DW3; Vintage Truth (Woodward Avenue)


DW3 are a Los Angeles based soul/smooth jazz vocal trio (brothers Billy and Eric Mondragon and Damon Reel). They’re big draws on the West Coast club circuit and popular on the growing cruise scene. They made their recording debut in 2011 with ‘On The Floor’ – which went top 20 on the Billboard jazz chart while one of the cuts, ‘I Got You’, was a hit on the UK and European modern soul scene. Live and in the studio, DW3 use a semi-permanent band which featured Ricky Lawson on drums. Sadly, of course, Lawson died in December 2013 – part way into recording DW3’s sophomore LP. Rocked by the passing, the trio temporally halted recording but then they decided to press on and present the set as their tribute to their beloved drummer. Thus ‘Vintage Truth’ is now out on the racks and that title echoes Lawson and his approach to recording. The drummer helped produce DW3 (indeed it’s his production credits on four of the cuts here) and he believed the best records were cut live – almost like a jam session where the core musicians play in the studio at the same time, getting the tapes rolling after minimal rehearsal. And that’s the way this 12 tracker’s been put together.

The set is a pleasing mix of band originals and well-chosen covers. Of the originals, the opening cut, ‘Let The Music’ best sums up the sound of DW3. It’s a very pleasing dance groove that blends the best of smooth jazz with sophisticated soul and it would sit well in any modern soul DJ’s set. ‘When You Cry’ is another great band original, though at the other end of the rhythm spectrum. This one’s a great Quiet Storm moment, redolent of the great Luther Vandross.

And speaking of Luther, one of his songs is one of the album’s best covers. ‘So Amazing’ is a brave choice of song to cover and here the trio treat it respectfully not straying too far from the Vandross template. They’re obviously brimming with confidence ‘cos they tackle another “difficult” classic –Stevie’s ‘Overjoyed’. Other covers include versions of The Eagles’ ‘I Can’t Tell You Why’, The Mamas and The Papas’ ‘California Dreaming’ (both, incidentally, covered by Diana Krall on her last album) and the Pasadenas’ ‘Tribute Right On’ on which the boys don’t quite capture the youthful passion of the original, but I’m guessing it goes down well in their live shows.

‘Vintage Truth’ is a polished piece of work –as you’d expect with guest input from people like Dave Koz, Brian Culbertson, Paul Brown and Elan Trotman – and you can find out more @ www.DW3music.com

(BB) 3/5