Depending on your age and memory, you'll remember a time in music history when charts and airwaves were shared by instrumental hits in addition to vocals.
In the 80s, Herbie Hancock punched through our portable stereo woofers with 'Rockit', Herb Alpert trumpeted his way to number one on Billboard and earned a Grammy for 'Rise'. Spyro Gyra was ‘shakin’ on the charts as well, and Chuck Mangione had us feeling ever so good with his signature crossover hit. The list is endless, but those are just a few examples of the timeless vocal-less and unforgettable classics that have withstood the test of time. Recalling that era is Toronto keyboardist and producer extraordinaire, Eddie Bullen, on his new project, Kaleidoscope.
The new ten song offering is Bullen’s tribute to the sounds he recalls listening to on the radio while growing up in his native Grenada which had a profound influence on him and ultimately his career. Start to finish, Kaleidoscope brings a refreshing vibe and reminds us how instrumentals elevated our mood and caught our ears' attention. 'Sunset Marquee' is warm, glowing, and glistening with Bullen’s punchy piano melodies accompanied by some airy flute and sax backing. 'Esplando' is absolutely superb with some rich bass and sensual backing vocals by Michelle White. 'Avante Garde' gets downright funky with an air of mystique and overlapping synth to pair with Bullen’s piano and some accompanying bass and drums.
Bullen manages to give each creation its own identity, making Kaleidoscope captivating and full of diverse sounds. 'Funkalicious' is happy and handclapping and a tribute to an ‘80s vibe with the maturity of a modern sound. Bullen makes one wonder if he has three hands instead of two on the blistering fast 'Morpheous' which conjures memories of the jazz fusion sound. That same energy is heard and felt on 'Urban Suburban', which includes a sensational rock-anthem style guitar solo by Lucian Gray.
No doubt much of the pride of Kaleidoscope is predicated on the fact that Bullen’s massively talented son, Quincy, guests on numerous tracks, and there is also an appearance by guitarist Jeremy Hector, a native Barbadian who has broken through on the smooth jazz scene in the past year and has been taken under Bullen's talented wing.
Bullen says, "This album is a reflection of my journey through the emergence of new jazz sounds of the 70s, 80s, and 90s. There was a time when instrumental tracks would be the Dance, Pop,and R&B charts.” He adds, "These sounds conjure up fond memories for me, ones that have inspired my compositions".
Kaleidoscope further emphasizes Bullen’s brilliance as a musician and composer, while the arrangements cement his status as one of the best producers in the business.
Reviewed by Stu Berketo