I had the pleasure of reviewing Akinyele’s Black Magic - The Cyber Jazz Experience. I find that album to be a better production, although I suppose it can be said that he simply chose a different, much more mellow fusion-based direction this time, which just may or may take a moment longer to embrace. Not as "alive" as Black Magic, Liquid Soul still presents a conceptually innovative form of fusion not entirely unlike some of Hancock’s and Miles’ material.
The 7-minute subtly funky opening track "Gypsy" is very reminiscent of Joe Sample’s classic "Hippies on a Corner." One definitely takes notice of the very competent piano work provided by Akinyele’s right-man hand man Jon O’Bergh. O’Bergh offers more of his tasteful piano flavorings with the very mellow second and title track and its catchy cadence. He quickly follows with a colorful interpretation of the classic "Fever" with smooth contributions from Akinyele’s funky bass stylings. I also rather enjoyed the duo’s covers of Sade’s "Kiss of Life" and "Hang On to Your Love," which are very much in keeping with the album’s overall flavor.
I made note of Akinyele’s reference here to being compared to the laid back grooves of Marcus Miller, as well. Maybe--as long as you’re not comparing the funk element, where Miller reigns supreme, in my view. I must admit, however, that on cuts like "Evolution of Soul, Pt. 2" and the aforementioned "Hang On to Your Love," the artist sports a noteworthy dose of nicely concocted funk. The duo’s handling of Brubeck’s "Take Five" is also worthy of an appreciative smile.
With that said, this album is more of a showcase for O’Bergh’s handsome, rather pillowy soft piano stylings than it is an Akinyele adventure in major funk fusion, as was so clearly displayed in Black Magic. Of course, if mellow, solidly structured, and fluid piano with a discriminating touch of funk bass included for good measure is what you’re after, Liquid Soul could be a delightful listen.