Force For Good - Ryan Porter (Album Review)
Force For Good
Released: 14 June 2019
World Galaxy / Alpha Pup
Album Rating: 5/5
Live Potential: 5/5
Solo Performances 4.5/5
Diversity in Songs: 4/5
Favourite Songs: ‘Madiba’ (track 1), ‘Heaven Only Knows feat. Nia Andrews’ (track 4), ‘Carraicou’ (track 6)
Acclaimed LA-based trombonist Ryan Porter has released his third full-length release Force For Good via World Galaxy / Alpha Pup, following on from Spangle-Lang Lane and his 2018 release The Optimist. The 84-minute jazz-fusion record sees Porter being supported by the core members of the West Coast Get Down – which includes heavyweights Kamasi Washington (tenor sax, soprano sax), Cameron Graves (keys), Brandon Coleman (keys), Miles Mosley (acoustic bass), Thundercat (Electric bass) and Tony Austin (drums). Porter notes that for Force For Good that he took inspiration from and pays homage to the legacy left behind by jazz titan John Coltrane, claiming the record pays tribute to “Coltrane’s message of peace, love and unity through music”. Spanning across different themes and vibes, Force For Good navigates through different vibes, styles and spaces to produce a truly fantastic record.
Force For Good was recorded over six years (2014-19) and across different locations in Los Angeles (including ‘The Shack’ – Kamasi Washington parents’ house – and jazz trumpeter Nolan Shaheed’s home studio). For the record, the musicians were given sheet music and general instructions but were also given the freedom to explore and play around with the transitions and changes. A meagre three takes were recorded for each composition, a testament to the extensive skill of and synchronisation between the players.
The album begins brightly with ‘Madiba’, Porter’s dedication to Nelson Mandela. ‘Madiba’ opens with Porter blasting a South African-inspired fanfare before Miles Mosley lays down a hypnotic bass riff, leading to the main melody that emerges from a call-and-response rote between Washington and Porter before the pair converge. The tune is a beautiful introduction to the record, with Brandon Coleman laying down some charming wistful chords and responsive lines on his Fender Rhodes, whilst Robert Miller fills the remaining space with unique drumming passages in a very loose but confident manner. Another prime moment comes from the leading single from the album, ‘Heaven Only Knows’ (track 4). The single features the soulful and spiritual vocals of Nia Andrews, who has recently released her own record No Place Is Safe via World Galaxy / Alpha Pup. On this track, her sultry voice trickles and wraps around the rising melodic lines to produce one of the golden moments of the album.
‘Carricou’ (track 6) sees Thundercat take a pivotal role on the bass, helping provide the core drive and pace of the track with Tony Austin on the drums. One of the standout moments of this track is Kamasi Washington’s commanding solo, building from a reserved and well-tempered solo into a furious and fiery tirade of saxophone mastery, with moments like this proving why he is one of the jazz giants of our time. For ‘Oscalypso’ (track 10), we see some fantastic brass work, with some bouncing between the solo trumpet of Jumaane Smith and Brandon Coleman, as well as some bluesy interjections from Porter nestled in between the main motifs. Likened by Porter to a “futuristic action movie”, Cameron Graves’ original composition ‘People Talk’ (track 11) forcefully rounds off the album. Graves leads the first solo finely, scalicly hopping up and down the breadth of the keys, followed by Washington bouncing between the changes and Porter producing an expressive solo, moving onto a classic Miles Mosley solo before Austin’s drum break brings us back to the main head to see us out.
What is clear with Force For Good is that the album displays a broad and diverse range of songs which fit neatly together. Porter has managed to arrange a variety of lively compositions which switch from ballads to grooves to soulful bops, tightly tying these tunes together under one project. Another worthy comment is the individual performances, as there are so many class moments throughout with some supreme solos. No matter whether it is Coleman’s key playing on ‘Madiba’ (track 1), Washington’s delicate soprano sax playing on ‘Mesophere’ (track 8), Mosley’s wah-wah bass grooves on ‘World on Wheels’ (track 9) or Porter’s passionate blues styled monologue on ‘Maggie’ (track 2), Force For Good reveals why West Coast Get Down are so revered and are champions of the LA jazz scene. Force For Good is nothing short of a masterpiece and can be classed as one of the best records of 2019 so far.
Ryan Porter – Trombone; Kamasi Washington – Tenor & Soprano Saxophone; Brandon Coleman – Piano & Fender Rhodes; Cameron Graces – Piano & Fender Rhodes; Miles Mosley – Acoustic Bass; Thundercat – Electric Bass; Tony Austin – Drums.
Other contributions from Nia Andrews – Vocals; Josef Leimberg – Trumpet & Percussion; Robert Miller – Drums; Aaron Haggerty – Drums; Lyndon Rochelle – Drums; Jumaane Smith – Trumpet.
Listen to Force For Good here: https://open.spotify.com/album/5CYGnKmnwmHVbqzXc9FtpZ?si=iZ6cqrqrQJKcuuu2L9rbuw
Buy Force For Good here: https://worldgalaxyrecords.bandcamp.com/album/force-for-good