CD Review - Walter Beasley 'Free Your Mind'

Friday, February 6, 2009

WALTER BEASLEY "Free Your Mind" Heads Up

IT'S SCARCELY a coincidence that saxophonist Walter Beasley's "Free Your Mind" sounds as if it would make for an almost seamless interlude sandwiched between smooth-jazz recordings by Pieces of a Dream. Keyboardist James K. Lloyd, Pieces of a Dream's chief tunesmith, composed and produced five of the 11 pieces on Beasley's new release with often predictable, drum-programmed results. From the opening track, "Steady as She Goes," to the soul strut "Just Breathe," the eighth cut and Lloyd's final contribution to the album, radio-friendly melodies float over mechanical rhythms.

There are a few welcome exceptions. "Message to Mark," an appealing showcase for trumpeter Derek Cannon, is neatly propelled and accented by drummer John Roberts. Beasley, who wrote the tune, eventually heats up the performance, his alto burning bright. Likewise, "DukeZillia," a Beasley-Roberts composition and a Brazilian-tinged tribute to keyboardist-producer George Duke, has genuine rhythmic thrust, thanks to percussionist Rafael Pereira. Beasley also salutes our new president with "Barack's Groove," a performance that's mostly notable for its woven alto sax and acoustic guitar lines.

Drummer Roberts returns on "Miss Minnie," the album's slinky coda and a reminder of Beasley's gliding ease with a romantic ballad. No, the reedman isn't likely to win many converts with "Free Your Mind," but he certainly won't disappoint the faithful.

-- Mike Joyce

Appearing Saturday at the Birchmere (703-549-7500, Show starts at 7:30 p.m. Also appearing Sunday at Rams Head Tavern (410-268-4545, Show starts at 8 p.m.

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