The wedding-day glow on the face of Jean Baylor shines through her voice, a pristine, soaring soprano. Supping at the same table of glory is husband and drumming colourist, Marcus Baylor. The former musical bugs (Yellowjackets) are not simply the significant other(s) to Ashford and Simpson, but via the visceral excitement of Marcus Baylor and the ineffable Jean Baylor, the ‘new thing’, the ‘new swing’ and, very possibly, the ‘new everything’. This is a partnership built on love for each other and in such a partnership the playing crackles with drama and energy of a live performance on this magnificent debut recording together: The Journey.
You’ll want in from the very outset; die for an invitation and then fall prey to Jean Baylor’s sensual summoning to the “Block Party”. It is, indeed the interminable, heraldic celebration which leads into “Great Is Thy Faithfulness”. God is in The House ever after. You’re in church, at a carnival, in the club, at the Jook Joint; indeed you’ll want to be wherever The Baylor Project is. Music is spoken, sung and played with such a sense of drama and ‘rightness’ that it’s impossible not to wonder at the right royalty of this couple as they give us a performance of astonishing strength, poetry and, for musicians so young, musical maturity.
Everything is music and music is everything here. It is also a history lesson of sorts; the kind you usually get from an ancestor. However, there is “Afro-Blue” and a most ‘Trane-like Keith Loftis on tenor saxophone followed by the shiver of delight up the spine in the Lydian modes of pianist Allyn Johnson and the forlorn moaning of Dezron Douglas’ bass egged on by the rolling thunder of Marcus Baylor and the plaintive undulant urgings of Jean Baylor. Epic stories are told here; not just in “Afro-Blue” but also in “Summertime”, which is turned into a wistful, bluesy awakening, with no small contribution from the prodigious harpist, Brandee Younger.
Life also happens here, with all of its laughing and crying, its tragedies and triumphs. Consider “Tell Me A Story”, “Laugh and Move On” and “Our Love Is Here To Stay”. “Tenderly” is captured – not simply voiced – with memorable, sombre magnificence. By the time you get to “Journey” you have your own epiphany of your own and you wonder: “Is this the end, or merely the beginning?” Meanwhile Jean Baylor is beckoning you again with her blues, her keening gospel shout and jazzy brilliance, and yet with dignity and splendour to the emotional climax of this magnificent record, which ends in an “endlessly ending” fashion.
But not before Marcus Baylor celebrates the beginning of another adventure in a fist-shaking, yet controlled and ever Jazz-and-Spiritual answer to Götterdämmerung in epic Wagnerian fashion.
Track List: 1: Block Party; 2: Great Is Thy Faithfulness; 3: Tell Me a Story; 4: Tenderly; 5: Our Love Is Here To Stay; 6: Again; 7: Summertime; 8: Voice of the Drum (Interlude); 9: Afro Blue (Dream); 10: Laugh and Move On; 11: Journey.
Personnel: Jean Baylor: vocals, handclaps; Marcus Baylor: drums, handclaps; Shedrick Mitchell: piano, organ (1, 2, 3, 10); Allyn Johnson: piano (4- 9); David “DJ” Ginyard: electric bass (1, 2); Chris Smith: upright bass (3, 10); Dezron Douglas: upright bass (4, 6-9; Corcoran Holt: upright bass (5); Marvin Sewell: guitar (3, 6-9); Rayfield “Ray Ray” Holloman: pedal steel and electric guitars (1, 10); Bob Mintzer: tenor saxophone (2); Keith Loftis: tenor saxophone ( 4-6, 8, 9); Freddie Hendrix: trumpet, flugelhorn (1, 3); Keyon Harrold: trumpet (6); Stafford Hunter: trombone (6); Aaron Draper: percussion, handclaps (1); Pablo Batista: percussion, handclaps (2-4, 6-11) Nicole Neely: live strings, arrangement ( 6); Brandee Younger: harp (7).