On his contemporary jazz debut, Bone Deep, trombonist Jeff Bradshaw attempts to elevate his instrument from a dispensable novelty to a featured attraction. Guest singer Jill Scott's presence on the lead single, "Slide," helps tremendously: Supplying her usual brand of creamy vocals to an organ-and-bass-driven track produced by Junius Bervine, she turns this fairly bland neo-soul number into one of the album's highlights. But when Bradshaw adds an instrumental solo, you begin to understand why the trombone isn't heard more often on popular records. The muted, sometimes wailing sound he generates is definitely an acquired taste that's probably too unusual to appeal to the masses.
Bone Deep is at its worst when Bradshaw doesn't give the listener a vocal talent to anchor his compositions. On "Lookin,'" his performance doesn't keep your attention, and the song's overall mediocrity makes the skip button easy to press. The playfully upbeat "Guess You'll Never Know," however, is a good demonstration; when paired with his deep baritone vocals, his trombone playing sounds much more pleasant and beautiful. Ironically he sings about a lover who will never witness his artistic potential, because she could not understand his vision.
If "Guess You'll Never Know" is autobiographical, one might sympathize with his paramour's initial apprehension to the trombone after hearing Bone Deep. But as the sound of it grows on you, so does the music. Mr. Bradshaw is ahead of his time, and he is hoping that we will all catch up.
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