JK / Mark Whitfield

The Jazz Channel Presents Mark Whitfield & JK (Soul Conversation)

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At first glance, it wouldn't appear that guitarists Mark Whitfield and JK would have much to talk about musically; the Wes Montgomery influenced Whitfield's jazz steeped career has featured stints with Betty Carter, Carmen McRae and Nicholas Payton, while JK has been a top R&B producer and session player. Turns out however, the two share a mutual love of classic soul music and that makes Soul Conversation as bright and lively a duet idea as George Benson and Earl Klugh's Collaboration thirteen years ago. The real joys of this retro-funk project come when the two go point-counterpoint, statement and echo, as on "Talk To Me," which features Whitfield's conversation start lines followed by emphatic agreement harmonies by JK. The two spend the moody, wah-wah enhanced tune arguing around the subtle edges of a thick groove, with Whitfield's high tones followed by JK's lower emphasis. At the end of each passage, they join together and wind down the melody like two leaves falling directly on top of each other. Two's company most of the time here, but that tune and the bubble shuffle jam "Visions" feature a third opinion in the form of Herbie Hancock's floating Rhodes melody. While both guitarists make sure melody is always the focus, "Unzipped" takes on an experimental flavor, with distorted rock guitar flashes and restatements of some of the main melody lines from earlier on the album.

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