Soul Cycle brings an infectious blend of jazz, funk, and world music to Mosaic, their eagerly awaited third release. Featuring guest vocals from Rogiérs (Alicia Keys, Platinum Pied Pipers), as well as the core lineup of keyboardist Jesse Fischer (Laura Izibor), saxophonist Brian Hogans (Sean Jones), bassist Josh David (Q-Tip), drummer Corey Rawls (Kenny Garrett), and percussionist Shawn Banks, Mosaic presents seven fresh compositions by bandmembers, as well as captivating renditions of the jazz standard “Blue in Green” and Al Green’s classic “Simply Beautiful.”
Inspired by artists as diverse as Herbie Hancock, Richard Bona, Meshell Ndegeocello, J Dilla, James Brown, Chopin, and Bach, Brooklyn-based Soul Cycle has developed a distinctive brand of world fusion, incorporating sounds from jazz, funk, hip-hop, R&B, gospel, reggae, Latin, Jewish, African, and classical music. DustyGroove.com calls them “one of the hippest contemporary soul combos we’ve ever heard,” and Christopher Whaley of SoulTracks.com described Soul Cycle’s last album as “the year’s first must-have project... highly recommended.”
“Every trend has a counter-trend,” says Jesse Fischer, the 29-year-old bandleader and keyboardist. “Even in today’s world of Pro Tools and Auto-Tune, people still need to hear something that comes straight from the soul.” Recorded entirely without sequencers, click tracks, or virtual instruments, Mosaic captures the intimate energy of a live perfomance, resulting in honest music that ranges broadly from contemplative to joyous, from introspective to playful — music to dance, sing, relax, walk, drive, ride a train or a bus, make art, or make love to!
While Soul Cycle’s previous release celebrated life on planet Brooklyn, Mosaic takes a more global approach. “I started travelling a lot more and I was inspired by meeting so many people from different backgrounds,” explains Fischer, who composed most of Mosaic’s original material. “I saw how different everyone is, but at the same time I was constantly being surprised by how much we all have in common.” A mosaic is a pattern of distinct shapes forming a unified whole, and that vision of multicultural harmony is reflected in Mosaic, with song titles like “Lagos” (a city in Nigeria), “Enoki” (a Japanese mushroom), and “Sunset Park” (a diverse neighborhood in Brooklyn).
“As a musician in New York, you have to be fluent in such a wide range of styles and cultures,” Fischer continues. “On a typical work weekend, I’ll do a singer-songwriter showcase Friday evening, a late set with an R&B cover band Friday night, a bar mitzvah Saturday morning, a jazz gig Saturday night, sit in with an African band after-hours, and then play in church Sunday morning.” All of these influences are neatly tesselated in Mosaic.
From the easy, wrap-around porch Southern charm of “Simply Beautiful” to the gutbucket funk of “Club Groove”, from the sing-song simplicity of “Enoki” to the multilayered pulse of “Sunset Park”, Mosaic achieves a balance between earthy, folk-inspired melodies, and shifting, subtly complex rhythmic and harmonic motion. Guest vocalist Rogiérs puts a sultry, soulful spin on the jazz standard “Blue in Green”, and a modern update on Al Green’s classic “Simply Beautiful”. In addition, Mosaic features four new compositions from Fischer, as well as contributions from bassist Josh David, drummer Corey Rawls, and violinist Jeehae Lee.
Soul Cycle uses an expanded tonal palette throughout Mosaic, in turn featuring vocals, brass, woodwinds, string quartet, various acoustic and electronic keyboards, percussion, turntables, and found sound. Fischer explains, “I’m fascinated by sounds of all kinds, and I like to play with our expectations for what a jazz record can sound like.” Several songs on Mosaic explore various devices to convey the same emotion or texture — strings morph into synthesizers which morph into percussion instruments and sound effects. At times, the human voice is indistinguishable from an instrument; other times, synthesizers or saxophones are modulated to sound like vocals.
“At its core, music is really about the interaction between human beings — between band and audience, between soloist and accompanist, between composer and performer,” says Fischer. Overflowing with memorable compositions, dynamic group interplay, a strong sense of narrative, and raw soul, Mosaic is a bold statement in support of real music as a means of human expression.