This year 39-year old jazz established producer Meeco has released his forth album that sees him call on his impressive list of contacts to create a truly sublime record.
Despite being relatively young, Michael C. Maier aka Meeco, has worked with an impressive roster of jazz and soul musicians, from Freddie Cole to Gregory Porter to Lionel Loueke. His formative years were heavily influenced by his father’s love and devotion to classical music, beginning to study it from around age six. Somewhere along the way Meeco was introduced to jazz music and made the jump from the classical world to the jazz world. He was mentored by pianist Marco Meister, and then New York pianist, singer and Warner Brothers staff writer Bob Lenox; both men proved Meeco with the insight to develop his incredible talent as a composer and producer. And now Meeco has released his forth album, Souvenirs of Love.
The album is simply sublime. It’s endlessly romantic, dripping with emotion, reflecting not only Meeco’s astonishing talent as a composer and producer but also his enduring sense of love. Souvenirs of Love is beautifully produced; truly one of the great jazz releases of the year. What impresses further is Meeco’s impressive list of guests that appear on his latest release: whether it be guitarist Lionel Loueke, saxophonist Kirk Whalhum, or Hubert Laws on flute. This man has serious connections, and he makes full use of them on Souvenirs of Love.
Opening this delightful release is the title track featuring a movingly poignant spoken-word performance from Mary Stallings, whose poetry is matched by the heavenly alto saxophone of Vincent Herring. It’s a perfect opening to Souvenirs of Love, setting the tone and emotion of the following tracks. In getting at this emotion Meeco employs more soulful elements within the overall jazz sound, most notably through the wonderful voice of Yahzarah on three tracks: ‘Make My Dreams Come True’, ‘Can’t Get You Out Of My Mind’, and ‘For You’. Her voice is stunning; the definition of sophisticated soul. On ‘Make My Dreams Come True’ she shines, giving the song a smooth jazz, neo-soul quality to it, combined with the guitar of John Scofield and the beautiful Hammond organ of Shedrick Mitchell. As this song demonstrates, Meeco has the unique ability to bring together the best talent he can find – to many, including us, these musicians and singers may be largely unknowns, but they are big talents and the perform wonderfully well together.
Perhaps the biggest coup for Meeco is getting smooth jazz and legendary saxophonist Kirk Whalum to perform on Souvenir of Love. Unsurprisingly he does not disappoint, bringing his trademark sax sound to ‘Everyday’. Again, Meeco injects the romance and the passion through the use of two soulful singers, Aaron Marcellus and Jean Baylor. This is one of the highlights of the album, a marvellous recording.
One thing Meeco is not afraid of doing is bringing new elements into his jazz; he refuses to stand still in relative comfort, but experiments with new influences and new aspects that is refreshing to hear. On ‘Times Have Changed’, another solid composition, Meeco combines his typical jazzy-soulful formula (including a delightful performance from trumpeter Wallace Roney) but includes hip-hop influences from Talib Kweli and DJ Stylewarz. Surprisingly, it works well.
Yet Meeco’s work is at its most stunning and most elegant when he reverts back to his brand of romantic jazz. Another standout moment on the album is Jean Baylor’s wonderful vocal performance in conjunction with Eddie Henderson’s superb trumpet work on ‘If Only I Knew’. The subtleties of Meeco’s arrangement, particularly the use of the Hammond organ, are what make this record. Again, he has used the best talent at his disposal to make his vision of jazz come alive, and succeeds in doing so.
The rest of the album is equally stunning: combining Meeco’s solid composition and production work with a whole array of incredible jazz and soul talents. That’s what sets Souvenirs of Love apart from the crowd: the beautiful compositions, the incredible talent present, and Meeco’s unapologetic sense of romance. This is one stunning collection of songs, perfect for jazz and soul fans alike.