Gideon King, of New York City, is a composer, guitarist and producer whose projects span a diverse array of musical genres and styles including funk, jazz, rock, fusion and pop. King has studied with some of the best jazz and classical musicians New York City has to offer and has produced for and collaborated with world-class performing musicians such as John Scofield, Chris Potter, Marc Broussard, James Genus and Grace Weber, among others. Gideon King & City Blog represents King’s commitment to creating what he calls “the best studio band on earth”; on this album King is supported by bass players James Genus (who has played with Herbie Hancock, Daft Punk, as well as the Saturday Night Live Band) and Matt Penman (John Scofield, Brad Mehldau), drummers Willard Dyson (Regina Belle, Grady Tate, Jimmy Scott) and Donald Edwards (Freddie Hubbard, Terrance Blanchard), keyboardist Kevin Hays (John Scofield, Brad Mehldau), saxophonist Donny McCaslin (Gil Evans Orchestra, George Gruntz Concert Jazz Band) and vocalists Marc Broussard (world famous for his “Bayou Soul” sound and deep, rich voice), Carolyn Leonhart (a regular member of Steely Dan’s vocal team), Grace Weber (who was awarded 2015’s “Best Artist On The Verge” by New Music Seminar), Elliott Skinner (of Third Story fame) and Saul Kurtz (a percussive and soulful solo artist known for his vulnerable and distinctive voice). Gideon King & City Blog has been called a “studio project of legendary proportions” for good reason; enjoy our review of this imaginative, virtuosic record below.
‘City Blog’ opens with dissonant notes that compete beautifully with an appealing melody, showcasing a perfect amount of tension right from the beginning. Everything immediately sounds extremely pleasant (the tone of each instrument, as well as the performance of each instrument) and intriguing; vocals enter at the start of the first verse, soon coupled by an electric guitar whose tone is harsher than I would’ve expected, yet absolutely fitting. The bass play is excellent, the vocal tone, comforting, and a beautiful pre-chorus makes way for ascending melodies that carry the choruses. This opening song showcases incredible performances by the instrumentalists, the bassist and pianist, especially. The pianist’s incredibly jazzy, free-flowing performance fits perfectly with the walking bass lines that never stagnate or drag. Towards the later parts of the song King opens his guitar solo with noise before embarking on quick melodic runs that make way for dissonance towards the close of the solo. ‘City Blog’ is a well-written song all around with an interesting and easy-to-follow storyline; truly an absolute pleasure to listen to. ‘See In Double’ follows, opening in a softer, more subtle fashion with piano, acoustic guitar and drums (played with brushes this time). A stand-up bass and King’s electric guitar soon enter, joined shortly thereafter by soulful, emotive male vocals. The vocal parts are performed splendidly, and higher female backing vocals added the perfect amount of depth to sections that preceded beautiful choruses. The lyrics contained within ‘See In Double’ are extremely visual and there was so much emotion in the instrument performances. This song gives listeners their first taste of horn parts that enter midway through the song for an extended yet much appreciated solo. A captivating drum pattern opens ‘Down’ and is soon accompanied by an effected electric guitar. Other instruments enter, as do powerful Frank Sinatra-like vocals in the verses. The song’s mildly humorous chorus lyrics (“keep an open mind, I don’t think so” and “I like my stubborn where it’s at”) showcase the human element and soon make way for revelatory and instigative lyrics (“music of today is like the cloud that covers the earth, music of today is like the child that says me first”) that prove King is not afraid to call out today’s music for what it is. King takes jabs at Carly Rae Jepsen (‘Call Me Maybe’) and Pharrell (‘Happy’) before giving credit to “Evans and Schofield, Aretha and Bono” (“at least they go deeper, nothing borrowed”). This seven and a half minute track again features stellar instrument performances, most eloquently showcased when the song is broken down after three minutes to make room for a piano solo that is supported by fluid playing by the drummer and bassist. King’s electric guitar picks up where the piano left off and solos until five and a half minutes before the song doubles back on earlier sections.
‘New York Is’ opens with piano and a clean electric guitar. Grooving drums enter, coupled with inviting, evocative female vocals that soon soar across the recording’s soundscape. Everything seems calculated, drawn up and executed perfectly; this is another beautiful composition, different in that female vocals are much more prominent, whereas before the vocal parts were male-dominated (aside from female backing vocals that were subtle within the mix). ‘Friendship Cliché’ opens with a repetitive forty second intro of drums and vocals before the brash electric guitar from the album’s opener returns. This composition features one of the more relatable lines on the entire album (“you’ll call me once a year”) as well as intriguing chord progressions in the verses. The drum play is especially expressive, the instrumentation again excellent, with Genus moving around his bass’ fretboard with incredible freedom. ‘What Say You’ features an upright bass whose play is fantastic and another extended intro. Male vocals now back the beautiful female vocal lead in the verses, parts which are performed beautifully. This track, while more subdued than previous offerings, contains a great storyline and diverts from previous album cuts by focusing more on King’s dexterous acoustic guitar play. An acoustic guitar lead riff opens ‘Glide’, as do forceful (yet not overpowering) drums. The acoustic guitar play is again outstanding, as are the grooving drum patterns. Female vocals again lead in the verses before a beautiful chorus enters, complete with a walking bass line that is coupled with soaring female vocals that are emblematic of the song’s theme and lyrical content. The six minute ‘Glide’ is another diverse, intelligent musical offering, more straightforward than previous tracks yet containing one of the best lines on the whole album (“we never lost the game, we just ran out of time”). ‘Dirty Bastard’, which is distinct in sound and vibe, features magnificent pre-choruses and evocative vocal performances by both male and female vocalists. The song crescendos and diminuendos beautifully throughout; its highlights include an extensive, fluidly-performed electric guitar solo by King and another excellent performance by keyboardist Kevin Hays. ‘Dirty Bastard’ also contains one of the better phrases the album has to offer (“you can never fool the company you keep”). ‘Just Play’ has a straightforward jazzy guitar intro that leads into a verse where male and female vocals echo one another. The piano, bass and drums parts are subdued here and allow the vocals to take center stage. King’s electric guitar parts are less prominent here as well, but his phrasing is beautiful; each part is well-placed and there is no hint of overplaying. The song’s vibe, both vocally and lyrically, is sensual, and even though the lyrical content deals with conflict at times the listener is made to feel at peace. ‘Broken Noise’ closes “City Blog” with male and female vocals, specifically three-part harmonies of the lines from ‘Down’ (“keep an open mind, I don’t think so”…). The finale melds three of the album’s tracks, including ‘Down’, ‘Just Play’ and ’New York Is’ with Hays’ piano connecting the new interpretations of the different compositions.
Gideon King & City Blog’s release is a must-listen for anyone who appreciates musicianship. Having adverse feelings towards this album is the equivalent of disrespecting musicality and creativity in full. There are no errors in performance throughout the entire record, a record that was well-thought out with lots of care and attention to detail taken to ensure its perfect delivery. This is the absolute peak of instrumentation and musicianship; the performances on this record are absolutely amazing and will leave you with your jaw on the floor. There truly is so much talent displayed on this record, with extreme musical freedom showcased especially by bassist James Genus and keyboardist Kevin Hays. With “City Blog”, Gideon King has truly put together an incredible studio band that performed in an downright outstanding manner to ensure that each and every one of his compositions was fully realized in the most musical and technical way possible.