Guitarist Chance Hayden Brings Neo Soul, Jazz & Funk Bridging Retro and Contemporary on ‘Grab & Go’ (ALBUM REVIEW)

Portland, OR-based guitarist, composer and producer Chance Hayden returns with Grab & Go, his sophomore album on the Ropeadope imprint Atlanta Records, a follow-up to his 2018 label debut, Get Somethin’.   He brings more of the percolating jazz-funk heard in that debut with a new set of ten originals. With over a decade of sideman performance credits, Hayden has supported many renowned artists including Mel Brown, Andy Stokes, Lindsey Webster, Farnell Newton and Jarrod Lawson (the latter two appeared on his debut) with whom he toured fifteen countries: including Holland’s North Sea Jazz Festival, Japan’s Billboard Live and at an exclusive birthday celebration for Stevie Wonder. 

A clear highlight of the album is the single, “The Comedown,” the only track featuring vocalist Sarah Clarke and it’s got some retro vibe to it. They are co-writers on the song that explores the various aspects of love – the thrill and the lingering doubts. It’s a mid-tempo piece that may evoke memories of Al Green’s ‘70s Hi Records sound. Hayden follows Clarke’s vocal with an exceptionally bluesy guitar outro. This one he renders with a backing quintet of JP Downer on bass, Tyrone Hendrix on drums., Michael Elson on organ, and Alex Milsted on synths. On other tracks, especially the first three, Hayden shares prominence with Elson whose B3 reminds us of some of the classic organ trios/quartets from the soul-jazz era. Additional contributors are bassist Damian Erskine (two tracks), and drummer Mark Griffith (two tracks).

Erskine and Griffith are the rhythm tandem behind “Three Wheelin’” and “Displaced” with the interplay of Elson’s B3 and Hayden’s guitar very much prominent there as well as on the preceding “What’s Behind.”  The syncopated “Displaced” begins in very funky fashion but evolves into a mid-tempo almost minimalist Hayden guitar excursion that again, brings in bluesy elements. The opening chord pattern to the mellow “Solace” evokes Jimi Hendrix’s “The Wind Cries Mary.” The tempo picks up considerably with the aptly named “Double Oven” (just too tempting to say “real burner” or “real cooker” as descriptors but you get the vibe) with Downer and Hendrix steering the groove and Elson weighing in with yet another strong B3 solo. The closer “One Plus One” cruises down the proverbial soul highway at breakneck speed as Downer’s rumbling basslines are especially striking with Milsted rejoined in the party, this time on electric piano, before Hayden finishes it off with clusters of notes and a few high squealing ones for exclamation.

As gifted as Hayden proves to be as a guitarist, his work as a producer is equally, maybe even more remarkable. Hayden’s work is eclectic from the multi-genre video series Peace House Sessions to PDX Jazz commissioned concert programs such as With A Little Help From My Friends: Sgt. Pepper at 50 and most recently The Way We Love, a chamber jazz album from singer-songwriter Shelly Rudolph featuring GRAMMY winning cellist David Darling. Hayden’s compositions have appeared in major motion pictures and television including the Sony Pictures #1 box office film The Perfect Guy and BET series Being Mary Jane. As a Portland State University Jazz Studies graduate, Hayden’s guitar stylings are well informed through the jazz tradition while equally matched with the influence of funky rhythm players such as Curtis Mayfield and Cornell Dupree to story-telling bluesmen such as B.B. King and Johnny Guitar Watson. 

Hayden and his bandmate bring a great blend of retro and contemporary approaches to this highly energetic set.

 

 

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