Jason Miles

What's Going On?

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Following his popular and critically acclaimed twists on the music of Weather Report, Ivan Lins, and Grover Washington, Jr. -- and his own inspired take on the spirit of his old pal Miles Davis on Miles to Miles -- the East Coast-based jazz keyboardist and megaproducer keeps his streak of compelling and provocative tribute projects going with this warm collection of Marvin Gaye classics. Rather than simply make a disc of familiar and obscure covers, it seems to be Miles' intent to show the relevance of Gaye's political and romantic messages to the modern day. So while his arrangement of the title track is sexy and atmospheric, it's really a showcase for the song's words, rendered with a deep and soulful urgency by newcomer Mike Mattison. The other projects, while all brilliant in their own way, seemed conceived as all-star affairs that could use big names to help market them. What's Going On? features a handful of legends, from Herb Alpert (who plays it cool on the seductive "Let's Get It On") to Marcus Miller (joyfully letting loose for a few bars on "Heavy Love Affair"), Jay Beckenstein (who solos a few minutes into the balmy "Too Busy Thinking About My Baby"), and even Bobby Caldwell. Miles, though, seems intent on showcasing newer talents whose presence happily dominates. Most impressive of these are the sultry lead vocals of Chiara Civello on "I Want You," James "D-Train" Williams on "Heavy Love Affair," Dominick Farinacci's fl├╝gelhorn on the crisp shuffle of "Trouble Man," and labelmate guitarist Nick Colionne ("I Heard It Through the Grapevine"). Like Gaye himself, Miles proves a master at subtlety, so expect a few doses of cool funk but a lot of deep soul and dreamy vibes behind messages proving that projects like these are remarkably timeless.

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