I have been a fan of Alex Bugnon's, since his debut album "Love Season," released in 1989; so I was very excited to get his seventh CD "Soul Purpose". I could listen to" Yearning For Your Love" over and over and over.... Bugnon was the musician that turned me on to the possibilities of piano in jazz, before him, I was strictly a horns enthusiast.
The 14 tunes on Soul Purpose come in crystal waterfalls of sound with a backwash of funk. Bugnon‘s musical background of jazz, soul and gospel infuse his work. A native of Montreux, Switzerland, Bugnon credits his early visits to the legendary Montreux Jazz Festival and his jazz musician Father and Uncle for his love of jazz and soul music.
Bugnon's early experience includes the gospel groups Clara Mahomes and The Gospel Leviticus. He later spent four years touring with Patti Austin, Freddie Jackson, James Ingrahm and Keith Sweat. His 1989 debut album" Love Season", reached # 2 on the Billboard R&B charts and was nominated for best jazz album at the Soul Train Awards; An honor also garnered by his 1991 release, "107 Degrees In The Shade". Bugnon was named by Black Radio Exclusive as Best New Artist for his 1990 chart-topper,"Head Over Heels".
"The Soul Purpose" CD especially cut five "Sunset Over Manhattan" has been dedicated to the victims and their family members, of the September 11 attacks on America. The day after the attacks, he was on his way to Manhattan to work on the CD. As he drove along the West Side Highway, the saw a beautiful sunset behind the smoke that had engulfed the city after the collapse of the World Trade towers. At that moment, he observed what looked like thousands of angels flying overhead. Sunset Over Manhattan is an introspective and hauntingly beautiful tune. This cut is as nostalgic as a kiss goodbye. The wistful, ringing notes seem to ask: When will I see you again?
This CD is filled with tributes and remakes and they are all done well. Cut seven Giant Steps is a John Coltrane tune beautifully delivered by sax man Vincent Henry, but at just under a minute it’s much, much too short. Cut 11, EWF is a gorgeous soaring melody that is sweet soulful and deep, but what else would you expect from a tribute to Earth, Wind and Fire. The last cut Bugnon’s piano solo version of Duke Ellington’s In A Sentimental Mood is very classical and, lonely. It’s the grand piano in the lobby of the elegant hotel amidst columns and ferns.
The first cut Around 12:15 AM is new more melody driven version of a tune that originally appeared on the Love Season album. There is a syncopated percussive beat with an agile piano melody. This sophisticated jam thrills the ear with a convergence of textures. The vocals, basically one sentence repetition with some scatting, add just enough, without weighing down the tune. This is classic Bugnon, taking you to the top with a virtuoso display of skills. The second track, Walking In Rhythm, is an almost seamless transition from the previous cut. The undulating melody draws attention to itself and the funky foot tapping rhythm has you waiting for the familiar part of the tune to come back to you.
Cut three Rio.Com is what it says. There’s a samba beat with a slower Latin-influenced melody that is slow and introspective. Just when I thought, I'm not quite feeling this, the cut kicks into high gear, and you can picture images of professional ballroom dancers in a tango amidst ruffles and sequins.
Cut four Night Groove is whistling, mysterious and as sophisticated as a torch singer leaning on the edge of a piano encouraging the piano man to show his stuff. She’s dangling a cigarette, nodding her head and tapping her beat keeping foot. This swank music flows until suddenly there’s an epiphany and you sit up and take note!
The two most romantic pieces cut eight, Love Song #2 and cut 13 Can’t Get You Out Of My Mind are floating and pretty, whimsical but with a flirting, energized piano. The vocals on Can’t get you Out of My Mind are soulful and tender. Bugnon’s touch on the keys is insistent and yearning. I love this cut! It has a seductive, cloudy, feeling like burgeoning passion.
Cut nine the title cut Soul Purpose is well named. This is a soulful tune with a sense of purpose. There is an assurance and an insistence in the keyboard and the resonance of the horn. It’s like a train so certain of a timely arrival; it has time to stop for entertainment on the way. The keyboard goes through chords, like an organ taking some blues to church. Cut 12, Changes maintains this gospel thread. You feel the phrases are almost scolding or preaching: If you had done this, if you had done, that, but you didn’t and here is the result.
Cut ten, Strollin’ is an upbeat, feel good groove. Lively and swinging the tune is reminiscent of someone tripping down a street with out a care in the world. The total combines for a sense of well being.
I deliberately refrained from reading the liner notes until I had written my comments about each cut, and was amazed at how similar my observations were to Bugnon’s own. This man is a genius at communicating through music. This is not sleepy smooth jazz, but a cornucopia of sounds that keep you on your toes waiting for the next note. Bugnon says the album title represents his belief that his music should reflect the "sole purpose of soul" that is the ability to touch emotions with melody and get the feet tapping with rhythm. Mr. Bugnon, you’ve succeeded!