These days, Hubert Eaves III is well known among his musical peers and protÃ©gÃ©es as a producer and arranger of great merit. His track record is includes hits with the late Biggie Smalls -- aka the Notorious B.I.G. and Rakim (of hip hop progenitors Eric B. & Rakim) and the entire eight-year reign of James "D Train" Williams in the 1980s. Eaves is also a legendary sideman who is renowned for his diversity and unique artist-driven approach to recording. His unique bank of sounds, his rhythmic left hand, and his willingness to experiment with music forms made him a choice in studios throughout the '70s, '80s, and '90s. A partial roster of the people he's worked with includes Gary Bartz, Norman Connors, Phyllis Hyman, Aretha Franklin, Miles Davis, the Spinners, Roberta Flack, Whitney Houston, and Stephanie Mills.
Few, however, are aware of the lone album that appeared under his own name on the East Wind imprint in 1977. Esoteric Funk is killer slab of laidback yet totally evolved funk that that he cut with a host of jazzmen that included members of Miles Davis' band -- Reggie Lucas and Mtume -- and bassist John Lee, and other vanguard luminaries getting their funk on, including RenÃ© McLean and Malachi Thompson. When it comes to keyboards, Eaves III plays them all here, from ARPs and Moogs to the Rhodes, clavinet, and the Steinway grand. Over six self-composed, produced, and arranged tracks, Eaves creates a dreamscape of funky soul that has plenty of space and texture in its center while keeping a unique, airy groove over and under everything. The shimmering "Call to Awareness" features a running bassline that flows instead of pops; the piano and bass riff that pervades "Slow Down" is a series of slow-tempo crescendos strung together in an ever-increasing dynamic platform that eventually bubbles over into a blissed-out chant. The album ends with a sweet, Roberta Flack-style vocal from Cheryl Alexander on "Under Standing" that doesn't quite fit with the rest of the set, but that's OK -- it does showcase the amazing range of the composer. Esoteric Funk is stunning in its commitment to understatement, classy composition, and flawless performances that provide for the album's distinctive and elegant summery grooves. Esoteric Funk was briefly available on CD in Japan, but never in the States or even in Europe. If ever there were a title that deserved to be reissued for the pleasure of all, it's this one.
Call to Awareness
Song for Marlene