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The Way it Used to Be

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Album Review

The photographs used in the packaging of Patrick Cooper's second album, The Way It Used to Be, depict the Sun Studio in Memphis, Tennessee. For example, the front cover shows the studio's interior, with a vintage microphone in the foreground and a portrait of Elvis Presley hanging on the wall. But it isn't the 1950s rockabilly sound Cooper has in mind with his backward-gazing title; it's the 1970s jazz-funk fusion style of George Duke (a major influence on this keyboardist) and the Crusaders. For this self-produced and self-released disc, Cooper has penned eight tunes that hark back to the early days of smooth jazz, and he plays much of the music himself. A live rhythm section of bassists Tommy Tordsson, David Dyson, or Corey Baker and drummers Jay Williams, Wayne Thomas, Kevin "Stixx" Marshall, or Mark Stewart holds down the bottom, although Cooper and Tony Hemming augment it with synth programming. And Cooper adds other musicians selectively, with Alvin White playing electric guitar on "Next 2 U"; Phillip "Doc" Martin sax on the title song and "It's Okay to Move"; Stanley Cooper guitar on "I'm That Man"; Robert "Wawa" LeGrand guitar on "Side Steppin'"; and Bryan Mills sax on "Denise." Each of these musicians gets his moment in the sun, but the real focuses in the music remain with the headliner, first because of the strength of his compositions. Cooper has come up with strong melodies for his tunes, which often sound like songs that ought to have words. Finally, "I'm That Man" actually does, as Nehemiah Booker croons appropriately romantic sentiments. The second major mark of the lead artist, however, is his inventive acoustic piano soloing, which bobs in and out of the music. Whenever Cooper is spraying notes on his un-electrified keyboards (and even when he takes to a Rhodes on "The Way It Used to Be"), he provides the jazz content that was always a major element in the music of the ‘70s artists he reveres and evokes here.

The Way it Used to Be, Patrick Cooper
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