In just a few short years Greg Adams has built his East Bay Soul creation into the preeminent horn driven collective of its era. Indeed since the band’s self-titled debut hit the streets in 2009 the army of ‘funk soldiers’ who hang on the band’s every note has increased at an incredible rate. The follow-up, ‘East Bay Soul 2.0’, that came along in 2012 only served to underwrite ESB’s undisputed credentials and now Adams’ has taken the project to a whole new level with the simply incredible ‘That’s Life’.
Want to know what the buzz is all about? Then look no further than the collection’s opening track, the high-octane funk drenched ‘Little Black Dress’ that is fronted by vocalist Darryl Walker and underpinned by one of Adams’ hallmark horn arrangements. Later, when the tempo eases for the romantically inclined ‘Grow Old With Me’, Walker is again at his immaculate best and as the mood stays enticingly tender Adams weaves his magic with the spellbinding ‘Without You’.
East Bay Soul’s jazz roots are very much on show with the edgy ‘Get Smart’ that was written by Adams and Nick Milo. In fact this powerhouse combination contribute five of the album’s eleven tracks with ‘Damned If You Do’ being particularly notable for the way it recaptures the golden days of big band. Alternatively, if a cool vibe is your thing, ‘Didn’t Wanna Do It’ (complete with atmospheric trumpet from Adams) might just be the best song you hear all year and, although the chilled out ‘Hush Hush’ is in similar vein, ‘Earth To Mars’ functions at a level approaching funk factor ten throughout.
Greg’s ability to think outside of the R & B box is responsible for a very different take on the Lennon & McCartney hit ‘Come Together’. It is one of three classic tunes that Adams chooses to re-imagine and another is a wonderful version of Al Green’s seminal ‘Let’s Stay Together’ which has Walker’s ultra soulful tones front back and center. However, even better is a sensational rendering of the Friends Of Distinction 1969 smash ‘Going In Circles’. Not only is it one of the recording’s outstanding numbers but also one of the very best cover versions of the year so far. Music such as this never, ever, gets old and much the same can be said of East Bay Soul.
East Bay Soul is Greg Adams (trumpet), Lee Thornburg (trumpet and trombone), Greg Vail (sax), Johnnie Bamont (sax), Joey Navarro (keys), Kay-Ta Matsuno (guitar), Dwayne ‘Smitty’ Smith (bass), Herman Matthews (drums), Johnny Sandoval (percussion) and Darryl Walker (vocals).