Sir Gant and the InVisible Force
The Journey is available at:
28th February, 2011
Jazz; Soul; R&B
I’m Gonna Miss You (Piano Prelude) – 9.4
Let Me See You Work It– 9.6
I’m Gonna Miss You (Departure) – 9.5
I’m Gonna Miss You– 9.4
Hangin’ With Q– 9.5
Les Bleu– 9.4
I’m Gonna Miss You (Inst. Reprise)– 9.4
The Journey– 9.5
On the Dance Floor– 9.6
So Much in Love– 9.5
I’m Gonna Miss You (Vocal Reprise) – 9.4
Let Me See You Work It; Hanging With Q; The Journey; On the Dance Floor
On the Dance Floor
IT is rare that a musical project comes along that allows me to…
feature on what makes music beautiful and pure. A lot of bands and acts I have reviewed have stuck in the memory, yet few concentrate on musicianship and passion. Before I introduce Sir Gant and the InVisible Force I wanted to talk about the purpose of music and the importance of musicianship. In a modern climate where there are a lot of fake stars and worthless examples, we all need to embrace music that is deep and meaningful. I look around the mainstream and see false and plastic Pop stars, each of whom does not appreciate music and making it resonate with people. They are concerned with collecting dollars and filling out arenas. It doesn’t matter whether their music is inspiring minds or nourishing souls as long as the money comes in and they get column inches. Naming no names (we all know who) but there are so many nauseating and insincere bands and artists that are in music for the money and have a team of writers behind them. The committee-led and manufactured ‘musicians’ are polluting the environment and sending out a bad message to the up-and-coming musicians. Talent shows such as The X Factor are not helping issues and are promoting the wrong ideals and way of working. I understand that there are people out there that listen to Pop and plastic music that has an army of writers and producers behind it. People will want to see those preened and airbrushed artists in a venue near them. The only reason this upsetting trend occurs is because there are few alternatives and artists campaigning against the blight. Being a huge fan of Steely Dan, I am a person who appreciates musicianship and the vitality of a stunning composition. My favoutrite track of all-time is Deacon Blues: A song that is lush and delicious; filled with gorgeous saxophone and nuance in spades. Other ‘Dan tracks like Night by Night (from Pretzel Logic) and Hey Nineteen (from Gaucho) showcase how stunning leads Walter Becker and Donald Fagen are. It is a shame Steely Dan are not as revered by my generation. They still seem a niche and underground sort of act. I love Jazz acts like Coltrane, but have a soft spot for Miles Davis. Albums such as Birth of the Cool, Kind of Blue and Sketches of Spain showcase just how phenomenal Davis’ work could be. Bitches Brew is an ecstatic and colourful swathe of horns and arrangements that whip-up a myriad wave of images. Musicians that can say so much without singing (or saying few words) are the most powerful and impressive. Too many genres like Jazz are still quite undervalued and reserved for lovers of the craft. Some Pop artists try to instill Jazz elements into their music and ensure the genre gets appreciate, but for my money, more people should be into Jazz and discover what it has to offer. There are a lot of modern artists that are capable of drawing-in young listeners with their stunning compositions. People have stuffy and preconceived images of Jazz- and some consider it not to be that cool- which needs reevaluating somewhat. Before I continue on my point, let me introduce Sir Gant and the InVisible Force:
“Dean Gant, known professionally as “Sir Gant” has been recognized for decades as a first rate Music Producer, Arranger, Keyboardist, and Composer. Now, with the release of his debut project on his own label, ELEGANT MEDIAWORKS; 2011 will see Sir Gant & The InVisible Force emerge as a powerful presence on today’s music scene.
Gant’s project, THE JOURNEY, is a musical anthology that celebrates the genius he has lent to many top selling artists over the span of his career. His co-production and arrangement of Anita Baker’s Rapture LP, sold over 8 million copies and garnered 2 Grammys, (including best R&B song, “Sweet Love”) which Gant arranged and on which he played the song’s memorable piano part. On Madonna’s self-titled debut album, Gant ‘s signature synthesizer licks defined “Lucky Star” & “Borderline”–both of which launched and defined Madonna’s career.
Sir Gant is joined on THE JOURNEY by some of today’s most highly acclaimed musicians: Marcus Miller; Gerald Albright; Omar Hakim; Steve Ferrone; Ricky Lawson; Al McKay; David T. Walker; Nathan East, Paulinho da Costa and others who each contributed their unique artistry to the inimitable course of THE JOURNEY.”
