Three 2 Go Music introduces E-Life 7(EL7) featuring Michael Pennick with his debut CD “Miked Up”. EL7 unites some of Western NY’s finest musicians including; keyboardists Rodney Spears & Charlie Crymes Jr., guitarist Ron Walker, drummer and percussionist Tim Webb and bassist Mike Pennick. Special appearance by Ken Whitman (tenor sax), Walter Kemp III, Van Taylor (keyboards), Joey Diggs and Dee Osbourne (vocals). EL7 is the brain child of Ron Walker & Mike Pennick long time members of Buffalo Music Hall of Fame R&B recording artists The Exoutics. EL7 acknowledges the musical and spiritual influence of past and present members of The Exoutics.
While contemplating their musical future longtime friends Ron and Mike decided it was time to explore their Jazz alter egos and discover what lies beneath the tender ballads and funky R&B grooves they’ve been writing for years. After a brief discussion it was agreed that their next project would highlight the talent of bassist Mike Pennick. Eventually this led to the formation of EL7. With extraordinary creativity and collaboration the 5 member group conceived and recorded “Miked Up”. Rodney’s unique keyboard accents perfectly complement the keyboard foundations played by Charlie. Tim’s intricate drum touch reinforces rhythmic, melodic bass lines and spicy guitar licks. When blended together, what a unique sound. The project began in summer of 2012 and completed in late spring 2013 taking several interesting twists and turns as each member shared creative ideas and opinions to help shape this outstanding project. The resulting CD captures the flavor and passion of each musician. Hopefully audiences will enjoy and appreciate this special blend of jazz and R&B. “Miked Up” covers the gamut of emotions from the rhythm shifting jazz, funk of “Chaos” to the fun filled upbeat playful “Sunday Night”. The remake of Stevie Wonder’s “That Girl”, intimate revelations of “Inner Beauty” and “Before the Storm” make this CD a pleasure to listen to and sure to appeal to the most demanding pallet. Life is short, enjoy it! So what does EL7 stand for? Enjoy Life 7 days a week (Exoutics for life).
Producer favorites - "Sunrise" and "Tony Rome"
Mikes favorite - "Before The Storm"
Group favorite - "Chaos" - Note that the crowd noise is an insert from the first live performance during the Queen City Jazz Festival.
Fun to perform - "Second Level", "Sunday Night" , "That Girl"
Strong Groove - "Smooth Ride", "Feelin You"
“Miked Up” - The story behind the songs
“Sunday Night” – Conceived by Ron this upbeat playful song originated Sunday evening while resting in bed after experiencing a very enjoyable late spring day in western NY. Sunday Night is the musical expression of that specific day. That day actually made the pending Monday a little easier to except (it’s all about attitude). Mike put his twist on the bass line by adding a little more rhythm and melodic solo while Rodney added the string/ brass hook keyboard line. The song concludes with classic back and forth instrumental call and response between bass, keyboard and guitar. Note the lingering echo at the end of this song which reflects the lasting impact of that day.
“Chaos” – The non-standard time signature reflects the nature of the beast. The original title of the song was “Organized Chaos” (thanks Tim). Daily we are provided with the illusion of control over our life, in fact we are along for the ride, making the best of each day is about all we can control. Tim’s driving drum solo is awesome. The keyboard chords by Charlie vary slightly within the song to reinforce the random nature of Chaos. Written by Ron, Chaos is short sweet and to the point. The concept of the song is well delivered and the musical performance is exceptional. The funk embedded within the song is reflective of how quickly life can change. The crowd noise heard during the musical break near the middle of the song was actually recorded during the first public performance of this song during the 2012 Queen City Jazz Festival (it’s the actual crowd reaction to the performance).
“Second Level” – A driving bass line and funky keyboard horn accents are the signatures of this song. Written by Mike Pennick, this song is his response to Ron’s challenge to come up with a song that highlights his musical ability without going over the top. Mike decided to take this project to the 2nd level. Plenty of movement and spice to hold your attention as the song never seems to level off. After several intense dialogue sessions about the timing of the intro section the group finally arrived at a great place and the results recorded for everyone to hear. The bottom line is a very likeable song and truly a clear reflection of how well EL7 works together.
“Smooth Ride” – Mid tempo track allows the listener to come along for a very enjoyable musical ride. Originally introduced by Mike as a rough concept during one of the groups creative writing sessions this song quickly came together. After Charlie and Rod put some structure to the keyboard parts, Ron added a rhythm guitar lick to counter the bass line. Tim shifted the overall feel of the song by adding his counter intuitive approach to the drum beat. The only thing missing was the lead sax that everyone in the group agreed the song needed to make it what it should be. Enter Ken Whitman tenor sax player extraordinaire to put the song over the top. The blend and interaction between the bass and horn is great especially at the end of the song.
“Inner Beauty” – One day just prior to the start of rehearsal, Rod and Ron started tuning and warming up as usual. Eventually Ron stops playing and Rod starts to play some sweet keyboard chords on top of a pre-programmed drum line. Ron asked him what song he was playing to which Rod replied “I’m just fooling around with something”. Ron says “I hear a great song there”. After everyone else arrived, a song structure evolves and Mike starts to work on a bass solo that when combined with the basic bass line is both dynamic and compelling. The producer contacted Walt Kemp III to add a slightly different piano flavor to the song and several iterations later “Inner Beauty” was born. This enticing ballad is all about looking beneath the surface to examine the inner beauty that lies in everyone. It may not be obvious to the casual observer but there is beauty all around us if you look deep enough. The drum and bass solo in the middle of the song is intended to remind the listener of that concept. Once again Tim comes up with something out of the ordinary on the drums to make this song extra special.
“That Girl” – By Stevie Wonder; this song was not intended to be included on the CD. Mike and Ron talked about performing a song to put on the internet to bring attention to EL7. Mike heard a version of “That Girl” and though it would be a good song to cover. The group collaborated rearranging the song while maintaining its integrity. After hearing the final arrangement the group decided to license the song for inclusion on the CD. The studio session was video recorded to post online. What you see online is the actual studio recording session. The intro lead guitar was added after the original video & audio were recorded. What you see on the video is what you hear on the CD.
“Tony Rome” – Tribute to Marvelous Marvin Valentine. This laid back ballad features the true talent of bassist Mike Pennick. Marvin Valentine played organ as one of the original members of The Exoutics. He became known for being the coolest member of the group. Marvin was given several nicknames by The Exoutics based on his ultra-cool demeanor among the nicknames were “Aldo Chilla” and “Tony Rome” (his middle name was Anthony). This song was written in memory of the late Marvelous Marvin Valentine. Note the hints of organ throughout the entire song. The hectic ending of the song is a tribute to the wilder side of Marvelous Marvin. Written by; Ron Walker and Mike Pennick. Marvin’s spirit lives on in EL7.