Life This Time

Jerome Lee

Jerome Lee, 2003

http://www.jeromelee.net/

REVIEW BY: Michael Broyles

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 04/01/2009

What if I told you that there was this guy who plays funk bass, sings like a late 1980’s R&B crooner, solos like a jazz guitarist and sprinkles his songs with European techno-pop?  Would you believe me?  Well, you better believe, because his name is Jerome Lee.  Jerome Lee makes music that, when described, does not sound like it would be enjoyable (anyone want to go to the jazzy R&B Euro techno-pop concert?) but works, somehow, some way.  His 2003 album, Life This Time, recorded in Holland, is a worthwhile – albeit imperfect – conjoining of these three styles.

The first thing I noticed about Jerome Lee on Life This Time was that he could sing – and sing well.  The smooth tenor’s voice is strong and engaging, particularly in “Reach,” a beautiful, lovemaking R&B ballad.  Lee’s voice mixes vulnerability and confidence –confident in his love, vulnerable to his lover.  Even when he sings laughable, half-baked lyrics (“I have traveled ‘round this world / Yes, I’ve seen so many pretty girls / Some I find are far too lonely / Love is one thing for her to do only”), the sincere and passionate emotion dripping from his voice shines clearly.  my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The second thing I noticed about Jerome Lee was that this cat could play!  Sure, he is a solid bass player, but Lee really transcends the realm of “good” bass players when he solos.  Take his solo in the techno-pop inspired “Druk Op De Een.”  Lee’s solo is melodic yet forceful.  He flawlessly mixes engaging, sing-able melodies with thought-provoking rhythmic variations. He brings the art of the jazz solo to a style of music known mostly for its computer-generated sounds. That alone is something to boast about. 

My favorite song on the album is “Time Gone Away,” a bass duet between Lee and himself.  Written with exquisite melodic detail and close attention to arrangement, “Time Gone Away” may only feature bass, but it emanates a rich, full sound.  Reminding me of the Victor Wooten bass ballads, Lee shows that the electric bass, if played correctly, can be as beautiful as its higher-toned counterparts.

Despite containing some great music, “Time Gone Away” is certainly not perfect.  First off, as mentioned earlier, Lee’s lyrics are often generic and – dare I say – downright cheesy.  Generally, the best lyrics are meaningful whether sung or spoken; “Never won a beauty contest / But she’s still the prettiest girl to me” (“Prettiest Girl”) does not make the cut.  Secondly, many of the songs lack a cohesive arrangement.  The George Benson influence in Lee’s composing is apparent, but many of his songs lack the practical sensibilities that made much of Benson’s music so alluring.  Lastly, Lee and co-producer Nikki Buzz often choose instrument tones that substantially detract from the listening experience.  This is especially true on the closing track, “Student Jam.”  The sounds on this track are so wearisome and insipid that they seem more appropriate for a Casio keyboard demo song than a professional recording. 

All in all, I applaud Jerome Lee for being so forthcoming in connecting jazzy R&B with techno. Lee showed me that these styles are more compatible than I had previously thought.  And while some songs will move your heart and others will make your eyes roll, Lee’s music is worth a listen if only to hear him solo.

Rating: B

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© 2009 Michael Broyles and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Jerome Lee, and is used for informational purposes only.