I was introduced to Sir Gant and the InVisible Force’s music by Ellene Masri. She is an artist whose album Music was one of my all-time favourite reviews. Having been seduced and overwhelmed by her music- and keep in regular touch with her- I already knew a bit about Dean Gant’s music. One look at his C.V. shows a man who has helped shape and defines some of music’s biggest legends. One of the world’s most notable and impressive musicians, it is great to hear The Journey come to life. After hearing him on Las Vegas radio discussing the project, I know how dedicated and passionate he is. Music means the world to him and connecting with people is paramount. So many musicians do not care whether they connect and strike a person. Too many are concerned with copying others and not telling a story in their sounds. Dean Gant is a man that wants to ensure his music not only digs deep into the heart and soul; he wants to make sure every person is told a story and gets a clear sense of beauty. Gant’s music is some of the most descriptive and intoxicating I have ever heard. The rich and sensual compositions mix with stunning and unexpected moments, all of which compel dizzying images and dreamy scenes. Having spent so many years honing and supporting other musicians, Sir Gant and the InVisible Force is the result of Dean Gant at his most stirring and impressive. With a terrific band of musicians behind him, The Journey is an album masterclass of emotion, passion and redemptiveness.
“To showcase his own music in its best light, Sir Gant assembled a formidable roster of musicians for The Journey. Their collective bodies of work appear throughout the global market of popular, R&B and jazz hits. Among the stellar musicians are Marcus Miller, Gerald Albright, Paulinho da Costa, Steve Ferrone, Al McKay, Omar Hakim, Nathan East, Ricky Lawson, David T. Walker, Rahmlee Michael Davis, Dr. George Shaw, Charles Owens with the string arrangements of the legendary Benjamin Wright. The vocal stylings of Marc Nelson (founding member of Boyz II Men) and Tim (Tio) Owens (featured singer with the Al McKay All Stars) grace three tunes on the The Journey. Grammy winning engineer, Neal Harrington Pogue was brought on as co-producer to ensure technical balance and musical integrity of the project.”
I’m Gonna Miss You (Piano Prelude) sees The Journey begins its plight. A soft and beckoning parable, the song is a tender and composed moment that perfectly welcomes in the album.
Let Me See You Work It perhaps leaves little to the imagination. This track was written by Sir Gant and Khaliq Jabari Gant and features Tim (Tio) Owens. Very much a funky and hard-hitting jam, it benefits from some hugely powerful vocals and a stunning percussion. Those beats and keyboards make the track and hot and sassy track that means business. Stomping and seducing, you are caught in the infectious groove. With Owens on vocal the song reflects Gant’s more sexual and sensual side. There is a sense of chase and gameplay here. You can imagine the object of his affections and the song’s heroine. Burnishing with fever and intention, the vocal is a sumptuous and wonderful instrument that makes the song such an unforgettable thing. The girl has our hero saying “yeah” and in quite a state of unrest. The percussion and drum programming provide the song with that kick and punch that ensures the lyrics and vocals and given appropriate backing. The bass and guitars ensure some seductive and shimmering lust. The instrumentation here is among the album’s finest and each player is completely in-time and in-step with one another. Like a classic D’Angelo cut, you get sweat dripping from the speaker. Our lead wants to see his girl “work it” through the night. Our man is lost and helpless to refuse her beauty and sex appeal. Juxtaposing the composure and dignity of the opening cut, you get a song that puts its declarations and intentions right up-top. An unrelenting paen to dancefloor lust, it is one of the finest R&B/Soul tracks I have heard in a while. Boasting such a hugely emphatic vocal centre, each word comes to life and burrows into the mind. Owens has a feverish and quivering voice that is utterly beguiling and stunning to hear. Backed by an exceptional composition and vivid lyrics, and you have a song that is among the album’s very best. Blending the funk and compositional mixes of Stevie Wonder with some Usher-via-D’Angelo-via-Prince vocal gymnastics and you have a song that bridges ‘70s Soul with ‘80s and ‘90s Funk. A kick-ass and compelling jam, it is a song that can get dancefloors bouncing and lovers entwined. Overtly confident and urgent, it is grinding sweat-maker that could score make-outs across the world. Not a track to be overlooked.
