Reggie Young | Steppin’ Up

Album Review: Reggie Young | Steppin’ Up
by Brent Faulkner

Steppin’ Up is standout bassist Reggie Young’s latest music project,
released July 5, 2011 on his own label, RGY Entertainment. Steppin’ Up
is an exceptional ‘jazz’ effort, but ultimately transcends the
confinements of one concrete style of music, shifting between jazz,
soul, funk, rock, gospel, and reggae. Young’s restlessness as an artist
makes Steppin’ Up such an exciting and worthwhile jazz offering,
shedding the clichés and providing an enthralling listening affair
throughout its fifty-three minute duration. Featuring a supreme cast of
talent including Tasheima Young (vocals), Darren Rahn (tenor sax),
Tyrone Birkett (alto sax), and Garnet Walters (keyboards) among others
(Chris Morgan, Johnny Ponce and Kyle Scott), Steppin’ Up is a worthwhile
addition to any jazz enthusiast’s library. Furthermore, who can resist
hearing such a supremely talented bassist treat the bass like a melody
instrument? Young gives some of the best a ‘run for their money.’

“Play for Me,” featuring Tasheima Young on vocals, is a sound way to
open the effort. Young’s angular melody line on bass works well when
played simultaneously with the keyboard line. The
production/arrangement is superb, with Young’s prodigious bass work
being the ‘cherry on top.’ Young’s vocals are a nice touch, giving “Play
for Me” more of an R&B edge than it might have had sans the vocals.
Additionally, once the programmed ‘hip-hop’ sounding synths appear,
they ‘seal the deal,’ providing a cut that successfully varies timbre
and provides more than enough ‘ear candy’ for its listeners. “Funk
Avenue,” featuring tenor saxophonist Darren Rahn further accelerates the
momentum of Steppin’ Up, with Young continuing to awe with his
virtuosic ‘moves’ on the bass; face it, some of his riffs are ‘killer!’
As for Rahn, his saxophone playing is superb, further igniting the spark
and, well, ‘steppin’ up!’

“Judgement” is clever, emanating a classic blues/soul sound, further
affirmed by the repetition of the line “What you gonna do with
judgement.” As always, Young is ‘bad’ (in a good way) on the bass with
ever-more creative and breathtaking lines. The programming here –
synthesized brass sounds – are perfect, serving as a direct contrast to
the ‘old-school’ vibe that otherwise shapes this cut. “Seven Days”
continues the upward swing, this time with a clever mixed-meter groove,
providing a nice change of pace. The synthesized lines work as well as
always, but it is Young’s upper register bass ruminations (think of
Jaco Pastorius on Weather Report’s “A Remark You Made”) that help to
shape the cut. A solid harmonic progression doesn’t hurt either.
“Gumbo” is another worthwhile cut, finding Young serving the capacity of
‘lead bassist’ with synthesized brass playing the role of his support.
Garnet Walters shows off his unreal keyboard skills, adding a superb
touch of organ. Let’s not leave out the exceptional guitar solo with
some great distortion to intensify the sound.

“World Peace” brings another fine contribution from Walters on keyboard
once more. The groove is slower, more in the vein of urban music,
contrasting the bluesy vibe of “Gumbo.” What more to say about Young? –
‘he’s a beast.’ “Metheny Way,” is a funky contrast to the slower “World
Peace” while it’s follow-up “We Believe,” featuring Tyrone Birkett on
alto sax, has more of an inspirational vibe about it. While “We
Believe” is not overt gospel, the music has a certain reverence about it
that epitomizes its spiritual title. The cut is more calm, cool, and
collected that some of the more overt selections. Nonetheless, Young
and Birkett both shine brightly.

“Champion” is innovative, opening with drum solo. Here, the sound is
characteristic of metal or hard-rock, contrasting everything else up
until this point. While it is only a brief 1:45, Young digs in his bag
of ‘bass tricks’ and still captivates. “It’s Me Again” delves into
reggae, accompanied by the usual programming, which never makes the
listener weary. “Odyssey Blues” contrasts the overt blues sound of
“Gumbo” in favor of a more mysterious, reserved blues, which proves
effective. “Downtown” eclipses it, however, with Garnet Walter’s killer
keyboard work and Tyrone Birkett’s exceptional alto solo, which
overshadows his earlier showing on this effort. “Soul Food” closes the
cut on a high note finding Young exploiting the influence of R&B –
likely from his time as bassist for Faith Evans & Kelly Price – with
a more soulful, nearly over R&B/soul groove.

All-in-all, Steppin’ Up is a music ‘treat.’ There are no misses and
even on the cooler cuts, Young continues to captivate through his
gargantuan talents as a bassist and musician. Jazz enthusiasts will
swoon over this masterpiece by Reggie Young, period; the bass never
sounded so good!

Brent Faulkner

The Urban Music Scene

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