Songs for the Soul
Miles Griffith is a raspy vocalist with a lot of heart. His collaborations with Hammond B3 expert Radam Schwartz are fun, even when the lyrics are treacly, as on “Youthology.” Schwartz’s instrumentals are notable, particularly “Sky Namel,” a jaunty number featuring Schwartz’s left hand at its friskiest. Griffith may be the star of this deeply collaborative effort, but Schwartz is the guiding force. His “Curious Visitors” is droll and swinging, his workout with Griffith on “Stay Away Blues” a tangy blast.
The antecedents to this awkwardly named, engaging group are Manhattan Transfer and New York Voices, but there’s nothing that studied about Schwartz and his Conspiracy. Rather, there’s collegiality, an affection for the soul jazz of the ‘60s and ‘70s—and the occasional misstep (key blunder: a sappy version of Van Morrison’s “Crazy Love”). Jill Scott’s “Golden” swings, but trumpeter James Gibbs III and saxman Anthony Ware can’t overcome its repetitiousness, and the group’s take on Miles Davis’s “All Blues” is a bit busy.
Nevertheless, “Songs for the Soul” is largely cool. It sounds like it was a blast to make, and the sense of community that comes through is not only undeniable, it’s infectious.