I’m Gonna Miss You (Departure) provided a break and cleaner. A chance to throw some water over the steaming atmosphere, what we get is a beautiful transition. After the rampant and sexual ambitions of its predecessor, that lilting and romantic piano is back in the fray. Stefaniah McGowan plays the part of a flight attendant, as we get the most tangible sense of a ‘journey’. Taking off to somewhere unknown, we get safety announcements amidst a tranquil piano- something not often tempted in music. Advising the listeners to buckle their seatbelts and be prepared- bit late after the swagger that was Let Me See You Work It– and we then get a snippet of a voice message. Our man leaves a message to his girl saying how much he misses her. On his way to meet his lover and get to his hotel, it is a charming and wonderful touch that provides the album with narration and personal soul-bearing. Some of the best albums mix narrative and spoken word snippets with instrumentals. Over the space of three songs we have gone from a Classical-influenced instrumental to a sensual R&B jam to a spoken word insert that could have been seen on the most innovative Hip-Hop albums of the ’80s and ‘90s. Taking the listen along with him, Gant has covered so much ground so soon. You wonder where we will go next…
I’m Gonna Miss You follows the aerospace departure. Having arrived at his destination, here we get the full-length declaration. Soulful and smooth from the offset, the track boasts an incredible vocal by Marc Nelson. Written with Carol Van Brunt-Gant, it is one of the album’s most arresting and personal tales. You can imagine Gant penning the song in a hotel as he thinks about his sweetheart. As our lead talks about his intentions and wanting to kiss his girl “all night”, it is a romantic song that wears its heart on its sleeve. It is another track busy with musicianship and terrific performers. Here we have the likes of David T. Walker and Steve Ferrone lending their chops. By recruiting another vocalist into the mix- rather than keeping the same throughout- we get a new tone and sense of perspective. Perfectly suiting the subject matter, and backed by some terrific backing vocals, you have something that is aching and sensitive. Contrasting with the sexual and masculine sweat of Owens, Nelson is more restrained and focused. Both songs are terrifically addictive and memorable, with both saying different things. Nelson has a hair-raising set of pipes that bring the images into life. Tangled and united in each other’s dreams, there are no surprises. Our lead loves his girl and wants to be with her. Having arrived at his hotel, Gant has perhaps not quite reached his girl. There is that sense of desire and longing that makes you feel sympathy. Burning with passion and want, Nelson perfectly articulates that need and desire without histrionics and needless ululation. A Soul seducer the likes of Luther Vandross would be jealous of and you have another song that cannot be forgotten or ignored. Alight with endless passion and focus, it is another step in the tale that gets the listener invested and hooked.
Hanging with Q is Gant’s tribute to Quincy Jones. With Gerald Albright on saxophone and the likes of Charles Owens in the throng, it is a gorgeous Jazz track. The trumpets climb and spiral as the percussion teases and beats with composure and calm. Little tones and touches underpin the song and add life and conversation. You can imagine Gant and Jones hanging and shooting the breeze. Backing their dialogue and movements, the song projects hand motions and conversation topics. A perfectly to-and-fro exchange, the composition reminds me of Miles Davis again. It is hard to not see the jazz legend when the composition is at its most brilliant and divine. That sax. work almost defines the song and gives it such a vitality and power. A compelling and smooth groove that rises and falls; comes down to tease and flies with abandon, it showcases Gant’s compositional talents and clear vision. Another natural progression and aspect to the story, we take a step away from love and desire to see our man hang with one of his heroes. With ‘Q’ gets to hear the song is another matter but I’d like to think he has heard it and loves what it says. An impressive and worthy tribute to one of music’s finest producers, it sees Gant mersmerised and caught in fantasy. Not just reserved for Jazz aficionados, it is a song that has enough potential to grab fans of any genre. Universal and all-encompassing, it is a song that stands among the album’s finest non-vocal cuts.
Les Bleu I guess would refer to ‘the blue’ or ‘the blues’ Gant could be feeling. Although the title may suggest a sense of longing and loss, the composition is an upbeat and rushing beauty. The percussion constantly beats and pushes as the piano dances and smiles as it goes. After a fabulous bass introduction, the song has an infectious kick that swoons and swaggers in equal measures. As cool as anything across the album, it once more proves how adept and diverse Gant is when it comes to composition. Here I got touches of Steely Dan and some of the greats of U.S. Jazz. It is that piano sound that sticks in my mind. Never losing its pace and beauty, you cannot help but be sucked into its wonderfully compelling sound. Each listener can imagine their own scenes and what the song represents. To my mind, Les Bleu is Gant reflecting and thinking about life. Having been on the dancefloor and in delirium; after longing for his girl and hanging with Quincy Jones, we have a contemplative and pondering track. Whether he is Las Vegas, Chicago or somewhere out of the U.S. each song represents a different moment in Gant’s life. It is the quality amnd depth of the music that stands out here. Not just a throwaway or insincere moment, you can tell how much detail and consideration has gone into the track. Based on the ‘blues scale’ the song is a beautiful refrain that will delight lovers of Jazz.
