Gumbs has that McCoy Tyner, Joe Sample type of keyboard playing. Most of his playing is very regimented, but his technique is there. His band, on the other hand, really tries to keep the beat, but seems to go out of proportion in quality and meter. The sax player especially sounded very out of key, or what they call a-tonal.
In each song, Gumbs starts very majestically with great chording and texture, but again the band is not creating a mood. There is neither color, nor contrast. Their weakest player is the drummer, Billy Kilson. It sounds like they did a poor job in recording him in the studio. There is no subtleness in his playing. The mixing of the CD is also very poor. Mixing is how you put all these instruments together to make a song. They use a process called layering. The bass player and drummer are usually the first to record on a song, then piano, then the singer (if any), finally solo musicians, such as sax or horn players. There are many nice sections of the CD, which have strings in them, but you can hardly hear them. Strings are to compliment, not hinder a song.
Onaje Allen Gumbs’s original works did not impress me. They were too predictable. I guess being a writer you want to hear certain thing such as color, emotion and texture. Music is always from the heart and soul. No one can ever take that away from you. The best track is Remember Their Innocence. But the band is adding too many things to Gumbs' wonderful piano sound. These are commonly known as embellishments, which should be very subtle, creating color, and they should create small sub melodies along with the soloist. It sounds like the band is procrastinating, trying to get to the end of the tune. You either need a nice solid ending such as a fade out, or a nice passing chord. We will talk about passing chords a little bit later. In track 4, called Sol Bricho, the band tries their hand at playing a bossa. The band here is conjunctive, fumbling to try to catch that certain beat.
I really feel that Onaje Allen Gumbs should have either made a solo CD project, or worked a smaller band such as a trio. I give this CD a 2 out of 5 in my jazz-o-meter rating.