Album Remarks & Appraisals:
Saxophonist Marion Meadows is hiding something. Like a deft sleight-of-hand artist, there's always something up his sleeve that ultimately reveals itself when the music starts. Somewhere in those mysterious spaces between the notes, the simple treasures and universal truths are laid bare for those whose ears and minds and hearts are open to discover them. Meadows uncovers some of these hidden mysteries on Secrets. 12 tracks.
Personnel: Marion Meadows (clarinet, saxophone); Johnny Britt (vocals, trumpet); Brian Chartrand, Sean Patrick Thomas, Charlie Karp (vocals); Will Brock (guitar, keyboards, drum programming); Perry Hughes, Freddie Fox (guitar); Brian Keane (acoustic guitar, electric guitar, piano, keyboards, drum programming); Anthony Church (saxophone); Jesse McGuire (trumpet); Chip Shearin (piano, keyboards); Jay Rowe (piano); Rachel Eckroth (Fender Rhodes piano, Wurlitzer organ); Mike Broening (keyboards, programming); Tony Verdejo (percussion).
Audio Mixers: Mike Broening; Johnny Britt; Phil Magnotti; Brian Keane .
Audio Remasterer: Paul Blakemore.
Recording information: Foxhole Studios, Los Angeles, CA; The Chase Lounge, Gilbert, AZ; The Pretty Ricky Room, Phoenix, AZ.
Marion Meadows has the talent and the chops to record a truly great album of improvisatory jazz, be it fusion, post-bop, hard bop, cool jazz, or soul-jazz. The soprano saxophonist did, after all, receive his education in jazz from heavyweights like Eddie Daniels, Norman Connors, and the late Joe Henderson. But regrettably, Meadows has spent most of his career catering to smooth jazz stations and offering lightweight background music. Secrets, like so many formulaic smooth sax albums, has a strong Grover Washington, Jr. influence but generally lacks Washington's grit, edginess, or sense of adventure. There have been numerous Washington disciples in smooth jazz (from Najee to Dave Koz to Kenny G to the late George Howard), and most of them have played it much, much safer than their idol -- which is what Meadows does most of the time on Secrets. Overall, this 2009 release is a decidedly conservative affair from Meadows, who plays mostly soprano sax but gets in some tenor sax and clarinet as well. But Secrets does have its moments. This CD contains a memorable version of Pat Metheny's Brazilian-influenced "Here to Stay," and "The Shade Tree" (which is one of Secrets' vocal offerings) has an appealing, Michael Franks-ish quality. Also enjoyable is the Latin-tinged "Sand Dancers." So even though Secrets favors a by-the-book approach most of the time, Meadows occasionally lets loose and gambles with inspiration. One wishes, however, that he did it a lot more often. Secrets will probably be well received by the smooth jazz program directors that Meadows is going after, but he is capable of so much more. ~ Alex Henderson