Life is interesting because it changes, because the only consistency is inconsistency. We adapt by changing ourselves, always growing into new roles and sampling new outlooks to match our changing circumstances. Musically, those who refuse to adapt and evolve become stale and lose that creative drive.
For Vincent Herring, who spent time with hard bop icons like Nat Adderley, the evolutionary process boils over on Morning Star. Accompanied by Earth Jazz, the saxophonist with 15 discs to his name as a leader and over 200 to his name as a sideman lets go of the rules in a cascade of ever-developing funk and fusion.
The record’s ten satisfying chunks of funk take the structure of natural jazz as a starting point, sure, and there’s a lot of reverence for the art form coming from these players. But there’s also a lot of heat, something all the best players have used copiously over the years, to help simmer these great tunes to another stratosphere of satisfaction.
Featuring Anthony Wonsey on piano, Richie Goods on bass, Joris Dudli on drums, and Herring on sax, the group pumps through tracks that’ll remind listeners of the innovation of Herbie Hancock and the funk of Bootsy Collins.
Morning Star rises up with “Do You Remember Me?” The track, a Wonsey original, is introduced with smart piano grooves before cooling the jets with a gauzy, flowing vibe punctuated by Goods bass. Wonsey’s solos are at the forefront, but Herring’s interjections add nice balance.
Coltrane’s “Naima,” long one of my favourite tunes, drives with a tight, concise set of grooves from the band. Herring’s saxophone punches out the familiar melody and Dudli’s subtle backbeat gives the song pace without taking the spotlight.
The eleven-minute “Soul Leo” is the album’s core. Developing slowly with sleek bass and piano, Herring’s intro plays out elegantly. An elaborate Wonsey solo punctuates things at around the four minute mark, leading to a round of solos that include a luminous sax portion and some groovy bass work from Goods.
The last number, Dudli’s gospel-tinged “You Got Soul,” is a perfect closer. It lets all the players go out with smouldering, spiritual solos.
This exploration of 70s funk-jazz from Herring and Earth Jazz serves to prove that the prolific saxophonist can bring the funk with the best of ’em. His energetic, flavourful playing is inspirational and his band serves as the perfect accompanying force.
Article originally published as Music Review: Vincent Herring & Earth Jazz – Morning Star at Blogcritics.org