Album Remarks & Appraisals:
2009 album from the vocalist/saxophonist. Free Your Mind is Beasley's attempt to make sense of recent emotionally charged events some global, some personal that have changed his perspective on his own life in particular and the human experience in general 'All I wanted to do with this record was accurately reflect the times and how I felt about them', says Beasley. 'I had been working so much in the past few years, and living this musical life so intensely, that I hadn't taken the time to recognize the emotional impact of some things that had been happening in my life and in the world. With the times being what they are, I think this is a record that can help people let go of their concerns for a while and just lose themselves in the moment'.
JazzTimes (p.100) - "'DukeZilla' recalls the Brazilian jazz of George Duke...with Beasley's wordless vocals and the Latin grooves making it unlike anything he's ever recorded before."
Personnel: Walter Beasley (vocals, saxophone); Lynne Fiddmont (vocals, background vocals); Jeff Lockhart, Mark Strowbridge, Randall Bowland, Rick Watford (guitar); Tony Watson Jr. (saxophone); Derek Cannon, Derek Cannon (trumpet); James K. Lloyd (keyboards, programming); Walter Barnes, Raymond McKinley, Craig Shaw, Sean Michael Ray, Sam Sims, Webster Roach (bass guitar); John Roberts & Tony Barrand, John Roberts (drums, percussion, background vocals); Rafael Pereira (percussion); Phil Davis (keyboard programming, drum programming); David "Pookie" Cole (drum programming).
Programmer: James K. Lloyd .
Audio Mixer: Martin Walters.
Author: Walter Beasley .
Photographer: Paul Greco.
The frustrating thing about smooth jazz isn't an absence of talent or chops; actually, there are plenty of smooth jazz musicians who have chops galore even though their studio recordings don't reflect that. At smooth jazz concerts, it isn't hard to find artists who take a lot more chances on-stage than they do in the studio. But taking chances in the studio isn't conducive to airplay on commercial smooth jazz/NAC radio stations, which is why so many generic, unimaginative smooth jazz recordings have been flooding the market since the 1980s. However, not everything that Walter Beasley records is without merit -- and Free Your Mind does have its moments. When Beasley takes some chances on this early-2009 release, the listener catches glimpses of what he is capable of. The veteran saxman lets loose on "Shirlitta" (which boasts an addictive Afro-Cuban-minded groove) and the appealing, Brazilian-influenced "DukeZillia" (named after pianist/keyboardist George Duke, who has made some fine contributions to Brazilian jazz along the way). Beasley is obviously quite fond of Latin music, and the influence of Afro-Cuban and Brazilian music is a plus on Free Your Mind. Also noteworthy is "Barack's Groove," which was written for Barack Obama and offers a bit of a Central African flavor. ~ Alex Henderson