Miles Mosley - Uprising LPLabel: Verve Records
Regular price $24.98
A member of the Los Angeles-based jazz-funk collective West Coast Get Down (WCGD), bassist/singer Miles Mosley makes a dynamic impression on his fourth solo album and Verve debut, 2017's Uprising. Although Mosley has already released three independent albums, beginning with 2005's Sicaceremony, he remains relatively unknown to the mainstream -- a fact that leaves him plenty of creative breathing room for his move to the storied Verve label. That said, once you place him in the context of having previously appeared on fellow West Coast Get Down member saxophonist Kamasi Washington's breakthrough The Epic, not to mention rapper Kendrick Lamar's genre-bending masterpiece To Pimp a Butterfly, expectations start to cloud the horizon. Thankfully, Mosley brings the musical sun on this earthy, bold, spiritually uplifting collection of singer/songwriter jazz, funk, and R&B. Notably, Uprising grew out of the same ambitious 30-day jam session in 2012 that produced Washington's The Epic. Along with Washington, Uprising also features WCGD members pianist Cameron Graves, drummer Tony Austin, keyboardist Brandon Coleman, and background vocalists and a horn section. Together, Mosley and his WCGD comrades dive headfirst into a roiling jazz-funk stew that balances a vintage analog vibe with a modern immediacy that never feels retro. It's an organic approach, rooted in strong, hard-funk beats, soulful melodies, and thoughtful lyrics that find Mosley joyously announcing his arrival on the scene. On the forceful opener "Young Lion," framed by explosive horns and Woody Aplanalp's Hendrix-style fuzztone guitar, Mosley sings, "Nod your head, push out your lips/Thank God for me/Ain't never been funky since '73." What strikes you most on Uprising is just how well Mosley commands attention, his robust upright acoustic bass anchoring the band with swaggering aplomb. His skills as a bassist are even more impressive when you realize he's also holding down the mike with his urgent, textured croon. This is funk played by someone with equal respect for the hard bop traditions of performers like Charles Mingus and for the emotive R&B of Otis Redding. Admittedly, for a jazz-influenced album, there's not much improvisation on Uprising -- the focus is on Mosley's voice, his songs, and an overall group aesthetic. Nonetheless, Mosley achieves an immediately likeable balance of warm, jazz inflections and a percussive hip-hop attitude. And it's not just the rhythmic funk that grabs your attention on Uprising. Tracks like the yearning "L.A. Won't Bring You Down," with its bowed intro, and the sparkling, piano-driven "Sky High," find Mosley drawing upon the modern R&B balladry of artists like John Legend. And yet, as sensitive as Mosley can be, his literate, poetic writing is counterbalanced by a keen self-awareness that often comes off as backdoor braggadocio. As he sings on "Sky High," "You can find the flaws in my confidence/Too much too soon, too hip for the room." Ultimately, the coup d'etat on Uprising is that, while certainly hip, Mosley never comes off as too cool or emotionally detached from the audience he wants to reach.