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ALBUM REVIEW: "Offering: The Music of Gil Scott-Heron & Brian Jackson"


Charenee Wade

"Offering: The Music of Gil Scott-Heron & Brian Jackson"

Motema Music

In his prime, Gil Scott-Heron was a truly unique artist, a rapper before rap, a hip-hopper before hip-hop. Plagued by addictions, he died at the age of 62 in 2011. Since then, there have been several tribute albums, but Charenee Wade's "Offering: The Music of Gil Scott-Heron & Brian Jackson" stands out. Instead of focusing on the best-known compositions — "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised," "In The Bottle," etc. — this album showcases the more melodic side of Scott-Heron and his frequent collaborator, Brian Jackson.

Wade is the perfect choice for this mission. Aside from discouraging comparisons with Scott-Heron, a female singer takes the tunes to different places. And what a wonderful singer she is. (Wade is the only vocalist to place twice in the Thelonious Monk Competition). Scott-Heron and Jackson are known for politically charged lyrics, but their music also contains a provocative edge and producer Mark Ruffin lined up a superb band to exploit it: Brandon McCune, piano; Dave Stryker, guitar; Lonnie Plaxico, bass; Alvester Garnett, drums; Stefon Harris, vibes; Marcus Miller, bass clarinet; and Lakecia Benjamin, alto sax. And if you miss the raps, check out the potent spoken word by Malcolm-Jamal Warner and Christian McBride.