Acclaimed saxophonist Jacques Schwarz-Bart makes his definitive statement of Soul-Jazz with RISE ABOVE, his debut recording on Dreyfus Jazz.
Featuring Stephanie McKay
Label: Dreyfus Jazz
Street Date: August 31, 2010
Catalog #: DRY-CD-36953
Price Code: AN (MSRP: $14.98)
Soulful sax man Jacques Schwarz-Bart makes his Dreyfus Jazz recording debut with Rise Above, an eclectic blend of jazz and neo-soul featuring the stirring vocal stylings of former Brooklyn Funk Essentials singer Stephanie McKay. Rise Above is an epic culmination of this son of a Black Guadeloupean mother and a French Jewish father’s diverse experiences.
“The great common denominator between all the styles I love, being Funk, Jazz, Soul and R & B, is that the music starts with the drums. It is all about the feel,” he says. “Each of these musical forms offers me an opportunity to express my personal feelings and unique story. I always felt that they needed to come together”.
Following his arrival in New York a decade ago, Schwarz-Bart first received widespread exposure as a member of Roy Hargrove’s AfroCuban big band Crisol. He was later an important part of the trumpeter’s groundbreaking RH Factor band – one of the first and most successful jazz/urban crossovers. Schwarz-Bart’s tune “Forget Regret,” featuring McKay’s vocal, became a hit single from the band’s much acclaimed Hard Groove album. Succeeding Hargrove as leader of the horn section for neo-soul god D’angelo, the saxist began writing tunes based on a mixture of soul and jazz with gwoka flavors.
After connecting with soulmate Stephanie McKay, he started writing the songs with lyrics that would come together on Rise Above: “Adding her vocal presence completed the concept, allowing me to embrace a wide range of emotions, and find an artistic balance between simplicity and abstraction,” says Jacques.
The sound of Rise Above reflects Schwarz-Bart’s impressive resume which includes work with such popular music luminaries as Erykah Badu, Meshell Ndegeocello, Eric Benet, and Soulive, as well as jazz barrier breakers James Hurt, Danilo Perez and David Gilmore, but it’s concept is distinctively the leader’s own, reflect his unique background and heritage.
“This is my oldest project, and yet the one that took the longest to achieve, he says. “I was waiting to have enough experience before taking on this complex musical chemistry.”
Rise Above is a concept album where each tune is whole and complete while at the same time taking a crucial part in the overall balance, like a planet in a galaxy. First and foremost it is a melodic album where every theme can be sung, which is done beautifully by both McKay vocally and Schwarz-Bart instrumentally. Each of the ten tracks on Rise Above blend the different earthy rhythms of gwoka with jazzy harmonies and chosen nuggets of soul and funk that “thicken the sauce,” giving a modern dimension to the sound that is sure to appeal to hip audiences. In addition to the proven hit “Forget Regret,” other notable tracks include lead single “Feel So Free” “Rainbow” and the closing “Home,” co-written with Meshell Ndegeocello.