If you haven’t experienced the work of percussionist Sheila E. outside the realm of ’80s pop/R&B hits like “The Glamorous Life,” get ready to be floored by the many influences, tricky timings and jaw-dropping performances highlighting Writes of Passage. With the support of a stellar ensemble, including keyboardist Renato Neto, saxophonist Eric Leeds and guitarist Ray Obiedo, Sheila crafts crackling stand-up jams (“Protocol”), anthemic ballads (“Passing Through,” lent a rootsy Americana feel by Dino Soldo’s harmonica work) and flaming fusion timing pieces (“Virtuosity”) with detail and unparalleled energy. Writes manages to be both daring and innately accessible: where “Truth” boasts an almost Middle Eastern vibe, with Neto and Leeds conversing through the changes, “Rituals” integrates a Latin under-stomp on a lithe timing piece that features a great, feathery Obiedo guitar solo. Other highlights here include the uplifting, authentic retro-soul jam “Paragon,” featuring some truly groovy Rhodes work by Neto, and the surprising, gospel-tinged “N Perfect Time,” which sparkles with percussion and Sheila’s uplifting vocal lead praising joy wrought from patience (“Brothers and sisters, take your time/Knowledge and wisdom we will find”).
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