I’m Gonna Miss You (Instrumental Reprise) is a short number that sees Nathan East providing bass solo and Sir Gant on keyboards. Reminding me of Stevie Wonder once more, the song marries twinkling lightness with something more primal and soulful. Designed to provide punctuation and transition, the track is a delightful little number.
The Journey is the title track and epicenter of the album. Beginning with a rousing kick and sensuousness, it soon develops into something quite tribal and Africa-inspired. With some African vocal samples, it perhaps harks back to Gant’s childhood and African ancestry. Being based in the U.S. now, Gant takes us to Africa and gives us an insight into a different time in his past. Uniting his multiple threads and musical tastes, you get a bit of World music and Paul Simon’s Graceland into the fold. Standout beats and a Soul-infused bass groove give the song a cool-edged and addictive sound. Those vocal samples punctuate rising strings and an atmosphere that bursts with life and vivaciousness. So many colours and cultures come through in the music. One of the album’s finest moments, it shows what an exceptional composer Gant is. With an expert ear and eye for touching every listener, it is a song that is a perfect mood-setter and entrances you. Drawing together Jazz horns and some Soul reflectiveness, the song is one of Gant’s best moments. You are constantly moved by the unison of beats and strings. Packing in a wealth of musical detail and finesse and it is as a result of serious study and thought. Flugelhorn and bass sit with strings and percussion to create something wondrous and continent-straddling.
On the Dancefloor sees the progression in the tale. After the initial seduction and glance, our hero and heroine take to the floor and are locked in one another’s arms. Given the proceeding tracks were gentle and romantic swoons, here we have something with a Funk kick and some definite R&B influences. With Marc Nelson and Sir Gant on vocals, the track is a shivering and hugely powerful number that sees the velvet-voiced Nelson conspire supremely with Gant. The story looks at the hero take his girl to the floor, asking her to “follow my moves”. There is that instant relatability and every-day to the song. You can see the images unfold and the stunning vocal build a captivating scene. Our hero is in the groove and entranced by his love. With elements of D’Angelo, Prince, Michael Jackson and Usher, the track will unite fans of each. Packed with original intent and wonderful musicianship, the track is an undeniable smash that gets inside the head. Our hero cannot wait to get his girl on the dancefloor as she is the only one he needed. That chorus is a catchy and memorable proclamation that will have listeners singing along and remembering long after the song has completed. Contrasting early movements, it is a welcome balance that sees Gant and his musicians expand their wings and take the listener into new territory. Packing such a kick and soothe, it is impossible to overlook such a sensuous and romantic track. Balancing Gant’s tones, Nelson’s mighty falsetto will draw comparisons with Stevie Wonder and the greats of music. It is a song that is so strong in its convictions; it stands as one of The Journey’s finest and most immediate moments.
So Much in Love starts with a tender and touching piano coda. Relaxed and seducing, you lean into the speaker in an attempt to drink in its serenity and gentle kiss. Whereas the music of Peace defined the title and could quell and calm any conflict, So Much in Love shows a burning and intense desire from the offset. Even with subtle and even-toned restraint, you can sense that heartfelt passion and love from the initial seconds. The opening seconds see the song build and swell; strings are introduced to showcase something classical and symphonic. Reminding me of The Cinematic Orchestra at their most spine-tingling, the track grows and climbs. Twinkling piano sits inside maternal strings that provoke images of floral bloom and a still-morning sunrise. The percussion work (Paulinho Da Costa and Omar Hakin) perfectly unites with the string work and arrangement Derek Nakamoto. With Sir Gant co-composing and performing the string parts in addition to keyboard work, the song has a personal edge to it. You can tell the song comes from a very personal place and time in Sir Gant’s life. After the shivering beginning, the track becomes more upbeat and toe-tapping. The percussion is a static and stunning beat that supports the dancing and twirling piano line. Jumping and waltzing, the song has an upbeat and divine sound that inspires you to dance with a lover or simply lie back and reflect. Like Miles Davis’ great works, the listener can close their eyes and project their own course of events. As the song reaches its peaks and high points, the full power and force comes through. I can imagine Gant paying tribute to a special and wonderful woman. Perhaps someone who is still with him, the song is a fitting tribute of undefeatable passion and tireless beauty. Such a deep, full and busy composition, each player is tight and focused on the job at hand. Like the finest musicianship you can hear, So Much in Love is a song that reveals its true beauty and potential after many spins and investigations.
