CALVIN KEYS — Detours into Unconscious Rhythms (review)

CALVIN KEYS — Detours into Unconscious Rhythms album cover Album · 2000 · Funk Jazz Buy this album from MMA partners
3.5/5 ·
By the time the year 2000 rolled around, Calvin Keys was already a veteran of the soul jazz scene, having played his first gigs when he was a teenager back in the 60s. Originally from the mid-west, Calvin worked with all the major Hammond B-3 artists such as Jimmy Smith, Jack McDuff, Jimmy McGriff and Groove Holmes before moving to LA in the early 70s. In the 90s Calvin re-located to the SF Bay Area just in time to enjoy that scene’s acid jazz explosion which made a musician with a good soul jazz resume an artist in demand. A lot of small labels sprang up in SF at this time to capitalize on a growing interest in mixing soul jazz with current hip-hop sensibilities. This was a scene that was unique to SF within the US, but it mirrored similar scenes in Europe, especially England. So it came to pass that Calvin was tapped by the Wide Hive label to record his first album as a leader in some time, as Wide Hive tried to capitalize on the Bay Area’s fascination with the merger of hip-hop and jazz.

“Detours into Unconscious Rhythms” is a very solid funk jazz record, and although there are nods to some trendy hip-hopisms, things do not get too watered down in an attempt to sound hip. Instead, Calvin and his crew focus on making great music that would fit any time period. Like most soul jazz cats, Calvin’s playing is based in the blues, but he eschews that Wes Montgomery octave sound that influenced so many other hard bop guitarists and instead goes for a more fleet fingered solo note style in a George Benson vein, but driven with fusion style repeating solo riffs that recall John McLaughlin and Larry Coryell. Calvin gets some good backing from his crew, particularly Chester Thompson who performs on several tracks with his Hammond B3.

Most of the tracks are great, “Tierra Naranja” is uptempo fusion with vibraphone contributions from Roger Glenn. Chester Thompson plays some Larry Young style organ work on “Perfection is Instant Death” with its almost prog rock sounding chord progression buildups and “Landing Pad” has some nice spacey psych Fender Rhodes from Kat Ouno. There is only one track with gratuitous record scratching. a feature that does date this album, but it is brief. There is one choral vocal track that some may find inspiring, while others may find it overwrought and dated, but otherwise this album is filled with top notch funk jazz fueled by Calvin’s very deft fret work.
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