Saturday, July 24, 2021

MARK JAIMES · HEAR AT LAST

Trippin & Rhythm
July 23, 2021

The clever double entendre title of Mark Jaimes’ long awaited Trippin ‘N’ Rhythm debut album Hear at Last is an emphatic, tongue in cheek response to the nudging question the multi-talented East London based guitarist, composer and producer has been asked throughout his extraordinary career: “Why don’t you do your own album?”

The first time was from Gota Yashiki in the late 90s, when the Simply Red bassist, drummer, songwriter and producer reached out to Jaimes to join Mick Hucknall’s famed UK soul/pop band in the studio for their album Blue. Jaimes went on to enjoy a dynamic run with the band both on the road and in the studio, starting with serving as their full time guitarist from 1998-2003 – a stretch that included over 160 dates over two world tours and a greatest hits tour and being featured on the albums Love and the Russian Winter (1999) and Home (2003).

Though he stopped performing live with Simply Red, Jaimes has played on each of their subsequent albums up through Blue Eyed Soul in 2019. While working out of their home base of the Metropolis Room in London for numerous artists, the guitarist and his longtime production partner Danny Saxon co-produced three tracks on the band’s 2007 album Stay. The tandem have worked with a variety of artists over the years and boast the unique distinction of reworking the track “Caruso” for a posthumous release by Luciano Pavarotti. Jaimes’ pop/R&B credits over the years include Rick Astley, Kylie Minogue, Hayley Westenra, Tamyra Gray and Ruben Studdard.

Some years after Yashiki, another musician who suggested Jaimes record a solo album was Rick Braun, whom Jaimes had met and first played with in 2010 during a sold-out five night stint at London’s famed jazz club Pizza Express, where the trumpeter and saxophonist Richard Elliot were holding court as R&R. That year, Jaimes got a call to fill in from Oli Silk, the venue’s house keyboardist and a popular #1 Billboard charting Trippin ‘N’ Rhythm artist since 2006. The regular house guitarist wasn’t available, and Jaimes took over starting with the RnR run, eventually becoming Pizza Express’ house guitarist.

After years holed up working in the studio, Jaimes welcomed the opportunity to perform live, and over his ten years there immersed himself in the urban jazz experience, supporting genre greats like Braun, Brian Culbertson (four consecutive years), Dave Koz (who invited the guitarist to play on one of his Dave Koz and Friends at Sea cruises), Peter White, Chuck Loeb, Euge Groove, Mindi Abair and others. Jaimes’ success in the smooth jazz world extended to the studio as well where he worked on recordings by Silk, Michael J. Thomas and Kirk Whalum.

With Braun’s suggestion finally reaching fruition with the impending release of Hear at Last, Jaimes invited the trumpeter to appear on the crackling, infectious horn-drenched funk track “Heads Up,” including a freewheeling, fiery solo near the end. Hear at Last’s lead single is the opening track “Evenin’,” a snappy, strutting mid-tempo funk tune featuring Jaimes’ lively, lighthearted trademark riffs, and an old school soul-jazz keyboard vibe and a sparkling piano solo by Silk. Silk also solos on a jangling, deep thumping jazz/funk dance jam “Peak Too Soon.”

Another key track – and one perfectly reflective of his classic R&B/pop sensibilities and passion for killer rhythms and melodies – is Rod Temperton’s “Midnight Rendezvous,” a buoyant, playfully grooving track featuring Jaimes’ slick lead guitar, mystical synth magic and a soaring vocal hook by the great Patti Austin. It’s a song that emerged from Jaimes’ collaborations in the mid-2000s with Mica Paris and the late legendary songwriter, who penned era defining smashes for everyone from his band Heatwave to Michael Jackson and George Benson.

In addition to Jaimes and Saxon (keyboards), the 10 track collection features Smitty Smith (bass on “Evenin’”) and drummers Westley Joseph (“Heads Up, “”6 after 8,” “Hear at Last”) and Oscar Seaton (“Evenin’”). Jaimes creates his inimitable sound on the George Benson signature model Ibanez GB10, a second Ibanez guitar, and most sentimentally, a Hofner Committee Sunbursts Electric, which was once his father’s guitar.

“The title of the song and album ‘Hear at Last’,” Jaimes says, “is not only a response to everyone, including Gota and Rick, who ever suggested I do a solo album, but also caps a running joke with longtime Pizza Express promoter and radio programmer Jimi King, who knew I was working on tracks and kept asking, ‘Is the album finished yet?’ The pandemic offered a silver lining of having months off from live performing and much of my regular studio work, so that I could write and produce the final batch of tunes for the project. Certainly the work I do for others has left me with limited time to work on my own material,” he adds. “But the real reason the solo album was a bit of a slow process for me is that my years as a session musician has involved a lot of different styles and it was hard to A&R myself and hone in on a specific sound.

“I love funk and writing strong melodies you can sing along to,” he adds, “but getting everything to fit into the accessible radio ready vibe – always the key to establishing a toehold in this genre – took a while. I always had a lot of ideas floating in my mind but the balance between too simple and too complicated was tricky. I learned so much about songwriting from Rod and about pacing from guys like Rick and Dave, who never rushed things in their show but are always laid back in how they arrange their set lists and build momentum with what they’re saying and playing.”

Jaimes, who began playing guitar at age 5 and did his first gig at 9, laid the foundation for the soul element of his eclectic career by playing in several soul bands that scored recording contracts. Between those years sand tours with other artists in the years leading up to his involvement with Simply Red, he worked behind the scenes as the resident guitarist for David Dundas Music, playing on high profile jingles for TV and film. Dundas is perhaps best known for his 1976 pop hit “Jeans On,” adapted from his jingle for Brutus Jeans.

One of the secretaries who worked for Dundas’ company introduced Jaimes to record producer Yak Bondy, who had been Lisa Stansfield’s musical director. Jaimes began working on some of Bondy’s projects, and through him got in touch with Gota Yashiki, who told Jaimes he was going to be working on the next Simply Red album (Blue) and asked if he would like to come play on it. Mick Hucknall was in the process of assembling a completely new lineup and Jaimes’ style fit right in.

“Through all of these experiences, I realize that I am truly a Shalamar and Michael Jackson loving soul boy at heart, always digging the idea of those grooves, melodies and funky rhythms with tasty playing on top,” the guitarist says. “While in the process of creating the tracks that would ultimately lead to Hear at Last, I changed directions a few times - but at some point, well, you never really finish an album, you just have to stop. I think overall the album is pretty well balanced and creates a vibe that I’m proud of. I was in the studio for a long time working on it and I can’t wait to get out there with a band and start sharing these songs with everyone.”

Trippin ‘N’ Rhythm Records

 

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