New Music for January 25th 2019
James Austin, Jr. – “Songs In The Key Of Wonder” – JCA Records
Anyone who read through the title above may have guessed this work is an homage to music by the great Stevie Wonder. If that is your thinking, you are exactly correct. All ten tracks are covers of some of Stevie Wonder’s greatest hits. Originally starting out in Gospel music, Austin quickly discovered he had a real love for soul music. He studied piano and organ under the renowned jazz educator Barry Harris. From there, Austin has performed in Carnegie Hall and was a semifinalist in the prestigious Thelonious Monk International Jazz Piano Competition. What he delivers in this compilation of Stevie Wonder songs is a fresh look through crafty arrangements of traditionally soul music done in a jazz / soul style. From an instrument standpoint, all of the pieces of the dual genre puzzle are there – sax, guitar, bass, percussion, trumpet, and drums. What Austin has managed to accomplish is to take music heard many times before and make it fresh and innovative. And he did a great job as well. I found myself singing along because I knew the words but felt as if I was hearing each song for the first time.
Overall: 8.5; Sonics: 8