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Higher Calling

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Album Review

Somewhere in the mid-'90s, the narrow-minded geniuses who program smooth jazz stations took a look at some market research and decided that the flute was an annoying instrument that had no place on commercial radio. Out went brilliant R&B fusion flutists like Tim Weisberg, Hubert Laws and Alexander Zonjic and in came more safe sax. No matter how brilliant an artist may be (as Kerr truly is on this inspired collection mixing neo-soul, thumping funk and hard bottomed R&B), they've been shut out from commercial playlists since. Fortunately, for indie artists like Kerr (a member of Erykah Badu's band for ten years whose résumé is a mile long), there were other potential outlets for his flavorful flow in 2007. In addition to clubby pop-jazz originals like "Smooth" and "Being with You," featuring sizzling melodic conversations with Kirk Whalum's always urgent tenor, Kerr tries to appease modern radio sensibilities with a couple of cool covers. While he brings fresh, soulful emotion and groove to John Mayer's tender classic "Daughters" — which is later given an unplugged guitar-flute reworking — the standout track is one of the most intensely percussive versions of "Ain't No Sunshine" ever. The joy of this cut is not just in the heavy bass and in Badu's soothing wordless guest vocals, but also in the way Kerr mixes smooth with staccato in his playing. The vocal hiccups are another irresistible touch. Overall, the track — like much of the collection — isn't simply pleasant lifestyle music (well, the title track is pretty sweet and pleasant), but that's part of Kerr's charm: taking risks. Indie artists could do that in 2007, but the struggle to become commercially viable was still there. Fortunately, smarter booking agents understanding the flutist's strong crossover appeal had him play with or open for people like Marion Meadows and Roy Hargrove — so there was hope that someday the flute would rule again. Even if it wasn't on the commercial smooth jazz airwaves.

Higher Calling, Dwayne Kerr
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  • 8,99 €
  • Genres: Jazz, Music, Rock
  • Released: 06 September 2007

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