Jeff Bradshaw – Stronger
Trombonist Jeff Bradshaw is a part of a generation of jazz artists who are fluent in multiple musical languages. That fact has become apparent since his emergence in the early 2000s as a part of the Hidden Beach label’s lineup that included Jill Scott and Kindred & the Family Soul. The title neo-soul is one that garners different reactions from different artists – some embrace it, and some do not. One of many definitions of the genre is a highly lyrical style that fuses soul, funk and R&B primarily from the 1970s with jazz improvisation and more modern techniques rooted in hip-hop. Bradshaw has been doing that since dropping his debut project Bone Deep in 2004.
Bradshaw’s trombone skills and his ability to move seamlessly between genres made him someone that vocalists and other instrumentalists wanted to collaborate with. He’s worked with Robert Glasper, Eric Roberson, Tweet and his former Hidden Beach label mate Scott, just to name a few. We last heard from Bradshaw on his highly enjoyable live album Home. Recorded in Philadelphia; it featured Bradshaw working with Glasper, Roberson, Tweet, Bilal, Marsha Ambrosius and Kim Burrell, just to name a few.
Home was the kind of album that had people waiting for what was next for the talented trombonist. We had to wait a while, because Bradshaw became seriously ill in 2016. Slowly, he worked his way back to health and by 2019 he was back on stage performing and preparing to release a new project. That project, the aptly named Stronger, drops this month and SoulTrackers got a sneak-peak this spring when we premiered his take on “Prototype.”
That song, like this album, is classic Bradshaw. He works with a who’s who of collaborators on a record that includes originals and covers of classic tunes by legends such as Stevie Wonder and the Jones Girls. Stronger features the acoustic jazz infused spoken word piece “Gratitude”; instrumental pieces such as “Butterfly” showcase Bradshaw’s prowess as a creator and improvisor, while his largely instrumental take on The Jones Girls classic “Nights Over Egypt” and his neo-soul/jazz flips on Wonder’s “Super Woman/Where Were You When I Needed You Last Winter,” reveal Bradshaw as an excellent interpreter of the classics.
The album also features vocal collaborations with artists such as Ambrosius, whose “I Do Sincerely” was included on Home. This newer version of that song features acoustic guitars, percussion and a swinging bass line, while the mid-tempo ballad “Closure” pops with a fusion of jazz improvisation by Bradshaw with a contemporary R&B/hip-hop hop arrangement and lyrics that tell the story of two people trying to find a way to restore a relationship where both have made mistakes.
Stronger is a title that brings to mind a person who emerged from a crisis in a better place, due to the love from his family and friends, his faith in God and the lesson learned from previous experiences. Fully healed, Stronger shows that Bradshaw’s art continues to evolve and grow. Strongly Recommended.
By Howard Dukes