by Jeff Becker
Meadows is joined on his sophomore recording Somethin’ Good, with Brent Birckhead on alto sax, Eric Kennedy on drums, Eric Wheeler on bass, Paul Bollenback on guitar, Warren Wolf on vibes and guest vocalists Lena Seikaly and Christine Dashiell on a couple of tracks. In addition to playing piano, Meadows also sings on four of the tracks, with a John Legend easy going vibe to his vocal style. Meadows has a witty writing style, his compositions are fresh and enjoy a strong foundation in the tradition of jazz coupled with a reach into to contemporary sounds and inspiration. Meadows’ lyrics are positive and are every bit as enjoyable as the music and playing, which makes this offering even more appealing. Seikaly and Dashiell’s voices are used to sing non-lyric melodies and function as enhancement to the overall ensemble sound.
On four cover tunes Meadows shows his arranging skills, which include Michael Jackson’s “Rock With You,” Dizzy Gillespie’s “Groovin’ High,” “Come Together” by Lennon-McCartney, and a solo piano rendition of Billy Strayhorn’s “Lush Life.” All four selections have been well-traversed over the years and many have used them as improvisational vehicles, but Meadows keeps it fresh by adding some truly creative touches without deconstructing the tunes into unrecognizable renditions.
“Rock With You” is given a 5/4 groove intro that effortlessly segues to 4/4 feel for the verse. Meadows displays confident singing and well-placed vocal harmonies by the chorus which adds just the right interest. A return to a 5/4 feel with an interlude before Bollenback’s solo, then is layered over a nice 6/8 feel. When reading this concept on paper one might think this will sound distracting, but Meadows seamlessly connects the details into a flawless flow.
These two examples are only that; examples of the exemplary work and ideas of a composer, arranger and performer who reside in one very talented Mark Meadows. His arranging skills are inventive, interesting and well beyond his young years. His vocal style is a modern sound with an almost crossover appeal. The sound of jazz is growing daily, and the younger generation is trumpeting their sound, Meadows is at the forefront of that creative wave, definitely one to watch.