Smoke N Bones does something incredible with their new album “Amplify”. It’s the epitome of groovy. It’s the brainchild of a coming together of jazz-centric minds, with afterthoughts of 70s keyboard riffs, and daydreams of the kind of music that actually does make you dance. “Amplify” makes me feel like I’m walking down a crowded sidewalk with my hair slicked back and a toothpick in my mouth, snapping my fingers at passers-by. Because when you’re listening to Smoke N Bones, everyone’s your groovy, finger-snapping friend.
The album kicks off with masterful bass work of bassist Doug Dietrich, as he brings back strong memories of intros to songs such as “Right Place, Wrong Time” by Dr. John. Keyboardist Kyle “Astreaux” Cripps sets the tone for guest trumpeter Mark Levron to lift listeners’ spirits with short, quick bursts of melody, bringing a big band feel to a tight-knit group. Through the first few songs of “Nobody Knows”, “Somethin Somethin”, and “Amplify”, Smoke n Bones quickly manages to emit the easy going, laid back jazz club feeling. Levron and his trumpet speak loud enough for five or six, in the best way possible. Smoke n Bones is all over the musical spectrum in their new album. In “Nobody Knows”, the vocal talents of Billy Franklin, Kyle Sharamitaro, and Doug Dietrich come together to create an excellent combination of baritone, tenor, and alto. In “Somethin Somethin”, drummer Kyle Sharamarito begins with a snare drum build up intro reminiscent of Jason Marsalis’ percussion perfection. Songs like “Amplify” and “Here I Come” are almost reminiscent of a time of disco, retrieving memories of Donna Summer with her finger on the trigger. Other tracks like “Let’s Ride” (my favorite on the album) transport me back to the days of soulful R&B in its prime, where vocalist Mykia Jovan perfectly projects her soft voice through the speakers and invokes thoughts of a female Marvin Gaye, or a modern day Billie Holiday.
“Amplify” is Smoke N Bones’ first album, and it doesn’t sound like it’ll be even remotely close to their last. “Amplify” is an amalgamation of music’s peak in the 70s with soft R&B; of classic, smooth jazz, and upbeat late night disco clubs; and of the best of the Marsalis brothers and a record of elevator music you can actually dance to. Smoke N Bones has created a portal to simpler times in their new album, and one can only hope they’ll keep us there with the record they bring out next.