Meshell Ndegeocello: The Omnichord Real Book review – infectious futurist jazz

(Blue Note)
Spanning synthpop to electronic R&B, the singer and bassist’s expansive Blue Note debut is a genre-hopping class act, with guests to match

Over the past 30 years, German-born American bassist and vocalist Meshell Ndegeocello has lent her unique blend of spacious melodies, rooted grooves and intricate fingerpicking to tracks by everyone from Madonna to Herbie Hancock and Robert Glasper. Across her own albums, Ndegeocello has been honing this sound to create soulful music that interpolates R&B and hip-hop as much as the virtuosity of jazz. Most recently she produced 2018’s Ventriloquism, which reinterpreted R&B tracks from the 80s. On her latest album Ndegeocello now looks forward, producing a futuristic, original soundscape of jaunty synthpop and electronic R&B.

Clattering electronic drum programming gives a modernist swing to tracks such as Georgia Ave and Omnipuss, while Josh Johnson’s synthesised saxophone underpins the keening harmonies of An Invitation. Features from vibraphonist Joel Ross on the balladic Towers and guitarist Jeff Parker on the fast-paced fusion of ASR are meanwhile anchored by Ndegeocello’s punchy bass playing, giving consistency to her genre-hopping palette. At 18 tracks long, certain numbers, such as the guitar-strumming Call the Tune or the ambient Oneelevensixteen, are tantalisingly brief and sketch-like. As a whole, it’s a confident imagining of her infectious future funk sound.

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