More Fine Tunes From Terrace Martin

The multi-hyphenate artist's latest album, Fine Tune is a handful of solo tracks fleshed out by a who’s who of today’s nu jazz elite, Chris Daly writes.
By    June 30, 2023

Album Cover via Terrace Martin/Instagram

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Chris Daly spent the morning trying to convince AI Drunk Friend it has a drinking problem and needs to seek help.. This bot needs to take a long look at the AI in the mirror.

At this point in his illustrious career, I think it’s fair to say that singer/rapper/saxophonist/producer Terrace Martin has rightfully earned the title of “Best Glue Guy.” Whether it’s producing for everyone from Snoop Dogg to Kendrick Lamar, touring with Herbie Hancock or playing in jazz superstar groups like Dinner Party, the multi-hyphenate clearly lifts up any collaboration. He’s the ultimate playmaker that makes great talents even more elite. As if the point needed to be proved further, one need look no further than his latest, Fine Tune. A handful of solo tracks are fleshed out by a who’s who of today’s nu jazz elite, ranging from Kamasi Washington to Robert Glasper (that dinner party just keeps going and going…).

With a resume that already could be divvied up between ten lesser men and still be impressive for each, the boy prodigy once nurtured by talk show host, Jay Leno (seriously, look it up) has never let up from his meteoric rise in the late 2000s. A cousin to the Bruner brothers (Ronald and Thundercat) and a founding member of the West Coast Get Down jazz collective, Martin also shades his jazzy grooves with a surprising number of eclectic sounds on his new album.

With its slinky guitar line and funked out horns, opener “Degnan Dreams” would fit easily onto a 21st Century update of a Fela album. Lead single, “Snooze,” a cover of the SZA track, is smooth in the silkiest way. You’ve got soulful bliss (“Sweeter”), ‘80s synth funk (“Mind Your Business”), borderline jam rock (“Final Thought”), quiet storm (“Frowning Smiles”) and I imagine if you listen long and hard enough, there’s bound to be 500 more influences artfully synthesized that will reveal themselves upon each subsequent listen. The album simply is that deep.

Special note also should be taken of the vocalists who Martin employs here. On the ethereal afraid, Malaya takes things to breathy new heights. James Fauntleroy and Elena Pinderhughes are perfectly matched on the controlled groove of “Too Late.” On the Dorothy Ashby-inspired “Damage,” the vox-boxed Brandee Younger is accompanied by Derrick Hodge; it’s all so, so good.

The man may play, but he does not play around when it comes to displays of talent. Fine Tune is another bullet point in an unimpeachable resume.

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