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BillyRay Sheppard — Silk

Apr. 13, 2018

A short while back, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing bassist John Stewart of the hot new band Groove Frequencies. It was truly a fun-filled experience. He was to have been joined by the band’s saxman BillyRay Sheppard, but Sheppard was called away to perform at the last minute that night. Little did I know that he has a debut solo release entitled Silk which was released last year. Considering the band’s magnetic, full-bodied groove, I was more than interested in hearing this project. As if listening to my thoughts, his promoter mailed a copy of the release to me recently. To say I was totally pleased and surprised to receive it is an understatement.

Silk is full of just that: Silk, with a boatload of soul, funk, and bounce. It’s very easy to see how Stewart would be drawn to Sheppard’s powerfully expressive style. This is jazz-meets-soul-meets-funk at its finest.

There is simply no let-up on this album as Sheppard plays each song with that intense, far-reaching approach that just blows the needle off any groove-o-meter.

Leading with the sassy title track, Sheppard steps into this project confidently and with both feet. He follows that track with a series of aural treats like the slick and easy “Heels and Pearls,” the high-steppin’ “Take Flight,” the funky mid-tempo “It Doesn’t Have to Be This Way,” the smooth strollin’ “She’s Lovely in Yellow,” and more.

A master on all saxes and the writer of all the tracks on this release, Sheppard should certainly be on his way to becoming one of the premier saxmen around today. There’s a self-assurance and self-awareness that this saxman possesses that speaks for itself. Couple that with a cool writing style and solid material, and you’ve got a winner any way you cut it. Two thumbs up. – Ronald Jackson