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Music Review: Rahsaan Barber – Everyday Magic

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Too often nowadays jazz is associated with elevator music. Well, Everyday Magic, the second album from Nashville native, Rahsaan Barber, sure ain’t elevator music.

Barber studied music at University of Indiana under the esteemed David Baker. Along with his twin brother, Roland, Barber was named after jazz great Rahsaan Roland Kirk. He lists Stanley Turrentine and John Coltrane among his influences. Having earned his Masters in music at The Manhattan School of Music, Barber has taught at Belmont University and is one of four Americans to perform at the 2003 World saxophone Competition at the Montreaux Jazz Festival.

Everyday Magic was recorded in Nashville – Music City USA. Nashville may be forever associated with country music, but let me tell you, they have some cats down there that can blow. The band, also called Everyday Magic, consists of Barber on tenor, alto and soprano sax as well as flute; Adam Agati on guitar, Jody Nardone on piano, Jerry Navarro on bass (and what a tasty bottom end he plays) and Nioshi Jackson on the skins. Roland Barber is on trombone on two hot tracks, as is percussionist Giovanni Rodriguez. The album is released on Rahsaan’s newly formed Jazz Music City label.

Everyday Magic is laid out to display Rahsaan’s virtuosity on all the saxes and flute, as well as his various influences. It opens with “Jubilee,” a bopping tenor-showcase tune. The first thing that becomes apparent is Rahsaan’s articulation on whatever instrument he features. It matters not how fast the tune; the clarity of the notes is what’s most amazing. This tune just grooves and brings back memories of John Coltrane or Kenny Garrett.

The next two tunes are in remembrance of the 2010 Nashville flood victims, “Lost and Found” is kind of a tone poem that brings to mind a jumble of debris crashing down the maelstrom, while “Floodsong” is more avant-garde and bluesy. Rahsaan gives the tenor a workout that few players can manage.

“Manhattan Grace” is a gospel-inspired love song that feels like a prayer and sounds like heaven. Rahsaan’s alto sax is just as smooth as his tenor work. Perhaps my favorite tune on the whole album, though, is “Why So Blue,” an in-your-face blues romp that’ll make you think of Stanley Turrentine. Twin brother Roland Barber is featured on some fine trombone work wherein he seems to be echoing Rahsaan’s gritty tenor. Great work, family style.

Another highlight is “Innocence,” featuring soprano sax work that continues to show of Rahsaan’s mastery of the different saxophones. The drummer, Nioshi Jackson, lays down an infectious stutter-step solo and the interplay between the sax and the guitar is killer. Close your eyes and you can see a couple of kids playing in a spring garden. In “Adagio,” Rahsaan finally shows off his flute work. As the title suggests, this is a sweet and quiet, slow tune. Rahsaan says it was composed on a dare to create a meditative spa-kind of music. The album closes out with “Memphis Soul,” a tight, electronic groove featuring percussionist Giovanni Rodriguez of the Latin-jazz septet, El Movimeinto, which is co-lead by Rahsaan.

This is a great debut for the label and a more than fine sophomore effort from Rahsaan and Everyday Magic. It may not be elevator music, but it is going nowhere but up.

 

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I was born in Pomona, California at a very young age. I had a pretty normal childhood…or I was a pretty normal child hood if mom is telling the story. I was a paperboy and washed cars. I was a soda fountain jock-jerk and a manic mechanic but my first real job was as a labor organizer in a maternity ward. Then, because of the misjudgment of a judge I spent nearly 10 years in the service of our country mostly on KP duty. Our country sure turns out a lot of dirty dishes. I am a past master at pots and pans. They eventually recognized my real talent and let me wander around some very unfriendly places carrying a big radio that didn’t work. Along the way I took up the bass guitar, jotting down stories, electronic engineering and earned a degree in advanced criminal activities. I spent most of my adult life, if you can call it that, working in the I.T. industry, which I was particularly suited for since we worked in rooms with no windows. On and off I taught in colleges, universities and reform schools as a student teacher… I like smog, traffic, kinky people, car trouble, noisy neighbors, and crowded seedy bars where I have been known to quote Raymond Chandler as pickup lines. I have always been a voracious reader, everything from the classics, to popular fiction, history to science but I have a special place in my heart for crime fiction, especially hard-boiled detective fiction and noir. I write a book and music review blog for all genres at The Dirty Lowdown. And another dedicated to Crime Fiction and all things Noir called Crimeways. It’s named after the magazine that appeared in the Kenneth Fearing classic, The Big Clock. There I write scholarly reviews of the classic hard boiled, noir and crime fiction books from the 20's through today. Mostly I drool over the salacious pictures on the covers. I also write for Tecnorati/BlogCritics where i am part of a sinister cabal of superior writers.