing on the brokenness that’s too often found in personal relationships and our world at large, she became clear about who should be involved musically.
While this is her project in so many ways, on the record Taylor mainly comes through as the seasoned dispenser of tasteful licks, each perfectly punctuating little junctures in the songs that needed exactly those guitar lines and nothing else. A breezy six-nine chord here, a ghostly little staccato single-note squeal trailing off there - Taylor always pulls exactly the right tool for the job out of her box.
Angela Carole Brown is the lead voice heard on all these cuts. It’s obvious that she and Taylor found - probably more through aesthetic serendipity than a lot of talking about it - that high space where there visions of how to deliver these compositions melded. While her voice here conjures glimpses of Dinah Washington, Mavis Staples and Chaka Khan, it’s because she knew just what this project required. She can also sing jazz, folk and commercial jingles with the same mastery. (She is also a published poet and novelist.) Here, she's after the Threshold sound.
The rest of the band - bassist Del Atkins, drummer Laval Belle, keyboardist Edward Roth Harris, organist Mikal Majeed, and vocalists Janelle Sadler, Catte Adams, and Patryce Choc’Let Banks - likewise show a commitment to synergy throughout. It’s such a powerful group vibe that the contributions of the guest musicians - guitarists Keb’ Mo and Darrell Crook and saxophonist David Patterson - serve the Threshold sound, even though they are all distinctive players.
The pace of the album unfolds nicely. The first two tracks set up a quietly churning funk. The title cut struts a bit more (and features some of Taylor’s finest guitar work). “Little For Me” slows things down to a ballad feel, made all the more languid by Keb’ Mo’s slide responses to Brown’s phrasing. “Good Day” shows Taylor’s keen sense of song crafting, especially in the way the way the refrain jumps out emphatically. The main point of “Rising,” a song about post-Katrina New Orleans, is the sparse pairing of Brown’s vocal and Roth’s churchy piano. “Depending On You” makes a nice final track, opening the clouds of the human condition and letting a strong beam of hope’s light radiate down onto us, both lyrically and musically.
This is a credentialed assortment of people who had come together to make this record. No doubt their gig calendars are full and inboxes bursting. Still, let us hope that they find time, amidst their myriad projects, to keep assembling as Threshold. The world sorely needs regular doses of this kind of genuine groove.
Artist Website: http://www.thresholdthemusic.com
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