Album Review: Sharon Musgrave's "Outflow", By Peggy Oliver
“Fascinating Rhythm,” not to be mistaken with the George Gershwin jazz standard from the twenties, was a funky diet of soul, jazz and reggae flavors provided by dance producer extraordinaire William Orbit. The voice who graced the U.K. top ten dance hit from 1990 was Sharon Musgrave. After touring to support the Orbit’s Bass-O-Matic project, Set the Controls for the Heart of the Bass and the hit single “Fascinating Rhythm,” the England born, Canadian native found another outlet to demonstrate her earthy vocal tones to the jazz world with Julian Joseph. Thanks to a performance of Curtis Mayfield’s “The Other Side of Town” from Joseph’s Language of Love disc, Musgrave’s collaboration with the pianist led to a tour where they opened for Herbie Hancock and others. Then came her solo debut in 2001 on her Zosar Music imprint – Selah - revealing a riveting mix of jazz sensibility interspersed with spoken word, pop, R&B, blues and folk. No wonder because Musgrave’s inspirations run extremely deep from Bob Marley to Billie Holliday to Joni Mitchell.
Though she has remained musically active for the past several years in her current hometown of Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, Musgrave finally presents her sophomore Zosar Music release - Outflow – an excellent flow of original tunes mostly co-penned with producer/drummer/percussionist Peter Grimmer that should appeal to commercial and underground audiences. Once again, Musgrave does not disappoint with her musicality backed by her reliable vocal performance. Not surprisingly considering her relationship to the dance community with Orbit and U.K. producer Steve Miller AKA Afterlife (the 2009 single “Fantasy”), there are several remixes of three tracks encompassing different rhythmic styles.
Within Outflow’s diverse selection, Musgrave really excels in the elements of jazz and spoken word. The opening “Beautiful Music” generates an acid jazz feel combining unadulterated soul and swinging mellow guitar and piano grooves. “The Embrace” brings the romance in a classy bossa nova setting, while “Same Old” fuses modern jazz with a hip-hop edge and a colorful solo from trumpeter Troy Dowding. For that funky jazz fix, “Everybody Wants It” features Musgrave honey-dripped scats and a brief vocal/trumpet conversation with Dowding. As for the ultimate highlight, check out Musgrave’s moving spoken word piece – “Inna B Flat” - about navigating through everyday life: “She learns that what was once a struggle becomes food for thought,” The soft jungle beats that accent Musgrave’s rapid fire poetry are courtesy of Grimmer’s impeccable drum and percussion timing.
Other songs of note include the Eastern meets African slow jam – “Why” - with Derek Musgrave on additional backing vocals and Toby Stewart on saxophone; and the soul/folk one-two punch of the title track. Then there are the remixes to consider; the best belonging to the Afternoons in Stereo acoustic jazz/chill out vision and soca jam alternative of “Everybody Wants It” and “Beautiful Music” (Thorority Dub) decorated with gorgeous atmospheric keyboards and funky aftertaste. The latter two are remixed by Thor, who also worked on Musgrave and Afterlife on “Fantasy.”
Outflow is quite the diverse package, yet the track continuity and vocal and instrumental standard is set quite high. Born with fascinating rhythm and the talent to match, Musgrove possesses an incredible love affair with soul, jazz and dance fans.