Michael Doherty’s Music Log reviews Acute Inflections

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Michael Doherty's Music Log

 

Acute Inflections: “400” (2021) CD Review

Bob Marley died in 1981, forty years ago, and his music continues to have a great impact and to influence other musicians. Acute Inflections, the jazz duo of vocalist Elasea Douglas and bassist Sadiki Pierre, pay tribute to his music on their new album, 400. And listening to these tracks, we’re reminded that the dominant message of Bob Marley’s music was the need for love, and the power of love, which unites us all. Acute Inflections honor Bob Marley’s vision while making the music their own, giving it a fresh approach. The duo is based in New York, and 400 is their fourth release.

The album opens with “400 Years,” a song that was included on both the Soul Rebels and Catch A Fire albums. Here it fades in, as if already in progress. The song, as presented here, is actually divided into three parts, each approximately a minute long, positioned throughout the album, a recurring theme. The first section of “400 Years” is followed by one of Bob Marley’s most well-known songs, “Stir It Up,” which was released as a single in the late 1960s and also included on Catch A Fire, and of course also included on Legend, that popular compilation that seems to be in everyone’s music collection. Acute Inflections speed it up just a bit, and deliver an enjoyable rendition. We then get “No More Trouble,” another song that was included on Catch A Fire. “We don’t need no more trouble,” Elasea sings at the beginning, and there is a bluesy sense in her delivery, and even a bit of a gospel flavor. Then she allows her voice to get lighter as she sings that what we need is love. This is one of my favorite tracks, in large part because of her excellent and varied vocal performance. Acute Inflections follow that with an interesting rendition of “Is This Love,” another of Bob Marley’s most popular songs. It was included on Kaya and on Legend. There is a wonderful freedom in Elasea’s vocal performance here. Their version of “Natural Mystic” is soulful and somewhat haunting. I can’t help but think of the Republican Party when I hear lyrics about dishonesty. “Don’t tell no lie, don’t tell no lie.”

Acute Inflections’ rendition of “I Shot The Sheriff” is unlike any I’ve heard before, beginning with an a cappella section. The way Elasea sings it is captivating. I don’t think I’ve ever been so drawn into this particular song before, into its story. This version is better than the original.  I also like what they do with “One Love.” It has a sensual quality at the beginning, while maintaining that uplifting vibe of the original. The line “Let’s get together and feel all right” holds even more significance in these days when we try to emerge from the pandemic and period of isolation. And when Elasea sings, “I’m pleading to mankind,” we can hear it in her voice, and we are right there with her. “Could You Be Loved” begins with a cool bass solo, and then Elasea’s vocal performance is bright and passionate. I love that moment when she repeats, “Say something, say something.”  And Sadiki Pierre gets loose on the bass, making this track another of the disc’s highlights. This song was included on the 1980 album Uprising, and also on Legend. That’s followed by “Redemption Song,” my personal favorite of all of Bob Marley’s songs. Acute Inflections do a great job with it, connecting with its strong emotional core and bringing out its inherent beauty. “Won’t you help to sing these songs of freedom.”

Acute Inflections deliver a really interesting and unusual version of “Waiting In Vain,” beginning with that bass line. I love how these guys find new ways of approaching this material, new ways that make sense, that serve the material well. “Waiting In Vain” is followed by “Slave Driver,” which has kind of an intense opening, particularly that vocal work. “Slave driver, the table has turned/Catch a fire, you’re gonna get burned.” This song is sadly still relevant, connecting a terrible past to current and ongoing injustice. I also love Elasea’s vocal approach to “High Tide Or Low Tide,” both passionate and compassionate, as well as beautiful. “He said, I am going to be your friend/And baby, in high tide or in low tide/I will be by your side.”We are at a strange and ugly moment in this country’s history, when the Republican Party is working to deny the rights of minorities in its bid to regain power. They know the only way they can take power is to keep people from voting, and so are doing everything they can to make voting difficult. “Get Up, Stand Up” feels pertinent, with the lines “Get up, stand up/Stand up for your rights/Get up, stand up/Don’t give up the fight.” Toward the end Elasea Douglas sings, “It’s up to you, it’s up to me/We’ve got to be the change we want to see in the world.” This album then concludes with a nice rendition of “Exodus.”

CD Track List

  1. 400 Years – Interlude 1
  2. Stir It Up
  3. No More Trouble
  4. Is This Love
  5. Natural Mystic
  6. I Shot The Sheriff
  7. All Day All Night
  8. One Love
  9. 400 Years – Interlude 2
  10. Concrete Jungle
  11. Could You Be Loved
  12. Redemption Song
  13. Waiting In Vain
  14. Slave Driver
  15. Jamming
  16. High Tide Or Low Tide
  17. 400 Years – Interlude 3
  18. Get Up, Stand Up
  19. Exodus

400 was released on May 11, 2021, exactly forty years after Bob Marley’s death.

Kari Gaffney

Kari Gaffney

Since 1988 Kari-On Productions has helped artists get an even footing in the industry through jazz promotion in the genres of Jazz, World & Latin Jazz through Jazz Radio and Publicity. Why do we do both, because they compliment each other, and we care about fiscal longevity for the artist.

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