Marion James gives us her musical vintage on her new CD Essence.

Marion James - Essence
Marion James - Essence

Not just old. Oh no. This is vintage, in the sense of a 1989 Gaja Sori San Lorenzo, in a 1967 Pontiac GTO, and a 1969 Ludwig Maple kit with Supraphonic snare.

All greek isn’t it? When it comes to describing vintage anything, words often fail. And when it comes to Marion James‘ latest album Essence, on the EllerSoul label, the same is so true. This woman had a Top 10 hit when a certain reviewer was still a child. We’re talking well over a half century of being steeped in the finest jazz, blues and soul this country had to offer, including having Jimi Hendrix and Billy Cox in the band. This has the subtle layered taste that awakens the palate, the sleek lines that silently scream power and style, and the sounds that deliver the groove with such finesse that they resonate with the rhythm of the soul.

With backing musicians like the Beegie Adair Trio, Reese Wynans, Jack Pearson, Chuckie Burke, and Bob Babbitt, this CD is guaranteed to be a whole that is greater than its parts, and all these parts are excellently engineered and functioning at 100%. Essence is the collection of indispensable qualities that make it what it is. The being of artists coming together, the amazing talent that has and continues to grow, in a collaboration of being. They could be no other way.

Marion wrote six of the songs on this CD, and the CD opens with “Tables”, one of her songs that James Brown had nothing on. With Chuckie Burke of Isaac Hayes fame playing the drums on this tune, you know out of the gate, that you’re listening to a master.

Four incredibly done jazz tracks adorn this CD. “24 Hours”, “Until the Real Thing Comes Along”, “Be Anything”, and “I Want to Be Loved”. The Beegie Adair Trio is her back-up on these tunes, sometimes with Jack Pearson on guitar, and what a great combination of skills this is. James lets her vocal skill shine on “Be Anything”, demonstrating deft modulations so subtle it’ reminiscent of Chopin. Yes, the classical pianist Chopin. Yes, that good. If you’re a sucker for ballads, you’ll love the way she does “Until the Real Thing Comes Along”.

As for the blues numbers, well, this is excellence. Chicago and Memphis styles blend beautifully, she has incredible skill with her voice, which is heard on “You’re History, Baby”, among others. “Give Me Love” lets you glimpse the vocal talent about to be heard. Her piece, “Please Don’t Waste My Time”, has a great blues strut. A walking bass line drives her piece, “Feel It”. Reese Wynans of Double Trouble replaces the rhythm guitar with organ on a lot of these tunes, and it’s everything you think it would be and more. When Jack Pearson on guitar joins him, it’s ecstatic. Want to hear musical mastery? Listen to “Let’s Straighten it Out” on the headphones, which becomes even more with Marion’s vocal treatment. Is it bliss that is beyond ecstatic?

Whether you like one the best wines ever made, or one of Detroit’s classic machines, or the drum set that John Bonham used making Led Zeppelin famous, this CD is indeed vintage in that class. It will take more than one listen to distill all of the Essence on this CD by Marion James.

Marion James Essence FEATURED