Akina Adderley & the Vintage Playboys

Say Yes

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In the new retro-soul sweepstakes, it helps if you can pass yourself off as someone living in a previous decade, and Akina Adderley certainly takes home the trophy with the cover of her sophomore album, Say Yes; Adderley sports an Afro and a dashiki-styled dress that could have made the cover of Ebony in 1970, while the photography and design are period-appropriate enough that some lackadaisical crate diggers might mistake the album for an actual product of the Me Decade. But while Adderley and her band the Vintage Playboys might look like another bunch of folks chasing sounds of the past, their music is fresher and more imaginative than that. On Say Yes, Adderley's voice is strong and powerful, and she shows a welcome sense of restraint, never sinking into overstated vocal histrionics and keeping a firm hand on the melody at all times while giving these songs a double shot of soul. Adderley's sense of phrasing and her way with a tune (she wrote nine of Say Yes' ten songs) suggest she's as comfortable with jazz as R&B (no great surprise, as her grandfather was Nat Adderley and her grand-uncle was Cannonball Adderley), and her band cuts a commanding groove, the rhythm section holding down a graceful but potent bottom end as the soloists display equal parts chops, imagination, and personality. The music on Say Yes is clearly influenced by sounds of the '60s and '70s, yet the results don't speak of misplaced nostalgia; this is a group that honors the present and the past, and the smarts, passion, and joy these songs are steeped in are timeless. If you think they don't make R&B divas like they used to, pick up Say Yes and let Akina Adderley prove you wrong.

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