Tanika Charles, Alex Sill, Isaiah Sharkey + Others: Five for the Road

Tanika Charles, Alex Sill and Isaiah Sharkey are part of the latest edition of Five for the Road, an occasional look at music that’s been in my car lately …

ALEX SILL – EXPERIENCES REAL AND IMAGINARY (JAZZ): This albums has been sitting around in my car for a while. In fact, it was almost over looked. But Alex Sill is a talented composer and imaginative guitarist. His work with Simon Phillips’ Protocol starts a new chapter in his career, but Experiences Real and Imaginaryproves his meddle as a band leader. The LA-based guitarist combines flavors of idols such as Kurt Rosenwinkel and Allan Holdsworth with his own flair, which results in an impressive solo debut. Check out his songs “The Ballad of James Dean” and “To a Theater Near You,” and be prepared to be impressed.

McFADDEN ALEXANDER BRAITHWAITE STIRLING AND SCHLEPP – TO PARADISE FOR ONIONS (CLASSICAL): Melodically captivating, and endlessly vivid, To Paradise for Onions: Songs and Chamber Works of Edith Hemenway is something you didn’t know you needed in your life, but you’ll be glad you found it. The album, which is the first to feature Edith Hemenway’s work, is delightful in its scope. Sopranos Claron McFadden and Roberta Alexander combine with clarinetist Nancy Braithwaite, cellist Michael Stirling and pianist Vaughan Schepp to breathe life into Hemenway’s vision. “Doors (Three Poems by W.S. Merwin)” opens the door to a world that classical fans – whether casual or hard-core connoisseur – will happily step through.

ISAIAH SHARKEY – LOVE IS THE KEY (R&B): Perhaps better known as guitarist for D’Angelo and John Mayer, Isaiah Sharkey delivers my favorite R&B album so far this year with Love Is the Key. The Grammy-winning Chicago native (for D’Angelo’s Black Messiah) has delivered 17 hook-laden gems which shimmer with an old-school authenticity and a new-school sensibility. “Love is Key,” the lead-off song, combines elements of funk and jazz to make a new classic. Isaiah Sharkey doesn’t rely solely on his melodic skills and vocals, however. He’s the master of taste and economy on guitar, and his skills shine on the entire album. Check out the single, “Time” and get on board the Isaiah Sharkey train.

TANIKA CHARLES – THE GUMPTION (SOUL): Out now on Record KicksThe Gumption finds Tanika Charles delivering a pumping collection of songs which feed the soul. Combining traditional R&B-infused guitars and tight rhythms, the Trinidadian-Canadian soul songstress offers an enchanting vocal delivery for her second solo work. Not a lick is wasted. “Tell Me Something” almost has a Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings-type vibe, while “Love Overdue” touches on Gladys Knight at the height of her powers. This may well be the best 38 minutes of music released in a long time.

ANA MAZZOTTI – NINGUEM VAI ME SEGURAR (JAZZ REISSUE): Ana Mazzotti had a short career before her untimely death due to cancer. Luckily, the Brazilian vocalist and keyboardist’s two solo albums are being rereleased on September 13, 2019. Ninguem Vai Me Segurar, Mazzotti’s first studio project, combines samba, funk and imaginative playing to enchant the listener. On “Eu Sou Mais Eu,” Ana Mazzotti lays down a jazzy Fender Rhodes solo atop her clavinet foundation. Her vocals, offered in Portuguese, are as strong as her playing. This 1974 album is magically recorded, with all the warmth you’d expect from the era. A highlight remains Mazzotti’s version of Roberta Flack’s “Feel Like Making Love” (in English), which almost makes you forget the original. More than that, it points to what a loss the music world suffered when Ana Mazzotti died.