By Kabir Sehgal
Treblemaker is an album full of life and humor – as is evidenced not only by the album title pun, but also by the introductory track. Flautist and singer Ragan Whiteside does an impeccable job of infusing her own unique voice into these tracks in her fourth studio album. A seasoned musician and award winning performer, Whiteside’s latest album adds breadth and depth to her variety and style as an artist. A mainstay of contemporary jazz, Whiteside allows for some much-needed freshness in the genre. This is a well-done album through and through!
The album opens with a humorous and sweet introductory track featuring Ragan’s one year old. Whiteside has several recording false starts that are interrupted by her toddler – babbling, and then pulling a cord which produces feedback – the track gives a warm and inviting welcome into the album. It is also a refreshing display of artistry and motherhood in tandem, and a sweet introduction to the song dedicated to the precocious child – Corey’s Bop. Corey’s bop has a pop/funk programmed backbeat to it that plays nicely against the jazzy, syncopated, and leapy flute melody. The track is joyful and danceable – an appropriate feel for a track dedicated to one’s child. Next is Early Arrival, featuring Kim Waters on saxophones. The drums on this one give a subtle Latin flavor to the music – already, we are privy to the variety of genre the artist is able to present. Excellent tune, and Whiteside’s tone is clear and salient over the textures of the song. By the Moonlight brings back the pop music feel with unexpected timbres in the drum programming and percussive sounds, such as vibraphone, performed by keyboards. The acoustic and virtuosic flute playing over the electronic supporting instruments brings a surprising and enjoyable fusion to the listener that keeps us on our toes. Nicely done!
The Sun Came Up keeps the energy high in another uptempo pop oriented track. Let’s Do This features Tom Browne on trumpet/ flugelhorn, whose soloistic playing is a major highlight of this album. Browne’s unique use of timbre – his thoughtful use of mutes and instruments to play with a variety of colors – brings a beautiful new facet to this track. Pop oriented processing and track layers in this track allows Browne to play against himself (as both melody and soloing instruments at some points) – an apt and fun use of technology! Browne’s lead-worthy high notes are another great feature of his soloing.
I Never Told You is the first track on the album with vocals – featuring Whiteside now as singer. This track also marks a change of tempo – this pop ballad brings a new style into the album altogether. Just as we were getting used to Whiteside’s fusion style playing, we are thrown a curve ball with her rich voice in this excellent ballad. Whiteside’s vocal prowess evokes soul into the mix of this rhythmic ballad.
Flute Funk marks an exquisite compositional and performative collaboration between Frank McComb and Ragan Whiteside – with Whiteside on flute and McComb on vocals and all other instruments, with May Rose on additional vocals. This track returns the album to the funk aesthetic we are accustomed to from Whiteside, but with a new flavor, infused by McComb’s unique style. An oustanding offering from both.
Love Song features Marion Meadows on saxophones and is a co-composition between Bob Baldwin and Whiteside. A sentimental and croony musical offering, Meadows’ saxophone playing is a welcome and soulful treat for the listener in this track. Mystic Vibration follows suit – reminding us one last time that Whiteside’s playing is firmly rooted equally in the jazz, pop, and funk traditions.
The album finishes on a particularly high note with a collaboration with Bob Baldwin and the PR Experience. Featuring Bob Baldwin on keyboards, Nelson Render on trumpet, Marvin Pryor on trombone, Travis Kimber on saxophones, and Richard Harrison on drums, we are treated to hearing how Whiteside’s playing holds up in a combo setting. We are left with this: not only can Whiteside easily and brilliantly navigate the pop fusion world; her playing is powerful and virtuosic enough to stand up next to a full complement of instruments. The listener is left having been carried through a comprehensive journey of the artist, and Whiteside does not disappoint one bit. A gorgeously well-crafted album, through and through!
Kabir Sehgal is an American author, composer, producer, navy officer, military veteran, investment banker, and financial executive. He is the New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of five books.