By John Soltes / Publisher / John@HollywoodSoapbox.com
Khari Cabral, known as the prince of Soul Bossa, has made an airy, enjoyable album with Clementine Sun, featuring nine relaxed songs that will instantly put listeners in a positive mood. The lyrics are simple and effective, and the soulful beats and rhythms are expertly arranged. It’s held back a bit by its lack of ambition, but for smooth listening, there’s nothing smoother or more comforting to the ears.
“Never In Your Sun,” featuring India.Arie, is one of the album’s highlights. The song’s drum arrangement by Landon Anderson is jazzy and worthy of head bobbing. India.Arie’s vocals are nicely restrained as she sings of a chance-encounter love story. She stretches out the title of the song, getting mileage from every syllable. Cabral provides a nice accompaniment on the electric bass.
The best song is “Get Back” with Chantae Cann. Here’s that rare gem: a throwback to the pop standards of the 1960s and 1970s. Cann is smooth and sexy; Matthew Johnson provides nice backup vocals. Kevin Robinson keeps the tempo going with his trumpet work, while Henry Conway III ties everything together on the drums.
“Coolamon Waltz” is nicely dreamlike, featuring many “oohs” from Paige Lackey Martin. The problem with the song is that it feels too similar to the other entries on the album. There’s nothing overly distinctive about the ditty, and it borders the dangerous line of sounding too much like elevator music.
“Niños” with Oteil Burbridge and Russell Gunn speeds things up and brings the album back to its strong points. Burbridge pulls double duty on vocals and the six-string electric bass. Together, his singing and plucking feel perfectly in sync with each other. But it’s Gunn’s trumpet that elevates the song to memorability. It wonders in and out of the landscape like a casual passerby, reminding me of a forgotten age, a lost jazz club from some bygone era.
“The Dove” is probably the one song that shows off Cabral’s obvious talents at pulling all of the instruments together to make an exquisite sound. He’s on electric bass, while Bob Lewis switches between trombone, flute and trumpet. Julius Speed is wonderful on the Wurlitzer piano, while Anthony Perry is chaotically brilliant on the Hammond C3 organ. It’s a strident song that has a lot of great movement, never slowing down or falling into usualness.
“Belle of Byron Bay” with Monday Michiru is intoxicating in a strangely alluring manner. It doesn’t quite fit on the album, feeling too worldly with its crisp be-bop lyrics and diversions with the clavinet and string ensemble. But taken by itself, it’s indescribable fun.
Cabral and his fine new album overflow with talent. Like a circus ringleader, he has pulled together some impressive talents to showcase their styles all under one big tent. It’s a credit to the prince of Soul Bossa that everything feels connected and progressive, with few speed bumps along the way. It never overachieves or strives to be anything but jazzy easy listening, but in its simplicity and temperament, there’s a real sense of skill and dedication. These musicians are in command of their instruments, never letting them get ahead of the song and always complementing one another.
In terms of ensemble collaboration, Clementine Sun is perfect.