Soul Basement ‘What We Leave Behind’ (ITI) 3/5

This is an 8-track foray into what I would say would best be described as a modern soul/jazz album. With large amounts of piano, Fender Rhodes and Hammond organ parts blended with programmed but live sounding drums and horns, ’What We Leave Behind’ is a outright retro album that unashamedly takes its influences from 1970s soul and vocal jazz records for this the forth Soul Basement album. Fabio Puglisi aka Soul Basement is an Italian musician and producer who this time out adds jazz vocalist Jay Nemor, originally from Houston, Texas on all eight tracks, who has also released previous material including a solo album in 2014 titled ‘Just Sayin’.
Regards the songs themselves, all are perfectly crafted with the ballad, ‘With You’ being a standout. The more uptempo ‘I’m Doing Fine’ with its catchy chorus holds an Incognito quality, and I enjoyed the more contemporary ‘Future Reminiscence’ with its Dilla/Ummah sounding sub bass and finger snaps, combined with Jay’s Gil Scott-Heron type rap poetry lyrics considering past memories and positive thoughts, with added saxophone included.

Being critical, the album is quite old fashioned with nothing new here that is going to attract an audience outside of the modern soul/jazz world – but that’s probably the point. The vocals are perfectly delivered with Jay obviously being influenced by baritone jazz vocalist Jon Lucien as well as the previously mentioned street poetry of Gil, but lyrically the songwriting is very literal with not a great deal of abstraction. And the level of musicianship is competent throughout the album, but maybe the use of some additional musicians to augment the production here would provide alternative ideas could be seen as a positive. This isn’t a massive criticism but it is common with albums where an individual or a small team has handled the entire production. The reason we all love Marvin, Stevie and Miles is also because of their collaborators.

Comparisons with artists such as Mario Biondi and Incognito are clear, and if that’s your lane then this is very much for you. But in a world where Gregory Porter is so dominant, it is genuinely very difficult for vocal based soul/jazz artists to create an impact or to market albums like this. But it will fit in nicely with the Jazz FM crowd and music fans who tend to stay with albums that are firmly rooted in the 70s soul sound.

Damian Wilkes