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Menahan Street Band - Make The Road By Walking

A soulful, high-spirited album.

You may have never heard of the Menahan Street Band, yet you certainly know Jay Z’s ‘Roc Boys (And The Winner Is)’. Well, the soul background of this 2007 hit is taken from ‘Make The Road By Walking’, the opening track of this debut album, previously released as a single by producer and musician Thomas Brenneck on his own label Dunham records. Brenneck, so far known as guitarist for various bands and, interestingly, Amy Winehouse, here plays bits of everything, from bass to vibes, drums, organ and ‘bling’, and is supported by fellow Brooklynians for the brass section (tenor sax and trumpet, plus some trombone here or there) and some other nice things, like conga drums or flute. The LP was recorded as a bedroom-project in Brenneck’s appartment on… Menahan St.

Back to the song ‘Make The Road By Walking’: can the track, purely instrumental as the whole album, find a coherence without Jay-Z’s speech being added to it? Obviousily, yes. Everything is very cool, weaved on a free jazz spirit; the brass lead the dance, not without a drum solo from time to time to keep the pace. The band’s influences range from funk to soul, from Ethio-jazz to afro-beat. In short it’s totally African-American, cosmopolitan, it’s from Brooklyn, NYC and it’s really nice.

The tempo remains basically the same from one end of the album to the other, slow but not too slow, peaceful certainly, the kind of music that makes you calm down when you’re feeling nervous but that won’t make you lazy for all that. Sometimes verging on reggae (‘Montego Sunset’), the album’s rythm is always very swaying, sensual. ‘Karina’, a wee bit darker and melancholic, remains yet basically in the same tone as the rest, full of peace and good humour despite this sad piano line.

However, ‘Going The Distance’, the last track, is really different, more warlike, somewhat eerie; bass replace the brass as the leading instrument. And lo, this song was actually composed for the film ‘Rocky’ - then you get why it’s more, let’s say, more stallonian: violent yet humane…

The challenge for the Menahan Street Band and for Brenneck was to give evidence that, though they are invoved in many projects and are used to compose for others, they are also able to create music that can sustain itself and work on its own. Well, it seems that it does work – ‘Make The Road By Walking’ is indeed a soulful, high-spirited album.

Tags: Menahan Street Band, Reviews, Album Reviews

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