The Nick Hexum Quintet released its debut album in 2013. Nick Hexum, better known as the co-frontman for the band 311, introduces us to a music project that has been in the making for some years now. I came across this album on the $5 albums monthly special on Amazon.com in the last few months. I listened to a couple of samples and was hooked, had to buy it.
311 has been notorious in the past for putting out albums that can easily become part of your summer soundtrack. This has always been part of the attraction I have had with the band as they continuously been part of my summer soundtrack with their up beat, feel-good jams that bring summer to me in style.
I would not only say that “Shadow Pages” is the ideal album for your summer, but my pick for Album of the Year for 2013. Although I have read reviews that is album is so much like 311’s material that it is an easy transfer listening from one to the other, I would beg to differ.
There are definitely elements from some of 311’s songs (My Heart Sings, Two Drops in the Ocean, etc) that come through on the album. This is a much more easier listening, musically engaging, less rap/rock that 311 has been known for. (although less more so in the past decade as their sound has been more softened to more reggae/singing/dancy than their hard hitting albums of the 90s. Nick Hexum completely hits the mark on this album and I would go as far to say that if you have been turned off by 311 in the past, to try out this album because of its completeness and listen-ability. This is not a 311 album under a Nick Hexum name. (I cannot stress that enough)
Nick employs a talented cast of musicians in his Quintet to include his brother, Zach. A jazzy infusion of tunes follow this listening experience. You know you have a special album on your hands when you can listen straight through and not feel like skipping through any of the songs. Use of some guitar, piano and saxophone improvisation with some real beautiful overlays of melody/chorus, it is honey sweet. I readily admit I’m partial to 311 and they are a favorite band of mine, I could not have been more impressed with this effort from The Nick Hexum Quintet. Each song is well polished and connects seamlessly to the next in a most excellent flow of artistry.
Due to the time period I bought this album (just a month before 311’s newest release Stereolithic), I wish there would have been more separation between the of the two albums for my ears and memory. 311’s Stereolithic, a good effort and album from the group, simply falls short of Nick Hexum’s solo effort. Where Stereolithic is hit and miss on the album, but possibly their best overall album since From Chaos, My Shadow Pages is too refined and outclasses Stereolithic in all areas. Which is not to say that 311 is not made up solid talented members, but Nick Hexum’s vision and jazzy genre simply rang overwhelming within my soul this go around.
“My Shadow Pages” reminds me of one of my favorite albums of all time: John Scofield’s “A Go Go”. John Scofield, world renown jazz guitarist, paired up with Medeski Martin and Wood. “A Go Go” is jazz-funk, groove filled album that satisfies the ears and musical tastes of many while in cafes, coffee house, wineries, outdoor/indoor concert halls, etc. Basically, you could take this music anywhere and would not feel out of place or the need “to switch to something more fitting” based on the environment. I’m pretty sure I have even worked out running to “A Go Go”. Well “My Shadow Pages” is like a more pop friendly version of “A Go Go” since it has vocals and less improvisation with more focus on catchy melodies.
Key tracks: Tidal Wave, Song for Driving, Supernatural, Once in Your Life
This is great mood music if you are wishing for something upbeat, easy on the ears and want something to sing along too while cruising around town (or doing anything really). I greatly hope that Nick Hexum plans on putting another album out in the future. It would be a shame to be completely blown away, left wanting more and never hearing anything additional from The Nick Hexum Quintet.Overall Rating: A+