This CD is simply flawless, but what more can one expect from a talent as honed yet innovative as keyboard player/composer Joe Sample. Having traveled long and far in the music industry and the world, Sample returns to the richly diverse musical traditions of his hometown, Houston, Texas.
Sample began playing the piano at the age of five and his musical palate was born from a blend of gospel, rhythm & blues, jazz and Latin music. The songs on this CD reflect this culture. The title cut, "The Pecan Tree"
has a hypnotic Latin beat with dissonant piano sprinkled over the top. It's a very sophisticated cosmopolitan sound, light and airy but with a funky beat that rocks the background with a lilting bluesy piano. Sample tells a story about the pecan tree as the tree of knowledge, a source of good and bad. Apparently as a toddler, he swallowed a green pecan whole, and had to have his stomach pumped, but as adult he also thinks of the tree fondly as a meeting place of childhood playmates and of course as the source of delicious Pecan Pie! The other instrumental tunes like the fast yet melodic "Hot & Humid,"
the magical silvered "Spanish Moss,"
the richly nostalgic "El Dorado,"
each has its own story.
This is one of the few CDs that has equally beautiful instrumental and vocal numbers. Performing the vocal tracks in the set, are the renowned R&B singer Howard Hewett and the new and talented Verve vocalist Lizz Wright. Both singers have a gift for evoking emotional depth in their lyric interpretation. My favorites are Lizz Wright's strong, but forlorn torching of "No One But Myself To Blame",
and bluesy "Fool's Gold"
. Both of the songs sung by Wright were written by Sample with lyrics by renowned singer/ songwriter Jonathan Brooke.Howard Hewett's sensitive "With These Hands" should have a warning label "guaranteed to make you cry!" Hewett is also responsible for the vocals on the soulful, "In A Heartbeat,"
a tune co-written by Sample's son, Nicklas. "The pecan is not falling far from the tree."
Sample's career spans more than four decades, first as a founding member of the groundbreaking fusion ensemble The Crusaders, and since the late '70's, as a popular solo contemporary jazz artist. In his early sixties, Sample is still fully involved in composing and playing music and we look forward to many more years of his great contributions.
Joe Sample's masterful technique makes his genius look easy! The Pecan Tree
is definitely not a CD to miss. It showcases Sample's ability to share not only what is in his mind, but in his heart!