THE BASS MINT BROS: Sketches Of A Neighborhood (Label: Midnight Groove)

  • Home
  • Reviews
  • THE BASS MINT BROS: Sketches Of A Neighborhood (Label: Midnight Groove)
THE BASS MINT BROS: Sketches Of A Neighborhood

One of the wonderful things about soul music is that from time to time something a little different comes along which makes you sit up and listen more closely. It’s especially true when your listening is often done in a professional capacity. Too much of the stuff released these days is formulaic… constructed to a template put down by the past or dictated by perceived audience demands or, worse still, drawn up by the whims of the marketing men. Though I don’t know too much about the Bass Mint Bros, I can tell you that this quirky little 9 tracker is certainly different. My research has revealed that the group are a soul-jazz instrumental trio – multi instrumentalist Yusef Bey, bassist and guitar player Barry Hughes and Mwalim who plays a mean Hammond and tasty piano… and its Mwalim’s keys that give this album its dominant flavour. In places here you’d think that Booker T Jones had gone back into the studio to recreate what he’d perfected at Stax – big, phat Hammond chords gracing simple, catchy melodies… but then a heavy bass line, an electro flourish or a scurry of modern beats tells you that all’s not quite what you’d thought. The result is an intriguing cocktail and whether you agree with the album’s conceit to paint a musical picture of an unfolding day in a downtown neighbourhood, you’ll surely be moved by the invention and the musicianship. Booker T and the MGs is the clear staring point here. ‘Blue Smoke In The Park’ is the most obvious example. It starts in fine ‘Hip-Hug-Her’ style, but soon explodes with a fiery piano solo before returning to the Hammond grooves. Ramsey Lewis is the reference point on ‘Two Cheese Slices And A Drink’, but again the track is nothing like anything Lewis recorded …and therein is the intrigue of the album. The music’s roots are in classic soul and soul-jazz’s heritage but the delivery is totally 21st. century. Even the old school gospel rouser, ‘A Store Front Bible Study’ is conceived for today – as is the album’s only vocal – ‘Valley Park Groove’. That one’s a spoken word piece , very much in the fashion of the original Last Poets but it wouldn’t be out of place on a Café Del Mar chill out compilations – adding to my contention that ‘Sketches Of a Neighborhood’ is certainly one of the year’s quirkiest albums to date,
(BB) 4/5