BY HANS-BERND HÜLSMANN
When beauty and musical talent come together in a compelling symbiosis, then Ragan Whiteside’s flute is the herald of this glorious message. Her Bachelor of Music-Performance and the gain of the Capital Jazz New Artist Competition are signs for things to come.
Pianist Bob Baldwin soon recognized her great skills and invited her as guest musician on his albums NewUrbanJazz.com (2008), Tribute to Michael Jackson “Never Can Say Goodbye” (2010), NewUrbanJazz.com 2 / Re-Vibe (2011) and Betcha By Golly Wow – The Songs of Thom Bell (2012).
Bob Baldwin describes Ragan by saying, “She not only has THE silkiest and sweetest flute tone in the business, but her tenacity and desire to be recognized in Urban, New-Soul AND smooth jazz genres makes her a musical force to be reckoned with!! Mark my words!”
Her debut album Class Axe (2007) received high acclaims especially by the customers of CDBaby. Now she is back with her sophomore album Evolve (2012), produced by Dennis Johnson and Bob Baldwin. Stylistically, it is dedicated to the Neo-Soul, Urban, and Smooth Jazz, a delightful mix.
Whiteside starts on Eight Thirty Seven with a lot of momentum and by the very ease of the flute she gives her self-created melody a special boom. On Feelin’ Free Ragan breaks in like a natural event. Singer, keyboardist and flute in perfection. So much talent. That’s jaw-dropping!
Flashy as on Off Kilter is the almost hypnotic groove that strikes one immediately under his spell. Chieli Minucci on guitar is significantly infected. Ragan’s trenchant playing also can be heard on the following Memories Of You. The flute and its inherent lightness of being chases away the shadows on Livin’ Lovin’.
That Ragan also feels at home with R&B, you realize On The Dance Floor. A brilliant cover of Ohio Player’s Sweet Sticky Thing illustrates how well the flute works as a lead instrument. On Sun Up In My Sky Ragan’s wonderful voice unfolds like a dewy rose. Her vocal ability is on par with her instrumental prowess.
Harmony and delicate arrangement combine to form an impressive mixture on Mean To Me. The combination of flute and acoustic guitar on Until Next Time has its charms, although Marion Meadows saxophones at this point brings another nuance. That an album ends with the title tune, a bit unusual. However, it leaves a good impression with its jazzy aura.
Thankfully, there are talented artists that finally provide us with sophisticated music. Ragan Whiteside has earned a place of honor with Evolve.