(Velour, 2001)

Velour Recordings is a New York-based indie label that has only been around a few years. According to promotional material, they consider themselves more of an "artist collective" for cutting-edge urban music than a traditional label.

One of their bands has released a self-titled debut, Kudo. More jazz than anything else, this innovative band extends its repertoire into the hip-hop, electronica and soul genres as well. Those of you who enjoy jazz might appreciate the alternative expression Kudo has to offer. Those of you unfamiliar with jazz might give it a listen as this album overlaps more modern musical styles.

At the forefront of this band is Sylvia Gordon, who not only writes the lyrics, but also sings and plays bass. As the promotional material succinctly puts it, "Sylvia sings the songs of empowerment, scorn and love. Her brooding lyrics, strong melodic sense and entrancing stage presence make her the perfect front woman." Sylvia's sexy, passionate vocals are definitely the highlight of this CD.

Deantoni Parks plays the drums. It sounds more like he plays the drum machines to me. However, those promo sheets claim Deantoni plays live! The speed and finesse at which he plays is certainly impressive. The band is rounded out by two keyboardists, Nick Kasper and Peter Stoltzman.

Kudo contains eight songs and one instrumental. One of the better songs on the album is "Restless," which starts off with some sci-fi sounding keyboards quickly followed by that consistent drum machine sound. Sylvia's lyrics are simple, yet her voice quickly grabs you, pulling you into one of the least jazzy tunes on the CD.

"Relax" is much more jazzy in my opinion. The lyrics tell you to let it go since you are not in control. Just listen to the music and lose yourself. That works for me.

The worst song on Kudo is the instrumental "Cinemajik." This piece is not exactly bad, but without Sylvia's vocals, something vital is missing.

Kudo's self-titled debut is an interesting mix of jazz with other musical styles. The best part of the band is Sylvia's voice. I generally like the jazzy drum beat. I am turned off by the few fast-paced, drum machine-sounding bits that are included here and there. Whether the keyboards sound like piano or electronica, they are consistently overpowered by the vocals. This is not a bad CD. But my bet is that Kudo can produce something better.

[ by Wil Owen ]
Rambles: 21 October 2001

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