Joe Blessett has been self-producing jazz, blues and jazz fusion albums since 2010. He has released six full-length albums since then, and with his sixth album, Excuse Me, Blessett has taken the concept of jazz fusion and added hip hop, R&B and reggae, with mixed results.
Blessett’s previous releases are almost entirely jazz and jazz fusion, with some additions of electronic or blues here and there. He has produced and self-released all of his releases so far, and plays most of the instruments as well. His most recent release in 2013, Changing Everything, was almost entirely jazz with some funk and electronica mixed in, and it was a beautiful and comprehensive record.
John Coltrane and Miles Davis, two jazz artists Blessett clearly loves, are joined by Pink Floyd, Jeff Beck and Kanye West as the muses he names for Excuse Me. Blessett still uses these jazz fusion icons and their style of organized chaos in his song composition while adding many modern twists to the mix. There is also lots more electronic music than is usually present in this new work.
It is clear Blessett wanted to experiment with different styles when he created Excuse Me, and it is also obvious that he has achieved that at the very least. As with any experiment, there are good and not so good elements to the results. In the intro and first five or so songs on the album, Blessett seems to have overshot his goal. The problem with most of these is the introduction of lyrics. The music is still largely well-composed, and the Sketches of Spain-like, chaotic music is well suited to the addition of electronic beats and some R&B melodies. The introductory title track, That’s the Way U Living, and the album’s first single, Paying Bills, have a similar issue with lyrics in that the verses seem muddled and out of place with the music. It is unclear whether Blessett is trying to do them as a spoken-word style or if they are supposed to be actual rap with a verse structure. Either way, the lyrics do not seem to go with any beat, and end up sounding a bit confused.
The second half of the album takes a more pleasant turn. Taking It Down shows Blessett’s potential in the arena of mixing jazz and electronica. This track, Kali, and I Say Eat Him are so different and unusual that they could even be called experimental rather than jazz or electronic. Joe Blow hearkens back to Blessett’s older work, as it is almost entirely jazz. The album closes on an odd note, however, with Athene’s Theory, another experimental track which sort of sounds like Blessett threw together a bunch of hip hop samples and a guitar solo just for the fun of it.
Adding lyrics and new electronic elements to a largely jazz base cannot be an easy endeavor for any musician, and Blessett certainly makes a bold attempt with Excuse Me. Any experimentation, for that matter, can be a difficult process, with lots of ups and downs. In the case of Blessett, some more tinkering may be required to create the sound he is looking for, but he seems well on his way. Excuse Me is available to stream and download on Joe Blessett’s Bandcamp page along with his other albums. The link can be found below in the “Sources” section.
Review by Layla Klamt