Culture & Conversation

Vital Organist

The newest project from Vanessa Rodrigues makes more room for other instruments in the songs and brings her Hammond B3 further back. The tracks on Soul Food For Thought are inspired by the food industry and how our food comes to us, but its non-preachy funk grooves appeal to activists and music lovers alike. It’s music that nourishes the heart and soul, and encourages awareness without sermonizing.

It opens with a groove called Funky Pickle, which highlights the abilities of Olivier René-de-Cotret, the guitarist on this project. He dances around scratches from the inimitable DJ Killa-Jewel and the organ comes in to hold it all together. In fact, most of the track revolves around these two instruments, with Jean-Pierre Lévesque’s drums and Vanessa’s Hammond occasionally soloing.

Chompy is simply the most fun on the album. Named after the infamous two-jawed fish from the Alberta tar sands (and with a nod to Blinky, the three-eyed fish from the Simpsons), the tune is an underwater funk groove that not only invites you to imagine the habitats of the fish we eat by taking you down below the surface, it playfully uses the organ’s natural ability to invoke old horror movies replete with giant monsters and genetic mutations. It’s a black and white campfest with an undercurrent of worrisome truth to it.

What’s In This? like Planted, features the smooth rhymes of MC BluRum13, a rapper who brings the only lyrics on the album. Though a well-known tug of war often goes on between singers and musicians, these two tracks feel integrated and playful instead of combative. After the MC sings, Vanessa’s organ solos and room is made for each instrument by each instrument.

Lovers of Herbie Hancock will either love or hate the version of Watermelon Man from this album. The tone comes more from Headhunters than the Takin’ Off and it’s hard to imagine a guitar and scratches on it. You just have to hear it to make up your mind. If, like me, you prefer Headhunters, you’re in for a wild, urban, no preservatives added treat.

Eater’s Manifesto is by far the most evangelical of all the songs and truly makes use of the organ’s religious history. The instrument can move and sway and that goes a long way to convincing anyone to come along with it. The idea of ingesting good, real food is inherent in this declarative and fast-paced tune.

Whether you’re interested in good food, good music or all of the above, go to Rodrigues’ site and pick up Soul Food For Thought. You can also catch Vanessa live at Upstairs Jazz Club, Friday & Saturday January 29 & 30, with the Dave Turner Quintet.

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