A jazz supergroup comprised of some of the biggest up-and-coming names in forward-thinking jazz, Next Collective features saxophonists Logan Richardson and Walter Smith, guitarist Matthew Stevens, pianist Gerald Clayton, keyboardist Kris Bowers, bassist Ben Williams, and drummer Jamire Williams. Also joining in on the group's 2013 debut album, Cover Art, is acclaimed New Orleans trumpeter Christian Scott. Straddling the line between contemporary jazz, R&B, hip-hop, and harmonically advanced post-bop, Cover Art showcases Next Collective performing a variety of cover songs by contemporary artists like Jay-Z, D'Angelo, Pearl Jam, Drake, and others. In many ways, the album seems like an inspired attempt at developing a body of "new standards" for jazz musicians much in the same way previous generations covered pop songs and Broadway hits of their day. In that sense, Cover Art brings to mind such similar efforts by artists like Brad Mehldau and the Bad Plus, who've both recorded albums of covers by artists from the '70s and onward. The difference is that Next Collective is neither strictly a modern creative jazz band, nor a smooth jazz outfit, but more a group of like-minded, jazz-trained musicians who regularly improvise as a means of artistic expression. Ultimately, with songs that cross the line between edgy, atmospheric alt rock, groove-oriented R&B, and exploratory modal jazz, Cover Art feels less like a side project, and more the work of a unified ensemble.
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AllMusic Review by Matt Collar