Seasons Change

by Abstract Truth W/G Lawrence Francis

Released 2008
Fourstring Records
Released 2008
Fourstring Records
Music that soothes and grooves
In “Seasons Change,” the fine fourth release from Abstract Truth featuring G. Lawrence Francis and Friends, the band shrugs off any worries about genre or showcasing its chops. It just plows ahead with confidence to reach its ultimate goal: a collection of enjoyable tunes ripe with musical integrity. This is as much the result of the band’s maturity as it was a conscious decision made by Francis, the band’s bass-playing leader. He wanted Abstract Truth free from categories – he didn’t want an all straight-ahead project, or one that was all smooth jazz, R&B or funk. He simply wanted to play on, compose for and produce a project that could stand the test of time. So here’s “Seasons Change,” where catchy melodies are often played on the bass, where the flute -- not exactly a stalwart in bands – plays a prominent role in the band’s sound, and where the instrumental conversation among the solid players and vocalists energize the 13 songs. From the jump, it’s clear this project is not business as usual. “Summertime” gets a whole new flavor, with a driving in-the-pocket groove by Francis and drummer Josh Orlando that initially makes the standard unrecognizable. That is until Jeanette Berry delivers the opening lyric, and suddenly you’re back on familiar terrain. It’s like arriving at your favorite vacation spot, but only from a different direction. A similar change up occurs with Luiz Bonfa’s “Black Orpheus” (originally titled “Manha de Carnaval;” with different lyrics by Carl Sigman, the song is called “A Day in the Life of A Fool”). The bossa nova classic is presented in a stark atmosphere -- with only guest Warren Oree on upright bass and Berry on vocals -- that electrifies Sigman’s lyrics of longing. Francis loves 1970s funk. And why not: That’s the decade when fusion and funk bands were in vogue, and electric bass players stepped out of the shadows. Players such as Jaco Pastorius, Stanley Clarke, Alphonso Johnson, Bootsy Collins, Anthony Jackson and Larry Graham became household names. That was when music was fun. Francis and Abstract Truth honor the era on “What Would You Do?” borrowing pieces of Graham’s bass line from “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)," and using horn riffs, guitar and Fender Rhodes piano licks to create a danceable homage to the times. The question: What would you do if you heard music at a party that was so good, you couldn’t sit still. It’s the first song I ever heard that incorporates “rigor mortis” in a lyric (and it works!). And as an extra bonus, we get Francis on lead vocals. Philadelphia, where the talented, fleet-fingered Francis lives and works, has long been an incubator for exceptional musicians, especially bass players such as Clarke, Christian McBride, Jymie Merritt, Victor Bailey, Jamaaladeen Tacuma, and Gerald Veasley. Francis idolizes Clarke, but admires Marcus Miller for his signature sound and versatility. “He can play great melodies, and is also a much sought after producer,” Francis says. “When I’m composing, I’m thinking ‘what would Marcus do’?” But the bottom line for Francis is everybody has something to say. “It doesn’t matter if I can’t play like Stanley or Jaco,” Francis says, naming the crËme of the crËme. “I still have something to say.” Indeed. There’s the title cut, “Seasons Change” a happy go lucky mid-tempo vocal tune, with a hip-hop groove that speaks of life’s changing nature. “Una Nottata di Passion” (A Night of Passion) is Francis’ favorite, a light composition gently pushed along by Francis’ bass melody. The nicely syncopated “Penn’s Landing” instrumentally recalls Philadelphia’s water front hangout. “Come Back to Me” is another funky vocal highlighted with Fender Rhodes, Roy Richardson’s flute and begging for another chance at love. Abstract Truth is no flash in the pan. They have opened for acts such as Kem, War, The Ohio Players, Al Green, Maze featuring Frankie Beverly, and Kindred the Family Soul. The title cut from the last CD “All Work, No Play” stayed in radio rotation for six weeks. On “Seasons Change,” Abstract Truth featuring G. Lawrence Francis and Friends establishes itself as more than a tight and gifted group. Its unique sound and strong melodic approach to songs assures it will be around for years to come. Al Hunter Jr.

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