JEFF CASCARO: Mother And Brother (Label: Herzog)

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JEFF CASCARO: Mother And Brother

Proving yet again that soul knows no national boundaries, Germany’s Jeff Cascaro offers his second album, ‘Mother And Brother’, and as you’d expect from a bona fide jazz professor (Cascaro holds the Jazz Chair at the Franz List Conservatory in Weimar) he gets it just right. Wise-enough to know that he’s never going to outdo or even emulate soul’s American greats, the prof concocts his own particular sound – a sound that draws heavily on other celebrated “blue-eyed soulsters” like Michael McDonald and Tony Joe White while many of the soundscapes behind his passionate vocals will recall the jazz-tinged flavours perfected by Steely Dan. The opening cut, ‘I Feel Fine,’ sums up Cascaro’s sound. It has neat, tight beats, a warm, husky vocal and a lovely Rhodes sequence courtesy of Ulf Kleiner. Indeed much of this album’s attraction comes from the skill of the players behind the voice. Cascaro has been lucky to find a team that can perfectly deliver his musical message. The four piece horn section, in particular, delivers, and in places their understated incursions will remind you of Tower of Power in their more mellow moments. Try Cascaro’s version of John Paul Young’s ‘Love Is In The Air’ to hear what I mean. The erstwhile cheesy disco favourite is quite transformed and if there’s any justice it should become a mainstay of the revitalised Jazz FM’s playlist. The other featured cover is a take on Genesis’ ‘Follow You, Follow Me’ , becoming here a jazzy piano-led pleaser. Two other cuts of particular interest are ‘Ella’ and ‘When She Sings To Me’. The former is a soul-jazz tribute to “the first lady of song”, Ella Fitzgerald, while the latter shows the amount of jazz research and studying Cascaro got through to achieve his professorship. The song’s a wonderful lounge-jazz artefact and were you told it was penned in the fifties by one of the great American tunesmiths, you wouldn’t doubt it. Like the rest of the album, it’s been constructed with respectful devotion to the principles of soul and jazz.
(BB) 4/5