Damani Phillips, No More Apologies Review
by Stamish Malcuss
Damani Phillips is back with an album that he describes as “an album of Black music rather than a “jazz” album in the traditional sense, No More Apologies is the result of a risky, yet rewarding, musical experiment. A twist of fate brought me together with a one-of-a-kind string section with a uniquely refined understanding of Black music.” Phillips achieves this by creating an exciting ensemble of eight-string players paired with a traditional jazz trio and his flowing saxophone playing. The end result is a stylistic journey through the swing, funk, and more, but always with a groove of syncopated rhythm that grooves beautifully.
“So in Love” begins with the counterpoint of the string ensemble before Phillips performs the melody with enthusiasm and strength. A solid pulse of swing sets the tone for the consistent drive of the solo section. William Menefield plays a stirring piano solo first. The sound of Bebop is boldly in Phillips’ solo style as he performs a beautiful solo, ignoring trends and focusing on melody and chordal clarity. With a sound that is a stylistic time capsule to remain fresh for decades to come, the sleek string writing and orchestration add value to the song’s appeal and flow. Phillip’s latest project shows he is a musician finding a refreshing path that mixes influences and a progenitor of elements of styles and groove.
“Corcovado” gets off to an impactful start with a rich rhythmic groove and unique string performing and writing. Phillips delivers the highs and lows of the well-known melody with passion, painting with bebop embellishments to tell his story. His solo keeps the melody at heart as he tells a tale of groove and expression through his saxophone. The band’s playing is tight and urgent, with the rhythm section providing the foundation for elegant strings sonorities; it sets the tone perfectly.
No More Apologies makes it abundantly clear that Damani Phillips is creating music from the heart, which will speak to music lovers undoubtedly. He is not here to win over new fans or to experiment with and push the confines of any specific genre; instead, he is simply here to compile the joy of groove and syncopation through music with an exciting ensemble. The single-mindedness is unquestionably commendable, true to form of his stated goals of the project,, No More Apologies , reliable groove music with strings.