Just because he's digging the mellower lifestyle of living in Phoenix, don't get the idea that Marion Meadows is about to abandon his urban roots and go new age. In fact, considering the raw ensemble jamming style, thick streetwise grooves and thematic song titles of his Heads Up debut Another Side of Midnight, it's clear that what Billy Joel once called the New York State of Mind is still very much a part of Meadows' musical mindset. Weaving his velvety soprano through foundations set by NYC cats like Michael Bearden (who plays keyboards and wrote five of the tunes), Bob Baldwin and Omar Hakim, and trading off melody and harmony lines with the brisk acoustic guitar lines of Norman Brown and Marc Antoine, Meadows not only drew from his deep love for city life, but fashioned an exciting tribute to it. The first stop is the gentle, lilting "Another Side of Midnight"; with Meadows' smoky sax rising easily above the breathy vocals and moody keyboard harmonies of co-writer Johnny Britt, it's the musical equivalent of stretching after rising from a deep sleep in the middle of the night. Once on the town, Meadows heads directly to a club and lifts the energy level for a spunky "Last Call," doubling his soprano for a greater melodic impact above the funk and spacey synth effects (including sleigh bells) created by Bearden and Rohn Lawrence's bubbling electric guitar.
Meadows spends the rest of the early a.m. bouncing between dreamy slices of optimism like "Sunset Moon" (featuring Antoine's cool flamenco lines echoing each statement of sax) and raw first-take ensemble explosions along the lines of "Club Life" -- where Meadows and trumpeter Tom Browne engage in a tough but good-natured duel for the lead as you might imagine George Howard and Miles doing in the next life -- and "4:00 A.M.," a percussive fusion fest on which Meadows honks and leaps over Bearden's jolly improvisations and Lawrence's brief but potent rock guitar solo. By the time you settle down for "Sunrise," you wonder if Meadows was imagining the trees in Central Park or an orange disk rising over a distant mountain.