By: Edward Blanco

Veteran drummer Steve Johns has performed with some of the greats of jazz from Dr. Billy Taylor, Sonny Fortune to Jimmy Heath and Randy Brecker, while Peter Brainin is one of the most recognizable and brilliant saxophonist in the jazz world today. Along with bass virtuoso
Marcus McLaurine and pianist Noah Haidu, one of the rising young lions of jazz, together this group is a unique collective quartet formed about six years ago and is called simply, Native Soul.
For the New York-based group, Soul Step represents the band’s second effort blending an amazing selection of hard-swinging contemporary jazz with a mix of blues, Brazilian, funk and a touch of gospel to make it interesting.

The eleven-piece repertoire contains creative originals from all members of the band and settles on a couple of unique standards. The Haidu arranged rendition of Edward Redding’s “End of A Love Affair” masks the melody with a bit of improvisational grit and delicious solos making for one of the memorable moments on the album. Not many Jimi Hendrix tunes make the transformation to the jazz genre but “Castles Made of Sand” does here. Arranged by saxophonist Brainin, this once rock-hardened tune comes off much lighter featuring Haidu on the keyboards for a touch of the electric sound and has the saxophonist on lead.

The album starts off with the Haidu original title piece featuring Brainin on the soprano as the band churns out the first of several hard-driving groove tunes. Drummer Johns delivers a taste of the blues on his “Deep Blue,” while the funk comes alive on the McLaurine original “Inner Search.” Perhaps in tribute to the great Charles Mingus, Brainin’s piece titled simply “Mingus” moves along in one of the better contemporary statements on the disc with bassist McLaurine doing his best Mingus impression on a nice bass line.

Pianist Haidu contributes the title piece from his debut album “Slipstream” as the band performs its most ambitious chart on the nine-minute “Talking Drum.” Other highlights include “One for OP,” and “Gift Within.” When all is done listening to the music on Native Soul’s latest release,
Soul Step, there’s little question that the music delivers a rousing and soulful musical statement worth many spins.

Year: 2011
Label: Talking Drums Records
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