Taylor McFerrin

Early Riser

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Taylor McFerrin's music career dates back to 1982, when the then youngster appeared in the background of "Jubilee," a highlight on his father Bobby's debut album. During the early 2000s, it resumed in earnest. He occasionally displayed his beatboxing and remixing talents in supporting roles for the likes of Amp Fiddler, Ty, José James, and Dego. Intermittently, as a multi-instrumentalist, singer, songwriter, and producer, he also recorded on his own. In 2006, he released an EP inspired by West London's broken beat scene. Additional promising tracks landed in 2007 and 2011, supported by BBC DJ and Brownswood label head Gilles Peterson. McFerrin hardly emptied his clip. In his words, he "spent years laying down tons of tracks" -- the material remained unfinished until he shaped 40 minutes of songs and interludes into an album for Flying Lotus' Brainfeeder label. While Early Riser was pieced and patched together, it flows as a gleaming focused set that combines left-field electronics, alternative R&B, and futuristic jazz. It presents him as a multifaceted musician who sings only occasionally. In fact, if he beatboxes at all here, it's undetectable, and he's credited with vocals on only two songs that transpire during the stimulating first side. On opener "Postpartum," his voice is blurred to the point of acting as a mere layer beside that of Jason Fraticelli, while on "Florasia" -- a twinkling love song -- he provides the lead and recalls a sleepy, euphoric Musiq Soulchild. Even when factoring the Nai Palm-powered "The Antidote," side two is considerably better, led by a winsome instrumental with Rhodes and synthesizer from Robert Glasper, bass from labelmate Thundercat, and drums from Marcus Gilmore. The shuffling/burbling "Decisions," one of six tracks on which McFerrin performs all the instrumentation, features one of Emily King's typically caressing vocal turns. McFerrin and RYAT's melancholy 2011 single "Place in My Heart" leads to the dawn-welcoming "Invisible/Visible," enhanced with Bobby McFerrin's low-key vamps and melodies and the Cesar Mariano's tender piano accents. As a music instructor at the Bronx's Lavelle School for the Blind, the younger McFerrin has undoubtedly done important and rewarding work, but he will hopefully find a way to spend more time on his music.

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