Sadly too many great British musicians and bands (across all kinds of genres) are more revered in the States than they are at home. The wonderful Down to The Bone are a case in point. Stuart Wade and his cohorts have been making their infectious brand of groove-heavy soulful jazz-funk since the mid nineties yet here in the UK their charms are known only to a small, committed number of fans. In the States, though, it’s a different matter. There, they’re followed by a huge numbers of devotees and back in 1999 they were the country’s best selling independent jazz artists while their sound-defining ‘From Manhattan To Staten’ went to number 2 on the Billboard Jazz Charts.
‘The Main Ingredients’ is the DTB’s ninth studio album and I’m confident that this will be the one to enlarge their UK fan base. My confidence stems from the fact that the LP contains two stunning vocal tracks. The band don’t often “do vocals” ( I can think of their Hil St Soul collaboration, ‘It Should’ve Been You’) but here they’ve come up with two corkers – ‘Watch Me Fly’ and ‘Closer’, both featuring Imaani. The former, which has a lovely Latin feel to it, boasts a strong melody line which perfectly suits the singer’s passionate style; the latter is more of a structured groove than a “proper” song, but it’s done gorgeously and should please the more adventurous modern soul crew… and that’s my point. Many of the UK modern soul crowd are notoriously “conservative” and seem to have some kind of in-built resistance to instrumentals. Here the Imaani vocals should help them get into the rest of the album, and appreciate Down To The Bone if full flow. Then, they’ll discover the lucid, sharp clarity of ‘Uptown Hustle’ – a typical DTB groove; then there are the looser, jazzier sounds of ‘A Change Has Got To Come’ and ‘Second Nature’. ‘Music Is The Key’ is more laid-back and built around a catchy piano figure while ‘A Universal Vibe’ slows things down just a little and as the title implies the tune offers some delicious, almost hidden vibraphone. But then again, each track – though true to the Down To The Bone signature sound – boasts a little intrigue… adding to the album’s attractions.
Down To The Bone are playing live dates in the UK and across Europe through the summer and with radio support too, ‘The Main Ingredients’ might finally see Down to the Bone achieve what they deserve.