Jay’s Xperience – Happier Now or When Jive Was Cool | Album Review

jaysxperiencecdJay’s Xperience – Happier Now or When Jive Was Cool

Return of the King Productions


CD: 13 Songs; 57:35 Minutes

Styles: R&B, Soul, Funk, Rap

“Come see real R&B ALIVE! & on the inside”. So proclaims the newest CD from Cincinnati band Jay’s Xperience. This is truth in advertising for a nearly-pure R&B CD, with traces of soul, funk and rap. Anyone searching for traditional blues won’t find it here. With that said, fans of the four other kinds of music mentioned will be Happier Now. In his promotional materials, Jay (whose real name is Brian J. Atkins) clearly states, “My style is a mixture of genres, but blues is the base.” The promo sheet continues: “Even though the theme is death (Jay has lost childhood friends, his mentor Jerome ‘Spoon’ Crawford, and most recently grandma), [there is] albeit the bright side. The sound: Hope. The last two years he has been showcasing this ‘hope’ with the experienced versatility of Gideon ‘Guitar’ Watson, Garrett Lee (drums), Tony Butler (sax), Renee Peters (trumpet), Eric Lattimore (bass), and as always, his New Street Choir.” Together they present “neo-blues”, which might be too “neo” for purists. Others will savor it.

Alongside Jay in the New Street Choir are taskmaster Lynne Moon, Mary B. Dunklin, Daria Acus, Dez Burns, Tryna Rashun, Rhonda Rheed, Melody Tye, Tori Barbour, Marisha Atkins, Kenzi Felder, Ebony Whitney and Stephon Hinton. The featured Nihilistic Horn Section consists of Peter “2 Saxy” Jordan, trombonist Terry Twitty, and trumpet player Michael Dudley. Also performing are Salt of the Earth, Legend E, Camille Saba Smith, Michelle “Dimples” Conway, guitarists Tim Robertson and Don Manor, Jr. Additional musicians include Red Empress, Katiane Ayiti, Milton Blake, Willia Ann Crenshaw, and Takalani.

Together they present thirteen songs – ten originals and a traditional spiritual “ghost track” at the end. As the CD liner notes reveal, “Track 5 contains an interlopation [sic] of ‘The Entertainer’ by Scott Joplin & is free domain”. The other songs frequently have funny and interesting titles such as “Whatever Happened to the Icecream Man”, “The Duck Is Bad”, “Kung Fu Mike”, and “Back When Gang Banging Was Fun”. They all have high energy and lovely harmonies by the New Street Choir and other vocalists. However, are they blues songs? That depends entirely on one’s interpretation. There is electric guitar, but no rhythms on it that could be described as Chicago-style, Texas-style, or otherwise. There are repeated lyrical lines, as in “Moving On”, but this song is not similar to “Tore Down”, for example. Jay’s Xperience has its own postmodern oeuvre.

Nevertheless, Jay’s Xperience received the honor of opening the Cincinnati Blues Festival this year. It was his first major concert, where he and his posse performed alongside such acts as Sweet Alice, The Juice, and the Leroy Ellington Blues Band. His bio says that “Jay has always went [sic] against the grain as far as his peers were concerned.” Truer words were never spoken, especially when it comes to the blues in 2014!

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