This hooked me right from the beginning of ‘Souvenirs of Love’ featuring the narration of Mary Stallings, Vincent Herring’s alto saxophone romantic in a trio setting with pianist Eric Reed and bassist Buster Williams.
With artwork full of tickets and old postmarks it’s a journey through time, souvenirs of love as the lyric has it. That sounds pretty cheesy which of course it is. But Meeco manages to make it convincing as he deals with his experiences of the last few years: the end of a relationship; moving from Paris to Berlin; finding new love along the way: the songs reflecting memories, thoughts and feelings about these events.
Meeco – a pianist, composer and producer: real name Michael Maier – has written the words and music to the majority of the material assembling a strong cast of players: John Scofield and Richard Bona for instance on the emotive anthem ‘May My Dreams Come True’; singer Jean Baylor and saxophonist Kirk Whalum on ‘Every Day’ when the album takes a smooth jazz direction; rapper Talib Kweli who features on the new David Lyttle album Faces is on ‘Times Have Changed’ which again has a strong band of players including trumpeter Wallace Roney and Herring again, Roney burning against the rap. So there’s plenty of variety maybe a few too many chops and changes for some and quite a lot of vocals, a bit of a mixed bag.
Baylor is again a featured singer on ‘If Only I Knew’ on which Eddie Henderson also appears in the band. The artwork is a real treat with cleverly presented representations of the lyrics framed by old letters, postcards and photographs. Yahzarah, a backing singer for Erykah Badu, returns on ‘Can’t Get You Out of My Mind,’ again a bit on the smooth side, and vibes star Stefon Harris joins Baylor and the band on ‘Paris at Night’ which again has that nostalgic atmosphere the album does so well. Casey Benjamin of the Robert Glasper Experiment adds vocoderised vocals on the cosmic ‘Your Eyes’ that also includes guitarist Lionel Loueke and flautist Hubert Laws among other luminaries. Scofield’s best bits probably come at the beginning of ‘Words of Love’ another song featuring Yahzarah who is also on the very slow ‘For You’ where again Herring weaves a spell. Laws joins Eric Reed and celebrated Brazilian cellist Jaques Morelenbaum on ‘Farewell,’ which is very pretty. The album also includes a few remixes and instrumental versions of ‘Paris at Night’ and ‘Your Eyes’. A sprawling affair then. I’m not sure if it all stacks up but there are a few songs that are quite special and linger. The smoother tracks don’t do a lot for me but it’s an album worth taking a risk on particularly if your tastes run from jazz into soul. Stephen Graham
Released in the UK/Ireland on 16 February