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Music Review: Machan – Motion of Love

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Somewhere, if a line can be drawn between my early jazz years, my jazz snob years, and the present, there must have been some stretching of my musical brain parts. I'm pretty sure I know when this happened. It was a few years back while going through a jazz snob sub-phase I'll call "Exotica Erudition." Spurred on by a great Exotica show on a local college radio station, I began snapping up every oddball chunk of vinyl to be found. Martin Denny, Esquivel, Jackie Gleason, Serge Gainsbourg — you name it, I bought it.

What this huge influx of new sounds did was make me more aware of the nuances inherent in all types of music. Sure, much of the jazz I listened to had very subtle interplay between the musicians: but Esquivel had two complete orchestras playing simultaneously, Martin Denny had those bird calls, and Gainsbourg had….uhm…Brigitte Bardot. All of this made me rethink the energy I'd been wasting on generating anger toward things like "Smooth Jazz" and the like. The point is that even though something like a Candy Dulfer record did nothing for me, it does have an audience: So what is the point of my rage?

None of this is to say that Machan is a smooth jazz artist that I happen to like. In fact, her snazzy vocalizations are not smooth jazz at all. No, what got me to this point was that her music somehow reminds me of my snob-to-open-minded transformation. For instance, even in those hardcore moments, I had to admit that I loved Sade. "Smooth Operator" went against all of my pathetic rules but it still moved me.

Machan's Motion of Love is full of the type of subtleties that opened my ear as a jazz and exotica fan: the Brazilian groove of the title track (with a very cool "sax-in-warehouse" solo), the funk-laden interplay between the percussion and bass on the sultry "In Your Word" (many thanks to John Medeski for a killer B3 solo), a very different take (thanks in part to the guitar of John Scofield) on Government Mule's "Beautifully Broken."

Ah, and then there's Machan's voice. It in fact does recall Sade. Maybe it's the overall Brazilian feel of the tunes. Maybe it's that gorgeous timbre. All I know is that there's a lot of texture wrapping itself around the lyrics that deal with love, sex, loss, and wonderment: the things that, sooner or later, everybody takes a turn at. It's no accident that Machan has worked with the likes of Pink Floyd, George Benson, Sting, Pat Benetar, and Aretha Franklin. Seriously.

Now, if she would consider adding a few bird calls…

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About Mark Saleski

  • I feel the same way about this CD. The first time I heard it my smooth-jazz radar went off the charts but repeated listenings revealed some pretty clever songwriting, smart arrangements and some excellent support. Great write-up, Mark.

  • Snobbery can be fun if you’re creative about it. Still, you make a good point about what can happen when you open your mind and ears and close your mouth. Well done, sir.