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Rainforest Band – Peace to the Planet

Sept. 24, 2019

Here is a very honorable, noble project about which I must plead complete ignorance – until now. Let me preface this review with an introduction to the project as I’m sure many others may have to join me in this new discovery.

Back in the 1990s, keyboardist/composer Merl Saunders had a vision brought about after witnessing the devastating destruction in the Amazon rainforest from which he had just returned. Assuming some responsibility to speak out in some form against this, he organized some like-minded artists and musicians—like the late, iconic Jerry Garcia of The Grateful Dead—and created a new genre called Environmental Earth Music. Via this genre, an album called Blues From the Rainforest – A Musical Suite was created.

Thirty years later, Saunders’ son – bassist Tony Saunders—now takes the baton and elevates the cause to a new level through contemporary jazz. Calling upon his longtime musical partners guitarist Vernon “Ice” Black and gospel keyboardist Sylvester Burks, he embarks here on Peace to the Planet on a journey to continue spreading the message of preservation for one of the world’s most delicate and endangered regions. Doing one’s part in such a noble manner has seldom sounded so good.

Now, to the music. This album is chock full of solid c-jazz that even speaks volumes through the music of the conviction and vision the trio feels toward this cause. With a mix of funky, sax-driven up-tempo tunes like the lead track “Siz,” mid-tempo bass-funky numbers like “Gumbo Groove,” soulful, mellow grooves like “God’s Nature,” finger-snappin’ goodies like “Annisa,” and more, the trio has just the perfect vehicle to transport its message. Without a doubt, the originators of this project are proud of Saunders and where he’s heading with all of this. Quality jazz on a mission. It just doesn’t get any better than that. – Ronald Jackson