Among the many great talented and hard-working bass players I most admire is Alvin Mills.
This American bassist has carved a brilliant music career in Germany where he has recorded a masterpiece of a record. His latest release is called “Looking Past Forward”.
From the onset, it is very clear that this entire 12 track CD is a work of love for Alvin Mills. The way the songs have been crafted and arranged makes it clear that every song is a connection to family and friends for Alvin. Even the way the CD is flawlessly produced demonstrates the devotion the Alvin Mills Project has to this music and the people attached to it.
Simply put, this is a gorgeous record with tons of great grooves and well-manicured arrangements. Although the CD is well balanced in terms of instrumentation, there is a wealth of ideas for bass players. The bass tones are fabulous, and the harmony used to create some of the bass lines is sublime.
The best place to listen to this CD, for me, is in the car on the expressway. On each song, the rhythm section propels the listener forward effortlessly. The entire recording is dripping with feel. There are no wasted notes anywhere on the entire CD. There is nothing pretentious about this record. It is what it is and I absolutely love it!
As most seasoned bass players know, note duration and the use of space are critical in groove construction. Alvin Mills is a master of both. Each note is perfection! The way he chooses how long or how short to sustain his notes is brilliant! The result is an incredible pocket.
“Looking Past Forward” opens up with a groovy mid-tempo tune called “Run And Tell That”. With this song, the listener learns very quickly that the level of musicianship in the Alvin Mills Project is world-class. The sax player plays with great tone and great precision. The keyboard player chooses just the right patches and follows that up with some truly great playing. And the drummer is on it right from the opening. No doubt about it, this band is very tight!
The second track, “Lakewood”, is an up tempo song that brings in the strong funk influence. On this track, the band, especially the rhythm section, is as tight as ever. Alvin thumps with a great tone that cuts through the mix while supporting the band. There are lots of subtle licks and fills that Alvin sneaks in between the grooves.
Two songs really stick out on this CD for me. They are “Beverly” and “Maggie Lee”. “Beverly” is a gorgeous ballad that is beautifully played and recorded. It is very well arranged. However, my favorite track is “Maggie Lee”. This track is an amazing tribute to Alvin Mills’ mother. The way this song is written, played and produced leaves one spellbound. Clearly, this is the song that Alvin and his band poured most of their heart and soul. It touches my soul each time I listen to it, and it makes me think of my own mother and how wonderful she is.
The song “Maggie Lee” brings a lot to the table. It brilliantly shows how compositions and arrangements can convey emotion. In addition, this song offers many musical ideas worth leaning or simply enjoying. On this track, Alvin Mills and his band hit the ball out of the park.
The Alvin Mills Project is made up of bassist and leader Alvin Mills (bass, drums, Fender Rhodes, Percussion and Synths), Stephan Schuchardt (Drums), Rainer Scheithauer (Moog, Piano, Synths, Organ, Fender Rhodes), and Arno Haas (Saxophone). The guest musicians included Uwe Metzler (Acoustic Guitar), Sevan Gökoglu (organ & Piano), and vocalists Alisia Harris, Ellliot and Charles Simmons.
There are few CD’s that end up staying in my CD player once I put them in. This is one of them. I simply cannot hear it enough. The tracks on this CD will join the tracks I listen to over and over on my media players.
Visit online: www.alvinmills.com
Alvin Mills Project- Looking Past Forward
Alvin Mills Project – Keep Your Head To The Sky
Photo: Patricia Adama Photography