You know the hardworking Menahan Street Band, if not from their previous album then for their work with Charles Bradley and Lee Fields and Amy Winehouse – and the horn section doubles for The Dap-Kings so you’ve heard these players in a variety of contexts and they are sharp. Always. And with their own all-instrumental albums the focus is on bringing the subdued-funk and soulful grooves out within textures that hint also at Ethiopian jazz and the sixties and seventies fusion/funk soundtracks.
Undeniably filmic, The Crossing opens with the title track, and in the rhythm section there are reminders of The Bar-Kays and the golden work that band did in being the sound of/for so many great records in its era. Menahan Street Band’s best moments though, for me, are when the band shows colours and shapes that bend and blur and move outside of the obvious funk/soul touchstones. So here it’s Seven Is The Wind and Driftwood that mean the most to me. I hear – so clearly – hints of Morricone and Moroder and Cooder and most assuredly David Axelrod.
It only seems right that such immaculate production and playing would come from impeccable taste (as well as with impeccable taste).
The Crossing will be many things to many people: a soul/funk/groove modern classic, an album of sample-delights for instrumental hip-hop heads, a soundtrack for the best movie playing in your head when you step out for a daily (or nightly) stroll. And it can be all of those things. And more. It’s a really great record. The kind you hope so many people will hear and love; the kind that also feels a bit special, one you’d like to keep for yourself just as much as you’d like to share it all about. One that I’m very glad the band decided to share. In an age and era of here-today/gone-tomorrow music this one feels like it’ll be around for a long time. And I like it for that too.