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January/February 2009

Walter Beasley
Free Your Mind
Heads Up

Giving an instrumental tune a title can be a head-scratcher. Saxophonist Walter Beasley, whose vocals show remarkable maturity, doesn’t have that concern with “Love Calls,” a silky ballad with Lynne Fiddmont supplying background vocals. For the rest of the 10 songs here, Beasley makes it easy on himself by selecting songs whose subjects have inspired him recently and throughout his life. “DukeZilla” recalls the Brazilian jazz of George Duke, natch, with Beasley’s wordless vocals and the Latin grooves making it unlike anything he’s ever recorded before. Sweet.

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Paul Greco

Walter Beasley

“Message to Mark” is a heartfelt tribute to the late trumpeter and vocalist Mark Ledford (Beasley is the godfather to Ledford’s children). Derek Cannon’s understated trumpet lines are a polished complement. On “Miss Minnie,” Beasley’s soprano soars in tribute to a beloved close friend who died recently at age 91. And “Barack’s Groove,” co-written with Phil Davis, is a jazzy salute to the 44th president of the United States.

Beasley, a longstanding music professor at Berklee, also enlists James Lloyd of Pieces of a Dream for selections like “Just Breathe” and “Oh Yeah,” in-the-pocket songs that, like “Love Calls,” show Beasley’s tremendous rise to the top of the contemporary jazz genre. Beasley’s best in years.

Originally published in January/February 2009
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