Guthrie P. Ramsey Jr. (a.k.a. "Dr. Guy") is associate professor of music history at the University of Pennsylvania, with an impressive academic track record in ethnomusicology. He wrote the critically acclaimed Race Music: Black Cultures from Bebop to Hip-Hop
and has two other writing projects in progress. But he's taken a break from the classroom to compose and record Y the Q
along with his aptly-named group MusiQology (he does, after all, have a Ph.D. in Musicology). He produced the record, too on his own label Ramsey Records.
This is the freshman release for MusiQology and it hints at great potential for Ramsey and his group. It falls comfortably into the smooth or "easy jazz" category. The tracks rely more on melody and beat (with a few ever-so-light touches of funk) than improvisation, although there are a few good solos here and there.
Some of the cuts on Y the Q
are very good and would fit easily on the menu for other smooth jazz stars. "Dorcas's Lament" is a lovely tune with the a nice written bass line, rim-click driven rhythm, muted horns and acoustic piano. The title cut, "Y the Q," has a great smooth groove. If you like the sound of a relaxing afternoon in a big hammock in the shade, "A Month of Sundays" should be in your headphones. Two tunes stray a bit from the easy jazz formula, but deliver very nice music nonetheless. "Subjunctive Mood" is a pensive piece that doesn't develop a rhythmic groove until it's well past the halfway mark and even then only for an interlude before it settles again into a more open exploration of harmony. The closer "Lago Di Como" features Ramsey on a lovely Windham-Hill-esque solo piano piece.
While Y the Q
delivers some nice tracks, it is a bit inconsistent. Some of the tunes are too repetitive, with long sections repeating the melodic theme only briefly interrupted by a short solo or bridge section (e.g. "Lincoln Drive," "Cliffhanger," "Lucky Seven"). Also, Tony Peeble's saxophone sounds too dry and thin on this record, especially on alto. It doesn't blend well, giving off an overdubbed feel.
Overall, Y the Q
is a solid debut and suggests that "Dr. Guy" should continue to spend some time outside of class writing and performing, taking MusiQology to the next level.