Blue Soul Ten is the artistic moniker and musical brainchild of a musician, composer and producer who has been part of the music industry for 20 years. He started out as a radio DJ, as well as studying composition and production at the prestigious Berklee College of Music.
His music incorporates jazz, funk, soul, electronica, reggae and hip hop with his tracks often featuring guest artists. He’s released six albums previously, The Unspoken Warrior, The Fearless Warrior, The Beautiful Warrior, Blue Notes, Ten Percent, Songs About You and The Incredible Sound Of Blue (to which I gave stellar reviews, read here, here and here).
This album, This Is Worth It, consists of thirteen tracks, some featuring vocalists who’ve appeared on previous albums as well as some newcomer collaborators. For those not yet familiar with the music of Blue Soul Ten, the albums are always bookended by an intro and outro track and this album is no exception. However, whereas instrumentals at each end of the album have been a recurrence this one opens up with the fantastic All We Need (ft. Syauqi Destanika). It’s a deliciously slinky RnB track with huge jazz overtones, driven by smoky as hell Rhodes piano while backed by a tight yet swinging beat and pulsing bass. Combined with the earthy, lush lead vocals and sweet, rich layered harmonies it’s as a seductive introduction to an album as you can get.
It segues perfectly into Different Than I’m Used To (ft Skyler Harris), an exquisite marriage of soul, funk and jazz. It’s hard to overstate the high standards of musicianship across the board on this track, from the restless, roaming bass to the frenetic complexity of the drums and percussion. Skyler’s soulful vocals are the cherry on the cake and the result is another Blue Soul Ten classic.
You Should Know By Now (ft. Dennis Lorenzo) is a nice contrast, an upbeat but emotive RnB track with a very finely sung lead vocal from the talented Lorenzo. Sounding halfway between Luther Vandross and Jason Derulo, the vocals are counterpointed by an intricate bassline and vibrant percussion along with bursts of crisp, lead acoustic guitar. The harmonies on the secondo section/pre chorus are superb and the modulation is skilfully done. A definite potential single.
Fourth track Up To You (ft. Sharmain) keeps the bar high, this one a female led jazzy RnB track, set at a blissed out tempo. There’s an effortless synergy that emerges from the musicians playing in perfect sync, laying the platform for Sharmain to deliver a sensual, passionate vocal. Once again, the vocal arrangement and harmonies are absolute perfection, juxtaposed by the adventurous bass and Rhodes on the verses.
Just as classy and well performed is I’m Afraid I Might, another track featuring the excellent Syauqi Destanika on vocals. Bolstered by a particularly good, almost James Jamerson-esque, bassline and strident jazz piano along with timely punctuations of brass, it’s another slam dunk.
No Love Greater (ft. Saniyah X) is both the album’s most sophisticated and spiritual track, a deep celebration of faith reflected over a highly intricate groove, a rich mosaic of complex percussion patterns (take a bow). This is infused with a smoking hot bassline, timely stabs of brass, swirling sax and a vocal full of both sultry dryness and authentic emotion and passion. The lyrics are full of spiritual wisdom: “The heavens know our affair and know there’s no love greater….”.
Next up is the fine title track, another vocal outing for Dennis Lorenzo and yet another first rate arrangement where every musician delivers to the max with an uncanny synergy. The buoyant bass, taut groove and mellow Rhodes cook up a meaty bedrock of sound, augmented by syncopated guitar and timely brass lines, allowing Lorenzo to deliver an understated but hugely charismatic lead vocal that resonates.
Heavenly features both Skyler Harris as lead vocalist and the rapping talents of Ascent, who brings a fresh angle to the soul/funk hybrid that constitutes the album’s signature sound. As Blue Soul Ten have experimented with hip hop on previous albums Ascent’s effective cameo on this track comes as no surprise.
He features once more on the following Pieces, this time joined by Brail Watson, taking the lead vocal duties. After a jazzy intro and a compelling descending vocal melody from Brail, the dreamy Rhodes breaks into a fabulous groove, full of world music influences. Over this polyrhythmic backdrop, Brail and Ascent trade vocals both sung and rapped, creating a natural yin/yang together. A definite album highlight for me.
Like I Do features the third and lasting appearance from Dennis Lorenzo and it’s a jewel of an RnB track. With an irresistible 6/8 groove, the arrangement gradually builds in intensity, the lyrics depicting a romantic relationship in terrible turmoil: “Do you think it’s worth the fight, do you ever say my name?”
Also in 6/8 time is the Sharmain sung Loving You, a heartfelt RnB ballad full of inventive chord changes and musical left turns while still retaining an accessible core, enriched by bold, golden brass and soaring synth strings. Sharmain’s vocals are distinctive and versatile, backed by some super tight, gospel inspired block harmonies.
The final track opens with a spoken intro by Blue Soul Ten himself, setting the vibe for another appearance from Brail Watson. It’s perhaps the most romantic song on the album, delicately and exquisitely sung, accompanied by equally subtle piano and solid but very melodic bass. The harmonies on the chorus and rich organ complete the soundscape, emerging percussion only adding to the sophistication. It builds up to a restrained but undoubtedly climactic finale, paving the way for the now traditional album outro we get on a Blue Soul Ten album.
Blue Theme VI is a captivating conclusion to proceedings, full of musical twists and turns which the musicians navigate with consummate ease. In particular, the drummer gets to really let rip with some incredible fills and the well structured arrangement builds to a satisfying finish.
Overall, this is yet another album of the highest quality from Blue Soul Ten. This one finds him at his most sophisticated and nuanced as writer/producer and performer, a very high degree of musicianship combining with compositional craft and an array of gifted vocal collaborators, both male and female. Whether this is Blue Soul Ten’s best album yet is so somewhat subjective, but it seems to me that the quality and musical versatility only seems to go from strength to strength with every release. And only a fool would try to deny that Blue Soul Ten is making the most sophisticated, accomplished RnB music out there.