Color Me Purple… With a few Pinks, Reds, Greens & Blues
Yes it’s hard to pigeonhole Jonathan Best into any one or another genre, but that’s simply because he has the ability to move in and out of musical colors like a chameleon. The listener is in for an unexpected ride—an aural slide show with popcorn and ear candy. The opening track “Whata Ya Know!” introduces shakers, chimes, rainsticks, congas, bongos, and then a Latin guitar feel that starts you off down the road with the wind blowing through your hair and the radio blasting. The excellent sax play of Marti Cuevas hints at those groovy samba days of the 60s. But wait, that musical saw, reminiscent of the theremin in the Beach Boys’ “Good Vibrations,” recalls an eerie B-rated monster mash. You ain’t in Kansas Dorothy!
“Over The Hill” gets the toes tapping—electronica? Not quite. In fact this track quickly morphs into a Lennon-esque infused double entendre, both in the interplay of the light and dark musical landscape and the double edged sword of the lyric: “If you got time to kill and I got time to die, why don’t we go over the hill?” Best’s lead vocal is convincing as he growls and cuts “why don’t we go over to Hell, yours and mine.” A playful synth brings us out of the depths, momentarily, before the clank of metal and bass drum once again stoke the flames of the inferno. It’s a powerful track—emotive, raw, and compelling.
In contrast, “Cherry Dog Tap” sooths the savage beast. The reflective and repetitive piano track creates a reassuring (almost new age) lullaby, with some solid standup bass playing by Dmitri Kolesnic that walks straight into the chorus and a taste of the blues, than back again—now we’re continuing the journey, no longer in the Mississippi Delta we’re floating over the plains of West Africa, with the mbira and ankle rattles. The Chameleon is showing his true colors… or is he?
“Fiddlesticks” offers some down home country cookin’. Big Pink is the color of this track, and The Band really rocks on this one, compliments of Matt Hill (drums), Gary Solomon (bass), and Marty Cohl’s tasteful pedal steel guitar work. Freddie ain’t dead in the next track (“Hey Fred”), and neither, apparently is Curtis “Superfly” Mayfield, resurrected for some funky clav grooves that supply the backing for the most memorable piano solo on the CD. “Left Him Lonely” provides a little New Orleans funk but Dr. John-athan has cast some Louisiana voodoo on the spirit of Frank Zappa—what a concoction! Other standouts are the funky “I Know That,” “Hometown Blues,” “You Don’t Know Nothin’,” and “Take Off,” perhaps my favorite track on the entire album. With some screaming sax work by Erik Lawrence, the track is hypnotic, beautifully produced, and demonstrative of Best at his best!
All the colors are there, if you listen closely enough, and Best is having a blast in the studio—the culmination of years as a songwriter, singer, session player, gospel accompanist and blues man—all with an endearing sense of humor and life. Highly recommended!