f you’re into the smooth jazz or funk jazz genre, the name Tony Exum may be on your radar by now, but if not, allow me to put it there. Exum has just released a new album titled “Finally” which is available for download by track or in its entirety at soundclick.com. A release party for “Finally” was held Saturday night at Stargazers in Colorado Springs.
Comparisons to Grover Washington, Jr., George Howard, David Sanborn can’t be helped and show up in mentions of Exum everywhere you look online, but I’ll also add my own as well. If you like the heavier funky side of jazz, you know, not just the high soaring soft melodic sax overlays you get with alot of straight tenor-sax type jazz, think of more funkiness ala the Yellow Jackets, or maybe up-tempo Spyro Gyra songs like Heliopolis or Jubilee but with some monster bass and drums underneath. Or if you’re old enough, maybe think Tom Scott and the L.A. Express.
Performances by musicians like Exum sometimes don’t stand up well without some deft backup to provide the right tableau or environment to project the experience into, and Exum’s band which included H. Bee Boisseau on keys, Kyle Smith on bass, and “Finally” producer James Roberson on drums “brought it”. Bassist Smith was on overdrive most of the night channeling Jaco Pastorius and Stanley Clarke against Roberson’s fusionistic drum patterns brought the dynamics down as needed but served up some heavy funk jams more than once and were very cool to listen to. Roberson who produced “Finally” also co-wrote some material on the album as did Smith. Boisseau is an interesting cat in is own right also. Hailing from Richmond, Virginia where he’s a bit of a local legend on the music scene, he’s shared stage with Lauren Hill, Avant, The Neptunes, Jill Scott, Faith Evans and many more. Boisseau’s keyboards provided some nice counter-point to Exum’s sax work.
As expected, Exum played several songs from “Finally” but threw more body english into the live performace in some spots (read on).Opening with the title track “Finally” – a strong but breezy number with tight driving drum work, the band led into “Sweet Conversations” followed by “Thinkin of You” and a heavy drum/bass piece “Give It To Me” written appropriately enough by drummer Roberson and bassist Smith (and it totally cooked!). “T.E. Heartbreak” rounded out the first set prior to a brief intermission where Exum went out and signed CDs. The second set included several more numbers from the album and some Miles Davis and Grover Washington but “4 On Tha Floor” from the new album was something interesting. The track on the album is a real nice number with a good groove, but when played live with the band all hyped up like they were last night, it was a big wall of sound emphasizing the up-beat feel of the song while providing some nice change ups. Starting strong with mid-tonal alto sax work, I thought the song was at its best when the dynamics dropped down into a quieter zone with some very nice sax work by Exum but all the while keeping a trace of the incessant beat in the background before rising into a big finish.
Some jams thrown in extended out some numbers and allowed all the musicians to take some breaks showing what they could bring to the table. The whole night was a jazz feast of solid work leaving the audience more than satisfied.