Music Review: The Omnichord Real Book

by Meshell NdegeocelloBLUE NOTE RECORDS
reviewed by John Malkin

Music is a transformative force for Grammy Award-winning singer, bass player, and song-writer Meshell Ndegeocello. Her latest album, The Omnichord Real Book, is all about seeing old things in new ways, and the sonic experience is hugely original. African and hip-hop rhythms merge with electronica and Omnichord drum patterns over jazz chord progressions. (The Omnichord was an early [1981] electronic key-board, something of a harpsichord-synth.)

Ndegeocello’s famously solid bass playing holds down the grooves while her uplifting vocals offer insightful views grounded in a gratitude for life and a sense of cosmic hope and possibility.

The song “Clear Water” is startlingly on point for our times: “Don’t be fooled by the myth of control / Be at peace within the chaos and the constant rebirth of the creative mind / To be in the now of creation … push past the predictability and comfort into the unknown.”

“Perceptions” is encased in sweet piano and a vocal melody with this spiritual teaching: “Don’t let your outside world distract you from your inner world.” And the song “ASR” continues: “We’re here to set the clock to here and now / Feed the people, stop the hate.”

Some of the guest artists who grace this beautiful album include Jason Moran (piano and composition), Ambrose Akinmusire (trumpet), Joel Ross (vibraphone), Joan As Police Woman (vocals), Kenita Miller (vocals), and Thandiswa Mazwai (vocals).

Ndegeocello’s first record was released 30 years ago when she was 22 years old, and The Omnichord Real Book is her debut on Blue Note, the perennial jazz label. As Ndegeocello sings, “Be at peace, get comfortable. Stay awhile.”

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