It may be considered Music City, but Nashville isn’t exactly known for being a hotbed of jazz. With Rahsaan Barber, however, that may change in fairly short order. The saxophonist and flutist is intensifying possibilities with his new record Everyday Magic, but there’s still a big hunk of that Nashville essence lodged inside.
“When I tell my New York friends there are all these fantastic jazz musicians in Nashville, they say ‘come on, really?’” says Barber. With his new label, Jazz Music City Records, the 31-year-old dynamo hopes to change that impression.
The arrival of Everyday Magic actually debuts the band of the same name featuring four top Nashville musicians: Adam Agati (guitar), Jody Nardone (piano), Jerry Navarro (bass), and Nioshi Jackson (drums). Barber’s twin brother Roland (trombone) guests on a couple of tracks and percussionist Giovanni Rodriguez also lends support.
Right out of the box, the Everyday Magic ensemble is on fire. “Jubilee” matches its namesake, powering through a blissful excursion of commanding drumming, confident piano-playing, burning guitar, and self-assured work from Rahsaan on saxophone.
“Floodsong,” my favourite track, opens with Nardone taking a smooth walk across the keys. With a sexy groove set up, the piece slides into place and Barber bears witness with a howling saxophone turn. A cooker of a guitar solo balances perfectly and bounces out over the song’s footing, adding strokes of colour and light.
Rahsaan and Roland Barber were born in Nashville in April of 1980. Exposed to a blend of music at an early age, including blues and gospel, Rahsaan expanded his knowledge base by attending Indiana University to study music under David Baker. The Barber brothers debuted on 2001’s Twinnovation and, a few years later, Rahsaan took to his first record as a leader with 2005’s TrioSoul. Everyday Magic debuts a new vibe, capitalizing on all he’s learned to this point and pushing it through with a heavy dose of Nashville.
The sweet gospel of “Manhattan Grace” is a lovely example of what he’s learned over the years. His poise is faultless and the song’s course is one of hand-raising grace. Sinewy piano lines accent the arrangement, while Jackson’s easy rhythm keeps it cooking. Another burning-hot guitar solo testifies to the gods of awesomeness that all is well indeed.
Nashville jazz is here to stay, that’s for sure, and Barber’s Everyday Magic proves it. There’s nothing ordinary about this, though, and the musician’s grasp for a larger audience should meet little opposition.