CHARDAVOINE – Fifth Season (US Azor, 2003)

Layback – Fifth Season – I Remember Ernie – Who Could It Be – Jamaal’s Song – Carmen – Amee – Passion Stroke – Toujours – Father & Son – Illusions – Malaeeka – Forgotton Dreams
There has been a lot of rightful exposure to this gentleman’s album here in the UK on quality soul radio. Richard Searling’s mandatory show on Jazz FM North West (available via the Internet on Sunday afternoons) and Mike Stevens’ On The Real Side show on Sunday mornings, again via the web on Solar Radio have championed this album. Guess what I get up to in a Sunday, folks? No prizes there! The song that is getting a bee in the proverbial bonnet is the Frank Williams vocal cut “Layback” which the reason I did not hesitate in ordering this via CD Baby or via Chardavoine’s website (http://www.chardavoine.biz).

This CD reminds me very much of the quality jazz-fusion sets that were widely available during the latter 1980s – early 1990s before this nasty Smooth Jazz (muzak) fodder took over.
Recorded between 1994 and 2003, this is indeed a very enjoyable, colourful musical patchwork quilt of an album that can be popped into the CD player and left to its own devices; I feel the greatness of Curtis Ohlson’s work in the hands of Chardavoine. We’re talking a fresh, tossed salad of a jazz-fusion album that sees no one single instrument dominate the songs. Chardavoine is a multi-talented artist who can play many instruments, he is a songwriter, arranger and producer and I know that there is a lot more in the pipeline from this man.
We have elements of Craig T. Cooper on the Latin vibe of “I Remember Ernie”, and flautist Dave Valentin steps up to the front on “Jamaal’s Song” to work his magic. Chardavoine knows his chops. There are plenty of quality vocal arrangements, too – as it is the CD opens with the barnstormer, “Layback”. On this tune Frank and Chardavoine conjure up a heady midtempo groove with an irresistible rhythm that is dominated by Frank’s soulful vocals.
Carol Cooper is an excellent female vocalist who reminds me very slightly of Aja Fatin from Kindred and appears on the Earl Klugh-ish title track. The main man, Frank Williams returns on the acoustic tapper “Who Could It Be”, and Carol Cooper takes the lead on the summery floater “Illusions” – this is another strong, strong track that has been spun on quality radio to great effect.
If these two amazing vocal talents are not enough to satisfy your thirst then let me introduce you to the wonderful Zion who has a heavy dose of the ultra soulful Amy Keys (remember her essential “Lover’s Intuition” album from back in 1989?) in her performance.
Another talent is Steffany Bready who pops up on “Toujours”. This electric guitar number features her on lead and backing duties, and shows that this gentleman hangs around in very talented circles. I only wish that the Lady had more input on this song and the album – but who knows what’s coming in the future?
If the vocal songs are your thing (as they are mine) then find satisfaction here – however the instrumentals are absolutely charming and “Passion Stroke” is a slice of guitar and soprano sax heaven, a nd similar can be said about “Malaeeka” which features sax by the jolly-named Cornelius Bumpus. The final cut “Forgotten Dreams” is more programmed but has that fresh, wide-open-spaced jazz feel along with the Craig T. Cooper-ish influenced guitar and hi-hat beat. I can’t rate as many jazz fusion albums as high as this nowadays as frankly I am bored stiff with a lot of the programmed muzak that passes as Jazz. Beware this attitude as sometimes quality, diverse and intriguing albums pop up to challenge this mindset – and this is one of them. Highly recommended, and one of the best jazz sets that I have heard this year.