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COUSIN FROM ANOTHER PLANET- Aaron Whitby
Album liner notes- by Greg Tate

     Percolating, stimulating and motor- booty activatin’ are ways to rightfully describe the infectious music found on Aaron Whitby’s debut album as a bandleader. After proper dues-paying decades as a supportive keyboardist, arranger, co-writer, and studio cohort for a gang of noteworthy artists—George Clinton, Randy Brecker, Lisa Fischer, his brilliant life- partner Martha Redbone among them—Whitby emerges on Cousin From Another Planet as a musician of compositional range and depth and fecund instrumental prowess in his own right.

      The album’s rumprollin’ opener Sleeping Giant, grooves with intentions slinky and bulbous, not least thanks to the mucho phat and Mutronically enhanced bass work of longtime colleague and collaborator Fred Cash—a low end specialist of well-known invention and bumptiousness. Whitby serves us the album’s big picture in bite size portions here  —a funk-da-fied jam session feel undergirding tight, knotty jazz-smart progressions. In a positive and confident show of roots Whitby also revises Herbie Hancock’s modern classic of graceful angularity and stomp, Eye of The Hurricane. His re-interpretive take fuses VSOP and Headhunters Herbie into a recombinant funky freebopping whole. This jawn rides on the nimble bass handles of Jerome Harris, a veteran wrangler of complex changes. Whitby’s arrangement also generates ample room for saxophonist Keith Loftis, violinist Charles Burnham and drummer Rodney Holmes to steam, sear and shred the walls of the place. The album’s title track pays homage to John Styles Afrofuturist film classic ‘Brother From Another Planet’ while lyrically enfolding Whitby’s sense of himself as an immigrant, radical fellow traveler and musical messenger on a righteous mission—artistic engagement in justice work within his core adopted, embracing communities, Black and indigenous America. Whitby gives us his most ebullient and house-rocking acoustic piano work on ‘Cousin’—an artful lesson in jabbing economy and abstract butt-smack. The engaging journey here also includes Walking With Z (re Whitby’s beloved tween son Zach), a rollicking admixture of Ellingtonian romanticism and roadhouse earthquake. Burnham’s wah-wah fiddling shines in the cut and a flurry of tender mercies roll out from under of the fingers of the leader in loving dad mode. We’d also direct your attention to the collection’s closer, Escape Route which drives through percussive rhythm changes redolent of the best 70s fusion and prog—a time in music massively inspiring to those of Whitby (and this writer’s) generation—and gives welcome rise to a signature Fender Rhodes excursion by Whitby that leaves us begging for more. 

     With its well divvied up collages of serious, compositional construction and lowdown improvisational bravura, Whitby’s Cousin From Another Planet joins the ranks of this era’s hardiest re-dedications and festival-tent revival of soulful and exploratory jam-gnocity. May this music circuitously surge its backsliding way up and down your gluteus and into your oblongata again and again.

A small sampling of press about Whitby's previous work:
MINNEAPOLIS POST
"The Garden of Love: Songs of William Blake,” is one of those out-of-the-blue surprises that make critics respond with raves…genuinely new and exciting.” Pamela Espelande

THE NEW YORKER
"(The Garden of Love) A brilliant collision of cultures.”

MOJO
"Fabulous album. Skintalk is supremely soulful with it’s sinewy organic retro grooves. A gem of a record.”

BLUES AND SOUL (UK)
“Once in a blue moon an album (Skintalk) comes along out of nowhere that starts by giving you goosebumps and ends by knocking you completely off your feet. This is one such album. In terms of quality and soulfulness it eclipses everything else I've heard this year."

BILLBOARD MAGAZINE
“(Home of the Brave) Stunning disc, a sharply drawn, wonderfully human collection of material…. remarkable flair for crafting pleasantly sticky, completely original jams." Larry Flick

TIME OUT NY
“Groove heavy power-house of a band.”

 

UK Vibe

Aaron Whitby ‘Cousin From Another Planet’ CD (Ropeadope) 4/5


For a career as diverse and rewarding as Aaron Whitby’s has been, it certainly comes as a surprise that his new release, ‘Cousin From Another Planet’, marks his official debut solo project as a bandleader.

That very diverse and rewarding career has seen London-born Whitby – as a pianist – grace stages and studios with artists including George Clinton, Raul Midon, Natalie Cole, Neal Sedaka, as well as serving as the Musical Director for his wife, vocalist Martha Redbone. Even throughout Redbone’s own auspicious career, Whitby’s never been far from her side and has served as a co-writer and co-producer for each of her releases, ‘Home of the Brave’, ‘Skintalk’ (released through Dome Records) and ‘The Garden of Love – Songs of William Blake’, as well as the incredibly successful NYC-based musicals they have gone on to create together.

‘Cousin From Another Planet’ fittingly now sees Redbone by her husband’s side providing vocals throughout with a thrilling array of artists and musicians, many of which serving as long-time Whitby collaborators and with an awe-inspiring body of work between them: saxophonist Keith Loftis (Abdullah Ibrahim, Roy Hargrove Big Band), bass by Fred Cash (Martha Redbone) and Jerome Harris (Sonny Rollins), violin by Charles Burnham (Stuart Matthewman, Cassandra Wilson), percussion by Gary Fritz (Roberta Flack, Ronny Jordan), drums by Rodney Holmes (Santana, Monday Michiru), and vocals provided by the aforementioned Redbone, Lisa Fischer, Rome Neal and Tamar-Kali.

Listening to this album, there really is no doubt that Whitby and company are a collective of musicians that genuinely enjoy making and performing music – ‘Cousin From Another Planet’ seems to capture an infectious, almost joyous, energy that just carries throughout the project with songs like ‘Escape Route’, ‘Sleeping Giant’ and ‘Mrs Quadrillon’. It’s an understandable conclusion to draw – with much of the album reportedly having been conceived during morning walks with his son to school, it’s touching that that experience itself is commemorated with the song ‘Walking With Z’ (Zach). Even when tackling Herbie Hancock’s ‘The Eye of the Hurricane’, the allure of creation is just too great and the original composition ends up serving as a launchpad for what ultimately transforms into ‘The Eye of the Hurricane 2.0’.

Released through Ropeadope Records, Whitby has potentially delivered his tour de force. This could be the record he’s longed to make – the project that serves as the culmination of years of studio and live collaborations, a homage to his own influences as well as the chance to establish Whitby’s own name amongst these masters.

Cousin From Another Planet Trailer

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