PHILIP LASSITER; Live In Love (Leopard)

Avid Prince fans will know the name Philip Lassiter. He was part of Mr. Nelson’s New Power Generation for three years – playing trumpet and arranging all the band’s horn parts. Post Prince, Lassiter worked out of Los Angeles where he led a big (14 piece!) band, Philthy, where he developed a sound that was mid-way between his old boss and soul vets, EWF. He has four solo albums under his belt – the last being 2018’s ‘Party Crashers’ and he’s also worked (arranging) for people like Kirk Franklin, Ariana Grande, Mariah Carey, Kelly Rowland, Jill Scott, Fred Hammond, Al Jarreau, Anthony Hamilton, Ledisi, Chris Cornell and Timbaland. I guess we should also mention his 11 Grammy Arranging Awards. In short Philip Lassiter is regarded as one of the premier horn section arrangers in the business. So, a new album from the man deserves attention and the 10 tracker that is ‘Live In Love’ will repay that attention, especially if you relish inventiveness, intrigue and envelope pushing.

Helping Mr. L push those envelopes are people like keyboardist David Paich (Toto), bassist Mono Neon (Prince), Leopard label mates keyboardist Bobby Sparks, drummer Robert “Sput” Searight and guitarist Mark Lettieri (all of Snarky Puppy) saxophonist Jeff Coffin (Bela Fleck & The Flecktones and the Dave Matthews Band), organist Ricky Peterson (David Sanborn, Prince and George Benson), drummer Nikki Glaspie (Beyonce, Maceo Parker and Dumpstaphunk)! Quite a line up – hence the above “inventiveness” and “intrigue”.

‘Live In Love’ opens with a big, cinematic introduction to the starter, ‘Make America Love Again’. It’s a tight groove with a semi-rap and, surprise, surprise – a whiff of Prince. The LP ends with the six minute title track which begins in an almost lovers’ rock style with sweet voiced Josie at the mic sharing the vocal limelight with Juan Luis Guerra who adds Spanish asides. Adding intrigue, the track changes mood at the end as string arranger Simon Novoksy creates sombre cinema noir shadings.

In between those two, there’s all sorts of everything but the presence of Prince is never that far away, especially on ‘Sugar Coat Me’. Elsewhere, the funk of ‘Repent’ is more Tower Of Power than New Power Generation while on ‘Take A Little Time’, Lassiter continues his dalliance with reggae. It’s catchy but I’d contend not the sound of “neo-soul/hip-hop/jazz” which is how Lassiter describes his sound.

He says: “You hear a lot of hip-hop blended with jazz these days and also neo soul blended with jazz” he says “but I don’t know that I’ve heard a whole lot of large ensemble neo-soul/hip-hop/jazz. That’s what we do” – agree or disagree via your own investigations… out now!

(BB) 3/5