The music of Sly and the Family Stone was innovative and has influenced so many artists. Sly Stone's music's impact can still be heard today. Reflecting this influence is an extraordinary release by Global Noize, Sly Reimagined on the Zoho Roots label that shows how Sly and the Family Stone remain contemporary.
Jason Miles is the instigator (along with DJ Logic) behind Global Noize and this release. Jason came to notice with his groundbreaking synth programming for Miles Davis’ ‘80s recordings Tutu, Music from Siesta and Amandla, and later contributed to a genre-crossing array of artists as well as a variety of legacy-based dedications to Marvin Gaye, Ivan Lins, Vandross, and Grover Washington. Miles, a visionary conceptualist, producer, arranger, composer and keyboard wizard, has organized this tribute to the legendary Sly and the Family Stone with a remarkable group of contemporary singers and musicians including, but not limited to) (b DJ Logic; vocalists Nona Hendryx; Roberta Flack; Fatu; Maya Azucena; and Mike Mattison; guitarist Will Bernard; trumpeters Ingrid Jensen and Barry Danielian; saxophonists Jay Rodriguez and Ron Holloway; bassist Amanda Ruzza; and drummer Greg Errico (Sly’s original drummer).
Miles first saw Sly and the Family Stone opening for Jimi Hendrix in 1968 and has been listening and playing their music over the past 40 + years. As he writes in the liner notes “Making an album of Sly’s music has been on my mind for over a decade. I saw the opportunity to reintroduce this great music and re-imagine Sly’s music for 21st century sensibilities.” Sly’s original music itself transcended categories while contributing to the development of funk and fusion. His original recordings still have a freshness to them. What Miles has done here is to provide a broad musical palette in rendering some of the classic songs that Sly left us, fusing, funk, jazz and hip hop for the stirring musical results.
What one hears is Sly’s music that captures the spirit of Sly’s originals without imitating them. Perhaps it is the presence of Errico on the opening Time who sets forth the groove as Nona Hendryx handles the vocal. Ingrid Jensen channels Miles Davis with her trumpet behind the vocals of Roberta Flack (mostly repeating the title) and James D Train Williams on It’s a Family Affair, while Jay Rodriguez takes a couple of tenor sax breaks. This performance is one of two presented here in two separate mixes, and in both cases illustrate the skill Jason Miles has in mixing the various musical elements together. I was not familiar with Maya Azucena, but her vocal on Fun set against a tough funk groove really got my attention, and her vocals on You Can Make It If You Try, (shared with James D Train Williams) and Stand, are equally outstanding. Rodriguez does some serious bar walking on his sax during You Can Make It If You Try, on which Jensen is heard playing without a mute.
I don’t want to slight the leader’s keyboards either. Not only did he organize this and create the arrangements of the songs, but his playing also is an integral part of these terrific performances. Sly Reimagined shows how contemporary Sly and the Family Stone's music remains today. Just like Sly's original recordings, this is serious musical fun for listening and partying..