Sly Reimagined: The Music of Sly and the Family Stone
Keyboardist Jason Miles’ career highlight reel includes programming on Miles Davis’ albums Tutu and Amandla during the 1980s. Yet his playing has been featured as much or more with soul and R&B artists like Aretha Franklin and Michael Jackson, and on tributes to Marvin Gaye and Luther Vandross. Global Noize, Miles’ collaborative group with turntablist DJ Logic, splits the difference on its new release by saluting Sly and the Family Stone with contributions from jazz and fusion masters like saxophonist Jeff Coffin and guitarists Dean Brown and Will Bernard.
Miles sidesteps the bulk of the biggest Sly hits, but of the few he does tackle, most feature the Family Stone’s original drummer, Greg Errico. The best of these is the anthemic “Stand!,” with its gritty keyboards, reverential vocals by Maya Azucena and Porter Carrol, and the bass work of Amanda Ruzza. Other highlights include the ultra-funky opener, “In Time,” with singers Nona Hendryx, Malika Zarra and Azucena; “It’s a Family Affair,” with another heralded R&B singer, Roberta Flack, plus saxophonist Jay Rodriguez and trumpeter Ingrid Jensen; and “The Same Thing,” with Hendryx, Rodriguez and Logic’s creative samples. Another standout cut is “Thank You for Talkin’ to Me Africa,” Sly Stone’s rearrangement of his hit “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin),” on which Coffin acts as a one-man horn section.
Now for the flaws: Miles’ predominant use of synth bass doesn’t do justice to the classic Family Stone basslines (most played by Larry Graham), and repeated alternate mixes of “It’s a Family Affair” and “The Same Thing” are unnecessary.