by Stephen Graham, Marlbank

OK, it is here: release day of Grace (****). Mark Whitfield and the family band, mellow guitar, that impossible dream remains in the Benson stream, from Whitfield and his sons Davis and Mark Jr along with Yasushi Nakamura, on bass, vocals factored in thanks to the guitarist’s cousin Sy Smith the singer reminding me of another talent show starlet who stood out, Rebecca Ferguson (maximum kudos by the way to the Scouser for navigating the disaster that was a Trump invite in suggesting Strange Fruit by the way). Staggeringly Whitfield clocks up 15 albums as a leader with this new record.

The 1990s jazzer (eg more or less “peak Young Lion”), the soulful George Benson/Kevin Eubanks-esque title track and the rest of the live set the band can deliver as YouTube videos demonstrate deserves to be heard in a club, really, rather than a festival given the level of interior sophistication and the need for proper sound, Ronnie’s or the Pizza in the UK for sure if the numbers could stack up in such places far from home.

Anyway, I knew I’d like this record from the snippets I heard prior to hearing the full album today and listening to bits of it just now restore my faith in modern mainstream jazz (not the fuddy duddy hushpuppy stuff that some people think rightly is sometimes snuck in by that particular des res).

You know it just has to be sincere as here and that is what Whitfield does and everyone just plays and really do not care what people think because they are lost in the music and that is enough to express everything from inside them. So if you want to hear people playing the scales, knowing the tradition inching towards transition, doing modal stuff, trying to break free of the woodshed patterns without just smashing it which would be simple or messing around then look no further. And you know a dad playing the changes with his sons and cuz who all step up to the plate seals the deal. SG

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