Peace is a song that begins with shimmering and glorious declarations. Powerful and immediate, the strings are a romantic rhapsody that cannot help but to soothe and ignite the soul. You instantly start to drift away and imagine beautiful and tranquil scenes. When that compositional rush gets to you, you are powerless to refute its charms and force. With Sir Gant on all instruments and Charles Stepney on vibes (the track is a tribute to him), the track sees delicate and touching piano mingles among the strings. From that hot and dizzying opener, the mood starts to become more reflective and pared-down. Allowing the song to evolve and move, the instrumentation has taken us from a heady and exciting dream to the peace of a new day (or perhaps a moonlit night). As guitar strings strike and ask for a response, the piano is a lush and cascading flow that responds with immense beautiful and evocativeness. Enraptured in the swirl and nuance of the surroundings, the listeners are guaranteed to smile and conspire. Keyboard sounds add a Soul-cum-R&B edge to the song (reminding me of a Songs in the Key of Life-era Stevie Wonder composition). Uniting modern-day U.S. Jazz with ‘60s/’70s Soul and you have a ripe and receptive track that showcases what a talent Gant is. Ending with a blend of fast-flowing and passionate piano and vivacious keyboard, and Peace achieves it aims.
Completing Gant’s journey is I’m Gonna Miss You (Vocal Reprise). Bringing Nelson’s vocal back into the fray, and we get a brief reprise of that central message and declaration. By the final notes the listener is left wanting more having been taken into a beautiful and stunning world of music.
According to Gant, The Journey was so-called because:
“I chose the title “The Journey” because it has special significance for me. I believe that “life is a journey, not a destination. It’s a continuous, evolving, learning process that takes many unexpected turns. You have to be flexible & adaptable in order to navigate without losing your way. I’ve had many incredible experiences and challenges, (there will be a book later this year). From being adopted as an infant by 2 incredible parents, to being a single parent with my daughter, my son suffering a serious spinal cord injury while playing college basketball, to finding my birth mom after decades of not knowing who or where she was. All of these things have brought me here today and have shaped me as a person and musical artist. So what you are hearing is my “Musical Journey” which is not one dimensional or really definable by traditional categorizations”.
My words cannot really do justice to the wealth of depth and ability projected throughout. Bringing in a stunning roster of talented musicians, Gant has created something that is as personal as it is universal. It brings in Gant’s musical past and present into a collection of songs that tell so many stories and will appeal to all. From tenderness and longing to passionate sexuality through dreamscapes and reflection, you have an album that is packed with wonderful moments. Boasting entrancing musicianship and exceptional compositions, The Journey also contains some wonderful vocal turns. Without a weak moment or poor production element, each song is allowed to breathe and give the album a huge majesty. If you have not discovered Sir Gant and the InVisible Force’s remarkable album, ensure you hear it now.
I opened by mention musicianship (the lack of it) in modern music and the disposability of modern stars. It seems there are fake idols and talent show-chasing musicians that want the money and quick success. Few take time to study and work at the craft these days. Whether daunted by the financial and commercial pressures or unwilling to immerse themselves in music fully, the results are telling. There are too few wonderful musicians that really show exceptional talent and ability. Too many studio-based tricks and committee-written songs are muddying the waters and making it hard to find genuine articles. Dean Gant has been in music for many years and worked with the likes of OutKast and Ellene Masri. A man who knows great music and a true talent, this has been distilled into The Journey. I love Jazz and Soul but find it hard to find artists and albums in these genres that really compel me. Sir Gant and the InVisible Force is an act that ties in these genres alongside R&B and Classical to create something that should appeal to a wide sector of people. If you balk at the idea of instrumental tracks then have no fear: On The Journey you get depth and nuance with plenty of upbeat and beauty. It seems the U.S. is breeding some phenomenal artists that could benefit ears and eyes of the U.K. We have some great composers and producers here yet few try anything that I have heard today. One of the most compelling and stunning albums I have heard this year, it leads me to wonder the next steps for Gant. Whether he chooses to unite with other musicians and create a new album (in 2016) or just produce, the options are there. Having heard him alongside Masri on Las Vegas radio, I know how much passion he has for the music. Fans and listeners love his work, so the demand is definitely there. I for one would love to hear another album next year; something that continues The Journey’s plight and explores new stories and territories. If listeners and music-lovers have not heard The Journey then they are missing out. Perfect for any mood or time, it is a record that says so much and conveys so much emotional and passion. In short what we have…
IS everything music should be.
Follow Sir Gant and the InVisible Force: