In an industry that all too often demands conformity to ultra-specific radio play lists and marketing schemes, it's hard to resist the ambitious independent spirit of jazz-funk bassist and multi-instrumentalist Big Al -- the creative force behind the rhythm and jazz outfit known as A Little Space. On his third release, Box of Love, the one-time John Lennon Songwriting Contest winner creates a compelling set of 12 tracks which explore a wide variety of styles within and just beyond the urban contemporary and smooth jazz landscapes. Complementing three in the pocket, radio-ready instrumentals are nine engaging vocal tracks featuring popular Los Angeles-based R&B-gospel singer Regi Perry. Box of Love goes all out to be unique and multifaceted. It begins with the jazzy neo-soul of the title track, then taps into the classic Memphis horn band R&B sound ("Reason to Call You," "P.B."), Afro-Cuban flavors ("Any Day"), gospel and samba on the cool hybrid tune "Place I Like to Be," and anthemic jazz fusion ("Dreams So Real"). Big Al has the perfect definition for the standout instrumental track, a fiery pop-classical tune called "Days Just Begun": "a string quartet on steroids."
Box of Love reaches an emotional high point on "Know I'm Alive," a poignant tribute to the victims of last December's tragic Tsunami featuring Perry on vocals and Big Alon Alembic (fretted) bass, MIDI cello, and drums. Released as a single shortly after it was written on Martin Luther King Day, 2005 -- and three months before the official release of the album -- the song has been downloaded hundreds of times by fans all over the world and has received a significant amount of airplay.
While the album artwork shows Big Al holding a bass guitar, his arsenal includes a multitude of instruments, from the Alembic bass and the MPG Level 5 Fretless Bass, to the Garrison G30CE and Yamaha APX-4A Acoustic Guitars, Fender Stratocaster, and MIDI Synth, horns, and percussion.
Hopefully, what A Little Space has accomplished here will inspire more multi-talented musicians to think outside the box as they make their own declarations of independence.