If you like your big band jazz seasoned with contemporary pop and hip-hop, or you prefer your pop and hip-hop flavored with big band jazz, you’ll want to take some time to listen to Local Legend, the second album from the West Coast outfit, The Urban Renewal Project. Talk about your rocking big band, The Urban Renewal Project is the real thing—big band sound, at times edgy and always catchy.
Local Legend is their follow-up to their fine 2012 debut, Go Big or Go Home. Vocalist Ken Neely is gone, replaced here by Aubrey Logan a jazz songstress with a powerful voice that makes for an interesting contrast to the somewhat restrained rapping of Elmer Demond, the band’s “poet-in-residence.”
The new album contains nine originals by R. W. Enoch, Jr.—tunes that run the gamut from pop and soul to West African highlife and jazz, more often than not mixing genres as they go. They open with a rousing jumper, “My Own Way,” a fine introduction to Logan in an up-tempo groove. She shows what she can do with a power ballad later in the set, as she blasts past the somewhat schmaltzy orchestral intro to compete with the big brass. More pop than jazz, the tune is showpiece for the singer. Her vocals on the catchy “Rooftops & Parking Lots” and the Afro grooved “Prophecy” are no less impressive. Although she is often joined on tracks by Demond, his rapping is overshadowed by her vocals.
The band itself has a dynamic sound that emphasizes the fun they are having with the music. While the focus is on the vocals, there are some opportunities for solo improvisation: Satoshi Kirisawa’s drums on “Redshift,” Elliot Deutsch’s trumpet on “We Big Tonight,” Evan Mackey’s trombone on “Make Like You Mean It,” and Enoch’s B-flat clarinet solos on “My Own Way,” “Rooftops & Parking Lots” and “The Belief.”
While The Urban Renewal Project may not be taking jazz to new creative frontiers aesthetically, this is a band that is likely to find a popular audience, an audience that will reinvigorate the genre.[amazon template=iframe image&asin=B00N9T391G]