Soul Ballet

The Unity label doesn't have a large stable of artists, but the ones they do have are definitely the cream of the crop. Along with Keiko Matsui and Paul Taylor, Soul Ballet makes up a trio of outstanding performers. Soul Ballet delivers the kind of jazz stylings on its new album that make you reach for the replay button.

Richard Kelly, who goes by the initials RK, was born and raised in Las Vegas, where he was performing by the age of ten and being sneaked in to clubs at 14 to perform on his Hammond/B3 organ with blues/funk bands. The influence of his early background has obviously settled into his work.

His jazz has a blues undertone that gives it depth and style.The perfect example of this is

Sashay, which is exactly what this song does. It sways and swings like a sexy woman in

a tight skirt. It moves, but is delightfully constrained, focusing your attention on each musical movement. While the first release off this album, Blu Girl is more radio friendly with

it's horn sound (the in sound, so popular it's almost impossible to escape), Sashay is meatier and will make the more lasting impression..

In fact, this album seems to have a duality of distinct stylings. One is keyboard oriented, and these are the funkier, more soulful pieces, like Her Joyride and Sashay. The other is more mellow, often using horns and soft drums like Blu Girl and Monique Slept Here.

Her Joyride leads off the album and uses organ backbeats and a Latin beat to lead up to a smoky keyboard main theme, supported by a lonely trumpet. The trumpet  takes the lead, however, in Blu Girl a bit sassy but not overstated. The title cut is a tune with latin styling

that says Let's hit the dance floor and show off our moves, while Soul Ballet shows off theirs.
The music pauses, and seems distant like a fleeting memory of a moment past, on
Monique Slept Here, while Sol Negro returns to the trumpet with a Herb Alpert kind of brass sound that is a little south of the border, but slower paced. Romantique is even slower and softer, as suggested by the title, but seems to drag on, the only cut  that didn't give me any emotional strokes.

Back to the funkier sound is Illicit Sisters, which suggests red lights, streetcorners, and

ladies of the evening. Inviting, yet distant, the trumpet plays a siren song in the background, promising more delights. The only vocals on the album appear on  Tell Me Your Mine,           and offer an interesting change of pace. Actually there are vocals on Illicit Sisters, but they are blended so well with the music that they are easily mistaken for another instrument            in the first part of the song. In fact I had to listen several times before I could actually discern them. The mix on this cut is certainly subtle and well done.   

The album closes with another blues based cut,  U Desire Her, which gives the strokes that Romantique didn't. The trumpet lifts this song out of the mellow mood that the latter suffered from. Outside of that one song this album is rich and well worth a trip to buy.

Reviewed By: Donn Jehs

© 1998 by Mary Ellen Gustafson

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