*“He’d do the melody…I’d do the chorus. It’s like that on every song,” said Guitarist Steve Oliver about the new album, “Unified,” he just released on the Shanachie imprint with Jazz pianist Brian Simpson. They take turns and then reverse it – one plays the chorus and the other the melody – on each song making the delivery fresh and unusual. Like a mix of two of the same song. “We both love electronic dance music (EDM)…we added some of those techniques…with live instruments. It’s a nice sound.”
On “Unified” Steve and Brian get assistance from Alex Al on bass, Eric Valentine on drums and Ramon Yslas on percussion. Featured guests on the project include Rick Braun on trumpet, Larry Antonio on bass and Darrel Crooks on guitar. Both Oliver and Simpson produced the project with Shanachie Entertainment’s Vice President of Jazz and A&R Danny Weiss as executive producer.
“We were thinking about a band project with me and Brian in charge. The band was actually called Unified,” said Oliver about the name of the album. “Shanachie wanted our names to be prevalent…we understood.”
Brian and Steve unified in an orderly manner on the “Unified” album, which I believe is a sexy and inspiring piece of work. Steve started his solo career in 1999. His 2004 album release featured producing extraordinaire Harvey Mason. His fifth album released was in 2010 and it premiered his vocal abilities on three singles. His eighth album release, in 2016, featured his vocals too but on every song. His heavenly vocals are on some of the songs on “Unified” as well.
Based in Los Angeles, the #1 hit making keyboardist Brian Simpson started his solo career in 2005 when he released his debut album. That year he earned a #1 Jazz hit and in 1991 he co-wrote a #1 Pop song for Surface. In 2010 his solo album release reached #1 on charts and his 2013 album release offered a single that also reached #1 on the Jazz charts. Simpson also serves as music director for Dave Koz – it has been 20 years.
“I been co-producer on his albums,” Steve said about how he got into a collaboration which such a Jazz living legend. “We really do great work together. He said, ‘Let’s do a collaboration?” I said, ‘Absolutely.’ We really enjoy each other and work well together. I was so happy.”
My favorite selections on the “Unified” album include the #1 title track “Unified” that has Steve and Brian taking turns on the chorus and melody giving it a Jazz/Soul feel. The #2 song “The Road Never Ends” you can almost hear someone singing though there are no vocals and I love the charms ringing in the background making it an uplifting and inspiring song. I also like #3 “What the Wind Knows” because it has a Latin vibe that makes the single almost sexy. On #4 “Fired Up” I was pleasantly surprised by the horns of Rick Braun and the percussions by Ramon are hot. The #7 “The Way Home” track is a favorite because it has a sweet, angelic and uplifting vibe. The #8 selection “Celestial Body” is a nice traditional Funky/Jazz single with piano playing that gave me visions of ballerinas dancing around then changing into tap dancers. The piano playing by Brian on #10 “A Distant Love” is almost like the keys are singing with the beautiful background vocals of Steve making it so sexy and oh so jazzy. My last favorite selection on the “Unified” album is #11 “And Then You Loved Me”, because it is a very, very sweet song, with a Latin vibe – thanks to the guitar playing – and it has a jazzy feel because of the keys. As you can see, by my standards, there is a lot to love on the “Unified” album release of Steve Oliver and Brian Simpson. www.Shanachie.com
SYNDICATED COLUMN: Eunice Moseley, has an estimated weekly readership of over ¼ million with The Pulse of Entertainment. She is also a Public Relations Strategist and Business Management Consultant at Freelance Associates, and is Promotions Director (at-large) for The Baltimore Times. www.ThePulseofEntertainment.com. EVENT: Eunice is founder of the annual “Uplifting Minds II” Entertainment Conference (ULMII), into its 20th year. Next event dates include Los Angeles Saturday, November 9, 2019 at the Los Angeles Convention Center (511) and Baltimore Saturday April 18, 2020, held in partnership with Security Square Mall and The Baltimore Times. The free conference offers an Entertainment Business Panel and a Talent Showcase and Competition (vocal, songwriting, dance and acting) with over $15,000 valued in prizes/product/services to selected artists. Log onto www.UpliftingMinds2.com for more information or to participate as a panelist or talent call 562-424-3836.