“Mosaic” is a labor of love project for veteran Pop-Jazz singer, Ron Boustead, his first release since the 2006 “Blend” record. The songs were meticulously chosen, tastefully produced, and sung with a simple heartfelt honesty that lets you know you’re hearing a man who knows a little something about love, speaking his truth.
There is no shortage of musicianship here and the liner notes read like a who’s who of Grammy winners and nominees. Featured sidemen include Bill Cantos, Rick Braun, Kirk Whalum, Fred Hersch, Brian Bromberg, Gregg Karukas, Munyungo Jackson, Bill Cunliffe, Luis Conte, Michael Shapiro, Ramon Stagnaro, Mitchell Forman, and Pat Kelley.
Four of the ten songs were co-written by Boustead, with the others being re-imagined gems by great writers like Carole King, Bill Withers, Jon Lucien and James Taylor.
“Moon Song”, which opens the record is a Bossa Nova in 7/8 time. The groove is so relaxed and undeniable that the listener may be unaware of the odd time signature. The song was written by Leo Minax (with Nancy Strauss), who is a Contemporary Brazilian artist now living in Europe. Its sexy, love song message is both romantic and poetic, with lines like, “I’ll sing to you with the moon in my voice.” Arrangement by Bill Cantos is simple and elegant, with short, lovely solos by Stagnaro and Cantos, and sweet trumpet fills by Rick Braun.
“You’re Sensational” is a cover of the late Jon Lucien’s samba-esque song about the sense of awe at the dawning of a new love affair. He sings, “The feeling that came over me was strong and elusive, much like a question, ‘what do you want with me?'”. Soprano sax by Steve Hoskins sails overtop of Boustead’s plaintive vocal, with Karukas adding his signature Rhodes sound and Munyungo Jackson layering lots of percussion to maintain the feeling of excitement.
The unmistakeable tone of Kirk Whalum’s tenor opens up the Boustead original “No Me Without You”, co-penned with Swedish funk star, Andreas Aleman. The song begins as a reflection on life’s ups and downs and the lessons we learn as we gather a little wisdom over the years. But as the melody progresses, we are lifted to a beautiful statement of devotion and commitment. Whalum drives home the sentiment with an extended vamp out that shows what a master of soul and restraint he truly is.
To many listeners, “Wishful Thinking” will be an unfamiliar tune, even though it has a mellow, natural grace and was written by none other than Carole King. Boustead’s version transforms the tin pan alley pop tune into a jazzy bossa groove, and creates an inviting and moving portrait of one-sided love and all the longing that entails. Bill Cunliffe’s acoustic piano solo brings the message home with a light and masterful touch.
When Ron first heard Fatima Guedes’ gorgeous melody song “E Agora?”, he was stunned by the beauty and emotion of the melody. Unfortunately, he doesn’t speak or sing in Portuguese, so he decided to write his own lyric in English. Ms. Guedes was delighted with the result, and so the song “And Now?” was born. Again, arrangement by Bill Cantos with Bromberg, Shapiro and Stagnaro playing live in the studio, gave the new song a worthy entry into the world.
Boustead and Hersch wrote the haunting uptempo Latin, “Careless Wind” some 20 years ago, but the song has never been recorded or released until now. “Like the wind…the warm capricious wind…love comes in and tells a tale to your heart.” The basic tracks were laid down in Los Angeles, with Hersch adding his piano in New York. Luis Conte and Oscar Seaton light a fire under everything with their spirited percussion and drumming.
Boustead’s friend, pianist and composer, Billy Larkin was visiting from Cincinnati a year or so ago and played Ron some of his new songs. One of them was “Every Moment Of You”. It was love at first listen, a sweet jazzy waltz with a classic message and surprising chord changes. Its inclusion here is the song’s debut, though it’s likely other singers will quickly follow suit. The music was recorded in one take, with Cantos laying down a beautiful piano solo.
Things get decidedly more playful and upbeat on “Everything Be OK”, written by Boustead and long-time collaborator, Michael McGregor. Here the groove is a driving Latin Hip-Hop bed, and the message is an unflinchingly positive affirmation of a committed, unshakeable relationship. Comparisons to Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” would not be misplaced. “We really have no reason to complain…so every time you ask me…is it gonna be alright…my answer’s still the same… so far so good”. Reedman, Katisse Buckingham takes a ridiculously virtuosic flute solo, and Pat Kelley’s funky guitar picking keep everything percolating.
Boustead is great admirer of Bill Withers, who crafted many classic songs like “Lean On Me” and “Use Me”. But one of his lesser-known but equally touching works is “Whatever Happens”. Again, here is a portrait of a mature, loving couple standing at each other’s side through thick and thin, with the refrain, “And we’ll kiss before we say goodnight”. This version is a duet with songstress Windy Wagner, whose voice is a sweet counterpart to Boustead’s plaintive cry, and Mitchell Forman’s Hammond B3 whoops and wails around the edges to let us know we’re in highly charged emotional territory.
The coda to “Mosaic” is the poignant “Secret ‘O Life” by another of Boustead’s heroes, James Taylor. Here, the light-hearted folksy charm of Taylor’s song is transformed into a prayer-like remembrance of younger brother, Dean Boustead who passed away in 2011. Piano and string arrangement by Mitchell Forman create a timeless, melancholy atmosphere that seems to leave us believing that, in the end, “it’s just a lovely ride”.