Yeahhhhhhh, pianist Mark Meadows commences his Somethin' Good with a night-city version of Lennon & McCartney's Come Together, deleting the surrealistic, seedy, lumpenprole elements to escort the composition uptown to frolic amid neon lights and rain-slick streets. There's still that tang of existential darkness in the lower depths of his take, but it's well balanced with a higher overall sonic and philosophical nature. I strongly suspect that, were Lennon still alive, he'd be leaning over and whispering "Ya know, Mark, I often wondered if I shouldn't have taken it down that avenue too!"
From the git-go, Meadows' playing is suffused with echoes of Ahmad Jamal and Ramsey Lewis, especially in rotating emphatics, punctuation, and understatement. Then he's counterpointed by Brent Birckhead's Dewey Redmanesque alto sax, first torridly purveyed early on Just Imagine, then smoothed out in a tail section movement, his lines flowing with incoming melismatic vocals. But there's also a generous portion of Tom Grant to Meadows, initially demonstrated in his take on Michael Jackson's (actually Rod Temperton's) Rock With You, and then periodically injected thereafter. For the most part, Mark's a good deal more swingin' than Tom, but there are undeniable similarities present.
Perhaps the most interesting sideman is guitarist Paul Bollenback, whose presence is both softpeddled and burning, depending on the cut. In the title track, he suddenly catches on fire and rips through a great solo, amping Meadows up to come in and jump things around on the keys. Then Birckhead takes the improv gig sideways, turning the page to a new sub-plot just before Meadows tackles the most Stygian bottom side of his instrument in a dark but very cool semi-seriality that bubbles and fumes. Later on, pay close attention to how Bollenback fragments his lines in Less Catchy.
Meadows started in on a Casio when he was three, took to formal classical lessons at five under the highly regarded Dr. Rosalie LeVant, until, at age 13, finding himself under the wing of Julie Bonk, Norah Jones' teacher. It was Mark's rendition of Clair de Lune that caught the famed teacher's ear, and now he himself has taken on the professorial robes (we always pay back what most forms us, don't we?). The Purim/Moreira-esque Way Up Here shunts the pianist into Brazilian territories, with vibes player Warren Wolf tossing in Burton-esque tonalities, but let me not finish things without mentioning Drummer Eric Kennedy and his versatile percussion. The guy can leap from near invisibility all the way forward to upending the rostrum, forcing that last ounce of energy out of his bandmates, in a matter of a few bars…throughout the entire repertoire.
Meadows grants wide swaths of soloing to his compeers, more than once disappearing into the mix but always resurfacing to take subtle command and re-helm the ship. But there's one more thing: remember Norman Connors? No? When Mark takes on the vocal chores here and there, you will indeed recall the gent, both him and Narada Michael Walden.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2014, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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